The best family dog breeds
If you’ve already got a child, you might have decided that it’s time to add another one into the mix. Possibly a furry four-legged one!
Dogs and children can make a great combination, teaching children the importance of gentleness, care and responsibility, alongside providing them with a constant playmate. A dog will soon become an important part of the family, which means that you’ll want to be able to provide them with the very best. Therefore, you need to do a lot of research into what breed of dog is right for you, depending on your lifestyle and family, so your new furry family member can fit right in with ease.
We’re going to give you our list on what dog breeds are typically the best suited for family life, whether you’re looking for a big, small, lively, playful, lazy or calm canine friend, there’s a dog to suit everyone.
What should I be looking for in a family friendly dog?
Even within a breed, every single dog will have their own personality traits, quirks and things that make them unique. However, there are some things that you can look for when doing your research into picking a family friendly dog breed.
Children can often put our pets through a lot, albeit unintentionally. Therefore, you need a dog breed that is renowned for being gentle with children but also tolerant enough to handle the screaming, running, pulling, prodding and heavy-handed hugs that our kids often subject dogs to.
Choosing the right breed for you can be a lengthy process that you should take the time to research. Overall, you should be basing your choice on 3 main factors, personality, energy and breed size.
When looking for a dog for the family, the main thing you want to focus on is their temperament. As stated, every dog is different within a breed, but you want to look for a dog breed that’s known for its sweet-natured, agreeable and patient personality. This way, you’ll be more likely to have a dog that fits in to your family pretty easily.
If you have children already, you might want to factor in their ages too. Dogs with a lively, boisterous personality might be better for older children, who are well up for a good old ruff and tumble play. On the other hand, dogs that are more chilled out and incredibly patient might be better for younger children.
If you’re going to choose a puppy out of a litter, see if you can seek out the pup that seems to have a middle-of-the-road temperament. The rambunctious pups who are running rings around the others might be a bit too much for your household, whereas the ones that are cowering in a corner might not be able to tolerate the antics of children too well.
It’s easier said than done, but if you can, pick the relatively confident and playful puppy that still appears to be able to chill out. Don’t put all your trust in this though, their personalities can change drastically as they grow older!
When choosing the right dog for you, you need to be practical and factor in what kind of lifestyle you can provide for the dog. Look into what the typical energy levels are for the dog breed you’re considering, and judge if you can give them the time, exercise and care they need.
If you’ve already got children, it might be hard to find the time to give them plenty of exercise if they’re a high energy breed. Consequently, you’ll end up with a naughty, bored dog that will drive you all crazy. Puppies are basically like having another child!
Judging what dog breed you want to join your family can be a tricky one, and you shouldn’t choose based on size alone. You might think a bigger dog will be much more work and definitely not child friendly, but several larger dog breeds are extremely calm, gentle and totally brilliant around kids. However, with a larger breed, there is inevitably more to consider like the level of exercise they need and the amount of food they eat.
On the other hand, some smaller dogs are impatient and feisty, not being able to cope with the antics of children, but they usually take a lot less work in terms of grooming, exercise and expense. This is why size needs to be factored in with standard breed temperament and energy levels.
Teaching your child how to act around dogs
You want your dog and your child to get on like a house on fire, you don’t want them fighting like cat and dog. Before you introduce a dog into your household, you need to teach your child how to respect a dog’s boundaries, essentially, make sure they know that tails, ears, feet and legs are NOT for pulling, prodding and poking. Kids can be pretty heavy-handed, so teach them to be gentle - you don’t want their cuddles and strokes to resemble a slap on the back.
Food is another thing that can cause issues. It’ll be no shock to you that dogs love their food, so don’t mix dogs, children and food. You don’t want your hungry hound stealing a snack from your kid’s hand. Make sure your child knows that if they want to eat, they must go somewhere where they’ll be out of the dog’s reach. This might be pretty tricky if you’ve got a large dog!
Even though it can be hard work, the joy you’ll get from watching your child and your canine bonding will be irreplaceable.
What are the best family-friendly dog breeds?
These dog breeds are often famously praised for their well-rounded personalities and excellent abilities around children. In no particular order, we’re going to give you the rundown on the best family friendly dog breeds to become a new member of your household.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
If you’re looking for a whole load of personality packed into a tiny, toy-sized dog, then look no further than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Words commonly used to describe the Cavalier are lively, sociable, cheerful and loving. It’s rare to see these dog breeds without their tails constantly wagging, even more so when they’re getting attention from their loved ones.
This dog is born to be alongside its family, they’re pretty easy to train for novice owners, they relish in a cuddle and belly tickle, but they still maintain their athletic, playful nature from their Spaniel family so they’ll still enjoy a family walk. Cavaliers make excellent four-legged friends for children, keen to play a game of fetch, be taught plenty of tricks or even just enjoy a cosy cuddle on their lap.
Due to their teeny toy size, they might struggle with wrestling with your child, ruff play might result in these small dogs getting hurt, so they’re much better off having a ball thrown in the field for them. Overall, these dogs have great all-round personalities, suiting many family lifestyles.
