The Best Dogs for Kids and Families

Updated: September 2, 2020
Find the best dog breeds for kids with information on size, care, temperament, and energy levels. Use the pros and cons charts and veterinarian recommendations to decided which dog breed is right for your family.
collage of the best dog breeds for kids

Thinking about which dog breed is right for you and your family? Dogs make great pets for families with kids of all ages. They are loving, loyal, and great companions, who will not only help teach your children learn about responsibility, but also about unconditional love.

Whether you want someone to cuddle up near you while reading a good book or running beside you as you train for a road race, a dog will be there to fill that roll.

More: Is Your Family Ready for a Dog?

The trick is picking the right kind of dog to blend in with your family's lifestyle.

There are many factors that play a part in choosing what breed of dog will best suit your family. Focus on size, temperament, energy levels, and specific care needs when you begin your search.


Do you want a small or big dog in your family? While the question seems easy to answer, size greatly affects an animal’s behavior and actions. Also, make sure the size home you have can comfortably accommodate the breed you choose.

Energy Levels

What type of energy do you want your furry friend to have? Do you imagine bringing home a sleepy lap dog or an overly energetic running pal? The animals on this list vary from low-to-high energy pets (one to three paw prints on our energy level scale), and you can also expect some variance within each individual breed, too.

Once you’ve figured out what type of size, temperament and energy level you’re looking for, it’s time to 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.


Of course you’re going to be a dedicated, loving pet owner, but animals come with many different needs. All want to be fed nutritious, healthy meals, though some will eat much more frequently than others. All require grooming, but some may need daily efforts, while others only need light attention every so often. Know the amount of effort you’re willing to put into a pet before you take a step closer to adoption.


All of the dogs on this list would love to join your family, and they’d be good additions, too. However, each breed has their 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 others avoid kissing — especially from the youngest members of your clan. Some dogs adapt well to new places, 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.

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collage of best dog breeds for kids

Bichon Frise

bichon frise dog in grass

bichon frise attributes chart

If you want a dog who reminds you of a little white powderpuff, look no further than the Bichon Frise. These pups have been popular throughout history, as early as 16th century French royal courts, and have also made a name for themselves as an American circus dog.

Unlike other small dogs who may want to lounge the day away, the Bichon Frise have energy to keep up with a busy family. They’ll make a loyal and affectionate addition to your “pack” so long as you put effort into regular grooming and a consistent initial training.



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.


dachsund dog in grass

dachsund attributes chart

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



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.


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.



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.

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 much smaller package. They tend to have a playful yet patient personality and are pretty 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 originate from the U.S.



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.


pug dog in grass

pug attributes chart

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



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.


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, for the colored-fur difference surrounding their eyes. Keeshonds quickly adjust to being part of a family and are generally great playmates for kids.



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.

Labrador Retriever

yellow labrador retriever in grass

labrador retriever attribute chart

Black, chocolate, and yellow labs are another family favorite. 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, wiggly bodies and strong, waggy tails may knock small kids over. Because labs are so popular, there are many labs and lab mixes available in shelters.



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.

Golden Retriever

golden retriever in woods

golden retriever attribute chart

Although the Golden Retriever may not be the most original pick for a pet, it is thought of as one of the most friendly, fun and sweet breeds. Their sometimes boisterous personality can make it better for slightly bigger kids. Goldens were bred to hunt birds, particularly water fowl, and enjoy swimming and running.



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.


boxer dog outdoors near body of water

boxer attribute chart

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



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

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. They’re known for their bat-like ears and muscular frame.



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

Snores and snorts frequently

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. Crate training is advised as they can become destructive if they get bored or left for too long.


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 dogs enjoy roaming, so keep an eye out that they don’t explore too far from you!



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.


newfoundland dog outside

newfoundland attribute chart

Need a nanny for your children? Look no further than the Newfoundland. While they don’t actually provide care for the kids in the family — as the story of Peter Pan may lead you to believe — they adore a family with children. These extremely large pets are docile and adjust well to homes with large yards or space nearby to exercise



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


Collie dog in grass

collie attribute chart

Anyone who grew up watching Lassie will know that Collies make for the perfect family pet. They are both extremely intelligent and loyal, and adore even the smallest of humans. Collies are quite 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!



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.


weimaraner dog in grass

weimaraner attribute chart

Weimaraners are highly active dogs who do well with families who like to spend their time outdoors. They are intelligent pups who are easy to train and enjoy hiking, long walks, and hunting, among many other activities. They are nicknamed the “Gray Ghost” for their beautiful, sleek grayish fur and quick instincts.



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.


poodle in grass

poodle attribute chart

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



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

Rhodesian Ridgeback

rhodesian ridgeback dog in grass

rhodesian ridgeback attribute chart

This gentle giant makes for a great family pet. Though potentially lazy, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is both quiet and gentle and doesn’t bark very often. However, that doesn’t mean this breed won’t protect the family. In fact, he was bred to hunt and protect its humans.



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 jive well. Some organizations will even allow you to foster the 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.

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About the author
Erin Ollila

Erin Ollila believes in the power of words and how a message can inform – and even transform – its intended audience. She graduated from Fairfield University with an M.F.A.