16 of The Best Dogs for Kids and Families

Updated: December 14, 2021
Our guide to the 16 best dog breeds for children and families. Learn everything about their care, temperament, energy levels and size, with recommendations from vets.
The best dog breeds for kids
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Thinking about which dog breed is right for you and your family? Dogs make great pets for kids of all ages, including small children. They are loving, loyal, and great companions, who will not only help teach your children to learn about responsibility but also about unconditional love and respect. Whether you're seeking a cuddly canine or a dog with high energy who wants to be on the go, there's a dog breed for everyone. 

More: Is Your Family Ready for a Dog?

From mixed breeds and mutts to purebreds certified with the American Kennel Club, there are so many dogs to consider that could be the perfect fit for your family's new pet. Many factors play a part in choosing what breed of dog will best suit your family's lifestyle and activity level. 

Find the best dog breeds for kids with information on size, care, temperament, and energy levels. Use the pros and cons and veterinarian recommendations below to decide which dog breed is right for your family if you're seeking a new pet. Learning about these different types of dogs will help you understand their specific care needs when you begin your search. 

Size

What size dog best suits your family? Size has a big impact on an animal’s behavior and actions. Small dog breeds and large dog breeds have different needs when it comes to diet and exercise. The size of your home and yard should be also considered when deciding on the size of dog you want. 

Energy Levels

How much energy do you want your dog to have? Are you looking for a sleepy lap dog who loves to cuddle or a fun-loving, energetic running pal who wants a lot of playtime? Canines on this list vary from low-to-high energy pets (one to three paw prints on our energy level scale), though there will be some variance within each individual breed.

After you determine the characteristics you want in a dog, you can begin your search. Make an effort to meet any dog in person before adopting one. This will give you a glimpse into their personality and needs.

Care

Each dog breed has different needs. Pets need nutritious, healthy meals, though some will eat much more frequently than others. All domestic animals need to be groomed, but some need daily efforts, while others require less upkeep. Know the amount of effort you’re willing to put in before you look to adopt or buy a new pet.

Temperament

Each breed on this family-friendly list has its own personality quirks, so make sure to think about the types of temperament that would blend best with your family. For example, some dogs may be overly affectionate, while some are timider. 

Some dogs adapt well to new places and are more easily trainable while others might be more skittish and follow closely to the pack leader before acclimating to the entire pack. 

Dr. Teva Stone, a practice owner at Wellington Veterinary Hospital in Wellington, Colorado, weighs in with insight into each dog's temperament and compatibility. She says, "Every animal in a breed can vary on personality — some good and some bad."

Still not sure which dog is best suited for your family? We’ve narrowed the best family dogs down to sixteen different breeds while highlighting important facts about each type to help you make a decision. 

Included in our list: 

  • Bichon Frise
  • Dachshund
  • Maltese
  • Boston Terrier
  • Pug
  • Keeshond
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Boxer 
  • French Bulldog
  • Beagle
  • Newfoundland
  • Collie
  • Weimaraner 
  • Poodle
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback

 

1. Bichon Frise

bichon frise dog in grass

bichon frise attributes chart

If you want a pet that looks like a fluffy cotton ball, the Bichon Frise may be the dog for you. These pups have been popular throughout history and were popular in the 16th-century French royal courts. Bichon Frise dogs have also made a name for themselves as an American circus dog.

Unlike other small dog breeds who may want to lounge the day away, the Bichon Frise has the energy to keep up with a busy family. With the effort put into regular grooming and consistent initial training, they will make a loyal and affectionate addition to your pack

Pros

Cons

Doesn’t shed

Requires regular grooming

Adapts well to new environments

May take longer to house train

Does well with children in the home

May frighten around rambunctious play

Vet Recommendation: Bichons are friendly and loving dogs that love to play and are predisposed to allergies. However, they require significant coat care and dental care is important in this breed as well. Bichons thrive in smaller homes.

2. Dachshund

dachsund dog in grass

dachsund attributes chart

"Weiner dogs," or "doxies," as they're sometimes called, pack spunky personalities in their little bodies. They tend to be loyal lap dogs who love to cuddle and give kisses. The Dachshund hails from Germany, where centuries ago it was bred to hunt badgers.

Pros

Cons

Requires minimal grooming

High potential for slipped discs in their backs

Bare minimum shedding

Hunting and digging instincts may lead to destruction

Good watchdogs

Potentially standoffish or unfriendly to strangers

Vet Recommendation: Loving dogs, but depending on specific personality they may not be great for very young kids. They are prone to back injuries so care needs to be taken with handling.

3. Maltese

maltese dog in grass

maltese attributes chart

Maltese dogs are generally known to be sweet and gentle pups that aim to please. While they enjoy playing with kids, they are also content to spend downtime inside. The Mal-Shi or Malt-Tzu, a Maltese-Shih Tzu mix, is a hybrid breed that also scored great reviews for its good balance of energy and gentleness.

Pros

Cons

Quite playful — enjoys learning new tricks

Requires daily brushing and eye cleaning

Good size and temperament for apartment living

Delicate dog

Active, yet happy to also be a lapdog

High potential for frequent barking

Vet Recommendation: They are fun and loving dogs that do well in small spaces, especially apartments. Malteses do well with children if socialized while young. They require grooming and good dental care.

