Top 10 Dogs Good With Children

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Are all dogs good with children? What dog breeds are best with kids?

Well before I became a parent I wondered which breeds made the best family dogs so I selfishly put together a list of top dog breeds good with children.

I have often heard that regardless of breed most dogs raised with children along with proper training can learn to be a wonderful childhood companions.

However, depending on your specific children some dog breeds may be better suited than others.

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: After sifting through all these wonderful dog breeds (don’t forget mixed breeds make wonderful pets too) if you happen to find the perfect puppy one book we recommend for new puppy parents is Puppies for Dummies.

Dog Scoring System

How did I compile my Top 10 Dogs Good With Children list?

A good majority comes from the internet, but I wanted my list to be at least slightly different from everyone else’s top 10 list so I graded each dog in 5 kid-friendly categories:

  1. Energy Level (excitability) – You don’t want a dog that is too excitable and knocks down your child.
  2. Size – Small dogs may be too fragile while a large breed of dog may not know it’s own strength/size and injure a child.
  3. Temperament – You don’t want your dog to be the dominant member of the family.
  4. Intelligence (trainability) – Highly trainable is ideal.
  5. Intangibles – Any special trait that either helps or hurts the dogs desirability.

Each dog will receive a subjective score between 1 and 10 in each category. The best overall score a dog can receive is a 50 and the lowest score is a 5.

Choosing The Breeds

You may be wondering how I got my short list of 10 dog breeds.

Before I brought home my rescue pup, Linus I built a spreadsheet compiling all the top dog breeds based on research in books, magazines, websites, friends, and family.

Of course, there was a lot of variation because everyone has their favorites.

I took all the breeds and narrowed it down to 50 by eliminating several hybrid breeds like Labradoodle and Goldendoodle.

Next, I took out any dog that wasn’t in the AKC’s top 100 list (just a way to narrow the list so I wouldn’t have as many dogs to evaluate – also it’s more difficult to find information on the more rare breeds).

That left me with 38 candidates and with those 38 remaining breeds, I made my own subjective scores using the following information.

Our Dog Rating Categories

CATEGORY1-3pts.4-6pt.7-10pts.
Energy LevelHighMedium-HighLow-Medium
Size<10lbs or >100lbs10-25lbs or 50-100lbs25-50lbs
TemperamentDominantBalancedSubmissive
IntelligenceLow (<50)Medium (25-50)High (top 25)
IntangiblesNegative traitsEvenPositive traits

***The Disclaimer – This is my personal opinion. Please do your own due diligence when searching for a breed of dog. The personality of a dog is often influenced by several factors including line, breeder, and owner more so than the actual breed of the dog. This list does not imply that all other dog breeds are unsuitable for children. Individual dogs may not show all or any of the traits associated with the breed. Puppy training, socialization with children, education, line, breeder, and living conditions with the family will all heavily influence your dog’s personality.

Now, what you’ve all been waiting for…the list of Top 10 Dogs Good With Children:

Top 10 Dogs Good With Children

Let’s get this party started with the…

Number 10 – Bulldog

Bulldogs

The Bulldog is the first dog on our list coming in at number 10. The positives I saw in the Bulldog were its lower energy and sturdy size.

Sturdy size is nice with kids who can often be a little rough when learning to interact with a dog. Some of the negatives with this dog were their trainability and common health issues with the breed. From Wikipedia:

The temperament of the Bulldog is generally docile, friendly and gregarious but are known to be fiercely loyal.

I have heard they are great dogs and tend not to leave the yard without their owners. The most exposure I’ve actually had to a Bulldog is on the MTV show Rob and Big and their dog Meaty.

UPDATE – one of my co-workers brought his Bulldog puppy to the office for the past couple of years.  He was docile and robust, but he did get skin irritation between the folds around his face.  My co-worker often mentioned he frequently had to clean these areas to keep moisture out.

I’ve never personally owned a Bulldog, but I did have the opportunity to dog sit my friend’s Bulldog, Murphy for 3 months.

