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The 10 Best Dogs for Kids and Families


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 the family dog. Let petMD help you discover the best dogs for kids.

You can choose good family dogs based on three major factors:

  • Temperament – This is the dog’s personality. You should be looking for an agreeable temperament. For instance, a calmer dog has the ability to form strong bonds and be a great companion for your kids.
  • Size – Size should be looked at in relation to both temperament and energy level. Some larger dogs tend to be docile, while some smaller dogs can be excitable. 
  • Energy level – This is a matter of preference for your family. Be realistic about the lifestyle you can provide to a dog that needs more exercise than average. If you can’t meet a dog’s needs, his excess energy can lead to behavior problems down the road. 

Always meet the dog and ask the breeder or shelter worker a few questions before making such an important decision.

Here are five sample questions to ask, according to Holly Putnam, DVM, board member for the Association of Shelter Veterinarians:

  1. Is the dog safe for all members of the family? Some dogs are perfectly happy to socialize with everyone in the family, while some prefer only adults or one gender.
  2. What type of energy level is the dog?  You may want a dog that will accompany you and the family on long walks, or one that can be carried in your arms the majority of the time.
  3. What ongoing care will the dog require? Is it a longhaired dog who will need regular grooming, or a senior who may need more frequent veterinary visits?
  4. What age of dog are you looking for? Would you prefer a puppy who may require lots of training but will likely socialize well with the entire family, or would you prefer an adult dog who is potty trained, but may be more shy when friends come visit?
  5. Will this dog get along with other pets? If you have other pets at home, you will want to choose a dog that likes other animals, and be sure that your animals like the new dog.

Here are the 10 best dogs for kids and families: 

  1. Bull Dog
  2. Beagle
  3. Bull Terrier
  4. Collie
  5. Newfoundland
  6. Vizsla
  7. Irish Setter
  8. Poodle
  9. Labrador Retriever
  10. Golden Retriever


10. Bull Dog

For a devoted, patient pup that’s sure to act affectionately towards the kids, the Bull Dog is your go-to breed. The Bull Dog has a sturdy build that is perfect for kids who like to roughhouse. However, he won’t win any awards for "most energetic dog." A docile, friendly, and loyal dog, the Bull Dog gets along well with other pets and dogs, too. The Bull Dog is comfortable living in large houses as well as small apartments.  Most are also pleasant with outside visitors and compatible with other pets, which makes them the perfect fit for a busy, social family.


If you are interested in a Bull Dog, keep in mind that the compressed nature of their jaw means they’ll need a little extra care in the teeth cleaning area, and wheezing, snoring and some drooling is par for the course. On the other hand, their coat needs minimal care, although the folds around their tail and facial wrinkles will need to be cleaned to prevent dirt build-up. (Check out this piece for more on puppy and dog coat care.) Their smaller size makes them suitable to both large houses and small apartments, as well. Find out more about the Bull Dog here.



9. Beagle

The Beagle’s small size (they can easily be carried!) and calm temperament make him a great choice for families, and if your kids love the outdoors, this breed will fit right in, since there’s nothing they love more than exploring outside and taking to the trails. Beagles were originally kept as hunting dogs, and their sturdy build means they’re never too tired to play games. (If you’re afraid you might bore your new Beagle, don’t worry, these ideas will keep him busy and engaged.)  


Smart, friendly, and happy, the Beagle usually gets along with other pets, too (except for a bit of chasing here and there). However, they do shed, and require frequent brushing and bathing. Check out more about why a Beagle might be the perfect fit for your family here. While your Beagle most likely won’t have a bird named Woodstock as his best friend, you can, by all means, name him (or her) Snoopy.



8. Bull Terrier

Unfairly branded as an aggressive animal, 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.


Keep in mind that your Bull Terrier may often have mischief on its mind, especially when it comes to other small animals and dogs. Avoid problems by keeping your pet mentally and physically active every day. Their short, flat coat is easy to care for, and the breed does best as a housedog with easy access to a yard for play. Find out more about how to properly care for a Bull Terrier here.



7. Collie

With a variety of breeds classified as Collies, such as the Border Collie and Bearded Collie, your options for this family friendly pup are not only limited to the classic “Lassie” dog, a Border Collie, but we'll focus on that type of Collie here. Collies are a gentle and predictable breed, rarely misbehaving and easily trainable -- which is perfect for families that are unfamiliar with dogs. Collies get along great with children and love to please their owners and protect their family.


