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Best Dog Breeds For Kids

Written By
8 min read

Updated - Dec 28th, 2020

We’ve all heard the saying, “A dog is a man’s best friend.” Any person that’s grown up with a dog, however, might also mention that it’s equally true to say, “a dog is a kid’s best friend.” 

Dogs are excellent companions and playmates for young and older children alike. Our furry friends also teach kids compassion, patience, and of course, responsibility.

It should come to no surprise, then, that a recent survey conducted of 2,000 parents of school-aged children found that 74% of kids have asked for a pet – and 78% have asked specifically for a dog.

Therefore, if you’re looking for the perfect dog for your family, it’s very likely you’re not the only one. And, although there are a variety of dogs that might make suitable companions for families with kids, there’s no doubt that there are certain breeds whose personalities generally make them a more seamless fit.

So, start your search with our list of the 15 best dog breeds for kids – and see if any of these lovable pups might be right for your family.

Best Dog Breeds for Kids and Families

There’s always a lot of thought that goes into finding the right dog for your family. When you’re trying to find a dog for a home with kids, however, there are certainly more considerations you have to take.

What should you look for when exploring the best dog breeds for kids?

Every family (and every dog) is different, but in general, here are three things to keep in mind:

  • Personality: You’ll want to think about the traits of the breed and how it meets the lifestyle and personalities of your family. Similarly, you’ll want to think about things like the dog’s typical energy-level, what they like to do, and how those compare to your kids.
  • Size: Do you want a small dog or a larger one? If you have really young children, will they be able to handle a dog that’s too small or too big? These are things to consider.
  • Care: Who will be the main person caring for the dog? What are the dog’s exercise needs? Grooming needs? How will the kids be involved in this caregiving? If you have young children to care for, you might opt for a dog breed with minimal grooming needs, for example.

All things considered, there are a number of family-friendly dog breeds well-known for their affinity with children. Let’s dig in!

1. Beagle

A sweet face, a happy-go-lucky attitude, and a history of running in packs, it’s no wonder that Beagles make natural family dogs. These hounds make great companions for kids, as they’re generally very easygoing and love to play.

That said, Beagles definitely have a higher energy-level and will require regular exercise. They also like to be vocal; they’re known for their hound howl.

2. Bernese Mountain Dog

Don’t be intimidated by their size, the Bernese Mountain Dog is a gentle giant – particularly known for their tenderness with children. Originally bred to be working dogs on Swiss farms, Bernese Mountain Dogs are reliable, smart, and loyal family pets.

These dogs are big, but they only require moderate exercise and would love to accompany families on walks, hikes, or other similar outdoor adventures. They’ll also make natural watchdogs for young children while endearing your kids with their affectionate temperaments. 

3. Bichon Frise

Looking for a small dog for your kids? How about a dog that’s perfect for apartment-life? The Bichon Frise meets both of these criteria.

Despite their small size, Bichons are full of personality – known as playful, charming, and curious. These dogs are extremely adaptable, which makes them ideal companions for busy children. 

Plus, the Bichon is considered a hypoallergenic dog breed, making them a great option to accommodate any family members with allergies.

4. Border Collie

A herding dog with high energy, the Border Collie is known for their intelligence, work-ethic, and loyalty. If you are looking for one of the best dog breeds for active families, the Border Collie is certainly going to be top of the list.

Border Collies definitely require daily exercise and thrive when they have a job to do – so training is a must. Considering the energy level of the Border Collie, this is probably a breed best suited for families with older children who have the time to devote to training their new dog and participating in activities together.

5. Boston Terrier

A friendly dog full of spunk, the Boston Terrier is another small dog that’s great with kids. Recognizable by their tuxedo markings and sweet expressions, Boston Terriers are affectionate, smart, and happy to romp after older and younger children alike.

Compared to some of the other breeds on our list, Boston Terriers are relatively low-maintenance. They don’t usually require too much exercise, although it can vary from dog to dog. Plus, their size and personalities make them excellent city and apartment dogs.

6. Boxer

High energy, loyal, affectionate, smart, and sometimes even silly – the Boxer is almost always named as one of the best family dogs. A large dog with a heart of gold, Boxers are excellent playmates, ready to romp around with kids, but also serve as a patient and steadfast watchdog. 

Boxers will definitely need a lot of exercise and although they can be great companions for children of all ages, their energy-level may be a little overwhelming for very small children.

