The Best Dogs for Kids and Families

Written by Lee Orlian
Interior designer & co-founder of Teepee Joy.

Have you found yourself browsing the local SPCA website a lot lately? Have your kids been promising the moon (or better yet, to clean their rooms) if only you’d let them have a puppy? Do you really miss the dog you grew up with, and want your children to have the same experience?

It might be time to consider contacting breeders or shelters in your area. But before you do, it’s best to take a few things into account, like the best dog breeds for kids.

Deciding to add a furry friend to your family can be exciting, but also a bit stressful. You know that dogs need training and a period of adjustment to their new surroundings, but that gets more complicated when kids are in the picture.

What might be a mild annoyance to adults (accidents on the floor, nipping at fingers, barking too much) can become a major problem with little ones around. It’s not a decision to be taken lightly, that’s for certain.

While it’s true that every dog is an individual, and will have its own personality quirks just like you or I, certain dogs have been bred specifically to work and live alongside families and children. We are going to take a look at 11 different breeds that work especially well with kids.

But before we get to that – a few things to think about:

Consider Your Activity Level

Certain dog breeds are built for exercise, while others are built for couch surfing.

Finding the right match is key.

Active families who adopt low energy breeds might find themselves carrying their dog for the last two-thirds of the hike they planned. On the other hand, families who enjoy reading together, or carefully working on model airplanes, might get really stressed out when their overly energetic dog begins tearing the house apart out of boredom.

Consider Your Home

Some dogs were bred to herd animals across treacherous terrain, or to pull sleds across frozen lakes. Putting a dog like that into a small apartment in the city is not doing any favors for you or the dog.

Find out as much as you can about a breed’s habits and space requirements before adopting or purchasing a new family member. Do they dig? Do they jump? Do they require a fence to keep them safe? Or do they need little more than a soft place to sleep, and a doting owner?

Consider the Personalities of Your Kids

Nobody knows your children better than you do. If your kids are rough and rowdy, you need to get a dog that cannot only match their energy level, but that isn’t likely to be hurt accidentally by little hands and feet flailing everywhere.

Some kids are very inquisitive, and might be inclined to poke and prod at a dog, so an extremely calm and tolerant breed is a must. Otherwise, an annoyed dog might react in unexpected ways, and could hurt the kids.

Lastly, are the timid children. You may be extremely excited about your new dog, but your child may need a little more time to warm up. Dogs with low energy levels are less likely to jump, bark, or rush up to your child. This lets both the child and the dog get to know each other a bit better without having any unpleasant experiences.

Consider Your Lifestyle

All dogs will miss you when you are gone, but some dogs are more likely to become nervous or overly upset when left alone. If school or work dictates that your dog will be left alone for most of the day, make sure you get a breed that can tolerate isolation and a bit of boredom well.

Something many families fail to consider is what will happen with the dog during vacation. You’ll have to make accommodations either to board the dog while you are away, or to find all dog-friendly places to stay.

You have a lot to think about already, but let’s talk about the best breeds for children!

English Bulldog

These squat, grumpy faced, medium-size dogs make excellent family companions, and can be wonderful with children.

Bulldogs are light on energy but heavy on love. They are a very tolerant breed, which may have something to do with their physical sturdiness. They can handle the excitement and curiosity of young children without getting harmed, and also without getting overly excited themselves.

Bulldogs have a calm temperament, and vastly prefer being indoors due to their poor tolerance of both heat and cold. This low-energy dog is great for apartment dwellers, or anyone who wants a lovable and thoroughly chilled out pet.

Cocker Spaniel

Originally bred as a bird hunting dog, Cocker Spaniels have lived and worked alongside their humans for hundreds of years.

These are bright, friendly dogs with lots of stamina, who are happy to romp around the yard with children and adults alike. Of course, at the end of a day full of play and exploration, your Cocker Spaniel will want to curl up next to the family on the couch and snuggle.

These dogs will need space to roam, and consistent training. All sporting dogs are bred to follow directions, but they are also valued for their intelligence and independence; which means they have ideas of their own.

Portuguese Water Dog

This breed caught a lot of attention thanks to “Bo,” the dog living with the Obama family at The White House.

