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Top Ten Dogs for Kids

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The Most Popular Family-Friendly Dogs

While Lassie and Lady and the Tramp are fun to watch, they’re probably not the best way to choose a family dog. Instead, choose the breed by its disposition, temperament, size and energy level — all of which should suit your family's lifestyle. Just remember, always meet the dog and ask the breeder or shelter worker lots of questions before making such an important decision. Without further ado, here are 10 kid-friendly dog breeds approved by petMD.

#10 The Bulldog

The Bulldog has a sturdy build that is perfect for kids who like to roughhouse. However, it won’t win any awards for "most energetic dog." A docile, friendly and loyal dog, the Bulldog gets along well with other pets and dogs, too. The Bulldog is comfortable living in large houses as well as small apartments.

#9 The Beagle

While your Beagle most likely won’t have a bird named Woodstock as his best friend, you can still name him (or her) Snoopy. Originally kept as hunting dogs, Beagles fit well in homes with active kids, as they are sturdily built and are never too tired to play a game. Smart, friendly, and happy, the Beagle usually gets along with other pets, too (except for a bit of chasing here and there). They do shed fairly heavily, however, and require frequent brushing and bathing.

#8 The Bull Terrier

Unfairly branded as an aggressive breed, the Bull Terrier was actually bred to be a companion dog — friendly and loving towards grown-ups and kids alike. This well-framed dog also has a high threshold for pain, making it perfect for rambunctious children who are learning how to properly treat dogs.

#7 The Collie

This is the dog breed that "Lassie" made famous. Collies are a very gentle and predictable breed, easily trainable and rarely aggressive — which is perfect for families who are unfamiliar with dogs. Collies get along great with children and love to please their owners and protect their family.

#6 The Newfoundland

Nicknamed "Nature’s Babysitter" (think "Nana" from Peter Pan), the Newfoundland dog loves children and is very protective over them. Gentle, kind, and patient, this breed is almost like the Mother Teresa of dogs. Both young and old will quickly fall in love with this wonderfully sweet, large dog.

#5 The Vizsla

This may be a breed you haven’t heard of before, but because of its need for regular exercise, it’s actually one best dog breeds for active and energetic families with older kids. The Vizsla has a lively disposition but a gentle manner; it is loyal and affectionate. Additionally, it is obedient, confident and smart, forming close bonds with its family and able to learn new tricks quickly. Best of all, the Vizsla has very little "doggy" smell about it.

#4 Irish Setter

Known for its red coat, the Irish Setter is playful, energetic, loves being around people, and plays well with children. This doggy needs lots of exercise, and is a good match for energetic kids and active families. A smart and trainable companion, the Irish Setter is especially perfect for people with a yard.

#3 The Poodle

Often given rather curious haircuts by their owners, the Poodle is a very smart and gentle dog. It’s also great for kids with allergies, as it sheds very little. It does, however, require scheduled grooming, or its hair will get out of control. This is a proud and elegant dog that is both caring and loyal. Seldom annoyed or bored, the Poodle's good nature, friendly demeanor and patience make it an excellent playing partner for a child.

#2 Labrador Retriever

This is one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S., and for good reason. The Labrador Retriever is playful, patient, loving, protective and reliable. In fact, its sweet personality and intelligence is only matched by its beauty. What does this mean for you? It means the perfect family pet.

#1 The Golden Retriever

Not as big in size as the Lab, the Golden Retriever is a confident, smart, kind and loyal dog. Neither aggressive nor timid, the Golden Retriever is extremely patient, which is perfect for kids. While it does need a lot of exercise, its love of play makes this an easy task to achieve.

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Comments  18

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  • best dogs for kids
    04/24/2012 05:01pm

    we have 3 biscons and they just are full of energy and love all the kids in the neighborhood!!!!! Never have know this to bite!! We love ours!!!!

  • Labs and retrievers
    04/24/2012 07:54pm

    Agreed the top 2 are great with kids, but they are also VERY HIGH energy breeds. If you don't have time or patience then these may not the be ideal breed. Also they are prone to obesity, therefore without the proper exercise and diet you can shorten their life span.

  • Bully
    04/25/2012 07:51am

    Stoked to see my bully image used, and even credited! What a nice surprise, thank you!

  • Bully breeds
    04/26/2012 07:54pm

    This is a nice article and I do think it is helpful to share good "family dog" breeds. I am happy that you did include a couple of bully breeds in your list. However, the fact that you chose to put in parentheses on the bulldog listing "not to be confused with the pit bull" seems unnecessary. It seems like a dig at the pit bull, which was always america's nanny dog until the media started giving them a bad reputation in recent years. If you don't want to include them in your top 10 list to avoid controversy, I understand, but please remove the comment that the bulldog should not be confused with the pit bull as I read that as you saying "don't confuse them with the pit bull, as they are terrible companions for kids." Perhaps this is me being a little oversensitive as I just read a horribly written piece yesterday about the 5 supposed "worst" dogs for kids which did include the pit bull and some very erroneous information. But it's time to stop knocking the pit bull. Mine absolutely adore kids! And one is a therapy dog!

