9 Dog Breeds Best for Families and 9 You Should Avoid

Written By Jill Taylor

Children raised with a dog learn responsibility, caregiving skills, and empathy, but choosing which breed is right for your family can be difficult. Many parents want a friendly, low-maintenance pup that will be playful and goofy. Here, we’ll look at nine family-friendly dog breeds and nine which households with children should avoid.

Labrador Retriever

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Labs are America’s favorite dog breed for a good reason! They tend to be gentle, playful, patient, and eager to please their human families. Puppies and young dogs are especially suited to active families who enjoy walks, games of fetch, and outdoor adventures. Labs are also very smart and relatively easy to train, making them well-suited to less experienced dog owners.

Golden Retriever

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The American Kennel Club writes, “Goldens are outgoing, trustworthy, and eager-to-please family dogs, and relatively easy to train. They take a joyous and playful approach to life and maintain this puppyish behavior into adulthood.” Their intelligence and tendency to form strong bonds with their caregivers make them loving and easy-to-live-with companions.

Beagle

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Beagles are smaller than Labs and Golden Retrievers but no less loving. Curious and affectionate, they’re known for their happy, playful personalities and make great friends for children of all ages. Just make sure you have a secure fence and no cats, as beagles are hunting dogs with a strong prey drive and a common desire to explore or follow a scent.

Poodle

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Poodles aren’t all fancy haircuts and ridiculous poses, they’re intelligent, loyal, and energetic dogs that respond well to training. Poodles come in three sizes (standard, miniature, and toy), making them suitable for any size home. Despite their long, curly coats, they’re hypoallergenic and low-shedding, making them a good choice for people with allergies.

Bulldog

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These muscular, squash-faced dogs may look fierce, but they are the ultimate ‘cuddle bug’ breed! They love to be with people and require minimal exercise so they can be kept in apartments or homes without gardens. They’re also known to be laid back and loyal and have a smooth, short, and low-maintenance coat. They can be surprisingly playful, too, particularly when they are young.

Bichon Frise

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According to My Family Vets, these fluffy white dogs make excellent family pets due to their diminutive size and cheerful and playful temperaments. They’re gentle and easy to train and are typically good with children. Bichon Frises are especially suited to families with allergies living in apartments, as they’re small and have a low-shedding, hypoallergenic coat.

Irish Setter

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Irish Setters are perfect for active families that enjoy outdoor activities because they are energetic and playful dogs with a loving and affectionate nature. These beautiful sleek, red dogs are often intelligent and eager to please, making them relatively easy to train. They do require plenty of exercise, so a fenced-in yard and regular walks are essential.

Collie

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Bred to herd sheep and take orders, Collies are intelligent, loyal, and highly trainable dogs that bond well with their human families. Their sheep-herding past often makes them gentle, and they are suitable childhood companions when raised around children. While they’re usually very playful and enjoy intelligent games, they also tend to ‘herd’ children and other pets!

Mixed Breed

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Don’t overlook the many wonderful mixed-breed dogs available at shelters and rescues! Mixed breeds are ‘an unknown’, but many have desirable characteristics that suit family life and come in all kinds of unique sizes, shapes, and colors. They can be just as loving and loyal as purebred dogs and tend to be healthier and have longer lifespans due to their greater genetic diversity.

Jack Russell Terrier

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These miniature terriers were bred to hunt rodents, and they’re highly energetic, tenacious, and often stubborn. While their small size and easy-care coat are desirable traits, be aware that they can be feisty and require experienced owners who can offer firm and consistent training. If not, they can be prone to negative behaviors like barking, digging, chewing, and even snapping.

German Shepherd

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German Shepherds are intelligent, loyal, and highly trainable dogs. Still, they need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to remain content. A study in The NIH found that German Shepherds, alongside Pit Bull Terriers, were the two breeds most commonly linked with dog attacks on children. They’re better suited to families with teenagers, not young kids.

Siberian Husky

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Known for their thick coats, piercing blue eyes, and sled-pulling instincts, Siberian Huskies can be temperamental and bond more closely to other dogs than their human caregivers. They also have a high prey drive, which can put other pets at risk, especially cats. Their desire to ‘pull’ can make them restless when left alone, and they’re not appropriate for smaller homes.

Dalmatian

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They may look adorable with their white and black-spotted coats, but Dalmations can be neurotic and difficult to control, making them unsuitable for young families. Their high intelligence and energy levels can result in destructive behaviors when left alone, and they’re known for being stubborn and anxious without experienced training.

Doberman Pinscher

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Doberman Pinschers are intelligent, loyal, and highly trainable dogs, but Pet Place says they’re best left to families with older children due to their tendency to be over-protective, reactive, and constantly alert. The breed requires mature, experienced training to ensure they become well-adjusted companions, and small children are typically inconsistent with this!

Akita

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Akitas are known for their loyalty, independence, and majestic appearance, but they’re powerful, dominant dogs that can be unpredictable around children. Although there are exceptions, Akitas generally have strong personalities and a natural wariness, that makes them reactive, unpredictable, and easily startled by sudden noises or unexpected events.

Chow Chow

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These Chinese guard dogs are large, fluffy, and unique, with a lion-like mane and blue-black tongue. But they can be aloof and aggressive, especially with strangers or new situations. While some become loyal and affectionate with their families, their independent nature and stubborn streak make them challenging to train – not the best choice for a family pet.

Weimaraners

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Sleek Weimaraners might seem like a good fit for energetic families, but Spruce Pets writes, “They’ve been bred to hunt big game – a class of prey that, size-wise, can look pretty similar to a child under the age of 13.” Although not always on the hunt, they can be wary, aloof, and constantly alert, especially if they aren’t given enough mental and physical stimulation.

Chihuahuas

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The smallest dog breed, the Chihuahua, is known for its feisty personality and unwavering loyalty. However, their small size makes them fragile around young children who might unintentionally handle them roughly and cause injuries. They’re also prone to separation anxiety and yapping, better suited to single households where they can bond with one adult.