Size: Small (Toy)
Life span: 9-14 years
Temperament: Gentle, cheerful, loving
Energy levels: Medium
If you’ve got a Boxer, you’re in for a whole lot of laughter. These dogs are always ready for fun and adventure, and even though their muscular, strong appearance may look slightly intimidating, within seconds you’ll be able to see their playful side emerge with that mischievous glint in their eyes.
They’re fiercely loyal to their family, always sticking close to your side and loving you relentlessly. A Boxer’s joyous, clownish temperament will easily put a smile on your face, and their high energy levels make them great companions for an older child looking for a constant playmate. They can be a bit over the top for toddlers, not purposely though, they just get very giddy!
They have a very long puppyhood, many lovers of the breed suggesting they don’t start growing up until they’re about 3 years old! Be aware that these energy levels require lots of physical and mental stimulation, so a Boxer may not be suited for everyone.
If you’re on the lookout for a dog to give you plenty of laughter, love and be a great new playmate for the entire family, get yourself a Boxer.
Life span: 10-13 years
Temperament: Playful, devoted, energetic
Energy levels: Very high
Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Affectionately dubbed as ‘Staffies’ by lovers of the breed, Staffordshire Bull Terriers being a member of this list might come as a bit of a shock to some. They might have a tough, powerful stance and an unfair reputation for violence, but Staffies are amongst some of the sweetest dog breeds.
The Kennel Club even highlights this breed’s fondness for children and kid-friendly nature, only one of two dog breeds to be described this way by The Kennel Club in the breed standards!
Underneath their tough act, the Staffy is a sociable sweetheart, always maintaining a patient, people-loving personality. They’re even commonly referred to as being a ‘nanny dog’ because of their famous fondness for children. They’re quite strong so be careful if you’ve got really young children in case they get knocked over, which would all be unintentional and your Staffy would be quick to try and nurse them back to normal!
Staffies absolutely love people but are often described to be a little stand-offish with other dogs. However, with proper socialisation from an early age this problem can be easily avoided.
Life span: 12-14 years
Temperament: Affectionate, loyal, brave
Energy levels: Medium
The main thing people always have to say about the Bichon is that they’re always happy and cheerful, loving nothing more than making their owners laugh. They’re the perfect all-rounder dog, small in size but enormous in personality.
They’ve got a happy-go-lucky personality that can sometimes be a little stubborn, so if you were expecting a docile lap dog you should think again! Despite this, with a lot of praise and some tasty treats, your Bichon Frise will be trained up in no time.
They’re incredibly easy-going when it comes to noisy, crazy children, mostly just wanting to join in on all the fun! The Bichon Frise’s small size means they won't be too over the top when they're rollicking and wrestling around the garden with your child. They’ll welcome anyone into your house with open arms, nobody is classed as a stranger or enemy, everyone is a friend for the Frise.
Life span: 12-15 years
Temperament: Gentle, outgoing, playful
Energy levels: Medium
Despite their giant size, the Saint Bernard is nothing but a gentle giant who will love nothing more than trying to curl up on your lap. The keyword here is ‘trying’. Due to their history as rescue dogs, saving travellers from icy waters, they’re a gentle, patient and caring breed that make the perfect addition to any family.
Although they aren’t the most playful and energetic of dogs, not being interested in racing around with your kids, they’ll enjoy snoozing on the sofa. If your child can find some room to squeeze up next to this giant dog, St Bernards make the perfect companion for a child to cuddle up with while watching a film or reading a book.
This breed, by name and by nature has the patience of a saint. The St Bernard is incredibly tolerant, unphased by any antics that a child might get up to, for instance, grabbing onto their tail or ears, or even trying to ride on top of the huge hound like a horse! However, even though they’ll be unphased, try and keep the pulling, prodding and poking to a minimum.
The only issue that you might encounter with your Saint is the puddles, or pools of drool on the floor. However, if you can tolerate the slippy, drool-covered floors, then the Saint Bernard is an excellent choice of family pet.
Life span: 8-10 years
Temperament: Gentle, calm, friendly
Energy levels: Low-Medium
A brilliant friend for dogs, cats, people and children, it’s no shock that Golden Retrievers are seen as one of the most family-friendly dog breeds. They’re adaptable, kind and patient, never showing any signs of aggression or shyness.
Goldens need a lot of exercise, but they love nothing more than playing with both their dog and human friends. They’re incredibly patient when it comes to the antics of children, able to tolerate a fair amount of tail yanking and ear pulling. Despite this, you should teach your child this isn’t the way to play with their pets.
Eager to please and easy to train, Golden Retrievers are also classed as one of the smartest dog breeds, being one of the most family-friendly dog breeds is just another string to their bow! Goldens might be goofy and silly but they’re insanely clever and have very few negative traits overall.
Be careful though, your child paired with the Golden’s clever nature and love of children can create a very mischievous team that you might need to keep an eye on.