  • Incorrect
    04/26/2012 08:20pm

    I'm sorry but I just can't sit by the wayside while I see yet another article misinforming people about what breeds are good for children. Yes, certain breeds are bred for certain qualities. However, as a veterinary technician and hopeful future veterinarian, I have to point out the gross misreporting in this article. Especially coming from such a popular web site as PetMD.

    First of all you can not guarantee these qualities in any dog. I don't care if they have papers and both of their parents are the most perfect family dogs and you paid thousands of dollars. Each dog is different. I have seen many a pure bred dog, with just such a story, not be a good family dog at all. Like children, they may have similarities based on genetics, but they also have their own individual personalities as well.

    Secondly I too am insulted by the "not to be confused with the pit bull" unnecessary comment, and possibly an underhanded way to not include pit bulls on this list. I do realize they do bite, but so do all breeds of dogs. Unfortunately pit bulls are targeted for dog fighting, and a poodle bite just doesn't sell as many news stories.

    Thirdly I'm amazed at how much time is spent on recommending breeds and not training. I don't care how great of a dog you have, if you don't train them, they will not be good family pets. One of the scariest dogs I've ever met was a Vizsla, and a puppy at that. The owner was in complete denial about the animal's apparent innate human aggression because they were told by the breeder that it's impossible due to her breed (innate human aggression unfortunately does happen with some dogs... again, can happen in ANY breed, pure or mixed.) They finally opted to return the puppy to the breeder after she bit them and their young children SEVERAL times, the last time viciously enough to put one of the children in the hospital. They obtained a litter mate that turned out to be very docile. It wasn't the breeding; it was the dog.

    Fourth, it should be said that if you absolutely want a pure bred dog, you should look into rescues. If you don't like going to shelters, reputable rescue organizations that foster in their homes are a great resource, and especially if you have children in the home. The foster can tell you how a dog really is around children, other animals, and even adults. You would be amazed how many puppies and pure bred "gift" dogs end up at the shelter.

    Lastly, please do not bring a dog home FOR your children. Bring them into the family, with the knowledge that you, the adult, are the ultimate and primary caregiver. You wouldn't trust your 5 year old to care for a toddler. Why would you trust them to care for a dog, then be surprised (inevitably) that they can't?

    I wish people could work at a veterinary clinic for just one week. You would have a very different take on breeds, and on your own role and responsibility for your dog's behavior. If any of this seems like common sense to you, then I applaud you. Unfortunately after being involved with rescue myself and hearing all the reasons people give up their perfectly good animals to the shelter, I feel this all needs to be said.

  • 06/24/2014 03:04pm

    Thank you and well written. I truly hope your quest to be a vet is reached. For you seem to have a true understanding that Yes All dog are have there only personality. And you only get out of them what you put into them...Training, Love, Time.

  • Also disappointed
    04/27/2012 06:20pm

    As with some of the other comments above, I'm more than a bit disgusted with the obvious bias against pit bulls. Ask any dog trainer (of which I am one) what the best breeds are with kids and pits always make the list. I just wrote about it in my own blog (http://ferndogtraining.com/kids-and-dogs-1/)and it's been my professional and personal experience that pit bulls are one of the best breeds with kids.

    The thing to remember is that training is much more important than breed. You can train any dog to be good with kids if you take the time and have the right knowledge on how to do it. Pit Bulls have a great temperament with people and are one of the easiest dogs to train, making them naturals to share their lives with kids.

  • top 10 breeds for family
    04/29/2012 04:12pm

    I am really conflicted with listing the top 10 breeds of dogs for families. It is certainly true that anyone who is adopting a purebred dog should understand the breed. However, I agree completely with earlier comments that there are so many families that want a dog and do not fully understand dog breeds in general, and this type of list is quite misleading. There is at least one breed of dog here that is known for its incredible jaw strength, incompatibility with other dogs, and tendency to be mouthy if not known for biting! and three other breeds that are very high energy, including one with little focus on people beyond its needs for exercise! I worked with a few of them, and would never recommend them with children. Ever. I also think that mixed breed or "mutts" should be listed....there are so many that are easily adoptable, calm and have the best qualities for a family pet. Did a panel of vets choose these breeds? its unfortunate that unknowing families might choose one of these just based on this recommendation.

  • #5-The Vizsla
    04/30/2012 12:56pm

    Anyone considering a vizsla must realize that this is a very high energy dog that must be exercised daily or YOU will not sleep at night. It is also called a velcro dog because it needs human contact and will quite often choose your lap in making contact. The dog must live inside with its human family.

  • Please consider rewriting
    05/02/2012 12:07am

    I don't often comment on these types of things, but this one drew my attention right away and I just had to put my two cents in.

