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Young child sleeping next to a small dog on a sofa

Have you decided that your family needs a new furry addition? Adopting a dog can be such a wonderful experience for families, especially when children are involved.

However, not all dog breeds are ideal when kids are in the picture. Since they don’t have the impulse control of adults, you need a breed that’s patient and gentle with them.

Keep reading to discover some of the best dog breeds for kids and families!

What to consider before adopting a dog when you have kids

It’s natural to assume that breed is the best way to approach this decision. And while it is true that breeds do have certain characteristics, a recent study has shown that behavior isn’t predicted by breed.

So, it’s important to train your dog properly if you want them to behave well around kids, no matter the breed.

Individual dogs also vary in personality, so choose your pet carefully before bringing them home. Luckily, most adoption shelters label each dog with any potential issues, so if there’s a dog who doesn’t do well around young kids due to something in its past, you’ll know.

Some dogs are older and have never been around children, which could make it difficult for them to adapt to your environment.

When choosing between different dog breeds, consider the following:

  • The age of your kids
  • How much room you have in your home
  • How active your kids are
  • How much time you can dedicate to exercising your dog

You’ll also need to take your children’s personalities into consideration. Active kids will need a dog that can play safely with them without getting too rowdy or overexcited.

On the other hand, mellow kids who prefer indoor activities will benefit more from a cuddly dog that doesn’t require as much exercise.

15 of the best dog breeds for families with young kids

Here are 15 dog breeds to consider if you have a family with young children generally aged 6 or younger requiring extra patient pups.

Each dog breed has been reviewed for its size, breed traits, exercise requirements, life span, and common health issues — in the end, they are all recognized as being suitable for younger children.

1. Havanese

Havanese dog lying on the floor

Weight: 7–13 lbs

Traits: Social and outgoing, the Havanese is a playful dog who’s silly without being rough. This makes them ideal for every age in the household.

Exercise requirements: They need moderate exercise, but be careful not to over-exercise them. If they start panting, it’s a sign they’re ready to go inside and relax.

Lifespan and health concerns: A Havanese pup lives an average of 14 to 16 years. However, they’re prone to eye disorders, deafness, heart murmurs, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, chondrodysplasia, and patellar luxation.

2.  Border terrier

Weight: 11.5–15.5 lbs

Traits: Plucky and affectionate, border terriers are good-tempered in a home and do well with family members of all ages.

Exercise requirements: They love exploring the outdoors and make perfect pets for outdoorsy kids.

Lifespan and health concerns: These dogs can live for about 12 to 15 years. They’re at risk for health conditions such as various eye problems, heart problems, allergies, and hip dysplasia.

3. Australian terrier

Weight: 15–20 lbs

Traits: Plucky and smart, the Australian terrier is highly affectionate with kids of all ages. They’re upbeat and lively, although may not the best fit for families who have other dogs.

Exercise requirements: Because they’re small but sturdy, Australian terriers are great for kids who play a little rougher. They need plenty of daily exercise to avoid boredom and frustration.

Lifespan and health concerns: These terriers have an average lifespan of 11 to 15 years. They have good health in general, but they may be prone to Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and luxating patella (dislocating knees).

4. Bichon frisé

Weight: 12–18 lbs

Traits: Bichon frisés are low-shedding dogs that are a good fit for families with allergies. They’re sweet, playful, and curious dogs that love to cuddle with family members of all ages. Their happy-go-lucky personality makes them ideal for playful kids..

Exercise requirements: To keep your bichon frisé happy, make sure to play with them and take them on short walks every day.

Lifespan and health concerns: Bichons live an average of 14 to 15 years. They’re usually a healthy breed, but they can also struggle with bladder infections, luxating patella, eye diseases, allergies, and dental issues.

5. Beagle

Beagle staring at owner on a sofa

Weight: 20–30 lbs

Traits: Beagles are easy going dogs that are also curious and clever. They’re good with young children and with other dogs, too. Beagles are great with young children and typically enjoy having another pup in the house with them. While they do show affection toward their family, they also tend to be a little independent and love to explore outdoors.

Exercise requirements: Although they’re happy and loving, beagles do tend to bark a lot, especially when they don’t get the exercise they need. Make sure to give them at least one hour of active play per day.

Lifespan and health concerns: You can expect beagles to live between 10 and 15 years. They’re most at risk for health conditions such as eye disorders, luxating patella, hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and hypothyroidism.

6. Cocker spaniel

Weight: 20–30 lbs

Traits: Cocker spaniels are smart, happy dogs that love kids of all ages. They’re also amazing with other dogs. Because they love pleasing people, they also make good emotional support animals (ESAs).

Exercise requirements: Even though this breed was originally bred for sport, they don’t need as much exercise as other sporting dogs. They’ll still enjoy brisk walks and active play, such as retrieving balls or toys.

Lifespan and health concerns: Cocker spaniels have a life expectancy of 10–14 years. They may be at risk for health issues in their hips, eyes, and patellas (knees) and are known for having chronic ear infections.

7. French bulldog

Weight: 28 lbs or less

Traits: French bulldogs are smart, adaptable, and playful. They’re relatively easy to train and do well with all ages of children.

Exercise requirements: Because they don’t require much exercise, French bulldogs are the ideal pet for calmer children who prefer indoor activities. It’s also important to remember that they are a brachycephalic breed , so avoid outdoor activity on hot days and supervise exercise time!

Lifespan and health concerns: On average, this breed can live between 10 and 12 years. However, they’re prone to breathing problems, eye conditions, and autoimmune skin disorders.

8. Collie

Collie face closeup

Weight: 50–75 lbs

Traits: The collie is a herding breed that’s affectionate and devoted to their family. They’re amazing with kids of all ages and are particularly fond of them — however, they may need supervision around other dogs.

