Kids and dogs go together as well as peanut butter and jelly. Dogs are not only sources of love and companionship for kids, but a dog can also teach your child important lessons about responsibility and compassion. Some dogs tend to do better with children than others, however. If you're ready to introduce a furry family member to your kids, but you're not sure what type of dog to get them, here's the scoop on the best dog breeds for children.
What Makes a Dog Good for Children?
The best dog breeds for children in general are those that are laid back and patient enough to handle a child's high energy and rambunctiousness, sturdy enough to endure rough handling and play, and that have gentle and loving personalities. Your family might have additional requirements to consider. Deciding which dog breed is right for your family depends on a few major factors:
Energy level: Just like people, dogs have varying energy levels. The dog you choose should match the energy level of your family. If your family's lifestyle tends to be sedentary or too busy to fit in long walks or lots of play, you'll need to look for a breed that doesn't require a lot of exercise or activity. Similarly, if your family is active and enjoys activities like walking or hiking, you'll want to choose a dog that is able to keep up.
Size: The right size of dog depends largely on the ages of your children. Toddlers and small children, for instance, generally aren't a good match for tiny dogs, such as Chihuahuas, which can easily be injured if handled roughly or dropped. Older children, on the other hand, may have the capacity to handle a tiny dog with the gentleness they require. Large breeds that tend to be rambunctious or hyperactive are probably a bad match for small children, but some large breeds, like Newfoundlands, are gentle giants that tend to be very patient and loving with little kids.
Temperament: Look for a dog with a gentle, laid back personality. Dogs that are generally calm, happy and agreeable without being high-strung, stubborn or aggressive tend to get along well with children of every age. Intelligent, highly trainable dogs might also do a better job of learning household rules and fitting in with the rest of the family.
Age: How old the dog you're looking for can also play a role in how well he gets along with your kiddos. Puppies, while cute, are also learning and exploring the world much like your children. So, while you need to devote your attention to your kids to help them grow, puppies also need large amounts of attention to develop too. If you're more interested in starting with a well-mannered dog that is used to human interaction and has already learned basic obedience commands, then make sure to check out your local animal shelters for an older dog that meets your family's needs.
Finding the Right Dog
A good place to start your search is the Hill's Pet dog breed catalog, where you can research different breed characteristics and traits. You don't necessarily need to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to welcome home a purebred. Dogs of just about any breed can often be found at animal shelters and rescue organizations. Don't assume that if a dog has been left at a shelter that there must be something wrong with him. Many pups are turned over to shelters for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the dog's behavior.
While you might set your heart on a specific breed, keep an open mind about mutts. While purebred dogs may tend toward personality extremes, mixed breeds often have more middle-of-the-road temperaments that combine the best traits of their breed makeup. Mixed dogs also tend to be hardier and less prone to breed-specific health issues. It's always a good idea to arrange a meeting between your kids and a specific dog to make sure the potential new friend meets your expectations and is a good match for your kids' personalities. It helps to ask a lot of questions about any dog you're considering adopting. Be sure to ask yourself some questions before adopting:
Does this dog get along with everyone in the house? Some dogs are afraid of men or children, while some just take some time to get used to their new surroundings.
Does each member of your family get along with the dog? Similar to the previous question, but it's also important that you and your kids all feel comfortable around the new dog. Sometimes kids can be scared of dogs at first and just need time to get acclimated, but it is still something to consider when adopting.
Is the dog's energy level a match for your family's?
What sort of care and maintenance will the dog need? Will his coat need a lot of brushing or is this an older dog with known health issues that will require a lot of trips to the veterinarian?
If you have other pets, will this dog get along well with them?
Best Dog Breeds for Children
Based on the traits mentioned above, the American Kennel Club lists these nine breeds (in no particular order) as the best dog breeds for children:
Soft-coated Wheaten terrier
- Bull terrier
Other breeds that are good for children, according to PetMD, are the poodle, Irish setter, collie and Vizsla.
While energy levels differ from breed to breed, each of these breeds tends to be friendly, calm, easy-going, intelligent and relatively easy to train. They're all sturdy, medium to large dogs that should be able to play well with children without getting hurt.
Kids and dogs can form special bonds and help your child become an adult who is responsible and compassionate. It all starts with finding the best dog for your family. By doing your research, asking the right questions and not simply settling for the cutest or easiest-to-obtain dog but searching for the best fit, your family will be well on the way to becoming a happy, safe and harmonious dog family.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.