Murphy was an easy-going dog and even though I didn’t have kids at the time I could see him doing well in a family environment.

Energy Level: 9
Size: 9
Temperament: 8
Intelligence: 3
Intangibles: 5.1
TOTAL: 34.1

Number 9 – German Shepherd

German Shepherds

The German Shepherd comes in at number 9. This is a very versatile dog and has been used as police, search and rescue, guide, and therapy dogs. From Wikipedia:

Direct, fearless, eager, alert, bold, cheerful, obedient, eager to learn, loyal, courageous, calmly confident, serious, protective

Of course, I have a special place in my heart for the German Shepherd. I fostered GSD puppies and the GSD breed makes up 15% of the dogs bred at Guide Dogs of America.

UPDATE – I love German Shepherds, but after being around them for the past 5+ years I have noticed their fierce loyalty to their owners and oftentimes suspicion towards strangers.  Make sure you work hard on your training and socialization if you decide a GSD is for you.

Energy Level: 3
Size: 5
Temperament: 7
Intelligence: 10
Intangibles: 10
TOTAL: 35

Number 8 – Brittany Spaniel

Brittany Spaniels

At number 8 we have the Brittany Spaniel.

The Brittany is a nice-sized dog at 30-40lbs big enough to rough house with the kids, but still not too large to be overbearing. This dog is also said to be very good with strangers and other animals. From Wikipedia:

The breed is noted for being easy to train, sensitive, and sweet-natured

Another breed I’ve had recent contact with at puppy class. Red was a Brittany Spaniel in our dog obedience training and he was a wonderful dog. One thing I did notice was how alert the Brittany was to the birds flying overhead.

Energy Level: 2
Size: 10
Temperament: 9
Intelligence: 8
Intangibles: 6.1
TOTAL: 35.1

Number 7 – Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzers

At number 7 is the Miniature Schnauzer. This dog is said to recognize the need to be gentle with children but does require a lot of attention. From Wikipedia:

Very perky, bright-eyed, loving, intelligent, energetic, affectionate, obedient, playful, happy, alert, feisty (Temperament can be quite variable)

A good friend of mine was taking care of a Miniature Schnauzer. The dog seemed very confident and easygoing. He did like being dominant over my Aussie mix Linus. From what I could see the Miniature Schnauzer seemed like a great dog, but might be a little small and fragile for some children.

Energy Level: 8
Size: 4
Temperament: 7
Intelligence: 9
Intangibles: 7.2
TOTAL: 35.2

Number 6 – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel…what a regal name…comes in at number 6.

The two drawbacks I saw from online research is a small size and only average intelligence. From Wikipedia:

The breed is highly affectionate, and some have called them”the ultimate lap dog” Most dogs of the breed are playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are usually good with children and other dogs.

Another dog I’ve been in close contact with recently. Another friend did extensive research looking for a good family dog and came up with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Their dog, Bennie was very docile and easy-going. The only time I saw him truly excited was when he got a chance to get on your lap.

One funny thing I saw this dog do was try to catch the embers from a fire we were having in the backyard…probably not the best thing for the dog’s mouth.

UPDATE – sad news on our friends Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  He passed away, but lived a wonderful life with his family and was well-loved.  I wish the life expectancy of dogs was longer, but unfortunately, the average for this breed is about just over 10 years.

Energy Level: 10
Size: 4
Temperament: 9
Intelligence: 4
Intangibles: 8.3
TOTAL: 35.3

Number 5 – Vizsla

Vizslas

The Vizsla sounds like a great dog for children. A very loyal dog who is also a quiet dog (they only bark when provoked). I guess this could be a negative if you’re looking for a watchdog. From Wikipedia:

Vizslas are lively, gentle-mannered, loyal, caring and highly affectionate. They quickly form close bonds with their owners, including children. Often they are referred to as “velcro” dogs because of their loyalty and affection. They are quiet dogs, only barking if necessary or provoked.

I know very little about the Vizsla and I’m pretty sure I’ve never run into one in person, but the sites I’ve visited rave about this dog.