4. Boston Terrier

Boston terrier dog in grass

boston terrier attributes chart

These black-and-white buddies have the "big-dog" feel of a boxer in a much smaller package. Boston Terriers tend to have a playful yet patient personality and are sturdy dogs despite their small size. The breed originated in Boston in the late 1800s when bulldogs and white English terriers were crossbred. Some consider Boston terriers to be the national dog of America, as it is one of the very few breeds that actually originated in the U.S.

Pros

Cons

Minimal shedding and grooming

Prone to eye and breathing problems

Gets along well with other pets in the home

Can be stubborn with training and listening

Well suited for active play with children

Runs extremely quick. Doesn’t do well off leash

Vet Recommendation: Boston terriers are a great family dog with high energy. They love to play and do well with children.

5. Pug

pug dog in grass

pug attributes chart

Most pugs love human attention and clowning around, but are also low-key and gentle with kids. Pugs are an easy-to-care-for breed, though they are at risk for health concerns in overly warm weather. Be ready for some snoring and snorting due to their short snout.

Pros

Cons

Outgoing temperament — do well with socialization

Protruding eyes are prone to trauma

Grooming requires a simply daily brushing

Tendency to become obese without diet and exercise

Enjoy company from humans; may be quite affectionate

Not a good guard or watchdog due to friendly demeanor

Vet Recommendation: Since pugs are sturdy dogs, they make for good for good family dogs. They are loving and great with kids. Pugs can play intensely and snuggle just as hard, but they need plenty of exercise to stay healthy. 

6. Keeshond

Keeshond dog in snow

keeshond attribute chart

The fluffy Keeshond is an attention-craving, family-friendly breed that looks like a smaller version of a Samoyed or Husky. They often appear to be smiling, and some look as if they’re wearing glasses, due to the colored-fur difference surrounding their eyes. Keeshonds quickly adjust to being part of a family and are generally great playmates for kids.

Pros

Cons

Easy to train

Intense shedding period twice a year

Will bark to alert family of something, but they are not nuisance barkers

High demand for attention; doesn’t do well with family who are frequently out of the home

Quite friendly to both humans and other dogs

May overheat in very warm climates

Vet Recommendation: They are great family dogs that are intelligent and loving.

7. Labrador Retriever

yellow labrador retriever in grass

labrador retriever attribute chart

Black, chocolate, and yellow Labrador retrievers are another popular breed. They're a good fit for active families who enjoy a lot of outdoor time swimming and playing in the snow. While generally gentle, their big bodies and strong, wagging tails may knock small kids over. Because labs are so popular, there are many labs and lab mixes available in shelters to adopt, though they can also be purchased from a licensed breeder.

Pros

Cons

Good with other humans, children, dogs, and other pets

High shedders

Quite intelligent, and do well as service, therapy, or assistive dogs

Require intensive exercise

Easy to train

High potential for destructive behavior to get out excessive energy

Vet Recommendation: Labs are wonderful family dogs. They are good for active outdoor families that love hiking, camping, and water. They need exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight and mentally happy.

8. Golden Retriever

golden retriever in woods

golden retriever attribute chart

A common choice for a family dog, the golden retriever is thought of as one of the most friendly, fun, and sweet breeds. Their sometimes boisterous personality make them prone to roughhousing, so they may be better for slightly older kids. Golden retrievers were bred to hunt birds, particularly waterfowl, so this canine enjoys swimming and running.

Pros

Cons

Easy to please — does well in training

Requires higher than average daily exercise

Gentle nature with children

Minimal guard or watch dog instincts

Adapt well to any size home - even small apartments if they are exercised daily

Higher than average amount of shedding

Vet Recommendation: Golden retrievers are another amazing family dog that are loyal and loving. They are great with small kids and all lifestyles.

9. Boxer

boxer dog outdoors near body of water

boxer attribute chart

Boxers have a tough and muscular look but are gentle giants. They do so well with children that some may even begin to think of the kids as their own. Boxers need plenty of walking and exercise, but generally like being inside, unlike some other large breeds.

Pros

Cons

Extremely affectionate and able to blend well in any family

Doesn’t do well with extreme hot or cold temperatures

Will adjust to any living circumstances so long as it has appropriate exercise

High needs to expel energy

Their coats are easy to care for and require light grooming

Some drool excessively and also snort and snore

Vet Recommendation: Boxers are high-energy dogs that loves to play and require exercise.They are great with kids of any age

10. French Bulldog

French bulldog in grass

french bulldog attribute list

Do you live in a small space? The French bulldog might be the perfect addition to your family. Not only does this pup do well living in small spaces, but it is overall low maintenance. This popular dog is known for its bat-like ears and muscular frame.

Pros

Cons

Doesn’t bark often unless something really sparks their interest

May compete with children for adult attention

Requires low to moderate exercise

Not a good choice for a family with an extremely active lifestyle

Easy to groom

 

Vet Recommendation: French bulldogs are loving and lower on the energy scale; however, they can get very excited at introductions. They are great dogs for smaller homes, but can become destructive when bored or alone. Crate training is advised.

