We urge you to think hard before you bring that cute, cuddly puppy home only to find out a few months later that he is not a good fit for your kids. Surrendering a dog to an animal shelter for this reason should be the last thing you want to do because animal rescue workers have a suicide rate of 5.3 in 1 million workers — the highest suicide rate among American workers, and a rate shared only by firefighters and police offices, according to a recent study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Both animals and humans have suffered enough from the hands of those who are supposed to make informed and responsible decisions.
We believe the information below to be accurate and obtained from reliable sources. However, a simple yes or no answer may not always be the correct answer. For example, when a particular dog is judged to be not so good with children, there may be instances where a breeder has taken exceptional measures to socialize the puppy with his or her children which would change the answer.
The most common mistake parents make when buying a family dog is choosing a dog which is cute or the right size rather than considering breed and temperament. When picking a breed or mix, it is important to consider the children who will be with the dog.
Dogs should be solidly built, able to take roughhousing by children, and patient and gentle by nature. Although many breeds are good with children, the dogs listed below are most often recommended by veterinarians, dog trainers and animal behaviorists, professionals who handle dogs every day.
Airedale Terrier & Children Airedales can make wonderful pals for considerate children. They are active, playful and not particularly delicate. They are strong and forceful, however, and play sessions should by supervised by an adult. Airedales may not be ideal playmates for toddlers as their rough-and-tumble play may result in the child's being knocked over off his feet, but with adult supervision an Airedale can be the child's best buddy.
Bolognese & Children Families with children will truly enjoy the playful ways of this breed. If taught how to properly interact with each other, children and Bolognese can be great friends, though he is not the best breed for families with small children who are too young to grasp the concept of how to handle a relatively fragile animal like Bolognese.
Boxer & Children His temperament is fundamentally playful, yet stoical and patient with children. Female Boxers are thought to be gentler with kids. He senses that smaller children need gentler play, he is forgiving about tail and ear pulling and if a child accidentally falls on him. However, children should not pet a sleeping dog and should wake him by calling his name first; they should not pester an eating dog or bother him while he is in his crate. These are general rules that should be followed around any dog, though. According to CDC study on fatal dog bites, purebred Boxer dogs were involved in 2 fatal human attacks that occurred between 1979 and 1998; crossbreed Boxers were involved in 1 fatal human attack over the same period of time.
Black Russian Terrier & Children As a pet, the Black Russian Terrier is wonderfully devoted to his family and is usually good with children, but small children must always be supervised around the dog of this size. This is a substantially built dog, and it is always possible that an accident may happen, if only by way of the dog's acidentally bowling over a child.
The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that you consider the following:
- Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household.
- Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children.
- Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog.
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into the home of an infant or toddler.
- Spay/neuter virtually all dogs (this frequently reduces aggressive tendencies).
- Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
- Do not play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
- Properly socialize and train any dog entering the household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose abdomen and relinquishing food without growling).
- Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
The Black Russian Terrier may decide to protect the child if he thinks the child to be in danger of any sort, especially when approached by someone with whom the dog is not familiar.
There have been occasions when the BRT has "herded" up a group of children.
Bulldogs & Children Children and Bulldogs can become fast friends if the children are taught how to handle their new pet. The Bulldog will tolerate the poking and prodding from a small child, but if the child gets too rough, the Bulldog will simply leave. However, generally, an 8-week old Bulldog and a child under 3 years of age are not good companions.
Australian Cattle Dog & Children. If you have small children and you decide to bring an adult Australian Cattle Dog, consider the factor that the dog may have never been exposed to or interact with small children. The first sight of these "miniature people" can be very perplexing to the inexperienced dog, especially loud and very active children. When children run and play, the herding and heeling instinct in the dog may be aroused; perhaps leading to nipping at the children's feet and ankles. It may take considerable time and patience to overcome this inborn instinct. In yards when groups of children play, the Australian Cattle dog will push them into a tight circle. There are many stories about these dogs saving toddlers from running into traffic, or from straying away from the family property by gently herding them back home. This is an intelligent breed that will constantly try to increase their status in your family "pack." Care must be taken to be sure that the children maintain their status above the family dog. Some dogs will perceive roughhousing as a threat.