I go as far in my notes to say that “they have very little doggy smell and hypoallergenic coats”.

Coupled with a nearly optimal size gave this dog a high score on my rating scale. If anyone owns or knows a Vizsla I’d love to hear some of your comments.

UPDATE – I’ve learned a lot about Vizslas since I last wrote to this page.  We ran into a working Vizsla training to become a Cadaver Detection Dog.  We have one friend who has a 3-legged Vizsla.  Finally, we have a neighbor who regularly walks her Vizsla through the neighborhood.  Everyone raves about this dog being a great family pet from their low-maintenance coats and the lack of doggy smell.  I have heard that they can be a little energetic, but aren’t all sporting dogs!?!?  

Energy Level: 3
Size: 8
Temperament: 8
Intelligence: 7
Intangibles: 10
TOTAL: 36

Number 4 – Pembrooke Welsh Corgi

Corgis

Isn’t that picture of the Corgi puppy just adorable?

A nice sturdy-sized dog with really short legs. It’s hard to imagine, but the Corgi is an active, athletic, intelligent dog despite its short legs and stocky body. I guess there’s hope for my short legs and stocky body. From Wikipedia:

The Pembroke is very intelligent, quick, active, and exceedingly bold. It is thoroughly devoted and protective of its family, defending its home at any cost. It barks occasionally, but makes a good watchdog.

One of my neighbors owns a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and seems active. I don’t think my neighbor has him quite under control as I see the Corgi often pulling his handler in whichever direction he wants to go.

He has also met both my dogs and is friendly with them, although the owner has told me that he will sometimes growl at strange dogs as a dominance thing.

UPDATE – Another neighbor just brought home an 8-week-old Corgi and I must say he is adorable.  They named him BigFoot and he loves people.  He’s a tad active and as a puppy might be a little much for younger kids, but overall he seems like he’d make a wonderful family dog after he grows out of puppyhood.

Energy Level: 2
Size: 10
Temperament: 7
Intelligence: 9
Intangibles: 9
TOTAL: 37

Number 3 – Poodle

Poodles

What do you think of that Poodle haircut? I’m really not a fan of the funky hair-dos (although I did have a mohawk for a short period of time). Maybe it’s because all my hair fell out around 35…Damn male pattern baldness!

The Poodle comes in high on our list only getting average scores for energy (medium-high) and intangibles (I like the poodle coat because it does not shed, but on the other hand it is difficult to maintain and groom). From Wikipedia:

Proud, elegant, dignified, good-natured, highly intelligent, very trainable, pleasant, happy, sensitive, friendly.

Poodles are one of the most intelligent and trainable dogs. That being said there is a standard poodle in our neighborhood who I would consider highly intelligent.

However, I have noticed that this poodle does bark a lot (every time we walk past the house) and is aggressive towards my dogs.

I have a feeling these are traits not common to the poodle. Throughout most of my readings, the poodle almost always gets high marks.

Energy Level: 6
Size: 8
Temperament: 8
Intelligence: 10
Intangibles: 6
TOTAL: 38

Number 2 – Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers

Coming in at number 2 is one of my favorite dogs and almost always shows up as great family dogs when researching on the internet.

The Labrador Retriever is well-balanced and a very versatile breed. Labs are used extensively as Guide, Service, Search and Rescue, Therapy, and Assistance Dogs. From Wikipedia:

Friendly, reliable, loving, affectionate, lovable, patient, highly intelligent, loyal, willing, high-spirited, lively, good-natured,and protective.

As most readers of this blog know I’m currently raising a black lab named Stetson for Guide Dogs of America.

I do have a decent background with Labrador Retrievers and have been working on Stetson’s obedience training and socialization for the past year.

The only drawback I’ve noticed with Stetson is his sometimes rough play. As he grows out of his puppy stage I think he will mature and be less rambunctious (he’s only a year old).

Other than that he’s an excellent dog and he displays all of the great qualities people rave about when talking about labs.

One other important note is there are some differences between English and American Labrador Retrievers.