Life span: 10-12 years
Temperament: Trustworthy, kind, patient
Energy levels: High
There are endless reasons as to why Labradors are one of the most popular breeds around, they’re lovable, sweet, intelligent and hilarious. We could go on forever about why we love Labs.
All of these traits make them the perfect dog to introduce into your family. They greet everyone (even total strangers) with a waggy tail and a few slobbery kisses, nobody is anything less than a BFF for the lovable Lab.
Labradors thrive on company, making them the perfect playmate for children, they’re very people-oriented, and not to mention food-oriented! Make sure your child keeps their snacks out of reach. They’ll enjoy delving right into any madness with your child, whether that be playing or mischief-causing. Labs are suitable for active families, requiring quite a lot of exercise, but this makes this breed a great frisbee, football and fetch partner for your child.
Even though these loopy Labs love to play, they’re often seen working as therapy or assistance dogs. Overall, this shows that they can adapt, they can be calm and patient or playful and energetic, making them perfect personalities for a family home.
Life span: 10-14 years
Temperament: Friendly, intelligent, outgoing
Energy levels: High
If you’ve got plenty of energy and patience for a bit of mischief, Irish Setters make a great addition to the family. Bursting with energy and love, these breeds are perfect for active families. Their ideal day would be a long run-around followed by a cuddle with their family.
Although they can be slightly too boisterous and bouncy for a younger child (not intentionally, they’re just giddy), an older child will have an endless supply of fun with an Irish Setter. If you’ve got a kid whose energy seems to never end, they’ll make a good team with an Irish Setter.
These dogs do have a curious, mischievous streak, their perfect pastime being to steal something from the countertops and get you to chase them round and round trying to catch them. Watch out that your child doesn’t get involved in the mischief too, you might end up with quite the task on your hands!
It’s hard not to like an Irish Setter, they’re affectionate, caring and silly, having the ability to put a smile on your face on the daily.
Life span: 12-15 years
Temperament: Playful, affectionate, joyful
Energy levels: Very high
French Bulldogs, or Frenchies, are adaptable dogs with a whole load of personality. Whether you live in a house with acres of land or a small apartment with no back garden, French Bulldogs are adaptable dogs that can suit various families.
There’s no wonder these breeds are so popular with many, they’re laidback and loving with several silly, quirky traits. French Bulldogs were bred to be a companion pet, meaning they develop strong bonds with their humans, so if you want a constant cuddler, look no further. They love all people, adults and children alike, wanting nothing more than a snooze on the sofa with their owners. However, they could possibly even verge on being a little clingy.
They can be quite lazy, so if you’re after a bold, bouncy playmate for your child, the Frenchie might not be for you. Several brachycephalic (flat-faced) dog breeds tend to have quite a lazy streak! Although, they will want to join in on whatever the family are doing, so expect to be accompanied everywhere you go by your French Bulldog.
Size: Small (but sturdy)
Life span: 10-13 years
Temperament: Patient, loving, needy
Energy levels: Low-Medium
Anyone who has encountered one will no doubt describe Newfies to be the sweetest dogs around. If you’ve got the house space and good tolerance for drool and mud to own a massive breed such as the Newfoundland, they’re the perfect family-friendly dog.
One of their most highly spoken about traits is their instinctual babysitting talents, they’re great around children of all ages. Despite their giant size, they’re careful and gentle around children, trying their best not to knock them flying. Although this can still happen unintentionally, it can be hard to spot a tiny child through all that fur!
Newfies have a natural affinity to children, a Newfoundland called ‘Nana’ is even depicted as being an actual carer for multiple children in the well-known story of Peter Pan. This shows their reputation for being watchful, protective, and caring over children. If you’re after a big dog with a big heart, a Newfie might be just the dog for you.
Life span: 8-10 years
Temperament: Gentle, watchful, loving
Energy levels: Low-medium
Are some dog breeds not family-friendly?
Naturally, some dogs fit into family life better than others, every breed is unique and will have traits that are better suited to different people. Some dogs just aren’t that personable, they’d much rather enjoy their own company instead of getting hounded constantly by a small child, which is totally understandable! Dogs such as Chow Chows and Akitas typically have a more aloof personality, being much less patient when it comes to rowdy children tugging at them to come and play.
Also, even though smaller dogs probably seem to be a better fit for families with small children, many small dog breeds have quite large personalities. Breeds such as Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus can often be a little fiery, which isn’t the best mix when you’ve got a small child who doesn’t understand fully how to act around a dog.
This isn’t to say that all these dogs aren’t brilliant breeds, because they are. There will be several people who completely disagree with these suggestions, knowing that these breeds can live in perfect harmony with their young children. However, if you’re looking for a new pup to join the family, these might be ones to consider with caution.
Choosing the right dog can be quite the task, there are lots of things to think about. One of the most important things to think about is if you think a dog will fit into your current life, judging on your family and lifestyle. Dogs take a lot of care (as do children), so you need to look for the right breed to create the perfect pair between your child and canine.
However, all the hard work that goes into caring for a dog and a child will be long forgotten when you see them running up and down the garden together, having secret conversations and snuggling on the sofa.