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15 Best Dog Breeds for Kids

There’s little in this world purer than the friendship and unconditional love a dog gives a child. But not all dog breeds are appropriate for homes with children in them. Dogs that are too excitable can scare small kids. Or worse yet, bite. Dogs that are too large and energetic can pose a danger just by jumping up to say hi.

If you’re looking to add a pooch to your family, here are a few things to consider along with a list of the top 15 child-friendly dog breeds.


Matching the Best Dog Breeds for Kids with Your Family

A quick note on matching the right child-friendly dog breed with your specific family. One of the most common reasons families give up their dogs is because they’ve mismatched the dog’s needs with their own.

To ensure a perfect fit, you’ll want to consider the dog’s temperament, size, and energy level.

Are your kids outside and active all the time? Or do you have a clan of gamers who spend more time in front of their computers than in the open air? Some child-friendly dog breeds have lots of energy and need a lot of play. Others are happy to nap the day away and don’t want to be bothered to go for a run.

What size is your home? Do you have space for a giant dog or do you need a toy-sized pup?

If you’ve got young kids, you’ll want a dog that’s happy, gentle, and patient. Older kids might be able to deal with an excitable dog, but younger kids might find that frightening.

“Age, energy level and temperament are some of the most important factors when deciding to add a new member to the family,” says Samantha Nelson, senior specialist, Shelter Outreach and Policy Engagement at the Humane Society of the United States. “For example, I wouldn’t adopt a young husky who may need a lot of exercise if I spend a lot of time indoors, and I likely wouldn’t adopt an older brachycephalic (flat-faced) French bulldog if I enjoyed going for vigorous runs or long hikes.”

Whether you’re buying from a breeder or adopting from a rescue or shelter, Nelson suggest families try to arrange a meet and greet. This ensures “they are a good fit and reduces the chance that the dog will have to be surrendered back to the shelter, which can be traumatic to both the dog and the family.”

(All dogs have different personalities. While breed plays a part in each dog’s temperament, every dog is an individual. Additionally, some of the most child-friendly dogs are mutts who just want a family to call their own.) 


 Best Dog Breeds for Kids

This list is based on two longer lists of kid-friendly and family-friendly breeds suggested by the American Kennel Club. We’ve weeded out some of the more exotic breeds. And focus only on breeds that have been rated a five out of five for being good with young children by the AKC.


1. Beagle


One of the best small dogs for kids of all ages, Beagles are fun-loving, loyal, and easy going.
Beagles have a reputation for being tolerant and patient with rambunctious kids, but that doesn’t mean they’re lazy. Instead, they’re high-energy and love to play, so do best in active families that want to spend lots of time with the dog. It’s when they don’t get enough attention or exercise that their mischievous side can come out.
One note for families with infants. Beagles are barkers and howlers, which can be a problem if your baby needs silence to sleep.


2. Bernese Mountain Dog
Bernese Mountain Dog
You’ll find this gentle giant on most lists of child-friendly dog breeds. Despite their size (70 to 115 pounds), Bernese Mountain Dogs have a knack for being careful around kids. The American Kennel Club rates them a 5 out of 5 when it comes to being good with young children, and a 5 out of 5 for being affectionate with family. These sweet dogs are calm and patient but love to play as well, which makes them great for kids who think going for a dog ride is fun.
While Berners do enjoy a good nap, they need daily exercise. They excel at agility training but are just as happy to go for a long walk with their favorite human.


3. Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise

Every stranger is a friend a Bichon Frise hasn’t met yet. This makes them great for families with lots of comings and goings. They’re not particularly protective, so your kids can have as many friends over as they like.

Happy-go-lucky, active, and adorable, Bichon Frises fit right into most families. They love hanging out and playing fetch in the yard, and their small size means you never have to worry about the kids getting knocked over. They can be excitable, so a little training is recommended.

While not the most active breed on the list of best dog breeds for kids, Bichons are not couch potatoes. They need regular exercise to avoid behavioral problems.


4. Border Terrier

Border Terrier

The small, wiry Border Terrier is one of the best family-friendly dog breeds. Its happy-go-lucky personality and affectionate nature make them great for kids of all ages. Not easily phased, these dogs don’t mind a game of chase with a bunch of screaming kids. In fact, they’d rather be surrounded by a gaggle of kids than left alone for any length of time.

Border Terriers need lots of exercise and love. If your family won’t be home a lot or would rather sack out on the couch than go for a long walk, the Border Terrier isn’t for you.


5. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier

Another lovey-dovey dog that’s among the best dog breeds for families, the Boston Terrier is a sturdy little pooch known for its gentle, but silly nature.

Boston Terriers are highly affectionate and love nothing more than spending time playing with their family. They’re super energetic, but calm around rowdy kids. They’re also quite protective of their family, so they’ve always got an eye out for anything that might hurt “their” kids.

Because Boston Terriers love to play and have lots of energy, they can be a bit of a handful for a toddler. But a little training and lots of extra exercise away from the toddler are all that’s needed.


6. Boxer


Fierce name aside, the Boxer is absolutely one of the best dog breeds for kids. Upbeat, playful, and patient, Boxers are happy to spend an entire afternoon playing outside with their family. They’ve got tons of energy and can keep up with just about anything an active family can dish out. (Except swimming, they’re not good in water.)

