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The Best Dog Breeds For Children

The best dog breeds for children come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and personalities... and there's no 'one size fits all' winner.

The good news is that no matter which pooch you choose to add to your family, your kids are going to LOVE him (or her) and benefit from having a canine playmate and confidante.

Although there's no definitive list that can tell you which dog is going to be perfect for you and your kids, there are some popular breeds which have, over time, proven that they make great family pets.

Interesting fact....

Recent research from the University of Cambridge has found that children often get along better with their canine siblings than with their human ones!

They also reap the benefits of having a non-judgmental, unconditionally loving creature to share life's ups and downs with.

This is just more evidence of the positive psychological benefits pets have on we humans lucky enough to share our lives with them.

Little boy hugging his English Bulldog pup

On this page I've featured the Top 10 Family Dogs according to PetMD.

Below this list you'll find help to pick a breed according your children's age rangeThere's also a section on the best dogs for kids with allergies.

10 Of The Best Dog Breeds for Children 

Golden Retriever lying on grass

Golden retriever

A smart, friendly, happy, easy-going dog who likes to be active and is eager to please. Patient and loving. Playful.

In addition to bone/joint issues can suffer from heart and eye problems. More...

Labrador Retriever headshot

Labrador Retriever

Friendly, sociable and even-tempered. Active and easy to train. Gets along with most people, dogs and pets.

Can suffer from bone/joint disorders such as hip & elbow dysplasia and arthritis when older. More...

White Poodle sitting on grass


Very smart breed, quick learners. Friendly and loving, but may be hesitant around strangers. Can be anxious/nervous/prone to loneliness. Hypoallergenic coat which doesn't shed very much. Standard, miniature and toy sizes.

May develop thyroid or bone/join issues, PRA, Cushings Disease. More...

Irish Setter in the woods

irish setter

Gorgeous dog. Outgoing, friendly, lively and playful. Tons of energy and puppy playfulness even as an adult. Easy to train. Gets along well with dogs and people. Social dogs who don't like to be alone.

May suffer from eye problems, osteosarcoma and hip dysplasia.

Vizsla on the beach


Lively, happy, energetic, loving and gentle. Needs plenty of exercise. Very trainable. Can be a little sensitive/anxious at times.

May be prone to allergies, cancer, eye problems and bone/joint issues.

Black Newfoundland puppy on snowy hillside


A huge dog with a big heart and a patient and gentle nature. Sweet, intelligent and trainable. Loves the water.

Definitely drools, and sheds. Can suffer from big-dog  joint problems and skin issues.

Shetland Sheepdog relaxing on wooden deck

Shetland Sheepdog (Collie)

Bright, intelligent, active and affectionate. Like all herding breeds this one needs plenty of exercise and a job to do.

Can be a little nervous. Skin, eye, epilepsy and thyroid problems possible.

Bull Terrier walking through his yard

Bull Terrier

Throw away your preconceptions! This is a happy, friendly, active little dog who loves people. Does have a tendency to be bossy if not trained/socialized properly.

Can experience heart problems, skin allergies, mange and occasional deafness.

Beagle sniffing through the grass


Happy, friendly, lively little dog who loves to be in on the 'action'. and will join in any kind of play with enthusiasm. Has an independent mind and can take off 'chasing a scent', so needs a fenced yard.

Pretty robust, can suffer from mange, eye problems and some bone/joint problems. More...

Adult English Bulldog sitting on park bench


Gentle, sturdy, affectionate, not overly energetic. Gets along well with most people and pets. May be bossy with other dogs if not trained or socialized properly.

Usually snores, can suffer from skin, breathing, eye and reproductive problems. More...

Mixed Breeds Are Great Family Pets Too!

We mustn't forget that not all dogs are purebred! There are loads of mixed breed dogs and they make wonderful family pets. For obvious reasons they come in a huge variety of sizes and coat types.

Mixed breeds are often physically healthier than purebreds and can also be less emotional or high strung.

Please don't overlook these awesome dogs when you're looking to add a child-friendly dog to your home.

Mixed breed dog headshot

mixed breed dogs

Mixed breed dogs come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. They're usually well-balanced, happy and friendly.

Generally considerably healthier overall than purebred dogs.

Which Dog Is Best For MY Children?

It pays to remember that every pup is unique and has their own, individual personality, and that just because your new pup is of a particular breed that doesn't mean he'll be exactly like any other pup of the same breed... or even from the same litter!

Look for a breed whose breed characteristics mesh with your family's home and lifestyle and you'll find that your two-legged and four-legged children build a happy, loving relationship that lasts a lifetime.

Although all the breeds featured above are likely to make a great pet for your family, there are lots of others that fit the bill as well.  

But because all families are different, not every child-friendly breed is right for you. 

To help you sort it out, here's a closer look at dog breeds and the type of family they're most likely to suit:

Best For Families With Small Children

When you're looking for the best dog breeds for children who are still toddlers, don't assume a small or tiny breed fits the bill.

Baby sitting on blanket with Cocker Spaniel puppy

It may seem logical at first (ie small child therefore small dog), but many little dogs are very delicate and very young children can easily injure, or even kill, a tiny dog by dropping them, stepping (or falling!) on them, shutting them in a door etc.

Obviously totally accidental, but no less harmful. There are lots of different types of small dogs though, so don't rule out a breed just because it weighs less than 10lbs or so - consider the whole package.

Conversely, the very large or giant breeds aren't necessarily the best choice either.

