15 Best Dog Breeds for Kids and Families

Find a Child-Friendly Dog

An illustration of different breeds of dogs that are best for kids

The Spruce / Elnora Turner

If you are searching for a dog that can get along with children, many breeds fit the bill. In theory, almost any dog has the potential to get along great with children. Factors such as obedience training, age, size, and breed type can all affect your chances of finding a good family dog. Think about the ages and activity levels of your children. Toddlers can be knocked over by an awkward, gangly puppy that does not know its size. Bigger kids could crush a small dog if they are not always careful.

Tip

You can speculate about which dog breeds are best for kids, but you just never know how each individual dog will turn out. Seek out your local dog rescue group and ask about foster dogs. Foster "parents" want the dogs to go to the right homes and tend to be honest about the dogs' personalities and temperaments. If you decide on a breeder, spend time talking about the temperament and socialization history of the pups. An experienced, responsible breeder will know the pups and parents and should share information freely. No matter what breed you get, teach your children how to act around dogs too.

Breed Characteristics

Many dog breeds have a reputation for getting along well with children. A family with kids ideally needs an intelligent, trainable dog with a good, even temperament and moderate energy level. Also, a dog with a soft mouth or bite inhibition is essential. Dogs like goldens and Labs have "soft mouth" ingrained in their DNA from their working days as retrieving fowl dogs; they were trained to not bite down on the quarry when they retrieved it. Ideal child-safe dogs need to be non-aggressive and tolerant of some hair grabbing and lots of hugs, too.

Here are 15 types of dogs that have a history of good behavior around children.

  • 01 of 15

    Boxer

    Boxer dog looking at camera

    James F. Dean / Getty Images 

    Boxers are known to be playful and do not mind befriending kids as playmates. A lively dog, it can go toe-to-toe with children who also seem to have endless energy and a love of the outdoors. It has a goofy, childlike personality that children can appreciate. It can be sometimes clumsy and bump or knock over a kid or two, so watch it closely around toddlers.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Working (AKC)

    Height: 20 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coat with fawn and brindle as standard colors, standard markings include a black mask, black mask with white markings, and white markings

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 02 of 15

    Labrador Retriever

    A chocolate Labrador retriever

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Labs are loyal family dogs. Even-tempered, they are one of the last dogs to get aggressive. They are outgoing, kind, gentle, and very smart dogs. They get along great with kids and other animals in the house. They tolerate a child hugging, patting, or prodding it. Their relaxed demeanor is a big plus for families with young children. They appreciate a lot of space, preferably with a backyard, since they need plenty of daily exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 80 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short, dense double coat in black, chocolate, or yellow

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 03 of 15

    Golden Retriever

    A golden retriever on a sofa

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    A golden retriever is much like a longer-haired, furrier Labrador retriever. Their temperament is very similar: gentle, laid-back, tolerant, and non-aggressive. This breed can get hyperactive and a little unmanageable if it does not have a constructive way to release its bountiful energy. A playful and smart breed, it can make a great companion for school-aged children, enjoying a game of fetch and other yard games.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 21 to 24 inches

    Weight: 55 to 75 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium-length lustrous light to dark gold double coat

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

  • 04 of 15

    Poodle

    black poodle

     

    Carol Howell / Getty Images

    Poodles are extremely smart and have a great temperament. A poodle's high energy often matches a child's energy. Poodles are loving, cuddly, gentle, and patient. Plus, you have a size choice: toy, miniature, or standard. The larger, standard poodle is probably the best choice for families with children; it is the sturdiest and can withstand more roughhousing than the smaller varieties.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: Standard: over 15 inches; Miniature: 10 to 15 inches; Toy: 10 inches and under

    Weight: Standard: 45 to 70 pounds, Miniature: 15 to 18 pounds, Toy: 5 to 9 pounds

    Coat and Color: Curly, dense single coat; may be one of many solid colors, including but not limited to white, black, grey, brown, and apricot

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 18 years

    Continue to 5 of 15 below.
  • 05 of 15

    Bichon Frise

    A bichon frise

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

    This little cotton ball of a dog loves to play and is not usually too hyper. It is affectionate, charming, and has the energy to match a kid's endless spirit. It is also a small dog, which doesn't intimidate or overwhelm little kids. Although, if a child is overly rambunctious or rough, it might give a warning snap to let them know there is only so much it can take.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 9 to 12 inches

    Weight: 7 to 12 pounds

    Coat and Color: Fluffy and curly white hair (may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream), resembles a cotton ball or powder puff

    Life Expectancy: 14 to 15 years

  • 06 of 15

    Beagle

    Beagle of 12 weeks
    @Hans Surfer / Getty Images

    Beagles are the dog breed popularized by "Snoopy." These dogs are friendly, clever, and not too big, making them suitable for kids. Though some can be a bit high-strung, they typically respond very well to training. They are a social breed that enjoys being around people, including children. They are loyal will easily bond with a child. It may even be one best guard dogs for your little one, letting you know with its distinctive baying cry when someone comes near. A vocal breed, it may not be the best dog for napping young infants and toddlers who wake easily from barking or sounds.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Hound (AKC)

    Height: 13 to 15 inches

    Weight: 20 to 25 pounds

    Coat and Color: Short coats in all hound colors, including but not limited to tri-color (tan, black, and white), red and white, and lemon and white

    Life Expectancy: 10 to 15 years


  • 07 of 15

    Cairn Terrier

    Cairn Terrier Puppy

    Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

    These active little dogs seem to have a natural affinity for kids. Also made popular on the big screen—think Toto from "The Wizard of Oz"—they can keep up with kids and tolerate just about anything. They are an affectionate, gentle breed, particularly with children. While many smaller dogs usually can't handle roughhousing children, the Cairn terrier seems to love them.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Terrier (AKC)

