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Best Dog Breed For Homes With Young Children

Updated on March 6, 2013

Puppies and Children?

In many people's minds, dogs and kids go together. However, many children end up being hurt by (or hurting) the family dog.

If you have young children, it is worth carefully considering what kind of dog to get. Some breeds are more suited to being around young children than others. You need a dog that is quiet, patient and not particularly fragile. (In general, if possible, a larger dog is better). I also recommend considering an adult dog if any of your children are younger than four. Very young children and puppies do not mix well. When it comes to selecting your dog, there are some breeds that are particularly good with children.

Golden Retrievers

The golden retriever is the classic 'children's dog' and the first on almost everyone's list. Intelligent, loyal and very patient, golden retrievers are generally safe even with toddlers. They are easy to train and generally have a very laid back temperament. Their intelligence and trainability has made them the number one go-to breed for service dog training.

However, they are on the larger side and have a long coat that needs to be brushed daily, or it is likely to matt. An adult golden ranges from 21 to 24 inches in height and can weigh as much as 75 pounds. Golden retrievers have few breed specific medical problems and have not been bred to extremes for the show ring, making for a healthy, active dog.

Labrador Retrievers

In the dictionary next to 'dog' you will most likely find a picture of a labrador retriever. They have become one of the most popular dogs in the world. Like goldens, they are often used as service dogs.

Labradors are powerful dogs, standing between 21 and 24 inches and officially weighing as much as 80 pounds. Some individuals, especially dogs, can be much bigger, and 100 pound labradors have been reported.

If your family is active and your idea of the perfect weekend is a long hike through the woods, a labrador is perfect. However, they are very high energy dogs and should not be kept as couch potatoes - or you may well end up with a 100 pound labrador that is not supposed to be that way. If you don't have the time or inclination to give a dog a lot of exercise, don't get a lab. If you do, however, then these playful, high energy dogs will make the perfect companion for your children and teenagers.

Standard Poodles

If somebody in the house is allergic to dogs, you might want to consider a hypoallergenic dog. The first and most obvious is the poodle.

Small poodles (toy and miniature) are notorious for being snippy and having 'small dog syndrome'. Standard poodles, however, are much more laid back. They are great dogs if you only want one dog, as they would much rather hang out with you than another dog, any day of the week. However, this also makes them a bad dog if they have to be left alone for extended periods of time regularly - they are intelligent enough to cause real mischief.

Standard poodles are at least fifteen inches tall, and some, especially in Europe, can be even taller. Poodles love water, and it is hard to keep them out of it.

The poodle's unique coat does require special care, including trimming every six to eight weeks. Poodles do not shed the way other dogs do and if their coat is not trimmed, it will grow excessively long and then mat. Trimming can be done by a professional, but it is also easy to learn to do a 'puppy' or 'retriever' trim yourself...the dog's hair is simply trimmed to about an inch and a half all over with a set of dog clippers.


If you need a smaller dog and your kids think hounds are the bees knees...a beagle is definitely the answer.

Beagles, like labradors, are good dogs if your family is active. They also fit well in apartments, being no more than fifteen inches tall and often fitting under a 25 pound weight limit. They also have the advantage of not needing to be groomed...their coat is very short and even. They shed less than many dogs. However, some beagles will bark or bay at the slightest provocation.

Like poodles, beagles do not like being left alone for extended periods of time. They enjoy playing games and do like to chase things. Generally, it's a bad idea to leave your beagle alone in the yard, as they were bred to hunt rabbits and many are diggers. They will, however, go anywhere and do anything with your and your children.

Shih Tzu

If you have kids and want a genuine lap dog, then consider the shih tzu. They are tiny, maxing out at sixteen pounds or so and eleven inches, but unlike most toy breeds they are not fragile and delicate.

This is a breed that was created purely as a lap dog - gentle, playful and highly decorative. They do have a very long coat that requires daily brushing. You can get around this by trimming your Shih Tzu's coat short.

Their arrogant appearance (which doesn't connect to their friendly temperament) relates to the fact that they were bred to ornament the Chinese Imperial court. Like most lap dogs, shih tzu's do live longer than larger dogs.

Because of their large, bulging eyes, Shih Tzu's are sometimes prone to proptosis (displacement) of the eyeball. Avoid getting a puppy from lines prone to this problem.

Getting A Mixed Breed

In today's climate, there is a lot of pressure on people to go to shelters and get mixed breed or mutt puppies.

I do not recommend getting a mixed breed puppy if you have young children. Mixed breeds are a genetic gamble - you never know which traits they have inherited from their parents. In some cases, you may not even know what the parents are.

If you feel that the best way to go is a mixed breed, then get an adult dog (at least 18 months to 2 years). That way, you know what you are getting and whether its temperament is suitable. Too many families get mixed breed puppies from a shelter...and then send the puppy right back when it bites the kids because it simply couldn't handle being played with roughly. For the benefit of the dog and the children, it is very important to get the right dog the first time.

Other Breeds To Consider

In the interest of keeping this short, I am going to just mention a few other breeds you might want to consider.

