Published: November 7, 2018  

Last updated: May 25, 2021  

Good Dogs for Kids

When you have kids, searching for the best family dog will be one of your top priorities. As a mom of three kids and two dogs and a foster dog mom, I totally understand the need and desire to find a dog that is child-friendly.

Studies have shown that dogs can have a positive effect on our children’s lives. From boosting self-esteem to having less stress, learning responsibility, and over-all just healthier kids.

mutt dog with child

It’s no wonder why we love our dogs so much! Dogs complete our families with their unconditional love.

I want you to know, you are in the right place, I have dedicated my life to helping parents find their perfect dog.

Adopting a Rescue Dog When You Have Kids

You want to do the right thing and adopt a rescue dog, but it can be scary when you don’t know the dog’s history.

Questions swarm your mind… Will the dog be good with my baby or toddler? How do I know that the rescue dog won’t bite my kids? What is the best dog to get for my children?

First, I recommend finding a rescue that is foster-home based. Meaning that the adoptable dogs live in a home with families while they wait to find them forever home. When a dog is in foster care, they are more likely to be exposed to children and other dogs, all in a home setting.

Even if you really want to get a pure-breed dog, there are breed-specific rescues all around the United States. The AKC website has a huge database that allow you to search in your area by breed.

Read about the top 4 dog adoption websites.

Best Dog Breeds for Families

In general, some breeds tend to be more patient than others and more suited for children. But the reality is that any dog can bite, a pure breed golden retriever or a rescue mutt from the shelter.

It’s more important to look at the individual dog’s personality and energy level instead of the breed. Finding a family dog that is calm and patient is the priority no matter the breed of the dog.

Golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers are the most popular family dogs for a reason, they have lots of energy to keep up with the kids, but can also be calm and very patient with kids screaming and running around the house. But I’ve also heard stories of these dogs bitting children too.

Head over to our adoption resource page to learn more about adopting your perfect dog!

I highly recommend having your children involved in researching which dog to adopt. The more involved they are in the entire process of getting a dog, the more they learn and the more they will respect the dog and the responsibility of owning a dog.

What Size Dog is Best for Families?

Many parents think that getting a small dog will be better for their child because they are more their size. But the reality is that because they are small, kids think it’s okay to pick up the dog even when they don’t want to be. It’s also easier for small dogs to get injured when stepped on my running toddlers or toy-tossing babies.

A big dog is sturdier but can easily knock over a baby or toddler. When our yellow lab gets excited, he forgets he is 90 lbs. and his tail can be a lethal weapon! But that didn’t stop us from adopting labs when my kids were babies. Labs really are gentle and the most patient dogs we’ve ever owned.

How to Temperament Test a Puppy Before You Adopt

Best Dog Breeds for Families

This is just a general list of popular dog breeds that are great for families with children of all ages. Remember that finding a dog with the right personality and temperament should be your deciding factor when adopting a dog.

Small Dog Breeds

  • Boston Terrier
  • Dachshund
  • French Bulldog
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Papillon
  • Pug
  • Rescue Mutt

Medium Dog Breeds

  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Beagle
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Poodle
  • Rescue Mutt

Large Dog Breeds

  • Boxer
  • Collie
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Irish Setter
  • Labradoodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Rescue Mutt

I recommend avoiding herding breeds such as the border collie. Dogs with strong herding instincts usually want to herd their children too. This can lead to ankle-nipping and knocking small children over.

Many people think they want a puppy instead of adopting an older dog. While there are plenty of puppies ready for adoption, please consider the benefits of an older dog when you have children. Do you have time for potty training? Puppies can nip little hands, chew and destroy toys laying on the floor, and need lots of training.

Are you getting ready to adopt a new dog? Make sure to read 53 Questions You MUST Ask a Rescue BEFORE Adopting a Dog

A Warning About Kids and Dogs

It is really important to learn about your dog’s body language and then teach your children. If you have a few minutes, watch my video above. This is something I am very passionate about.

