Best Dog Breeds for Children

by Ragtimelil

Here are some thoughts about the best dogs for children by a dog trainer and groomer.

Studies have shown that there are many benefits to children growing up with dogs. Not only do children learn compassion and empathy from having pets, but a recent study found that children who grow up with dogs are healthier.
I love all dogs. Naturally, I have my preferences. But there is an exception to every rule, especially with dogs. If I say golden retrievers are gentle, there’s the exception of the golden who will knock everyone down and attack the mail carrier.
These comments about breeds of dogs are generalizations. There are always dogs who don’t fit the profile. It’s essential to do some research before bringing home that new dog or puppy.

Training and Supervision

Dog ClassTraining and socializing is even more important for a family pet who is going to be around children. The dog should be comfortable with things that children do, such as yelling, jumping, moving suddenly and acting silly. I always encouraged people to bring their children to my puppy kindergarten classes so that the puppies become accustomed to children.

An important practice is to never leave someone alone with a dog that they cannot control. That means don’t leave a small child alone with a dog, no matter what breed or how gentle that dog has always been. Until the child is old enough to handle a leash and give commands to the dog that are obeyed, he or she should always be supervised when interacting with the dog. One statistic I ran across said that 95% of fatal dog attacks on young children happened when they were unsupervised

While there are statistics kept on dog bites in the US, they are very misleading. Many of the breeds who are represented on these lists are in the high numbers because there are so many of them in the population. Not all bites are reported, especially bites from small dogs. 

Toy and Small Dogs


Many of the toy breeds can be very fragile. A dog such a Papillion can easily sustain a injury if handled roughly. Some toy dogs will fight back as much as they are able. While your child may be very gentle and loving with a small dog, visiting playmates may not be. A friend of mine was shocked when she caught a visiting child throwing her small dog across the room.  You could put the dog in a crate every time other children come to visit, but that can be a chore and one that can easily be forgotten.

photo by

Did you grown up with dogs?



Terriers can be wonderful pets and come in many sizes. My only reservation is that the basic terrier temperament is to respond to pain by biting. There are, of course, terriers who would simply never think of harming a child. I adopted a wonderful small dog, who was biting at the family children. They were pulling his ears and otherwise annoying the little dog and his response was to bite. He didn’t bite hard enough to break the skin and I personally think he was justified, yet it’s not a good situation for the dog or the children. I took him out of that situation and trained him. He really was a lovely dog when he wasn’t subjected to rowdy children.

AiredaleThe bull terrier (not the same as a  pit bull) is also listed as a great dog with kids. They have been bred as a companion dog and really are wonderful dogs. They are energetic and good for active kids and families.

Some other terriers recommended on many lists are the miniature Schnauzer and the Airedale. I would recommend finding a good breeder who could guide you in the selection of a puppy. They know their dogs and want to find the best home for them. 

Hound and Sporting Dogs

Many of the larger dogs, especially the working and hunting breeds, tend to be less physically sensitive. As a rule, they can tolerate pain better and have always been a good choice for children. Breeds scoring low for aggression included Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers, Labradors, Siberian Huskies and Greyhounds.  Golden retrievers and Labs are some of the first dogs people think about when considering dogs for children.

beagleBeagles are another breed that also has the advantage of being a smaller dog. Hounds in general have a couple of drawbacks in that many will roam if given the chance, and some breeds can be quite noisy.

Non Sporting Dogs

bulldogThe non-sporting group is an assortment of dogs grouped together primarily, I suspect, because they didn’t fit in any other group. Some, like the bulldog, are said to be great with kids. Others, like chows and Dalmatians may not be a good choice. You'd have to do your homework with this group and find the right dog for you.

Herding and Working Dogs

Sheltie and CollieHerding dogs can be great with kids if they are raised with them. Shetland Sheepdogs and most of the collie type dogs have a good reputation as a child’s companion.  Livestock guarding dogs can be good pets but they are usually very large and with a lot of coat. Newfoundlands also are gentle dogs that make good companions for children. They have a sweet disposition, but their size and heavy coat could be a drawback. Interestingly, while the Newfoundland has a great reputation as a family dog, the St. Bernard can be a bit more aggressive.



photo by Chris

Mixed Breeds

Mixed breed Dogs of mixed ancestry have been wonderful companions and playmates of children for thousands of years. But it is hard to predict anything about a dog, let alone one who’s background you don’t know. If you’re considering adopting, you will have to depend on what the shelter workers say about the dog, as well as your gut instinct. If you can tell what breeds make up the dogs heritage that can perhaps give you a clue. Training and socializing your adopted dog is of utmost importance.

No one can totally predict how a dog will react. Many people are fearful of pit bulls, or their cousin, the Staffordshire terrier. Yet many had them as childhood pets and they were, at one time, considered the best dog for children and nicknamed “the nanny dog.”

Talk to the breeder about what you are looking for in a dog. Take the dog to training classes and socialization. Teach the kids how to handle the dog. And never leave the dog and child unsupervised until the child can control the dog.  

Updated: 01/23/2013, Ragtimelil
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Companion Dog Comments

Ragtimelil on 10/07/2013

That is so sweet. Some dogs really take on the responsibility for their family. Dogs know and care about us more than some people think.

frankbeswick on 10/07/2013

My aunt and uncle had a jack russel bitch. When my mother was in hospital my aunt came round to look after us, bringing the bitch with her. Every night Judy, for that was the canine's name, went on a tour of the house, inspecting all four children as we lay in bed. One look sufficed, and as we were well, she went to her own bed. She as an adorable dog.

Ragtimelil on 10/06/2013

My golden retriever was one of the quiet ones. They can make marvelous companions for children if they're not of the hyper variety.

Raintree on 10/06/2013

We had a Labrador when I was a child, she was just wonderful, very tolerant and a great fun dog who loved children. Our Golden also loved children he used to get his "soft" face on him whenever he saw a child and often he would lie down it seemed so he was smaller than the child or maybe to get more fuss! Both dogs very bouncy when young but matured into calm, tolerant lovely dogs.

Ragtimelil on 10/04/2013

Yes, OES do tend to be goofy. Their size might be a concern for parents with small children since they could topple them over without meaning to. Same is true for even smaller breeds. My small border collie was really rough until he matured. Now he is more careful to go around rather than crashing into.
And you are so right about the coat. Lots of work there.

Suzanne on 10/04/2013

I have an Old English Sheepdog that LOVES children and is the single silliest, goofiest dog I have ever known. If you can put up with the coat care (and there's a lot) they are absolutely wonderful dogs.

Ragtimelil on 07/18/2013

That's always hard. I'm glad you didn't inherit her fear.

Lilysnape on 07/18/2013

I like dogs of all sizes.We could not have one when I was a child as my Mom had a strong fear of dogs.

Ragtimelil on 04/28/2013

My apologies for the delay in getting back to you both, Terry and Brenda. I was farm sitting over the weekend and didn't have any internet. It was a vacation.
Brenda, yes, sometimes goldens can be crazy. I had one who was the absolute sweetest and gentlest of dogs. I also did a consult with a male golden who was totally vicious. The hair on my neck stood straight up. And I had plenty in my classes who were hyper. But they're not all that way.
Terry, I don't know what I can tell you about the drawing. It was clip art from Pixabay. It does look like a Toller, but who knows?

TerryMcNamee on 04/28/2013

Interesting drawing at the top! What can you tell me about it? It looks like a Toller.

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