    Height: 9 to 10 inches

    Weight: 13 to 14 pounds

    Coat and Color: Scruffy-looking double coat with a wiry outer coat and soft undercoat; coat comes in many colors, including red, brindle, black, sand, and gray

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 08 of 15

    German Shepherd

    A German Shepherd

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    This breed is extremely loyal and protective but must be well-trained. German shepherds have a playful side, especially at a younger age. They can be sweet and gentle with their family but are wary of strangers. An intelligent breed, they can be taught to do almost anything.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 22 to 26 inches

    Weight: 60 to 100 pounds

    Coat and Color: Double coat, comprised of a thick undercoat and a dense, slightly wavy or straight outer coat with tan and black or red and black coloring

    Life Expectancy: 7 to 10 years

    Continue to 9 of 15 below.
  • 09 of 15

    Shetland Sheepdog

    Shetland Sheepdog breed

    Yvonne Van der Horst / Getty Images

    Shelties are much like collies, the "Lassie" dog. They are calm, gentle, and tolerant breeds that often do well with children of all ages and sizes. Shelties enjoy human company. The breed is playful and well-behaved with children but needs some training to break its natural inclination to nip or herd. Overly active children might overwhelm the dog, so keep a watchful eye on their interaction to make sure they get along well.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Herding (AKC)

    Height: 13 to 16 inches

    Weight: 15 to 25 pounds

    Coat and Color: Double-coated with long, harsh outer coat and short, dense undercoat; ; black, sable, and blue merle, with white markings

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years


  • 10 of 15

    Pug

    Pug Puppy Dog
    LexiTheMonster / Getty Images

    Pugs like to play, and that includes playing with children. This brachycephalic breed (flat-faced) shouldn't get overworked since it's prone to overheating, so short play sessions and rest snuggling with its humans is perfect for this pup. This lower energy dog is ideal for families looking for a lap dog or cuddle companion.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 10 to 13 inches

    Weight: 14 to 18 pounds

    Coat and Color: Smooth, short double coat in fawn or black

    Life Expectancy: 13 to 15 years

  • 11 of 15

    Irish Setter

    Irish Setter Carrying Ball In Mouth While Running On Field
    Julian Popov / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Irish setters are full of bounding energy and perhaps a little rambunctious for the littlest of children, but they are the perfect play companion for older children. This dog loves to fetch and accompany families on hikes. It's more of an active dog, so it would do best in a home that plans plenty of activities that include the family pooch.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Sporting (AKC)

    Height: 25 to 27 inches

    Weight: 60 to 70 pounds

    Coat and Color: Medium length with feathering on ears, chest, legs, and tail; red coat

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 15 years

  • 12 of 15

    Boston Terrier

    Boston Terrier Puppy with Big Ears Indoors on Couch
    JoeChristensen / Getty Images

    These small to medium-sized dogs reach about 25 pounds and are accustomed to city living, including fitting in fine in apartments. Boston terriers are a non-aggressive breed that appreciates games and playtime with children. They can sometimes get overly excited or unintentionally knock down a toddling tot, but they don't mean any harm.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 15 to 17 years

    Weight: 15 to 25 pounds

    Coat and Color: Smooth, short coat. All Boston terriers have a white muzzle and chest. The rest of their body will be either black, seal, or brindle

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

    Continue to 13 of 15 below.
  • 13 of 15

    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

    Two Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dogs outdoors in nature
    Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images

    Cavs are a friendly bunch. These small toy-sized dogs can get along with just about anyone, including children and other dogs. They have spunk and love to play, but they can also settle in for an affectionate, enveloping cuddle.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Toy (AKC)

    Height: 12 to 13 inches

    Weight: around 13 to 18 pounds

    Coat and Color: Long, sleek and silky coat with feathering around ears, feet, chest, and tail; four color varieties: tricolor, Blenheim, ruby, and black and tan

    Life Expectancy: 12 to 14 years

  • 14 of 15

    Bulldog

    English Bulldog wearing blue harness out for a walk in the countryside
    Iryna Melnyk / Getty Images

    Bulldogs, like pugs and boxers, are another brachycephalic breed that should take it easy when it comes to tons of activity, especially on warm days. This breed will enjoy a short romp or round of play but will likely plop down for a snoozefest afterward. These dogs have a sweet disposition and will tolerate a bit of roughhousing with children.

    Breed Overview

    Group: Non-sporting (AKC)

    Height: 14 to 15 inches

    Weight: 40 to 50 pounds

    Coat and Color: Straight, short, fine-textured, smooth, and glossy; red, white, fawn, or fallow (pale brown), or any combination of these colors, with or without such patterns and markings as brindle, piebald, ticking, black masks, or black tipping

    Life Expectancy: 8 to 10 years

  • 15 of 15

    Mixed-Breed Dogs

    A mixed breed dog

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Mutts can be well-balanced and intelligent dogs. Overall, you can find a truly amazing dog in a mixed breed. They come in a huge variety of sizes and coat types. Mixed breeds are often physically healthier than purebred dogs and can be less high strung. Plus, you can save a dog from life in a shelter or, in some cases, death row.

Breeds to Avoid

Some dogs do not adapt well to households with young kids. The children may not be respectful of boundaries; some kids may stare, move quickly, or like to scream or squeal with high-pitched voices. Generally, the breeds that might not be the most amenable to a child in the household include spitz breeds like Akitas, chows, huskies, or malamutes—these intelligent breeds tend to be more aloof. Also, a few smaller attention-hog breeds with big attitudes may not be the best fit, such as Chihuahuas, Pekingese, or shih tzus.