Basenji & Children. In general, Basneji is rather reserved with strangers and isnot recommended as pet for kids. Basenjis can take the rigors of child's play if they are raised with children, but if improperly socialized, Basenjis tend to nip at children. Some owners recognize that these dogs can be difficult to handle on a leash.
Bergamasco & Children. The pet Bergamasco will adopt the children of his family as charges in his herd. Generally, these dogs make excellent companions for youngsters.
Beagle & Children. Beagles get along well with children and arguments are rare. Gentle, playful, and even-tempered, Beagles and children are almost inseparable, they truly adore children.
Dogue de Bordeaux & Children. Dogue de Bordeaux is good with children for two reasons. First, he loves to be around humans - a family cannot be big enough. Second, this breed has a lot of patience and will deal with typical teasing, tail pulling and other annoyances in which exuberant children tend to engage. These dogs are happy to comply with the silliest of children's games, such as wearing hats and "dress up."
English Setter & Children. This breed is always happy to join in a game and is very trustworthy with kids. English setters are quite tolerant of a small child's poking and pulling, although it is always wise to provide supervision when small children and dogs are spending time together, because dogs prone to displaying dominant behavior often cannot be completely trusted around children of any age.
English Springer Spaniel & Children. Springers are great with children, but they are very exuberant as puppies and adults, both the dog and children must be supervised. Puppies perceive children on their level; their actions around small children are different from their actions around their adult masters.
German Shorthaired Pointer & Children. Shorthairs have a propensity to jump up on people. This could be disastrous when young children are involved. Dog obedience classes should be undertaken as soon as possible to try and prevent this habit. Keep in mind the the GSP attains most of his adult size by the time he is 6 months of age. By that time, he is fully capable of knocking over both children and adults. It is probably better to wait for your children to be of school age before you get a GSP. The breeder should assist you in selecting a pup of even temperament, one that is not made uneasy by noise and commotion, as well as the presence of young children.
Gordon Setter & Children. Gordons are generally good with children, although they should be introduced to youngsters at an early age. Most tend to be protective of young family members. They will seldom growl or menace if children treat them harshly, preferring instead to simply withdraw from the offending child. However, all children should be taught that Gordons, like any breed, should be treated with respect.
Great Pyrenees & Children. Some Pyrs can become nervous when creeping and crawling infants are moving toward them and sometimes they growl, but most move away from the infant. Until the age of about two, Pyrs are rather boisterous. Puppies (in general) will also nip at children because they consider them similar to their littermates.
Keeshond & Children. This dog has been a guard dog for centuries. So comfortable is the Keeshond in this capacity that he will automatically have a protective interest in the family children without having to be trained for this purpose. This alert, defensive nature is embedded in his personality.
Newfoundland & Children. The Newfoundland's gentle disposition make him an excellent companion for children. His size and amiability make him immune to the unintended roughness of small children. Babies tumble over and around him, secure in the knowledge that no snap or growl will mar their play. When he becomes tire, he simply moves away, though his watchful eyes remain alert to the safety of the kids. Should danger threaten, a busy highway, a deep pool, a suspicious stranger, he is there, shielding his charges with his great strength, nudging them to safety. According to CDC study on fatal dog bites, purebred Newfoundland dogs were involved in 1 fatal human attack that occurred between 1979 and 1998.
Papillon & Children. While Papillons are generally good with children, their fragile structure makes them ill-suited for living with small children. Roughhouse activity and kids do not mix well. He enjoys the company of children especially if he's raised with them. A feisty, independent pup will do well in a home with older children and adults, while quite, shy puppies will thrive in homes with minimal noise and distractions.
Poodles & Children. The Standard (large) poodle is very good with children and is not overly excitable. The Miniature poodle is the most affectionate. The Toy poodle is not generally considered to be as suitable a family pet as the Standard and Miniature because of its higher rankings on snapping at children.
Pug & Children. The Pug is very tolerant of children. Older children will find the Pug particularly attractive. Pugs consider children as siblings and will wait patiently until the homework is finished. When it is time to go out and play, the Pug responds eagerly. Children must be mature enough to understand that Pugs do not like to be disturbed when they are eating or sleeping. This is why parents with toddlers should wait to buy a dog or a puppy until their children are at least four years old and seek breeders whose puppies have been raised with youngsters underfoot.
