Making the decision to grow your household by four paws is extremely exciting for all involved, but if you have children it can be difficult to find a suitable breed. We've created this guide to tell you all about the best dog breeds for families to help you to choose which best suits you.
Dogs and kids can be a great match! Dogs encourage children to exercise and appreciate the outdoors, whilst also helping to develop the social skills of both dog and child alike. When thinking about adding a four-legged friend to the household, parents often worry about the specific dog breeds, as there are some which are a little less predisposed to tolerate the attentions of children.
To help you ensure you find the best match for your family, we've created this guide to the best dog breeds for families. Keep reading for helpful advice and to learn which breeds are more predisposed to love family life.
What characteristics makes a good family dog?
First and foremost, it's generally less about the breed of your dog and more about their individual personality. If you're looking to share your home with both pup and child, your chosen dog should possess the following characteristics:
- A calm and even temperament: your new dog should be calm and patient enough to be able to cope with the excitement of kids and eventually grow into a great friend for them.
- An appropriate size: on average, very small dog breeds may be more excitable, and they could also be more fragile - as a parent you'll know that kids aren't always the gentlest. Large dog breeds on the other hand tend to be more docile, but they can run the risk of accidentally knocking small children over whilst playing.
- Energy levels: this will largely depend on how active your family is. If you choose a high-energy dog, you'll need to make sure you have the time to take them for regular walks and playtime. Also, if you have young children who run around a lot, you shouldn't choose a low energy dog that may become frustrated by the constant excitement.
It's not just about choosing the best dog breed for kids, but it's also about teaching your children to be kind to dogs, this will go a long way in ensuring you have a harmonious household.
Best dog breeds for families
Now you know about the characteristics that make a good family pet, it's time to look at dog breeds that generally have these traits. It's important to note that just because many owners have good experiences with these dog breeds and they are usually well-behaved around children, each dog is an individual, so there's always the risk that this won't be the case for every single dog.
Labradors are regularly referred to as one of the best dog breeds for families, known for a fondness for being around children and getting along well with other pets in the home too. The labrador is a playful, kind and affectionate dog who loves nothing more than to spend time with their pack. They're full of energy and incredibly smart, so they're well suited to those with active lifestyles. One thing to bear in mind with the breed is that young labs tend to be quite exuberant and will jump and bounce around, so if you have very small children, you may want to consider adopting an older dog who is past this stage.
Many often discount the Poodle due to its fashionable posh pooch stereotype, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Originally bred as working dogs, poodles are super smart, have plenty of energy for playing with children and are also generally kind and well-mannered when provided with enough entertainment. They're also great for families with allergies as they're considered to be a hypoallergenic dog, given that they shed very little.
3. Bernese Mountain Dog
Often known as 'gentle giants', Bernese Mountain dogs have a lovable, fun personality. When well socialised, they make one of the best dog breeds for kids as they're usually very patient and kind. They're particularly well suited to active households with older children who like to engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, camping and exploring in nature. However, this family dog breed will not be suitable for very small children as they can easily knock them over and accidentally hurt them whilst playing.
Not only are Beagles considered to be one of the best dog breeds for families, but also one of the friendliest in general. With energetic and cheeky personalities, they love their pack and enjoy nothing more than getting up to mischief with their smaller companions. And, despite their excitable nature they're also generally very tolerant and calm with children.
5. Golden Retriever
Like a Labrador, the Golden Retriever is also incredibly popular with families, so much so that it's depicted as 'the family dog' in many TV shows and films. With their kind temperaments and friendly attitudes, you'll soon see why this is the case. They have bags of energy and adore playing with kids, and have even been known to follow them around, patiently waiting for the next opportunity to play (or cuddle)!
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are affectionate and loving dogs who are generally great with both children and other pets. This small dog breed adores attention and is always up for a good play session with their family members. Additionally, they're quite easy-going, laid-back dogs which are very forgiving with children. Plus, it's thought to be very rare for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to show any kind of aggression.
7. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
This one may surprise you, but Staffordshire Bull Terriers are actually thought to be one of the best dog breeds for kids and have even earned themselves the name 'nanny dog'. When well socialised, they possess sweet natures and absolutely love life, people and playing with their family. Sadly, due to the negative stereotype the breed has, the Blue Cross alone takes in over 400 Staffordshire Bull Terriers a year, so if you're looking for one of these wonderful dogs, we recommend checking at rescue centres.
The final word on the best dog breeds for families
The above breeds are just those that generally have the recommended traits for being able to cope with family life, but you'll need to play your part too. Firstly, always buy a dog from a reputable breeder (or adopt a dog from a rescue centre), then socialisation and training will go a long way to ensuring you have a wonderful family dog.
If you're wondering how to ensure your dog is well socialised, The Kennel Club recommends The Puppy Plan, a step by step guide which was created to reduce behavioural problems and prevent the countless dogs being given to rescue centres each year.
It's also important to note that it's not just your dog that will require training, but your children too. They'll need to be taught how to be kind and respectful and to recognise dog behaviour signs, so your kids will know when your pup needs their space. Read our guide to introducing puppies and children for more tips.