Portuguese water dogs are active, and absolutely love people. They were originally bred to be in the water as much as possible; retrieving items for fishermen that fell overboard, or passing messages between boats.

These dogs are fiercely loyal, but they need daily exercise to keep their temperament in line. They are best matched with active families who spend a lot of time outdoors. If you live near a lake or ocean, or even if you have a swimming pool, a Portuguese water dog will thrive under the exercise, training, and affection your family shows him or her.


If you have ever used the term “climbing the walls” to describe your children, then a Beagle might be just the dog for them.

Beagles are friendly, cheerful, and very energetic. Not only can they match the pace of a high-energy child, they can also withstand an accidental bump or two during enthusiastic play.

Training a Beagle can be difficult. The most important thing you need to know about them is that they are scent hounds, and want nothing more than to follow their noses. If you can be patient and consistent with obedience training, a Beagle will make a wonderfully adventurous and brave addition to your family.


When most people think of a Greyhound, they conjure up images of a lithe and athletic racing animal.

So imagine their surprise when they find out that greyhounds spend as much time sleeping as the average house cat does! There’s a joke about rescued Greyhounds that says “They’re retired, and they know it.”

If you have a more sensitive child who wants the companionship of a dog, but can only really tolerate the energy level of a cat, a Greyhound makes a great choice. They will gladly lay alongside children as they read, build with blocks, or watch clouds floating by.

Basset Hound

Don’t let their short stature fool you; basset hounds are considered big dogs. Weighing in at up to 65 pounds, these dogs are sturdy, steadfast, and absolutely love children.

You could describe their temperament as calm or even lazy. Basset hounds do need exercise, but short walks are about the most they can handle. They’d much rather be following you around the house (at a walking pace), or laying their heads in your lap.

If your child is sensitive to noises, just be aware that basset hounds do tend to howl from time to time. Training can help to lessen this habit.


If your child has an adventurous spirit, a Boxer may become their best friend. These dogs are loyal, courageous, and always up for exploring. They can form very intense bonds with their families, and often act as alert guard dogs.

Be prepared for a high-energy pet. Boxers are not considered mature until they are around three years old. This means that you will essentially have a puppy running around in a big dog’s body.

As long as your family can provide a Boxer with the exercise he or she needs on a daily basis, their patience and gentle manner around children is wonderful.

Pit Bull

Pit bulls are smart, and very eager to please humans; this means they do very well with proper training. A pit bull who has been well socialized, and who has gone through obedience training, can become a gentle and beloved family companion.

Pit bulls are especially fond of children because they share a playful nature. These dogs are sturdy enough to handle a bit of rough play, but they also don’t have the huge exercise needs of some other breeds. A bit of concentrated outside play every day, and you will have a calm, tolerant, and attentive dog at your side.


A poodle can be a wonderful dog if anyone in your family suffers from allergies, as they do not spread nearly as much dander as other breeds.

Small dogs can be challenging around children, so be sure not to get a Poodle and a Miniature Poodle confused.

Medium-sized poodles can keep up at play time, but don’t need the rigorous or sustained exercise of some other breeds. They are smart, gentle, and curious, and work well in a house with children.


We’ve been talking a lot about specific breeds here, but don’t overlook the positive qualities of a mutt. Mutts often make good dogs for kids, because their crossbreeding means that some of the more extreme behaviors of certain purebreds are less likely to show up.

Mutts also have the advantage of being healthier. Irresponsible breeding can lead to purebred dogs with genetic disadvantages, but there is no such thing as a purebred mutt.

Look for a medium-sized dog, and if possible, look in shelters. Many puppies of mixed breed are dropped off at shelters all the time, meaning your family can have the opportunity to raise a puppy alongside your children, letting them become lifelong friends.

Labrador Retriever

Last, but not least: Labrador Retrievers. These dogs hold a special place in my heart because our family has one. Our eight-year-old yellow lab has a big heart and lots of love for us and our children.

Labs are a popular breed among American families, because of their happy dispositions, and the fact that they take very well to obedience training. These dogs are known for being affectionate, playful, and very eager to please. We have found this to be very true for our family.

Now What?

Do you have a friend who is thinking of adding a dog to their family? Be sure to share this on social media, especially if you found it helpful yourself. Also, check out this service if you are looking for a dog boarding service in Wilmette, IL