Posted: Sep 30, 2013 10:00 AM
Dogs often mirror their owners' personalities, but some breeds really are better-suited than others to live with families with children.

"Breed is just one of many factors that contribute to a successful choice for a family dog," says dog training expert Amy Robinson. "Much depends on your child's interaction skills."

  • Crawlers and toddlers: Avoid herding breeds and cattle dogs… they may feel compelled to herd your children!
  • Young kids: Smaller, terrier breeds and calmer large-breed dogs are a good physical fit for a young child.
  • Big kids: Labs, beagles and poodles help elementary school-aged kids learn age-appropriate dog chores.

The right breed for your family

Although her 8-year-old son was very "nervous" around dogs, Kathy Taylor and her husband felt strongly about having a dog as part of their family. At the recommendation of an animal behaviorist, Kathy read The Right Dog for You by Daniel Tortora.

Using Tortora's statistical approach, Kathy began searching for a breed that was "good with kids" and "good with other animals" (e.g., the two family cats). She also wanted a dog that "didn't bark a lot and wasn't too high energy."


Dog breeds for families: Newfoundland

"After much research, we selected the Newfoundland, known as 'Nature's Nanny,'" says Kathy. "He is sized well for hugs and is extremely tolerant of kids' antics. He doesn't flinch when surrounded by a bunch of kids all wanting to pet him at the same time."


Golden Retriever

Dog breeds for families: Golden Retriever

"Golden Retrievers are renowned for their gentle and caring temperament, which makes them a popular choice among families with young children," says Dr. Jules Benson, a veterinarian and the vice president of veterinary services at Petplan pet insurance company. Anyone who's ever owned one will wholeheartedly agree.


Labrador Retriever

FAmily Dog breeds: Labrador Retriever"Labs are wonderful, friendly dogs," says Steven Appelbaum, dog trainer and founder of Animal Behavior College. "They are eager to please and tolerant of the handling little tykes often dole out." You'll want to train the dog to be calm so that it doesn't knock over the children out of sheer exuberance!"

Downside^Can be destructive when bored

Standard Poodle

Dog breeds for families: Standard Poodle

"This is a good pick for children or parents with allergies," says Appelbaum. "Poodles are highly intelligent and friendly, have good temperaments and are great with children." Standard Poodles are sturdy enough to withstand a fair amount of rough kiddie treatment.

Downside^Desires constant companionship


Dog breeds for families: Bulldog

It may look gruff, but the bulldog is as gentle as can be. Affectionate and dependable, this stocky people lover is ideal for families and will keep a careful eye out for the children.

Downside^Snores and slobbers

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

Dog breeds for families: Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers"Not only is this breed hypoallergenic," says Shelby LaPlante, "but it has an amazing personality!" Unlike some terriers, who lose patience with young children, the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier retains a puppy personality. "They love children, have no aggression and are just little balls of excitement!"

Downside^Doesn't like cats

Bichon Frise

Dog breeds for families: Bichon Frises

Jim Bellis' kids grew up with Bichon Frises. Many small dogs aren't suitable for young, rambunctious children, but the Bichon Frise "is sturdy and athletic," says Bellis. "And it doesn't shed!" Bichons do best in a family environment and love being in the company of children and other pets.

Downside^Can be difficult to housebreak


Dog breeds for families: Beagle

The average Beagle is just as friendly and clever as Snoopy. It's small, but hearty, and can lovingly handle active children. This intelligent breed is eager to be taught and trained.

Downside^May wander off toward strong scents

Basset Hound

Dog breeds for families: Basset Hound"Bassets are islands of calm, which is nice when the kids are bouncing off the walls," says Appelbaum. "They tolerate the roughest treatment with a shrug and a tail wag and are goofy, friendly, wonderful dogs."

Downside^Has a distinctive hound smell

Rescued dogs

Regardless of its breed (or lack thereof), a rescued dog seems to know that it's been saved and will pledge its undying loyalty to you in return. "You can adopt a wonderful dog who turns out to be a fabulous companion for your children," says Appelbaum. Regardless of its breed.

Temperament matters

Beyond breed, it's important to consider your family's particular lifestyle. "Different dogs need different amounts of exercise and grooming," says Sandi Laird, the animal care director at Operation Kindness. "So even if a breed is great with children, it may not be the best fit for your family."

Just like people, each dog is an individual. "Understanding the differences in breeds will help you make a decision, but it's just a starting point," adds Laird. "Each dog is an individual that may or may not act like other members of its breed. Spend some time with the dog before adopting."

More on family pets

Family outings that include your dog
How to help kids cope when pets die
It's not always about the dog

Photos: Dog Breed Info Center®