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Breed & Health Resources

The Best Dog Breeds for Families

By Lea Jaratz

Golden retriever with family

Whether you’ve got kids, tweens, teens or, are just thinking that kids might be in your future, it’s good to consider your options when selecting a family dog. The best family dogs have easy-going, laid-back personalities, and can go with the flow even in a hectic household. If you’re looking for the best dogs with kids, you’ll want a dog that is tolerant of chaos, not likely to become overly excitable, and tough enough to handle everything that small children can bring their way.

Quick Disclaimer: Not every dog of a particular breed has the temperament for kids or busy homes. And just because a particular breed isn’t mentioned here, that doesn’t mean that some of those dogs aren’t rock stars with kids. This list is just a starting point. Do your research. Meet the dog. Talk to trainers, reputable breeders, or the adoption counselor at your local shelter. The best family dog might be a mutt or the last dog you’d expect to find on this list.

But, to get your search for the best family dog off on the right paw:

Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever probably tops most lists of best dogs for families, with good reason. These affable creatures go through life as if they have never met a stranger. They’re generally trainable and enjoy a playful home.

Cons: As youngsters, Goldens might be a little rambunctious. They do shed (a lot) and tend to chew things, so training them to leave toys alone is key.

Beagle

Beagles top the list for small dogs who get along with kids, mostly because they’re sturdy and indulgent companions. A Beagle is likely to tolerate being dressed up, fussed over, and given lots of attention without batting an eye. They’re snugglers and like people that come in all shapes and sizes. Beagle hybrids, like the Puggle, also tend to be quite passive, making them good all-around family companions.

Cons: Beagles are known for their signature howl. Just know that they’re going to bark when they see the mailman 5 houses away, unless you have a plan in place to keep the baying in check. 

Labrador Retriever 

Much like their Golden cousins, the Labrador Retriever is people-centric, playful, and endearing. They love a game of fetch or racing through the backyard, making them a great playmate. They shed less than the Goldens, which is great for parents who wouldn’t mind having a little less vacuuming to do.

Cons: Retrievers explore everything with their mouth and once something is in there it usually gets chewed up and occasionally swallowed. Teach kids to put away their toys so that nothing gets ruined and the dog doesn’t end up needing a trip to the emergency vet because it swallowed an action figure.

Poodle 

Poodles are highly intelligent and quick to train. Because they can be miniature, mid-sized, or large dogs, they’re a good option for any size preference. Regular grooming means they are low shedders. They’re generally quiet, not too stubborn, and need a moderate amount of exercise, making them slightly lower maintenance than some other dogs. Their cousin, the Goldendoodle, is also a popular pick for families with kids.

Cons: Budget for routine grooming costs or get good at grooming at home

Boxer

Have you ever noticed that someone with a Boxer often has two of them? That’s perhaps because they’ve endeared themselves to so many families as loyal, reliable companions. Boxers are a mix of playful yet snuggly, making them a great all-around buddy dog for kids.

Cons: Boxers can be a bit rambunctious during playtime, and tend to “box” with their front paws. Working with a trainer can help condition the dog to stay on all fours so they’re less likely to scratch a playmate.

Pit Bull Terrier 

Before the Pit Bull had been maligned in the media, it was known to many as the nanny dog. Contrary to common belief, Pit Bulls are quite trainable and score well on temperament tests, making them stoic, friendly, and reliable family pets. This popular breed is sturdy and can thrive in rowdy households, while also being cuddle bugs for your kids at night.

Cons: Some Pit Bulls may not know their own strength and can knock a kid down and even leave bruises with their tail when they get too happy. Like any other breed, positive reinforcement training is key to helping them keep their big emotions in check.

French Bulldog 

While many small dogs are too delicate to do well in homes with kids, the French Bulldog says bring it on. These goofballs are the perfect pairing of sassy yet affectionate and have been bred for their loyalty and fondness to people, especially children. They don’t need a ton of exercise or a big yard and have very minimal grooming needs, making them a pretty low-maintenance, laid-back pet.

Cons: Frenchies can be a bit stubborn and willful, so you’ll want to keep the training plan consistent with all family members. Oh, and they snore. Loudly.

Now that you’ve been introduced to some of the best dogs for kids and families, take a few minutes to think about how you can build your child’s bond with their pet. No matter what type of dog you bring into your family, building their relationship with your youngest family members sets everyone up for a connection that will carry through for the rest of their lives.

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