While this type of breed is typically mild-mannered, they were originally bred as herding dogs, so yours may try and herd your children! This might be amusing at first, but it’s probably best to discourage the child-herding (no matter how handy you may think it could be). Because of the Collie's long hair, the breed requires regular grooming to keep its coat in tip-top shape. A sensitive and intelligent breed, Collies are both gentle and stubborn, so keep obedience training in mind. (Get some basic obedience training tips here.)


Check out more about what makes the Collie so great here.



6. Newfoundland

Nicknamed "Nature’s Babysitter," the Newfoundland is considered one of the most intelligent breeds in the world, and they just happen to love children and are very protective of 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.


The Newfoundland best suits a family with large open spaces, and although they are known to drool and shed excessively, they should not be left to live outdoors inthe yard. This breed wants to be inside with its family. The Newfoundland is also a great swimmer and has been known to save lives in emergency situations. (If you’ll be swimming with your pup, check out this piece for some pool safety tips for dogs.)


They are easily trained and are quite task oriented, so don’t be afraid to provide them with stimulation that requires a little extra work on their part. Learn more about this patient and loyal breed and why they might make the perfect fit for your family here.




5. Vizsla

While this breed isn’t exactly a common household name, 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, and is both loyal and affectionate. The breed is also obedient, confident and smart, forming close bonds with family and able to learn new tricks quickly. Sensitive, gentle and full of energy, check out this page for more info on the Vizsla, and consider them with your list of other family-friendly dog breeds.



4. Irish Setter

Known for its red coat, the Irish Setter is playful, energetic, loves being around people, and plays well with children. In fact, this breed loves being with their family so much that they hate to be alone, which means they’re on their best behavior when surrounded by their loved ones. (Check out some easy ways to prevent separation anxiety in your dog here.)


This doggy needs lots of exercise, and is a good match for energetic kids. A smart and trainable companion, the Irish setter is perfect for people with a yard, and they’re great at greeting new people into your home, as well. Learn more about the friendly Irish Setter here.



3. Poodle

Besides their often-distinctive haircuts, the Poodle also happens to be a very smart and gentle dog. The breed is available in both miniature and standard sizes, meaning you can choose the specific Poodle size that best matches your living environment. They’re great for kids with allergies, as they shed very little.


Each breed comes with different perks. The Standard breed, for example, is very obedient and smart, playful and adventurous (although often shy with strangers, they get along great with familiar people and kids). Miniatures, on the other hand, tend to dedicate themselves to one person in particular, but they are good with other pets and kids, and are smart, responsive, obedient and playful, making them a great match for kids, too. No matter the particular breed of Poodle, however, their coats do require scheduled grooming. (Learn how to find the perfect dog groomer here.)


This is a proud and elegant dog that is both caring and loyal. Seldom annoyed or bored, find out more about why the Poodle makes a great kid companion here.



2. Labrador Retriever

This is one of the most popular dog breeds, and for good reason  the Labrador Retriever is playful, patient, loving, protective, and reliable. Another perk — Labs are highly intelligent, and take well to training. They require a lot of exercise (they love swimming!), so be sure your family is up for the challenge, and a little extra room for them to run around and play in would be optimal.


Whether it’s the black, chocolate or yellow variety, you’ll find that all Labradors share the same sense of stamina, strength and obedience that makes them such a popular breed. They are affable dogs that get along well with other animals and pretty much everyone they meet, plus their short coats means they only really need a weekly combing to keep them clean and healthy. Check out more about what makes Labrador Retrievers so great right here.




1. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a confident, smart, kind, and loyal dog. Neither aggressive nor timid, the Golden Retriever is extremely patient, which makes them a perfect match for kids.


While the breed does need a lot of exercise, they love of play (retrieving games are their favorite — for example, your Golden might love playing frisbee), which makes this an easy goal to achieve. You’ll often find that the fun-loving Golden Retriever is affectionate and obedient, as well, meaning your kids will fall in love instantly. Proper care for their glorious golden coats requires twice weekly brushing, and while the breed is adapted to live outdoors, they’d really prefer to be indoors, with their humans, most of the time.


Learn more about why Golden Retrievers consistently top the lists of family friendly dogs right here.





Special Mention: Mutts!

While your family is sure to fall in love with any of the previously mentioned purebreeds, don’t count out mixed breeds, either, which often provide the best traits of two great breeds in one dog. “When considering adopting a dog, you will want to observe how it responds to all members of your family,” says Dr. Putnam. “Some dogs are very social with everyone, while others prefer only adults or one gender. Does the dog approach you and your family with a wagging tail or body, or does it cower in the corner of the room? How willing is the dog to play or share with your family? Some dogs become possessive of what they believe is theirs. This can escalate into a dangerous situation if young children are unaware that the dog may aggressively defend what it wants.”