Exercise requirements: Collies need plenty of exercise, specifically with their families. Leaving them on their own in the backyard can result in barking due to boredom. But even though they’re an active breed, they also love to relax with their loved ones.

Lifespan and health concerns: Collies live an average of 12–14 years. Unfortunately, they’re at risk for some health issues, including eye anomalies and drug sensitivities .

9. Labradoodle

Weight: 50–90 lbs

Traits: The labradoodle is a combination of a poodle and a labrador retriever. Because they have minimal shedding, they’re ideal when someone in your family has allergies. Labradoodles are also an ideal breed if your family has a cat or other dogs.

Exercise requirements: Affectionate and devoted, they love to play with kids of all ages. The amount of exercise they need will vary from dog to dog — one dog that takes more from its Labrador parent will need more exercise than one that takes more from its poodle parent. Even though they love to play, they can also be calm when needed and enjoy post-play naps.

Lifespan and health concerns: This hybrid breed is generally healthy and has a life expectancy of 10–14 years. However, they’re at risk for some of the health conditions passed down by both their parents.

10. Poodle

Weight: 40–70 lbs

Traits: If you have kids with allergies, look no further than the poodle. This breed sheds very little and comes in three sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. Poodles are highly intelligent and get along great with children of all ages. Like labradors, they love swimming and water play.

Exercise requirements: Overall, they’re energetic and playful dogs that need at least one walk each day.

Lifespan and health concerns: Luckily, poodles have been bred responsibly and tend to live long, healthy lives. Their average lifespan is 10–18 years, although they can struggle with hip dysplasia and eye disorders.

11. Labrador retriever

Chocolate labrador retriever lying on grass

Weight: 55–80 lbs

Traits: The labrador retriever is a friendly dog that’s easy to train. That’s why they’re such a popular choice as service dogs, ESAs, and therapy dogs. Labradors are the most popular dog breed in the US, and for good reason! They’re great around children of all ages and they’re also affectionate with their families.

Exercise requirements: Labradors require lots of exercise each day, so they’re the perfect companion for active families. They especially love swimming thanks to their duck hunting dog breeding. Keep in mind, labs that don’t get enough exercise can begin to show destructive behavior, so be ready to commit to a routine if you get one.

Lifespan and health concerns: This breed has a life expectancy of 11–13 years. They’re an overall healthy breed, but they’re at risk for health issues such as bloat, exercise-induced collapse, heart disorders, hip dysplasia, hereditary myopathy , and eye conditions.

12. Irish setter

Weight: 60–70 lbs

Traits: Irish setters are active and outgoing dogs who love their family, no matter the age of the kids. They’re ideal for playful, active kids, although they’re also sweet-tempered enough for the calmer people in your family. This breed is also great with other dogs.

Exercise requirements: Despite their playful nature, Irish setters respond well to training — as long as you’re patient. For best results, give them plenty of exercise and active play time daily.

Lifespan and health concerns: The average lifespan for Irish setters varies between 12 and 15 years. They’re a healthy breed, although they can develop conditions such as bloat, hip dysplasia, or eye problems.

13. Golden retriever

Weight: 55–75 lbs

Traits: Friendly and devoted, the golden retriever is as affectionate as any dog gets. They’re gentle and sweet with younger and older kids alike. Because they’re so obedient, golden retrievers are one of the easiest dog breeds to train. They make amazing companions for families that enjoy long hikes, bike rides, or hunting trips.

Exercise requirements: Like labradors, goldens need lots of exercise each day to remain well-behaved.

Lifespan and health concerns: Golden retrievers live an average of 10–12 years and are generally healthy. Some health issues they may develop include heart diseases, elbow and hip dysplasia, and eye conditions.

14. Boxer

Weight: 65–80 lbs

Traits: The boxer is a loyal and protective breed that makes great family dogs with children of all ages.

Exercise requirements: Although boxers have a high energy level and need plenty of exercise, they also have a good “off-switch” for when they need to be calm.

Lifespan and health concerns: Boxers live an average of 10–12 years and have a low tolerance to extreme heat or cold. They may struggle with heart conditions, certain cancers, hip dysplasia, thyroid deficiency, and degenerative myelopathy .

15. Newfoundland

Newfoundland dog walking in a meadow.

Weight: 100–150 lbs

Traits: Newfoundland dogs are a sweet and patient breed that’s devoted and highly affectionate toward their family. Not only are they easy to train, but these gentle giants are perfect for kids of all ages. Because of their patience, they’re one of the best dogs for small children.

Exercise requirements: This is a giant breed that requires more space than the other dogs on this list. Newfoundlands love outdoor activities, especially working activities such as pulling carts. That said, they don’t have an extreme need for exercise. It’s also important to note that their heavy coats make them less adaptable to hot climates and they typically prefer the cold.

Lifespan and health concerns: The average life expectancy for a Newfoundland is 9 to 10 years. Some health concerns to watch out for include cardiac disease, cystinuria , and elbow and hip dysplasia.

Choose the ideal dog breed for kids 

It’s important to know which dogs are best suited for your family, especially if you have younger children who might have a hard time learning when and when not to play rough with your pooch.

Whether your family goes with one of these breeds or another, remember that breed only predicts a small percentage of a dog’s behavior, and dogs from other breeds can make equally lovely companions for families — especially when they receive the proper training and upbringing.

The experts at betterpet are knowledgeable in specific dog and cat breeds, as well as all aspects of pet ownership, including feeding, exercising, and veterinary care. We’re passionate about teaching pet owners about what it means to care for an animal.

Visit today for more tips on pet care and breed-specific information.