7. Bull Terrier

Perhaps most well-known as the “Target dog” for their appearance as the bullseye-clad dog in the Target commercials, the Bull Terrier is playful, funny, and a little mischievous. These dogs have a ton of personality and will excel with training and plenty of quality of time with their families.

Bull Terriers have a moderate activity level, so they should have some sort of daily exercise. Overall, they make good family dogs for kids that are a little bit older.

8. Bulldog

One of the most easygoing, low-maintenance dog breeds for kids, the Bulldog is calm, kind, and friendly. You know a Bulldog when you see one – and despite their size, this family dog might try to cuddle in your lap.

Bulldogs are well-suited to live in the city or in the suburbs, as long as the climates are not too hot. They should get moderate exercise, but are generally not too active. Although Bulldogs are pretty adaptable, they probably won’t be up for roughhousing, so they’re probably best for families with older children.

9. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Kids of all ages will fall in love with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. These dogs are sweet, affectionate, and although they’re on the smaller side, they still have plenty of energy to make great playmates.

Cavs are typically very gentle, making them a good dog for young children, and they were bred to be lap dogs that love to cuddle. Plus, these dogs are extremely adaptable – they’re very popular city dogs, but can really live and excel anywhere.

10. Cocker Spaniel

Happy, smart, and a true sporting dog at heart, the Cocker Spaniel is an excellent playmate for kids. These dogs love to spend time running around outside, going on walks, and generally participating in activities with their families.

In general, Cocker Spaniels should get regular exercise, but would prefer to do so with their family members as opposed to on their own. Cocker Spaniels are people-pleasers, so training shouldn’t be too difficult – making this breed a great choice for a new pet.

11. Collie

A breed made famous by the tv series, Lassie, Collies are now naturally associated with their affection for children. These dogs are intelligent, friendly, and athletic – making them well-rounded family members and excellent companions.

Bred to be herders, Collies require regular exercise, so they’ll enjoy running around with kids, making great playmates in the yard or in the park. 

12. Golden Retriever

Consistently one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States, the easygoing Golden Retriever is a natural family dog. These friendly, affectionate, and devoted companions are great with children of all ages and are one of the go-choices for adding a dog to the family.

Golden Retrievers definitely need daily exercise, but they’ll be happy to partake in a variety of outdoor activities with family members. Plus, their sweet, gentle, and loyal nature makes them extremely amenable to younger children. 

13. Labrador Retriever

Although the Golden Retriever is popular, the American Kennel Club’s most popular dog breed statistics points to the one dog that has ranked number one since 1991: the Labrador Retriever. And it’s easy to see why.

The Lab is a friendly dog, easygoing, active, and extremely loyal. These are all-around family dogs. Labs socialize well with small children, older children, other dogs, as well as other pets – plus, they are very adaptable.

There’s no doubt that the Lab requires a lot of exercise, but that makes them an excellent playmate that won’t shyaway from a little bit of roughhousing. The numbers don’t lie: it’s hard to go wrong with a Lab.

14. Newfoundland

It’s hard to mistake a Newfoundland – these are large dogs – but they are most definitely gentle giants. In fact, the sweet, patient, and gentle temperament of these dogs have earned them the nickname of the “nanny dog.”

With that nickname, the loyal Newfoundland makes a great companion dog and protector of kids of all ages. These dogs require moderate exercise, and with their size, they are not going to be suitable for apartment life.

Another thing to keep in mind: Newfoundlands drool, so you’ll want to be prepared.

15. Pug

A small dog breed with a big dog personality, Pugs are known for their mischievous, charming, and fun qualities – and of course, their signature appearance. An agreeable house dog, Pugs can be a great breed for families that are looking for a dog that’s a tad less active in comparison to some of the other dogs on our list.

Pugs will definitely need regular exercise, but they’ll also be very content to spend time lounging around and cuddling on the couch with the kids.

Finding the Right Dog Breed for Your Kids

At the end of the day, it’s hard to go wrong with any of these best dog breeds for kids. 

Of course, the decision is up to you and your family, and with a lot to consider, it might just come down to which perfect pup your kids fall in love with.

Writer, Proud Dog & Cat Mom
Randa is a writer & former assoc. digital content editor at the American Kennel Club. She's also mom to 1 Corgi & 2 orange cats.