Irish Setters - these redheads are lighter built than a golden retriever, but not known for their intelligence. They are, however, very gentle and tolerant dogs. English setters are similar, but are white with red flecks.

Airedale - these large terriers are sturdy, healthy and protective.

Basset Hound - with their unique appearance and droopy eyes, basset hounds tend to match their activity to those around them and will jump in with anything.

Collie - if you want your very own 'Lassie'...although most could never do the feats in the movie, collies are great family dogs that are easy to train and love to do tricks.

Pug - another lap dog option, pugs are affectionate, even-tempered and many find them impossibly cute. Try to avoid a pug with an excessively flat face, however, as they can have breathing problems.

Breeds To Avoid

Border Collie - these are incredibly intelligent dogs that were made popular in England by means of televised sheepdog trials. Border collies are great dogs...but they are not for the average family. A border collie needs a job to do, and if you want to do obedience or agility, you should look no further. If all you want is a pet, though, then a border collie is likely to become bored and possibly destructive. If they have nothing else to herd, they will try to herd (and dominate) your children.

Dalmatian - Pretty, spotted, gorgeous and stars of a children's movie. Your kids may try to demand one. Dalmatians are high strung and reactive dogs...they were bred to be outriders for long carriage trips and to alert their owners. They are also prone to deafness and every single purebred dalmatian carries a genetic flaw that makes them incredibly prone to bladder stones. Many end up needing surgery.

Chihuahua - Just too small and fragile to be around children. On top of that, they're excessively jealous and protective, and they bark a lot. Chihuahuas are more prone to bite and snap than most breeds.

Chow Chow - Chow chows are standoffish and don't like to play with children. They can also be very dominant. This is a bad combination that is likely to end up with dog mad with children and children mad with dog.

Terriers - I would avoid pretty much all terrier breeds, although a good West Highland White might be okay. Terriers are possessive, territorial and often barely tolerate children. I would particularly avoid Jack Russel Terriers as they are prone to major temperament faults and can be outright vicious. (Many are nice dogs, but you do have to be very careful when selecting one, even for a home with only adults). Also, if a terrier bites, they tend not to let go.

One thing that will probably surprise you is that 'pit bulls' have not made this list. As a matter of fact, the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a good breed to have around children, providing it is properly trained and socialized. In general, pit bulls, despite their reputation, are only aggressive towards other dogs. Many apartment and condo complexes, however, ban 'pit bull' breeds from the property.


Which of these dog breeds would you be most likely to get?

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    • jenniferrpovey profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      The issue is not mixed breeds per se, it's predicting the temperament. My suggestion was not to get a very young mixed breed *puppy*, but rather a slightly older dog who's temperament is known.

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      6 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      My kids grew up around mixed breeds of all ages. If you look up the history of any breed, you will find out that they are actually all mixed! And mixed breeds have the advantage of having the best of two or more breeds. Nothing wrong with having a Mutt around children as long as you raise it right. They actually usually live longer, because they weren't bred for looks and born with medical issues that will limit their lifespan. I have pictures of my youngest daughter sleeping on a Pitbull mix and being totally at ease. While they are a bit too energetic for small children, they are very loyal and protective of their families!

      You listed Retrievers, but they can often be a bit too much for young children, because they are working dogs and very energetic.

      It really boils down to character when one chooses a puppy. If you are the outgoing and energetic type, get one that is outgoing and energetic. If you are a quite and laid back person and want peace, get the shy one in the back, that rather enjoys the peace with you.

      And if you have young children, make sure you never leave any child alone with any animal! Children don't understand the boundaries until they are older! And most animals have the natural parental instinct that will have them treat a child like it is a puppy or kitten! You as the adult are responsible for making sure that neither accidentally hurts the other!

    • jenniferrpovey profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      That is a good point. You should buy your puppy from a responsible breeder, meet both parents if at all possible (this can be hard with some rarer breeds where AI may be being used routinely to ensure genetic diversity, but you should at least be able to TALK to the owner of the sire, even if he's three states away).

      But I have seen too many mixed breed puppies end UP in shelters simply because they were not suited in base temperament to the home they were in. Some dogs simply do not tolerate being played with by children, for whatever reason.

    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi Winder-Adams 

      6 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Great Hub with lots of good information. I do have one point of disagreement. In my experience a mixed breed from a shelter is no more of a gamble than a purebred from a backyard breeder, irresponsible breeder or a pet store (read puppy mill!). A puppy that is friendly and social, if properly trained and socialized, will develop into a mature dog that is friendly and social, regardless of the breed or mutt mix. It is essential to see BOTH parents from a breeder to get a good take on the possible personality of the puppy (something that is often hard to do). In addition any puppy or dog that is not obedience trained and socialized is going to be a problem around kids regardless of breed, size or papers!

      Voted up!

    • shesacraftymom profile image


      6 years ago

      We have a Shih Tzu and it is by far the best dog I've ever owned. She never barks, she's calm and the kids love her! She is a full breed, and we actually got her from a rescue group. Best decision we've ever made as far as pets go. Voted up!


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