The best family dogs

When you find yourself looking for a pet dog for your family rather than just for you or you and your partner, the criteria are likely to become very different. It takes a very special kind of dog to be comfortable around the sounds, smells and unpredictable demands of young children. 

There are certain dog breeds that are likely to be naturally friendly and easy around your little ones, and make perfect family pets. Below, we’ll introduce you to some of them.

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What should you look for in child-friendly dog breeds?


Patience is very definitely a virtue for a dog that will spend time around children. So, a calm animal with an easygoing nature that’s less likely to become aggressive no matter how much it’s prodded, poked or has its tail pulled is a clear necessity.


Big dogs are more likely to be clumsy and inadvertently knock small children over without even realising. Some dogs can even knock a toddler off-balance with just a vigorously wagging tail. They’re also more likely to become overly boisterous when playing.


Lower energy dogs can often be a good match for very young children, as they tend to be more patient and less likely to react aggressively when they get over-excited. But if your kids are a little older and bigger, then a dog that likes nothing better than running and fetching endlessly can be a great companion for children, and give you a bit of a breather when you go for a walk in the park. 


Intelligent, easily-trainable breeds will learn more easily how to behave around children. A dog should have had basic obedience training, anyway, though this isn’t enough on it’s own. The earlier you can socialise a dog with children the better, so it can get used to how they differ from adults. And to some extent this goes both ways – teaching your children rules like how to treat dogs gently and to not interrupt them while they’re eating will help improve relations. Above all, don’t leave children unattended with a dog.

The 10 best family dogs

This is far from a definitive list, and even within breeds, dogs can have very different personalities. But, big picture, the breeds listed below will generally treat your children as if they were their own. 

1. Poodle

Among the advantages of poodles is that they come in various sizes, so you can choose from a Toy, Miniature or Standard, as appropriate to the size of your children or your home. Once you’ve chosen you’ll find yourself with an intelligent, friendly dog, keen to get involved with whatever the family are doing.   

2. Labrador Retriever

The word friendly doesn’t really cover the Labrador’s level of sociability. They get on with everyone and anything. They’re also playful, highly intelligent and very patient. It’s no surprise, then, that they’re a popular breed in the UK, and your children will be very safe and happy in their paws.

3. Beagle

Snoopy was a beagle, and like Charlie Brown’s dog, beagles tend to be cool, enjoy hanging round with children, and love to play. Full of energy, they’re unlikely to tire of running about and catching balls before your children do. They’ll also usually get on with your other pets, too. 

4. Bulldog

Bulldogs may look pretty fearsome, but they’re really big softies, becoming very attached to their family, especially little ones. They’re not the most active of animals, but sturdy enough to not be phased in the slightest by the more heavy-handed of childish affection. Plus, if you have very young children, a bulldog will give them a run for their money in the drooling stakes. On the flip side this breed can suffer with health issues and may not be ideal to play in hot weather.

5. Border Collie

This is a sheep dog – gentle, intelligent and easily trainable. They make a very loyal friend, though you may find their instincts kick in occasionally, and they decide to herd your children. Then again, you could find this useful at times. 

6. Newfoundland

If you have the space, then a Newfoundland is the perfect family pet. They adore children, wanting to get involved in most of their games, and despite their size as they can have a 30 inch neck and weigh 75kg (over 10 stone) they have a very gentle, loving character. That’s probably why they’re sometimes described as natural babysitters.   

7. Vizsla

Some reading this may not have heard of this breed, but it is definitely worth consideration if you’re after good family dogs. It’s an active breed, needing plenty of exercise, but is obedient, affectionate and clever. A dog that will form a close bond with every member of your family and be very loyal to and protective of its clan. 

8. Golden Retriever

Like the Labrador, a very popular breed in the UK, and no wonder. Loving, loyal and patient, it’s also intensely curious and fun, so enjoys the company and attention of kids with energy to spare. 

9. Boxer

The Boxer is another breed that you might not immediately think of as being child-friendly. In fact, they’re very sociable, being full of energy much of the time, but loving to curl up with someone later on. And they particularly love indulging their sillier side with children.   

10. Mixed breed

All this talk of breeds almost made us forget that often the best dogs for kids, and the most loving family pets have no pedigree at all. Mixed breeds, cross-breeds or just plain mutts, they can combine the best child-friendly aspects of a couple of breeds or more, and also tend to be less prone to genetic health problems, making them solid companions. Plus, there are plenty of them looking for a loving home in every shelter throughout the UK.   

Look after your family dog with Pet Insurance

Whichever type of dog you choose, sooner or later it’s likely to need the attention of a vet, and the bills can add up fast. While our Pet Insurance doesn’t cover routine veterinary visits or vaccinations, it can help you to cover the cost of unexpected bills when your pet needs treatment due to an accident or illness.

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