Best Dogs for Families with Kids
For many animal lovers, the best family memories include a dog: one that captured our hearts, made us laugh, and left us covered in dog hair.
In a growing family, a dog can provide comfort, memories, and fun. Of course, finding the best puppy for your family depends largely on timing and temperament. Regardless of the dog’s breed, it’s best to allow space between puppy training and your toddler’s terrible twos.
There are so many benefits to raising your kids with pets, from learning responsibility, motivating them, and social development. But at the young toddler age, the story can be more complicated.
If you’re a puppy-loving household with a kid (or two) in tow, we’re here to showcase the best puppies for families with small children. Beforehand, we have a handy checklist to help your family prepare for Fido’s arrival.
How Do I Choose a Dog Breed for My Family?
It’s crucial to assess your family’s needs and involve everyone in the decision-making process (kids included!) before adopting a puppy. As any parent can attest: kids have opinions, too!
Before adopting your first puppy, here are some traits to consider in a family dog - especially for families with kids or toddlers.
If your family’s goal is to adopt a puppy, the dog’s personality may be the most important factor to consider. Like children, puppies will mature: in general, expect to have a clearer preview of a puppy’s temperament when they reach 6-8 weeks of age. If you’re adopting a younger puppy, their breed is the strongest predictor of their mature personality.
We’re talking about puppies, after all! If your heart is set on adopting a little guy, be prepared for some BIG energy. It will take lots of training and patience to prepare a high-energy pup for family life, so consider your own energy levels before committing to an energetic family dog.
They might be little now, but depending on their breed, your new puppy may grow into a much larger pet. Despite their looming appearance, many big dogs are actually known for their calm and docile nature, which makes them great companions for curious children.
Sure, we've all encountered stereotypes of a tiny, yippy furball (thanks, chihuahuas!), but a well-trained small dog can be a good fit with toddlers and older children, too. Regardless of the dog’s size, their baseline temperament is greatly influenced by their early training and environment, which may include busy parents and energetic kids! Families are encouraged to consider how their children will respond to differently-sized dogs, and to teach youngsters to approach all dogs with care, respect, and slow movements.
Some popular dog breeds are prone to chronic health problems. Common examples include bulldogs with respiratory issues, pugs with eye problems, and ear infections in cocker spaniels. While families shouldn’t automatically discount a dog with health concerns, they should consider whether they’re financially and emotionally prepared to handle any issues that may arise.
Best Puppies for Families With Kids
With a checklist in hand and a child in the other, you’re ready to decide on the best puppy for your family. Based on owner and veterinarian recommendations, here are some of the best dog breeds for kids:
1. Golden Retriever
These golden dogs are real gems. As puppies and adults, Golden Retrievers are highly affectionate with both young children and other dogs, and their trainability is hard to beat. While they’re content to lounge around with a toddler crawling on top of them, Goldens love regular exercise: they’ll never turn down an early morning hike or a mini-adventure to the grocery store. This popular breed's intelligence, sweet disposition, and silliness will merge seamlessly with an active, fun-loving family.
As a 1-month-old puppy, they’ll clock in around 7-12 pounds, but brace yourselves: the mighty Newfoundland can weigh up to 100-150 pounds as an adult. They may be giant, but they’re remarkably gentle: Newfoundlands have earned a reputation as “nanny dogs,” and they’re often surrounded by small children and dogs alike. If your family loves to swim, this gentle giant will dive in after you; and while they’re content to lounge after a long swim, Newfoundlands love to romp around wide open spaces with their favorite humans.
3. French Bulldog
Weighing in at 28 pounds or less, Frenchies make for sweet and spunky family dogs. Since they don’t require much outdoor activity, this small dog breed is excellent for families living in apartments or homes with limited outdoor space.
French Bulldog puppies are playful, trainable, and quickly grow into alert watchdogs. They oscillate from guardians of the couch to gentle playmates, and they love befriending new humans and other pups.
If you're bringing home a French Bulldog, here's our parent's guide to Frenchies and kids.
4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
According to the American Kennel Club, the lovey-dovey Cavalier easily adapts to most home environments. They’re easy-going with toddlers, older children, and other dogs, which puts parents’ hearts at ease when bringing spaniels to meet new friends: both furry and human! These pups are mid-energy and very trainable, and they’ll jump from the sofa to the lawn depending on your children’s moods, making them one of the best family dog breeds. Despite spaniels’ beautiful and wavy locks, they’re not big shedders: on a daily basis, your kid is probably the bigger mess-maker.
Good family dogs are hard to find, but the Beagle makes it easy. Ask any owner, and they'll most likely describe their Beagle as curious, merry, and an excellent family companion. Most beagles weigh around 15-30 pounds: their small size makes them perfectly portable to your kids' soccer games and other family outings, which they'll happily attend!
A little dog with a big interest in their owners and the outside world, the beagle is a perfect match for families that love to take playtime outdoors. Beagles are also notoriously vocal: prepare for some barking, baying, and even yodeling.
6. Bernese Mountain Dog
Don't be intimidated by its majestic size: the Bernese is a remarkably gentle dog. While this large dog breed can easily surpass 100 pounds in adulthood, Bernese Mountain Dogs are beautiful, calm, and gentle with all ages of children. As a puppy, the Bernese is easy to train and eager to please.
In their adult years, these rugged mountain dogs are content to lounge and keep watch over your kiddos as they play, but they'll never turn down a chance to gallop in a snowy yard. They're gentle with both strangers and kids, but they're extra loyal to their owners. If you fall for a Bernese Mountain Dog, your family should prepare for lots of love, daily exercise to maintain your pup's natural strength, and plenty of hair: these fluffy giants are serious shedders!
Last, but certainly not least: we can’t dismiss the humble mutt. Many parents recall fond memories of growing up with a mutt of their own, and for good reason: they’re affordable, quirky, and eager to become your kid's best friend. Even as puppies, mutts’ personality traits will start to shine through; and if you adopt from an established rescue or shelter facility, the staff will be able to shed light on the puppy’s emerging personality.
By adopting a mutt, you’re often saving its life and making room for another dog at the shelter. Compared to purebred dogs, mutts can have fewer health concerns, calmer temperaments, and even higher intelligence. Beneath all that fur, families will uncover a glowing personality and unbeatable quirks that define the experience of loving a mutt, making them a good choice for many families.
With enough research and plenty of treats, it’s 100% possible to find the right puppy for your kids. Like your human family members, no dog is perfect, but the best family dogs are patient, loving, and always down to play - just like your kids.
Which Breed is Right for My Family?
While we have highlighted some of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and Canada for families with children, our list misses some honorable mentions including Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Bichon Frises, Boxers, Great Danes, Boston Terriers, and Shih Tzus.
The right dog for your family ultimately depends on whether you are looking for a small apartment dog, an energetic dog for an active lifestyle, a low-shedding companion, a dog that is good with other animals, or a range of other factors. For this reason, we recommend trying our Breed Match Quiz to find the right match that will be your kid's next best friend!
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