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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:
- Energy Level (excitability) – You don’t want a dog that is too excitable and knocks down your child.
- 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.
- Temperament – You don’t want your dog to be the dominant member of the family.
- Intelligence (trainability) – Highly trainable is ideal.
- 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
|Size||<10lbs or >100lbs||10-25lbs or 50-100lbs||25-50lbs|
|Intelligence||Low (<50)||Medium (25-50)||High (top 25)|
|Intangibles||Negative traits||Even||Positive 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
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
Number 9 – German Shepherd
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
Number 8 – Brittany Spaniel
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
Number 7 – Miniature Schnauzer
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
Number 6 – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
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
Number 5 – Vizsla
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
Number 4 – Pembrooke Welsh Corgi
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
Number 3 – Poodle
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
Number 2 – Labrador Retriever
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
And the number 1 dog who is good with children is…drum roll……..:
Number 1 – Golden Retriever
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
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.
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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