Dr. Putnam also suggests considering your family’s lifestyle, and what type of energy level would fit best. “For instance, if you have a family with small children, a large, rambunctious dog may inadvertently knock the children down,” she said. “If you are an avid runner and looking for a canine companion, a leisurely Basset Hound may not be the best match.


So now that you know a thing or two about kid-friendly dogs, choosing one for your home and your family should be a little bit simpler. Good luck and get more tips for bringing a new dog home here

  1. Bull Dog
  2. Beagle
  3. Bull Terrier
  4. Collie
  5. Newfoundland
  6. Vizsla
  7. Irish Setter
  8. Poodle
  9. Labrador Retriever
  10. Golden Retriever


Comments  22

Leave Comment
  • Poodle?
    04/15/2012 04:52pm

    Growing up and even today my family has had poodles, I was surprised to see them
    On your list for childrens dogs. They can be high strung, moody and easily aggrivated. Add to that, the high maintenence involved with grooming and yes those haircuts are mandatory unless you want a very scruffy looking dog. This is definately a research driven decision type if breed.

  • 04/26/2012 05:57pm

    My ipad for some reason closed before I could finish.

    The standard poodle is one of the best breeds for children or anyone who wants one that's funny, gentle, smart, protective and probably the most human-like of all breeds..

    I know many individuals who have purchased poodles because they were so impressed with mine or commented that other breeds are difficult to have after living with a poodle, a unique animal.

    I've had many throughout my life. Presently, I have 3 standards and 2 wonderful toys as well.

    Like all breeds they're not all perfect, partly due to breeding and just the way life is.. The best parents can have a bad child.

    The only real concern is grooming. If you want to keep them long, they need regular maintenance or they can be sheared reducing the amount of up-keep.

  • 04/26/2012 06:30pm

    Unfortunately, when a naturally large breed (standard poodle) is genetically altered producing a miniature or toy there is a much greater chance for the smaller version to be high-strung. Standard poodles are rarely that way!

  • Surprising List
    04/13/2013 02:55pm

    Wow, I have never owned one,but Golden Retrievers are very friendly every time I meet them. Great with kids, great family dog.

    Schnauzer? I know several and they are NOT friendly with strangers nor other animals. Several of their owners have even attested to that.

    Bulldogs? Can't imagine cuddling with that

  • 04/13/2013 02:58pm

    Oopps Seems I replied to the wrong list

    04/15/2013 11:17pm

    The *NUMBER ONE* dog for a child should be the American Stafford-shire Terrier!! Not only have I personally witnessed this with my own child as well as numerous other people that I know it has been proven. It's hogwash that they get outcast-ed b/c they are one of the strongest dogs out there so low life criminals choose to train them to be TERRIBLE and fight each other for there own financial gain. They are almost all born to be amazing unless bred to be terrible. Any breed of dog could be viscous if trained to be so. Its just that these are some of the strongest dogs so they are the most commonly choosen to be trained to be fighters. IF you honestly think about it you have N-E-V-E-R heard a story of a properly trained, well treated, well kept "Pit-Bull" to just snap and hurt people. IT's stupid HUMANS that train them to be horrible. Come on! Think about it some of worthless Michale Vic's,trained fighting dogs have been placed in homes with multiple children!!! If the BREED it's self was sooooooooooooooooooooooo HORRIBLE this would never be close to possible. UGH HUMANS SUCK!! It's not their fault the humans train them to be terrible. SUCH B.S!!!

  • 05/08/2013 12:23am

    I agree 100% i have owned many pits and they are exactly what there trained to be loving family dogs.

  • Beagles
    05/10/2013 04:56am

    I couldn't agree more. We got a beagle/cocker puppy last year and he has been the most amazing dog for our family. He is extremely loyal and always at my side. We were so pleased we got him a brother 2 weeks ago. They have quickly bonded. They have a cat brother as well. The three run and play and do quite well. Our beagles Willy & Nelson love to play with their human brothers too. Beagles use their noses a lot so make sure you put the trash can out of reach. I was excited to see them in the top 10.

  • 05/17/2013 06:15am

    That's really cool idea that i got to see in here. Segmenting the dog as per kids age and preferences is good in terms of safety considerations. But how many dogs one can own, that's also a logical question in this regard.

  • 06/05/2013 09:43am

    Dogs make great companions for kids as well as women. They make up for in personality and playfulness as well they're extremely loyal, to boot. I extremely admire French bulldog as this breed is smart with a powerful penchant for play. They're very lively and social, but not overly boisterous or barky.

