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10 Great Dog Breeds for Children

Stephanie St. Martin
Jan. 8, 2018

Find a family-friendly dog that will match your needs.


Thinking about adding a pooch to your family? Dogs make some of the most loyal companions. But if you have little ones running about, not all dog breeds are a good fit.

We asked Dr. Nicolas Dodman, BVMS, MRCVS, section head and program director, animal behavior at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and editor of "Puppy's First Steps," for his advice about breeds of dogs that are known to be good with kids.

"Before adding a dog to your family, arrange a face-to-face meeting under properly supervised conditions," suggests Dr. Dodman. "Dogs most likely to excel in such a meeting with children are those who have been properly socialized in the first place (during the first 12 weeks of life)."

Keep that in mind as you read this list from "The Perfect Puppy," a book about different dog breeds and their behavior characteristics, by Benjamin Hart, D.V.M and Lynette A. Hart. Even though the dog may be great on paper, you want to see how he or she will interact with your children.

While the breed is never a 100 percent guarantee that a particular dog will get along well with your child -- every dog is different -- it's a great place to start. Here are the top 10 dog breeds that are known for being kid-friendly.

  1. Golden Retriever
    Want a dog that can tolerate all the excessive hair and tail pulling that little kids enjoy? The golden retriever may be your best bet. And you don't need to worry about your golden adding to the morning chaos and noise. These dogs aren't known to be excessive barkers. Other reasons to choose a golden retriever? It's one of the least destructive dogs and one of the most playful.

    "But keep in mind, Goldens are #3 on the bite parade, third behind German shepherds and Chows)," warns Dr. Dodman. That's why it's even more important to arrange meetings beforehand, so you can see how the dog reacts when your child approaches.

  2. Labrador Retriever
    The most popular dog breed in America for 2013, according to the American Kennel Club, the Lab is a fixture in many American households. And with good reason. Easy to train and easy to housebreak, this dog can quickly learn the rules of the household. Just like the golden retriever, Labs love to play. But with all that playful energy comes some demand for affection. Labrador retrievers will play with your kids for hours -- they just expect love in return, so be prepared to give out extra belly rubs.

  3. Newfoundland
    This big dog (about 140 pounds!) is also a big teddy bear. They may be massive, but Newfoundlands are mellow dogs. You won't see this dog being aggressive with your family or with other dogs. "Newfs" can be trained (though goldens and Labs are usually faster learners), but its ability to catch on to housebreaking is what they're known for. Like the lab, the Newf loves affection, so if you're thinking about this breed for your family, you better love slobbery kisses.

  4. Basset Hound
    If your family isn't looking for a super-active dog, the basset hound may be the pup for you. Basset hounds don't get easily excited, but they also tend to be less playful. As with any hound, be prepared to hear some barking every now and then. And, as fair warning, a basset may not be the best choice if you have new carpet. They tend to take longer to housebreak and be a bit harder to train. But if your family has some patience (and a good carpet cleaner), the basset can make a great family pet.

  5. Collie
    Looking for a pup to protect your kids? Look no further than the breed that made Lassie a household name. They will play with your kids, but also protect them. If you're looking for a dog that will interact with your family and be affectionate, a Collie may not be the best choice. They won't follow you or your children around the house -- Collies are too independent -- but they will come when they're called, as they are easily trained and housebroken.

  6. Chesapeake Bay Retriever
    Like the golden and the Lab, a Chesapeake is similar to other retrievers -- it's easy to train and housebreak. Chesapeakes love their owners and will often demand affection from them. They will play with your kids and are a bit more protective of your home than Golden Retrievers. The downside? Those sofa pillows may not last long. Chesapeakes tend to be a bit destructive around the home.

  7. Vizsla
    Originally bred in Hungary to help hunters retrieve waterfowl and game birds, the Vizsla is a great family pet. Overall, Vizslas aren't aggressive and won't win the contest for "World's Best Watchdog" anytime soon. But for what families are looking for -- a playful pup that won't destroy the house -- the Vizsla is a great choice.

  8. Australian Shepherd
    Looking for a dog that is easy to train and housebreak and is very active and playful? That's an Australian shepherd. They're very active dogs and constantly demand affection. They love getting attention and showing you how much they care. Australian shepherds will protect their owners, so be prepared to see some aggression when it comes to your home and territory. And Aussies will sound (or bark!) the alarm if danger is near. If you're looking for a dog that's loyal and loving to your family, but will protect your family from danger, look no further than this tail-less breed.

  9. English Springer Spaniel
    This is a dog breed that thrives on playing and getting affection. What's not to love? You can train them, they're active and they can be easily excited. With that excitement though, they tend to be a bit more destructive than other breeds are. They also tend to bark a bit more than other dogs.

  10. Norwegian Elkhound
    Despite its strong appearance and bark, the Norwegian elkhound would not make the best of watchdogs. But they do make great family pets. Intelligent, playful, bold and alert, the Norwegian elkhound is always up for adventure. This breed can be challenging to train, but once trained they will not only understand their place in the family, but will be very loyal to it.

Need help finding the perfect dog for your family? Check out Animal Planet's Dog Breed Selector, their list of Family Dog Breeds and Care.com's Family Pet Guide.

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