Never leave young kids alone with a new dog. We’ve all heard it, “I only looked away for a split second”. It’s unfortunate, but any dog has the capability to bite our kids. Many parents will say “it happened out of nowhere”, or “he’s never bitten anyone before”. Just because your gentle dog tolerates your kids pulling his tail or jumping on his back, doesn’t mean it’s okay to allow them to do it. At first, you may think he’s tolerating it but watch his body languageRead Why Family Dogs Bite to learn more.

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. I think it’s important to teach kids how to behave around dogs. I can’t agree enough with the part you wrote about learning dog body language and teaching your kids. People set up the kids for “cute” photo opps without thinking about how the dog feels.

  2. I will attest to the Beagle best dog I ever had great with children I also have farm animals never hurt or chased any of them I even had a hurt chicken in the house and she did great with her.

  3. Yes, Kids should be taught the basics of how to interact with pets. When playing with pets kids should little by little understand that they could hurt the dog and hurt themselves. Your kid can learn new things like caring and showing love by playing with your dogs but you have to make sure they understand certain limitations. Thanks for sharing these tips anyway.

  4. I am glad you went through the list. I agree with Marjorie above that the big thing needed is trust. You have to have confidence that the pet and child will get along. That comes with training, including training the child do’s and dont’s. Thanks for the great read.

  5. We had a mongrel/pointer (none of the silly hybrid names they have now) and he was adored by all of us kids way back when.

    The one vital thing I feel you need is trust. Can you trust your youngsters with the pup unreservedly – then the breed comes a close second. Dogs that make your kids smile will go a long way towards making a happy home.

    1. I agree, trust is important and the only way for that to happen is for everyone involved to be knowledgeable. The humans need to understand dog behavior, the dog needs to understand what the humans expect from him, and the kids need to be taught by the parents.

  6. I grew up with dogs. We didn’t do any research back then (1960s) and got a purebred Collie from a friend. I loved that dog and we were lucky he was well behaved. It’s so important now that dogs and cats are living in our homes with us to research the breeds to see which is best for your particular situation. I like the idea of adopting from a rescue that uses fosters.

  7. Great tips! I think a large part of successfully adopting a dog when you have kids, is teaching the children what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour around a dog right from the start. As is the same for any new dog being introduced into the home. It’s about setting boundaries and giving the dog a safe space they can call their own without constant interruptions.

  8. Some breeds do look quite unfriendly and ferocious. We have a Rottweiler next door who growls at us and barks at the cats, but it is a family pet and adores the two cats and family it lives with! So you never can tell!

    1. Very true. Rottweiler is one of the breeds that get a bad rap, but are usually big babies. Growing up, my best friends family had a rotty named Pooky! She was the sweetest dog ever, but could scare anyone away just by being the breed. Rottweilers are actually a great family dog, but not necessarily for a first-time dog owner.

  9. That’s a great idea about adopting from foster based rescues so you can see what they are like in a home. Our current dog was from a foster-based rescue and you are right it did really help. In addition to child friendly, we also have a rabbit so we always need a dog without a strong prey drive. When we adopted Ruby her foster dad brought her over so we could test her with our rabbit. They were already pretty sure she didn’t react to small animals. It all worked out and Ruby is perfect with kids and small animals.

  10. I think it’s important to teach kids how to behave around dogs. I can’t agree enough with the part you wrote about learning dog body language and teaching your kids. People set up the kids for “cute” photo opps without thinking about how the dog feels.

  11. Yes, so much depends on the individual dog. Breed is a factor too, of course, but as you said, it’s not the only factor. My adopted Lab mix Ace was gentle with kids and calm and tolerant in general. My current dog, a weim, loves kids but he’s not as gentle and can be mouthy and pushy and obnoxious. I think he could live with kids, but he would need firm boundaries.

  12. I can personally attest to the suitability of an Am Staff and a toddler! 🙂

    This is SUCH a helpful resource, Debi. I love your idea of getting your kids involved with researching about adopting a dog. Such a great way to get them engaged and to start feeling responsibility for another!

    The only thing I might add is that it would be awesome for new adopters to take a basic dog training class (with the kids if they’re old enough!) because, to your point, when the parents say the dog bite “came out of nowhere,” the reality is that the parent just didn’t identify the warning signs. A basic training class for the whole family or at least the parents can go a long way in preventing a bite!

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