  • 08/02/2013 07:17pm

    This list is very reassuring for us.....we are expecting our first child this fall and we have 3 dogs.....a collie, a beagle and a lab.

  • I like your list
    08/03/2013 12:26pm

    the order is somewhat off though I find beagles should be more like in 4th place then 9th and I've known enough collies they shouldn't even be on this list. and Vislas are greats dogs too. Over all your list is good just not good enough. Maybe look more closely at the AKC version which is much better. course I will not argue with the numbers 1 and 2 dogs they are the best family dog there is I would put the beagle third on that list and drop the poodle to 9th .

  • 08/04/2013 06:56pm

    Whatever dog you choose please adopt your dog from the shelter or a rescue group. Millions of wonderful dogs die in shelters every year.

  • 08/17/2013 08:18am

    Agree with the list, but the the poodle should say Standard Poodle. Any other size is WAY too delicate for a child!

  • Labrador
    09/12/2013 12:37pm

    Our Labrador was extremely patient with children. Toddlers that visited us often pulled her fur, ears and tail and she never even flinched. She just nugded them gently and licked their hand or face. During the 13 years she was with us, never one single problem. I miss her... :'(

  • Saw something so cute for
    06/24/2015 03:09pm

    hi guys, I saw a really cool post about dogs using costumes. As a community that care for our loved 4 legged friend, I feel this will interest the audience:

  • I just adore miniature po
    12/07/2015 03:00pm

    I have had many breeds and I just adore miniature poodles. They are very friendly towards everyone, easy to take care of, and surprisingly calm unless someone new comes to the door but quiet down at once. Very intelligent and snuggle well at night. I have a westie which is much less calm than them. Great all around pet. greets: https://fulhamsw6.wordpress.com/

  • A little addition
    01/11/2016 04:31pm

    I wouldn't have added a poodle. In my experience with them and their owners, as well as plenty of research, poodles are actually rather aggressive and can lash out pretty quickly. While being great for familes with allergies, and they typically do have a rather calm, gentle nature, it doesn't change the fact that poodles are aggressive and can have really strange mood swings.

    I would have added rottweilers to the list, even if I am biased. I've basically grown up with them my entire life - they're sweet and playful. Add that to their protective nature, and their huge, strong jaws aren't usually a problem unless the kid is being cruel. The last time we had a rottie (a younger one) the dog allowed my brother and I to play roughly with him and let my brother ride on his back (although our dad got a little angry. Not good for a dog). Their big size and the fear that people have of them thanks to their strength being used in dangerous ways by other people is probably why most people don't usually allow them around kids, but trust me, they're good with families.

    (AND they're MUCH more convenient to have around than a bulldog. Better to cuddle with, and provides much more protection. Most people would be more intimidated by a rottie than a bulldog.)

  • 01/17/2017 03:19pm

    Even though German Shepherds were not included, I wanted to put them in the same "Nature's Babysitter" category as the Newfoundland. My GSD Frisco had a toddler take his whiskers in both hands and yank them out completely, and even though Frisco yipped in surprise, he didn't bite, snap, or even knock the toddler over when he calmly walked over to us -- followed by the little kid with two handfuls of dog whiskers! GSDs are very loyal, family-oriented and intelligent, and children basically become their puppies.

  • The case for terriers
    01/17/2017 03:15pm

    With the exception of the Bull Terrier, there was an inexplicable absence of terriers from the list. Some of the most durable, family-oriented, kid-friendly, fun-loving dogs are terriers -- Boston Terriers, Jack Russells, Lakelands, Norfolks, and of course, my favorite: the ultimate family dog, the Pit Bull Terrier or PBT mix. I have a PBT/Whippet cross, Moxie, who's hands-down the best dog I've ever owned (and I've owned scores of dogs of many breeds). Moxie is an ambassador for the PBT breed -- friendly, outgoing, gentle, playful, extremely family-oriented -- as well as the very best of the whippet -- capable of explosive energy as well as a turn-off-the-switch, lounge-on-the-couch-with-you calm nature. She's not the smartest dog I've ever owned, but she's not as dumb as a box of sticks, either, and she's clever and kind of a clown. Terriers were definitely under-represented in this top-10 list.

  • 01/22/2017 07:46am

    Yes, Pit Bull Terriers are the friendliest, kindest family dogs. Until they shred the neighbor's child to pieces.
    And to put Bull Terrier in the list of top 10 breeds for kids - that pure trolling.

    03/06/2017 11:46am

    This comment has been flagged as inappropriate.