Do your research if you’re looking to bring a Lab into the family.

UPDATE – I’ve been around Labs more than any other kind of dog.  Since writing this article I’ve raised 4 Lab puppies for the Guide Dog program as well as puppy-sat countless others.  In my opinion, these pups can be a little energetic and oversized for smaller children.  However, my older pups have calmed down quite a bit since puppyhood.  I highly recommend Labs as great family dogs.

Energy Level: 4
Size: 5
Temperament: 10
Intelligence: 10
Intangibles: 10
TOTAL: 39

And the number 1 dog who is good with children is…drum roll……..:

Number 1 – Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers

It was close, but the Golden Retriever edged out the Labrador Retriever by a single point.

The two dogs are very similar however I had to give the nod to the Golden in Energy (Medium-High vs High for the Lab) and Size (The lab is slightly larger which I considered less favorable to the smaller Golden).

The Golden received lower marks for its higher maintenance coat. From Wikipedia:

Friendly, confident, biddable. Never timid or aggressive. The Golden Retriever temperament is a hallmark of the breed and is described in the standard as “kindly, friendly and confident”

Growing up my parents chose the Golden Retriever as the family dog.

They purchased our dog Kiko the year after I was born and he was with us until he was 10 years old. He was a wonderful dog and a shining example of the breed.

Golden Retriever are used in many of the same service occupations as labs including Assistance, Search and Rescue, Guide, and Therapy.

UPDATE #1 – I’ve raised one Golden Retriever puppy for the Guide Dog program and puppy sat several others.  They have great temperaments and are very lovable.  Their coats do require a bit of maintenance, but they are wonderful family dogs.

UPDATE #2 – Since writing this article we’ve raised two Golden Retriever litter. They are wonderful dogs. For more information check out some of our posts about Golden Retriever Puppies.

Energy Level: 5
Size: 6
Temperament: 10
Intelligence: 10
Intangibles: 9
TOTAL: 40

Parents Responsibility

Often times children are unaware of their own strength and can be a little rough (the same can be said for many puppies).

Parents should take the responsibility to teach their kids and dogs to be gentle with their interactions with each other.

There are many breeds out there that work well with children, not just the breeds I mention on this list. Remember there are well-behaved dogs and not so well behaved dogs in every breed.

No matter what dog breed you choose you should never leave your dog and children together unsupervised for the safety of not only your child but the dog as well.

Conclusions

I’m happy to say I learned a lot while putting this list together. Before researching I knew nothing about the Vizsla.

Now I’m very interested in this breed and would be interested in any information about them.

Do you own or know a Vizsla?

I did my best to be as objective as possible in the compilation of this list.

A lot of this information is my personal preference.

I prefer a medium to large dog.

However, others may prefer small or extremely large dogs for their children.

I prefer low to medium energy levels and higher intelligence in my dogs.

Other people may think the exact opposite. Hopefully, this list helps you choose your family dog.

Let me know what you think.

Do you have a dog that is good with children?

Tell me a little about your dog.

The Best Family Dog

I originally wrote this article over 10 years ago. I have 3 young kids and 1 dog. Guess what breed?

Golden Retriever! 🙂

We’d like to add a second family dog and we’re considering a Labrador Retriever.

Over the past 10 years we’ve had a ton of experience with both breeds and I won’t hesitate to say they are definitely “dogs good with children.”

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: If you’re looking to get a dog or puppy, but you aren’t too sure what is right for you then a great book to get you started is Puppies for Dummies. There’s tons of information not just about raising and training your pup, but also about dog breeds, choosing a puppy from a litter, socialization, and behavior. It was a great starter book for us when we got our first puppy, Linus

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121 Comments

  1. I have a Labrador Husky mix, and she has never bitten anyone. She is the sweetest dog. Shes about 10 and still really healthy. Just saying a good dog choice.

  2. I forgot to add that children need as much training on learning how to treat dogs if not more than the dog. Mixing a misbehaved child with any breed is a recipe for disaster on both ends. Most times dog bites are prevoked by misbehaved, untrained children.

