Introducing a dog to your family is a wonderful thing – especially for children, who get an inseparable best friend for life, from adventures in the park to snuggling up at home. Having a dog can help teach your children care and responsibility, and help develop their social skills. So if you’re looking to welcome a dog into your home, we can help you identify the best dog breeds for families, and the best dogs for kids too.
What are the best family dogs?
With the right training and upbringing, and the right amount of love and care, any dog can be a great companion for you and your family. Some breeds are better around children and more suited to be good family dogs than others, but finding the dog that matches you and your family’s lifestyle and personalities is key. The three most important things to think about when looking for the best family dog are:
- Temperament – high-energy, or a bit more chilled out? Do you need a dog who’s happy to be surrounded by lots of different people or one that’s more independent and comfortable in their own space?
- Size – match the age and size of your children with the needs of the dog. A big puppy can be quite clumsy around small children, so it may be better to choose a smaller breed. It’s also a myth that only small dogs are suited to a small home, and only big dogs need a larger space. The amount of energy the dog has, not their size, influences how much room they need.
- Exercise – active, outdoors type or more likely to curl up on the sofa? This one goes for both you and your dog, making sure you’re a good match for each other. Dogs don’t exercise themselves, so the size of your home or garden is far less important than how much you can walk, run and play with them.
What are the best dogs for kids?
Your dog and your children need to get along and be comfortable in each other’s company, so socialisation is the most important thing to consider. If you already have a dog in your home, even a well-socialised one, it can sometimes be a bit of a culture shock to bring children into their lives, as they behave in very different ways to adults:
- Their voices are higher-pitched, with crying higher still – which can be stressful for dogs
- Their behaviour can be more unpredictable with bursts of energy and spontaneous activity
- They don’t understand or respond correctly to a dog’s body language
It can be easier with a puppy, as they will get socialised alongside the children (a rescue dog may also need to be socialised in the same way). But you’ll need to train your children almost as much as your dog, ensuring they get to know the “dog rules” – like how your dog’s bed or crate is their space, and that the children know not to disturb your dog when they’re in it – and to act gently, with care and respect.
It’s also key that your children learn to read your dog’s body language so they can act accordingly. For example, recognising that if your dog’s ears are folded back or tail is between their legs, it’s because they’re frightened. Getting children and dogs used to one another is always a two-way process, but it leads to inseparable friends for life.
Which are the best dog breeds for families and kids?
While there are plenty of breeds that are known to be good around children, you may want to think about getting a crossbreed – and there are often plenty of crosses with lovely temperaments at rescues and shelters who are looking for good homes. Working with the team at your local rescue, you should be able to find a cross that has the right attributes and personality to suit you and your family. There are often plenty of puppies at rescues and shelters too.
If you’re looking for something more specific, or just a starting point, some of the most popular child-friendly dog breeds are:
Staffordshire bull terrier
The Staffie is also known as the ‘nanny dog’ and was historically used for looking after children. They’re caring, patient and get very attached and protective of their young friends.
Beagles are gentle and patient, but also active and fun and in need of lots of stimulation – which kids can deliver in spades.
The ‘gold standard’. The Lab is the most popular dog in the world for families because it’s a great all-rounder, from long walks to chilling out at home and almost everything in between.
Another great all-rounder, especially suitable for families with older children as they can be less patient with younger children who don’t respect their space.
Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Maltese, bichon frise
Small, gentle and friendly dogs that are especially good when you have young children. You can also include crosses like the cavachon because they combine the best of their parent breeds with the potential for fewer health problems.
A smaller dog that’s great for a more active family. Border terriers are happy and laid back with loads of energy too – and without the stubbornness other terriers can have.