    The writer takes the time to comment that the Goldens and Labs needs lots of exercise, but says nothing about the Vizsla needing it. An under exercised Vizsla is NOT gonna be a good match for kids (or very quiet and gentle for that matter!) Many MANY Vizslas end up in rescue because they need so much exercise.

    When you think Vizsla - you should think border collie energy levels....

    I also agree with everyone else that the "not to be confused with the pit bull" comment was unnecessary, and you might consider removing that.

  • Thank you!
    05/03/2012 01:02am

    Thanks for rewriting this piece after reading all of our comments. If you fiddle with it further, you might also mention the Labs need for exercise too. Otherwise, great job!

  • Dangerous&Irresponsible
    05/05/2012 07:27pm

    This list is irresponsible at best; harmful at worst. Implying that ANY breed is going to necessarily be good with children - esp. young children - misleads the public into thinking that it's the breed not the owner and environment that is solely responsible for determining a dog's disposition. Over-reliance on breed as a predictor of behaviour is one of the number one reasons that children are not taught appropriate behaviour around a dog, and how to read a dog's body language. petMD should be ashamed of perpetuating breed-specific thinking among its audience. And as to its assertion that "bull terriers" are more tolerant to pain, that is absolutely incorrect and has led to some of the worst kinds of dog abuse among bull terriers, APBTs, staffordshire terriers, am staff terriers and pit-bull mixes of all sorts. It's simply not supported by any kind of reputable science.

  • Don't forget the mutts!
    05/05/2012 07:53pm

    I agree 100% with Cheri's above comments, but would like to add that encouraging people to purchase purebreds from breeders is irresponsible. And that is essentially what this article does. I help run a dog rescue that deals with mutts of all shapes and sizes, and even after lives of neglect or abuse, most of them can settle in to become the PERFECT family dog.

    I also board dogs (in-house, small group) and more than half of the many retrievers I've watched have to be walked on secret trails because they were dog aggressive. More than HALF. So this breed-specificity thing is equal to making racial generalizations in humans. There are always exceptions and no guarantees.

    Go to your local shelter and find the dog that chooses you!!

  • Best Dogs for Kids
    02/09/2013 03:17pm

    Look at the Bullmastiff versus a Bulldog.
    Nothing wrong with a Bulldog; but having raised 4 kids and now on my third Bullmastiff; I can tell you that this dog, affectionately called "the gentle giant" is fun, docile, protective and most of all tollerant of kids. Mine would sit on the dogs back, hold his ears and bounce up and down as if he were a horse. All the Bullmastiff does is enjoy the affection. They require little excercise and sleep most of the day. They require no grooming and love to snuggle.
    "only" downside is they drool when fed & only live about 8 years.
    If choosing this breed; be sure that hips are healthy and also check for any extropian or intropian eye issues. Intropian can irritate the cornea and is curable by minor surgery. My current dog has this condition; and by law, the breeder had to reimburse me for the cost.

  • Bullmastiff eye-lid surge
    02/09/2013 03:20pm

    Excuse me....my dog "had" it. The condition was corrected and the breeder paid the entire cost. He is great now.

  • Pitbull
    02/24/2013 10:47pm

    Wow....even on a reputable site like this, they slight the American Pitbull Terrier. The American Nanny dog known to do so well with kids, as well as our poster child for the World Wars. These dogs are like clay you can mold them into whatever you want them to be. I really think they got off on the wrong foot here saying "not to be confused with the pitbull" did they really have to make that iteration? Cheri Cabiya hit it on the "dogs nose" so to say with her comments. Just another site or person buying in to media propaganda. How is it different from racism when you discriminate against a breed of dog? If you were to make the same statement concerning a race of people you'd be immediately labeled as a racist or prejudice individual. Sad to see that there is even prejudice minds here on Petmd...I've had a Golden Retriever, a couple of Labs, and more than half a dozen Pitbulls in my and my families life. All of the Pitbulls were just as good if not better kid dogs than the other breeds. I get so much joy out of seeing my two 50lb nieces playing with our 60lb Pitbull, throwing her over like she's a rag doll and just loving every moment of it. I hope Petmd can see passed the faults of this beautiful creature in the future. Don't judge the son for the sins of his father.

  • Only my opinion..
    06/24/2014 02:53pm

    I am sorry. But I feel that a "breed" does not determine if a dog will be good with kids or not. It is the environment and training of both the dogs and the children have that determines thus. A lady allowed her child to ran up to a friendly dog they did not know. This dog bit the child in the face. The mother told the police that she did not feel her child was in danger because the dog was a Labrador and they are know to be great with kids. News flash.. Not all dog regardless of breeds will live up to our limited expectation of them. Nice article But please people. Do not let someone opinion tell you how to think and what choices to make. Do remember. You only get out of a dog. Any breed or mixes. What you put into them....

  • Mixed Breeds are Left Out
    07/20/2014 12:50am

    A lot of very good comments here. In my opinion, rescues are the best breed for families!