Samoyed & Children. These dogs are completely trustworthy with well-behaved children of all ages. But although Samoyeds can stand a fair amount of pummeling, children should be trained to respect them. Children should be preferably at least four years old. Samoyeds raised with children seem to have a distinct advantage in socialization: the two seem to understand each other.
Scottish Deerhound & Children. Scottish Deerhounds are tolerant animals and most of them enjoy the company of children, especially if they have been sensibly introduced while the dog is still young. Children can often engage dogs in their dogs, encouraging them to become unruly and overly-excited and the dog of this size would undoubtedly do damage to a small child in error or in play.
Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier & Children. Wheatens are easy-going and generally get along with considerate children. Wheatens are known to jump up on people and may, in their enthusiasm, knock down small children. Wheatens that are poorly socialized or poorly bred may behave unpredictably. Young children should be taught not to pull on Wheaten's rather appealing long coat.
Weimaraner & Children. Weims are generally good family dogs. They love children and are content to play with them for hours. But because they are a large breed, they should be taught to interact properly with children. Children younger than mid-teens are less capable of handling a large dog like Weimaraner. The intense energy of a young Weim may make him unsuited for a home with small children. It can be also dangerous when an adult Weim jumps on a child. Weimaraners can be very good with children after they get through their adolescent clumsy stage.
Whippet & Children. If mutual respect is established, Whippets will get along with children. Children are readily accepted into a game, as these dogs love to play. Small children can play with these dogs without the risk of being knocked over. Whippets and their human "siblings" make a very strong bond.
- LABRADOR RETRIEVER Members of the retriever family are the most sought after dogs in the world for companionship. Their good reputation with small children and small animals is known around the world. This recommendation includes the Golden retriever, curly and flat-coated retrievers, and Chesapeake Bay retriever. According to CDC study on fatal dog bites, purebred Labrador Retriever dogs were involved in 1 fatal human attack that occurred between 1979 and 1998; crossbreed Labrador Retriever were involved in 4 fatal human attacks over the same period of time.
- STANDARD SCHNAUZER and BEAGLE Many breeds in the hound family are very good with children. They are good-natured and have a very positive outlook on life, but they can be quite stubborn. It is their stubbornness that makes them very frustrating for children who want to teach their dogs to fetch or come. Getting a beagle to do something is a test of patience and persistence.
- COLLIE FAMILY This group includes the border collie, briard and collie. These dogs are very docile with children and full of energy. They are very patient, but they will take charge of a situation that gets out of hand, key qualities in working with livestock and playing with a roomful of children. Border Collies, however, will try and "herd" small children and will nip at running, screaming, playing toddlers. Border Collies are recommended for older kids, but not for very young children. According to CDC study on fatal dog bites, Collie crossbreeds were involved in 3 fatal human attacks that occurred between 1979 and 1998.
- JACK RUSSEL TERRIER and SPRINGER SPANIEL Members of the spaniel family are extremely playful and friendly. The popularity of the cocker spaniel in 1970s and 1980s caused a great deal of inbreeding and biting became a problem. But the springer spaniel never reached the popularity of the cocker, steering clear of the inbreeding problems. Despite all of this, spaniels have been traditionally wonderful family dogs (Ears can be sensitive to pulling!)
- MOUNTAIN DOGS This category includes Great Pyrenese, Saint Bernard, Great Swiss mountain dog and Akbash. These dogs are ferocious fighters in defending their flock, but are extremely loving and patient with their families. Even today many of these dogs are "put to work" in the wintertime, pulling children on sleds for hours on end.
- WEIMARANER and OTHER GUNDOGS Like many other hunting dogs, Weimaraners can be willful and stubborn, but is a wonderful companion, always ready to play or cuddle for a good nap.
- POODLE It's always a surprise breed. Although toy poodles are not recommended for children, the poodle is a wonderful breed for them, particularly the standard poodle. The standard is a surprise watchdog of the canine world, powerfully built, fearless and faithful, and always ready for a romp.
Other dog breeds which are thought to be good with children
Afghan Hound - Afghan Hounds are very sensitive to loud voices and noises. They can chase and nip at small children and are not recommended for families with young children.