11. Beagle

beagle dog in grass

beagle attributes chart

If you’re searching for a curious pup to explore the world with — even if the “world” is just the nooks and crannies of your small town — a beagle is the pet for you. Known for their curious nature, these hunting dogs enjoy roaming, so keep an eye out that they don’t explore too far from you!

Pros

Cons

Loves companionship and prefers to be with people or other animals

Can be highly destructive when left alone for long periods

Easy to care for and groom

May howl nonstop when left alone

Adjust well to living with a human family, even if there are other pets

Difficult during obedience training or housebreaking

Vet Recommendation: Beagles are great with families. They don’t require a lot of exercise, but can keep up if in an active family. They will bark at unfamiliar things and can be standoffish with new people but will quickly warm up.

12. Newfoundland

newfoundland dog outside

newfoundland attribute chart

Need a nanny dog for your children? Look no further than the Newfoundland. This breed adores a family with children. These extremely large pets are docile and adjust well to homes with large yards or space nearby to exercise.

Pros

Cons

Extremely protective — make for good watch and guard dogs

High potential for shedding and drooling

Extremely tolerant of young children

Requires consistent grooming to care for fur and nails

Requires low to moderate exercise

May become overweight and sluggish without human prodding to exercise

Vet Recommendation: Newfoundlands have a calm disposition and are great with children of all ages, although they may inadvertently knock over smaller children. They require frequent grooming and coat care.

13. Collie

Collie dog in grass

collie attribute chart

Anyone who grew up watching Lassie will know that collies make the perfect family pet. They are both extremely intelligent and loyal and love even the smallest humans. Collies are social dogs, especially if socialization is a focus of training. However, they can be quite protective of family members — especially children — around new people, so calmly introduce acquaintances right away!

Pros

Cons

Their gentle nature suits families with young children

Potential for high shedding

Highly intelligent and easy to train

Quite protective of the children, especially with strangers

Social with other humans and animals

May bark excessively if left alone for long periods.

Vet Recommendation: Collies are intelligent and loyal dogs that are great with families.

14. Weimaraner

weimaraner dog in grass

weimaraner attribute chart

Weimaraners are highly active dogs who do well with families that like to spend time outdoors. These intelligent pups are easy to train and enjoy many activities, including hiking, long walks, and hunting. They got the nickname “Grey Ghost” due to their beautiful, sleek grey fur and quick instincts.

Pros

Cons

Enjoy households with children to play with

Require attention and active lifestyle to keep from being destructive

Requires very simple, light grooming

Doesn’t do well with other household pets such as such as rodents, birds, reptile, or even cats

They are good watchdogs

Shouldn’t be left alone for long periods — may try to escape

Vet Recommendation: Weimaraners are very high-energy dogs appropriate for active families. They require significant exercise. They are not independent, they love to be with their people.

15. Poodle

poodle in grass

poodle attribute chart

Poodles are popular pets for owners who may suffer from allergies, as their fluffy coat is hypoallergenic. Poodles come in three sizes and colors — small, medium, large, and white, black, and apricot. Poodles are known for their intelligence and will make for an easy-to-train pet in any family.

Pros

Cons

Beautiful and easy-to-design fur that can be styled

Need frequent professional grooming so hair doesn’t develop a painful mat.

Easy to train

May be aggressive or standoffish to strangers

Low-shedding and hypoallergenic for families where allergies are a concern.

May nuisance bark if not given enough attention

Vet recommendation: Intelligent and easy to train, these hypoallergenic dogs are a good choice for family members who have allergies. Poodles need frequent grooming and a lot of attention.

16. Rhodesian Ridgeback

rhodesian ridgeback dog in grass

rhodesian ridgeback attribute chart

This gentle giant makes for a great family pet. Though they can be lazy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is both quiet and gentle. However, that doesn’t mean this breed won’t protect the family. This hunting dog was bred to protect humans.

Pros

Cons

Easily trained

Dominance issues may arise with more than one male dog in the home

Very tolerant and gentle with children and adults

Large frame and playful activities may knock down smaller objects (children or smaller pets)

Minimal shedding

Prone to overeating with the potential for obesity

Vet Recommendation: These dogs do well with active families. They are intelligent and loyal. They can be protective of their family and make good guard dogs. They can be stubborn and require training and continued correction.

What's Next In My Dog Search?

So, what breed is the best for your family? With all these options, it can be difficult to choose. Consider narrowing down your search to just a handful of breeds. Then, check with local breeders, animal shelters, and rescue organizations to see if there are any of your favorite breeds available to meet. Bring your whole family to make sure that everyone’s personalities mesh well. Some organizations will even allow you to foster a dog for a short period to do a trial run of living together.

In addition, there are many online sites that can help you to find a dog based on your specific qualifications. Check out Petfinder, AdoptAPet, and PetSmart Charities.

Take your time when making a decision. You, your family, and your pet have a lifetime of companionship ahead of you.

Also, check out: 4 Benefits of Owning a Dog For Families.