Toddler picking berries alongside her Golden Retriever dog

Large breed puppies are pretty sturdy and robust and the scenario above is turned on it's head, because some large to giant breed dogs are very laid back, easy going and tolerant pets but their sheer size can make them a potential hazard to very small/young children.

A Mastiff could quite easily knock down your toddler while trying to play, or say 'hello'.

It's difficult to stop very young children from poking, prodding or pulling at a puppy, or from smothering him (perhaps literally) with hugs and kisses.

A mid-sized breed known for their calm, confident and tolerant temperament is a good choice of dog breed for children of this age. Larger breeds who are patient and calm, such as the Golden Retriever are also a good fit.

Suggested breeds might include:

  • Beagle
  • Boston Terrier
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Corgi
  • English Bulldog
  • English Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Golden Retriever
  • Wheaten Terrier

Best Dogs For School-Age & Up

Grade school kids are bigger, stronger and better co-ordinated than pre-schoolers plus they can understand and follow puppy-care guidelines and show empathy. All in all, choosing the best dog breeds for children of this age is quite a bit easier.

Pup in training class with young owner

You don't need to rule out breeds on either end of the size scale, very small breeds and very large ones can both be suitable for a family with children aged from 6 - 18.

If your children are a bit older and you have the room for a big dog there are lots of good choices, including popular breeds such Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds - plus those you might not see as much such as Great Pyrenees, Old English Sheepdogs, Great Danes or Mastiffs.

In this situation taking a close look at your family's activity level, lifestyle and home are the best way to make sure that you make the right decision.  

Boy playing soccer with Old English Sheepdog

If you're active as a family and enjoy camping/hiking/fishing/bike-riding/sports/horseback-riding etc., then you should can look at fairly high-energy breeds and working dogs.

If you have grade-school to teenage children, have plenty of space and time to exercise and 'work' with a pup, and are interested in dog-related sports such as Agility, Obedience, Flyball etc., then a Border Collie puppy (or one from another energetic breed) could be the perfect match for you.

Other possibilities might include:

  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Labradoodle
  • Schnauzer
Girl hugging small white dog

If you're a more laid-back, indoor-loving family then the lower energy breeds, or some of the smaller lap-dogs may be a better fit.

Try one of these on for size:

  • Basset Hound
  • Bearded Collie
  • Bichon Frise
  • Dachshund
  • English Mastiff
  • Great Dane
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheepdog

Best Dogs For Children With Allergies

There's no such thing as an 'allergy-free dog', but there are certain breeds that are more suitable in this sort of situation.

Labradoodle sitting outdoors

People can be allergic to dog hair, dog dander and dog saliva - so even hairless dog breeds can still trigger a reaction, but less common and less likely to be severe.

There are only a handful of hairless dogs, these include American Hairless Terrier and the Chinese Crested, but there are also more 'mainstream' dog breeds whose coat is considered to be hypoallergenic.

These include dog breeds with long silky hair, those with certain curly coats, and some hybrid or designer dog breeds.

Here are a few of the best dog breeds for children who have allergies.....

  • American Hairless Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Chinese Crested
  • Cockapoo
  • Coton de Tulear
  • Goldendoodle
  • Havanese
  • Kerry Blue Terrier
  • Komondor
  • Labradoodle
  • Maltese
  • Peruvian Inca Orchid
  • Poodle
  • Xoloitzcuintli
  • Yorkshire Terrier

To get detailed info on any of the breeds listed (and many more) just >> CLICK HERE to the American Kennel Club website

Got A Shortlist? Help With The Next Step

I've tried to find something for everyone on this page, so if you've managed to choose a breed (or a shortlist of several potential 'winners') it's now time to move on to searching for that perfect puppy!

Photo collage of three different dog breeds

Here are a few tips and hints to help you on your way................

It's always important to be sure to buy your puppy from a reputable breeder and always try to see the parents of the puppies to be sure that they're sound physically and temperamentally.

Then you need to know how to pick the right puppy and how to recognize a healthy puppy so that you don't take home one who is sick... that's a recipe for heartbreak all around.

If you're a first-time puppy parent (or it's been a while!) you might be a little unsure of what to expect during the first few days.

Visit my Bringing Home A New Puppy page to make those early days easier, and less worrying.

Don't forget that there are also tons of wonderful dogs (and pups) in shelters and pounds across the country, who desperately need new homes and families of their very own.

Learn about puppy and dog adoption and consider it if you can, you will literally be saving a life. These dog rescue organizations are a great place to start.

Remember that adult dogs can also make excellent pets for kids too. They have the added benefit to you of skipping the house-training, chewing everything and running amok puppy stage!!

If you're planning to add a new dog to your family (or already have!), here's a really useful book will help you get everyone on the same page - pun fully intended........

Raising Puppies and Kids Together

This is a great 'Puppy Owners Manual' for anyone who has kids and is wanting to add a dog to the mix (or vice versa!).

An easy to follow, reader-friendly guide which covers all the basics. 

Including showing new puppy owners how to learn about dog behavior, how to communicate with and socialize their new family member. 

Choosing the best dog breed isn't the only task if you're adding a new pup to your home, this book will guide you through the next stages. Recommended!

There are lots more excellent books that can help you and your kids prepare for dog ownership, and also explore training methods, tricks and other fun stuff including 

Kids and dogs can make the very best partners, but it's up to us as parents to help them all learn how to show love and respect to each other.

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