  3. I don’t think you can really say any one breed is better with children than another, it all depends on the individual dog. It pretty much depends genetics and how the dogs are raised. I have seen the most gentle pit bulls and the most viscious Labs and Goldens. I have seen very gentle tolerant Pomeranians and German Shepards as well as viscious types of the same breed. I have been working with rescue dogs for close to 30 years now and I have been attacked and bitten only 4 times in all those years. Three times were by a labs all three different and once by a Pomeranian. I have worked with every breed imaginable including Beauceron, Mexican Hairless, and a few other of the rarer breeds in the US. I have seen good and bad in every breed. No child should ever be left unattended with any breed no matter how much you trust them. I think articles like this give people a false sense of trust in these breeds. All dogs should be temperment tested for children regardless of breed! Like I said the outcome of a dogs personality depends on genetics and the way a dog is raised and trained no one breed is better with children than another.

  4. So just cause a dog bits doesn’t mean its from owner. It can bed from cross breeding are bad blood line some where down the road. People think doberman is not a good family dog. I have a 120 lb male. He is 7 years old and great family pet. Him and my 7 yr old girl are great friends. I also have a 3 lb chihuahua and 5 lb yorkie he is very gental with. But as puppy and young dog he was put around lots of ppl by doing walks with him and riding in back of truck he loves doing.

  5. I also forgot to add the Nova Scotia Duck tolling retriever as, in my opinion, a good dog for families with children.

  6. As a vet, I found this a very interesting post and have a few comments to make.
    First I wanted to touch on the topic of the German shepherds tendency towards aggression. In my 9 years of practise, this is the only large breed of dog that I have been bitten by (on several occasions). I’m not trying to give this breed any negative connotations nor steer people away from them, just make them aware of where their personality truly lies. The german shepherd is very intelligent dog with a very active mind. This often leads people to think that the training will also come easy. Wrong. Although intelligent, this breed is also dominant and if not socialized and trained properly, can turn into a very rangy, destructive and aggressive dog. The breed may understand and catch on to simple commands such as “sit” rather quickly, but may prove to be more of a challenge on commands such as recall or others that require them thinking of YOU as the one in charge. I find it a pity that this dog is often turned to as a basic household companion when it is really much more then that. It requires a sturdy hand, a mental challenge and lots of physical activity to keep it at ease. I have seen so many cases of rehoming/ potential euthanasia’s due to owners not getting what they expect out of this dog. Bottom line, there are two major stereotypes with the German shepherd. A) Its an aggressive menace or B) Its a wonderful and smart family dog, which is why organizations like the police use it! The truth is actually somewhere in the middle. The German shepherd is used in police forces as it is both a powerful and intelligent breed, that, with the PROPER and intensive training, is a loyal and reliable guardian. However, when taken into the homes of those who don’t plan on having to do much training/and activity with the dog because the dog is “supposed to be smart,” they tend turn destructive and aggressive out of frustration. ( alas, I also want to say, that there are always abnormalities, like those who will say “I have owned many GSD and all were simply calm and amazing!” or ” We had a GSD once and no matter what we tried, he was out to get us!” and this is just like saying ” jack has smoked his whole life and lived to be 105 and never got cancer!” or ” Ashley started smoking and got cancer a month later!” I’m just trying to make a fair and general statement so that this, and many other breeds like it, wind up in the right homes. Thus, happy owner, happy pet.)

    In saying that, this is also true for many other “intelligent/dominant” type dogs such as northern breeds( siberian husky, malamute), Doberman pinschers, akita Inu’s, Heelers, jack russel ect.

    As far as the bulldog, cavalier and miniature schnauzer go, they are all predisposed to some very significant health issues and I really push potential owners knowledge of this and suggest purchasing pet insurance along with your new furry friend.

    In my opinion, some of the best dogs for homes with children (based on a generally balanced disposition ( aka low bite probability) and fair trainability) would be; The Newfoundland Dog, Bernese Mountain Dog, Brittany Spaniel, Samoyed, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, labrador retriever.