Young boxers can get a bit rambunctious and aren’t always aware of their own size (50 to 80 pounds), so may knock a small child over (always by accident). They tend to do best with kids who outweigh them.

Boxers are also quite protective of their family and do need training if your kids plan to have their friends over.


7. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Known for being one of the easiest dog breeds to get along with, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is great for families and is even one of the best dogs for a scared child.

Sweet, affectionate, and calm, it’s nearly impossible to be afraid of these small, loving dogs. They love to cuddle and their size (13 to 18 pounds) makes them great lap dogs.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are one of the few dog breeds perfect for couch potato families. While they do require a daily walk, 20 minutes is more than enough for them. With that said, they’re just as happy to kick their activity level into high gear for families that like to be out and about.

What they do require is lots of attention. These dogs love nothing more than being with their humans. Being ignored or left alone can lead to behavior problems.


8. Collie

Border collie

It’s no surprise that “Lassie” makes the list of best family dogs. An entire movie franchise was built around the breed’s love for and protectiveness of children, after all.

Collies are gentle, playful, and loyal. They’re happiest with their family, but need lots of exercise to stay well-behaved. They’re perfect for teenagers who would enjoy participating in activities like agility and obedience training.

Because they’re originally herders, Collies are protective of the children in their family and may need training if the kids plan to have friends over.


9. Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

There’s a reason the Golden Retriever has remained one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. for decades. These happy-go-lucky dogs are affectionate, outgoing, and love to please. They’re happiest when they’re with people.

They can be calm and gentle around toddlers but are just as happy rough housing it with the older kids too. This ability to adapt to the needs of young and older children makes them one of the best dog breeds for families with kids of any age.

Golden Retrievers are also great for water-loving families. Originally bred to retrieve waterfowl, Goldens can spend hours at the river or beach without getting bored. (Just have a stick or toy with you to throw!)


10. Irish Setter

Irish Setter

One of the most beautiful dogs on the list of best dog breeds for kids, Irish Setters are energetic, sweet-tempered dogs. Bred to help in hunting, Irish Setters are not couch potatoes. They need lots of exercise and love nothing more than a long game of fetch with the kids.

As with some of the other larger dogs on the list, young Irish Setters can be a bit too rambunctious for young kids. Training can help.

These outgoing pooches make friends with everyone, which makes them great for families with lots of friends coming and going. While not as clingy as some of the other dog breeds on the list, Irish Setters don’t do well if left alone.


11. Keeshond


Not as common as some of the other breeds on the list of best family dogs, we’ve nevertheless included the Keeshond for its highly affectionate nature. Rated a 5 out of 5 for being affectionate with the family by the AKC, the Keeshond was specifically bred for companionship. As a result, the only thing they want is to spend time with their family. They’re loving, cheerful, and gentle. And they’re happiest playing fetch in the yard or spending hours at a time curled up near their owner’s lap. (They’re a bit too big to be a proper lap dog, though they don’t always realize that.)

Keeshonds are prone to separation anxiety if left alone. They are best for families with lots of time and attention to give. While Keeshonds are gentle, they can be barkers, so may not be good for families with infants.


12. Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

No list of the best dog breeds for kids would be complete without the always-popular Labrador Retriever. Famously friendly, affectionate, highly energetic, and as easy going as they come, Labs are the quintessential family dog.

But they’re not for the couch potato family. These are high-energy dogs that need lots of active play and exercise. They’re great for families that like to hike and boat, and they’re especially adept at sports like frisbee, flyball, and dock diving.


13. Newfoundland


According to the AKC, “sweetness of temperament is the hallmark of the Newfoundland.” Loving and people-oriented, Newfies rate a 5 out of 5 for being good with young children and being affectionate with the family. They’re calm, easy-going, and patient. And they’re happiest when spending time with their family.

Bred partly for search and rescue, Newfies also have a natural instinct to help if something goes wrong. Just one of the reasons they’ve developed a reputation as a “nanny” dog for kids.

Known as gentle giants (they weigh between 100 and 150 pounds), Newfies grow into their gentleness. Young Newfies are clumsy when it comes to their size and can easily hurt a small child without meaning to. A little training goes a long way with a young Newfie.

Newfies are intensely social and don’t do well if left alone for long periods of time.


14. Pug


A great dog for families, pugs are silly, even-tempered dogs that are fiercely loyal to their family. Bred as lap dogs, pugs need exercise to stay fit, but they’re not highly energetic dogs. In fact, they’ll have a hard time keeping up with the most active families. You don’t want to take a pug for a run!

Pugs are generally quiet dogs so fit nicely into a family with an infant. But they do require lots of attention. Give all your love to the baby and your pug will let you know he’s not happy. Families with kids that love having the dog by their side whatever they’re doing will do well with a pug.


15. Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier can be summed up in one word: exuberance. Its puppy-forever attitude, friendliness and loyalty are what make it one of the best dogs for families. Have an extraverted young family that loves to play outside? A Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier will fit in nicely.

Like many other child-friendly dog breeds, the happy-go-lucky Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier needs lots of company and activity. Leaving them alone is the worst thing you can do to one of these pups. 

Like other terriers, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier can be stubborn. And, they’re known for jumping and licking. This may be an issue for small children or those with a fear of dogs. Training is often needed.