18 Best Dog Breeds for Kids

Kids and dogs have an almost-magical connection with each other—provided you've landed on the right breed.

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best dog breeds for families
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First things first

Dogs have personalities and quirks, no matter what breed they are. Children also differ in their needs, energy levels, and personalities. No matter which breed you hone in on, it is important to take a common sense approach, when choosing from the best dogs for kids and introducing a new pet to your household. “When searching for a pet dog for the family, parents often consult friends or relatives, or rely on their own personal experiences,” says Janelle Emmett, DVM, veterinary technology program director at Carrington College‘s Sacramento, California, campus who has practiced for 12 years in companion animal medicine.

“Ideally, people should select a breed based upon the anticipated lifestyle of the dog, being mindful to match the personality and age of the child and the traits of the breed.” Additionally, parents must remember that nothing can replace careful monitoring of the child with the pet and good training, she notes.

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Cavalier King Charles spaniel

“The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a wonderful family pet; a gentle, calm dog, who is happy to be combed and brushed,” says Dr. Emmett on why this pup is one of the best dogs for kids and best dog breeds for families, period. “This breed is, however, less enthusiastic about games, such as tug of war, and rough-and-tumble play. King Charles spaniels are a good match for a more urban lifestyle and a sensitive child.”

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Golden retriever

“The golden retriever is one of the most well-known dogs because of their gentle, caring temperaments. They are able to lounge around the house for an afternoon or take a hike through the woods,” says Pete Lands, DVM, director of emergency and critical care at Saint Francis Veterinary Center. Golden retrievers are very bright and easy to train. They’re also stoic when it comes to kids. “While they may not like it, golden retrievers tend to be apathetic to young kids pulling on their ears or tugging at their tails. This makes them one of the best family dogs you can find,” he adds. So the next time you’re out looking for new dog, here’s why you should consider adopting an older dog.

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Labrador retriever

They look large-and-in-charge, but Labs are famously child-friendly, making them one of the best family dogs. “The Labrador retriever is a reliable family pet,” says Dr. Emmett. “This breed has an insatiable appetite for games and play, is well suited for an active outdoor lifestyle and a child who likes to run, throw balls, and play Frisbee.”

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Rescue dogs

Don’t let worries about their past turn you off to shelter dogs. Many rescue dogs, who are waiting for their forever home, are gentle, loving, and grateful to be found by a wonderful family with kids, plus, some have even already been potty-trained. “Most shelters arrange ‘meet-and-greet’ times, where you and your child can interact with prospective pets so you can find the right fit for your family,” says Dr. Emmett. Many shelters also allow you to foster a dog for a day or two, providing an extra layer of comfort, so you don’t have to rely on the love-at-first-sight rush you may feel at a shelter.

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Cute as a button, sweet, and gentle, these pack animals thrive on companionship. According to the American Kennel Club, these charmers are among the best dogs for kids and best dog breeds for families because they are loving by nature, love to play, and have goofy personalities. If you want a dog who wants to be with people, this is a great breed for your family. Pass beagles up, however, if your house is always empty during the day.

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Irish setter

Does your family love a good group jog or a game of beach Frisbee? If so, an Irish setter will be the perfect fit for you. Regal to look at and energetic beyond words, this breed grows to be large, around 50 to 70 pounds, and has a long lifespan, so they can grow up with your kids. Irish setters are one of the best family dogs, make great companions, are wonderful with children, and have lively dispositions. They also love to play with toys and balls.

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French bulldog

Frenchies, as they are affectionately known, are diminutive in size, but big in personality. Known for their affectionate natures and silly “bat” ears, French bulldogs were bred to be companion dogs. One of the best family dogs for apartment dwellers, Frenchies do well in small spaces and love being around kids. French bulldogs also love getting dressed up for Halloween.

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Make a boxer part of your family, and you will never feel unprotected again. Fiercely loyal and protective of those who love them, these energetic, medium-sized dogs have calm dispositions, but love to play, making them one of the best dogs for kids with high energy. They need lots of exercise, but beware of driving them too hard in hot weather. Like all squish-faced (Brachycephalic) dogs, they tend to overheat.

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Bichon frise

These little bundles of low-shedding fur are some of the friendliest dogs on the planet and is one of the best dog breeds for families. Sweet, affectionate, and playful, the bichon frise is a fantastic playmate for energetic children. Their small size makes them a great city dog, provided you give them lots of walks. According to Animal Planet, they’re loyal to a fault and do best with consistent training and moderate amounts of activity.

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Cocker spaniel

There’s a definite possibility that cocker spaniels think they are people. They’re gentle, loving, very smart, love being around children, and tend to always put themselves in the middle of the action. They also make great therapy dogs and may be a good fit for an anxious or special needs child. Their beautiful, floppy ears make them prone to ear infections, so keeping them clean and groomed is essential.

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Rough collies are known for their majestic, flowing coats, while smooth collies have shorter coats. Rough or smooth, collies are of the best dogs for kids and big families. (However, rough collies require more grooming.) This breed is incredibly intelligent and likes nothing better than to engage in activity with the children who love them. They’re fast learners, loyal to their families, and protective. Just ask Lassie.

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Have an allergy-prone child? According to Health, poodles might just be the ticket for you since it’s one of the best dog breeds for families. While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, poodles seem to come close, because they appear to produce fewer allergens so they’re one of the best dogs for kids with allergies. They also come in three sizes—standard, miniature, and toy—and an abundance of colours. These adorable goofballs are super-smart, easy to train, adapt well to new situations, and love kids.

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An intentional mix of poodles and Labrador retrievers, Labradoodles are as adorable as their name. A medium-shedder, Labradoodles were originally bred to be even-keeled and empathetic, so they could be trained as guide dogs for visually-impaired people. This breed couldn’t be more affectionate, or more adorable. Note that they need lots of exercise and tend to get along great with other dogs.

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This Instagram-darling brings with it a major cuddle-factor. Their smiling faces and cozying-up tendencies make pugs a popular favourite for children who prefer gentle play to roughhousing. These playful pups were bred to be lap dogs and adore being around people. They’re clever, quiet, and make great family pets.

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Long-haired or short, chihuahuas are the tiniest of all dog breeds. They tend to adore children and are very loyal to their families. Chihuahuas love the indoors and are not fond of very cold weather, perhaps because they’re thought to have originated in Mexico. They’re easy to train and love the lap of the person who loves them best. (Psst: Here are some more small dog breeds that are good for your health.)

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Chugs are a specific breed comprised of Pug and Chihuahua ancestry. Many have the best characteristics of both popular breeds, making them one of the best family dogs. According to Pet Guide, Chugs are a designer dog with characteristics that vary from liter to liter. Like their forebears, most will make good family dogs. They’re loyal, affectionate, intelligent, and love to play.

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Bull terrier

Bull terriers and miniature bull terriers are one of the best dogs for kids that are older in age. They are sweet beyond belief, very protective, and very trainable. The American Kennel Club calls them mischievous, playful, and charming. Known for their silly, comical antics, and crowd-pleasing behaviour, keep in mind bull terriers need a lot of exercise.

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This tiny charmer is the national dog of Cuba. They have exuberant personalities and adore people of all ages. Havanese dogs are very social and outgoing. A loving breed, they also enjoy playing games. They’re also a toy breed, so not a great fit for rough-and-tumble play, but they’re one of the best dog breeds for families who are looking for a silly, outgoing friend for their child.

Next, find out the very best diet for your dog.

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