    I believe the key thing to remember is, that as long as your willing to put the effort in, and have knowledge of the breeds general disposition and needs, everything will go smooth. If your are not active and don’t want to put much training in, choose a dog appropriate. Remember this is their life too, and they look up to you as their guardians. A dog is not a toy.

    1. I’ve just taken on a gsd about 8 years old from a shelter. So far he has been incredibly well behaved, calm and sound. However whilst my husband has had a few gsd’s before this is my first and as I have a two year old I am highly conscious never to leave him alone with her. He has big teeth and a huge frame so caution is the better part of valour. Thanks for your post as I think it both reassured me and heightened my awareness of potential pitfalls and dangers. He is a lovely intelligent dog and seems to have latched onto me like a 3 year old child but as he becomes more comfortable I’ve noticed that he tends to snatch at the stick I’m about to throw and have grazed my hand on his teeth once already. Definitely relate this to what you said about him trying to dominate. The snatching habit I’m already working on breaking as if he did that to my naive 2 year old could cause harm. Do think he will shape up well but will always need to be on guard. Being occasionally bumped out the way by a large dog I prefer to being almost endlessly yapped, licked and nipped at by small breeds at grandma’s. He is 2 stone overweight and judging by length of his claws when the pound found him think he has been starved of exercise and stimulation – happy to say 2 long walks a day including river swims (which he is superb at) seem to keep him very happy and relaxed. No human snacks allowed. He seems to like these rules as knows where he stands. Also im training my child that dogs can’t have human food, as feel is the best way to keep her hands away from his mouth where fingers and hotdogs could easily be mistaken. Keep up the good work enjoyed this thread and found helpful 😊

    1. Not a good idea. If somebody wants to give you a puppy for free, they are probably not an experienced breeder or something is wrong with the dog. Better to go with a rescue that fosters dogs in homes or with an experienced breeder. The dog won’t be cheap, but you can be assured that you are getting a decent dog. And many rescues and breeders will take the dog back if you can’t handle it.

  7. PEOPLE STOP SAYING THAT SHEPEREDS R BAD FOR KIDS MY AUNT HAS A SHEPERED AND ITS GRATE WITH ME AND I AM A KID SO HAHA I WIN

  8. PITBULLS ARE THE BEST FAMILY DOGS! I dont care what anyone says. They are amazingly loving, funny and loyal….and very protective of their family. I have 3 young kids and our Pit is their best friend! They have a bad rep because of ignorant and selfish people and its a shame!

    1. The problem is that pitbulls were, and still are sometimes, used as fighting dogs. Your pitbull might be super friendly, but not all are. Most of the “dangerous breeds” are breeds that are not meant for inexperienced or first time dog owners. Unfortunately, most places don’t test owners to see if they can handle the dog. Personally, I don’t really have a lot of experience in owning/handling a dog. I would not feel comfortable with a dog breed that has been known to become aggressive without an experienced/alpha owner. So, when I got a dog, I went with a rescue that fosters the dogs, no shelter. That way, I could get a dog that I could handle.

    2. There you go, another ignorant person that choose voluntary blindness until it’s too late. Continue to ignore what everybody tells you and I hope that you go to jail the day your dog attack. I find so stupid that part where she says “I don’t care what anyone says”. It’s exactly why tragedy happens. Again, yesterday, I saw on the news another pitbull attack on a 3 years old baby and it was the family dog. The parents said again “I don’t understand, our dog was so gentle”. I’ll tell you why, because like Rose, you chose to be ignorant by being deaf to what everyone was saying.

    1. Smaller dogs have been shown to be less tolerant with small children, as the dogs are more fragile. Most breed guides suggest that smaller dogs go to families with older children.

      1. I do not agree with this. I have had Chihuahuas for almost 28 years. I have had 6 children and they all were great around my children and the foster kids I had. I have also had rat terriers and Valley Bulldogs. All have been great around my kids, neighborhood kids, and strangers. it depends on how well they breed, socialized.

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