A couple of days ago, someone wandered into the dog park without a dog. The last time this happened, it was Al, coming down to tell us that his Saint Bernard, Hannah, had passed, so as you can imagine, much of the time when someone shows up solo, it’s not a good thing.
This was a bit different, though. It was a woman who was thinking about getting her daughter a dog for being promoted from kindergarten into Grade One – I talked about this phenomenon in A Puppy for Grading Day. She was wondering if any of us had suggestions as to what are the best puppies for kids, and which might be better avoided. So, once again, we had a “Go ask Ash” moment.
I have to say, it wasn’t really a question I wanted to answer. There are so many variables involved in choosing puppies for kids – the age of the child, the child’s temperament, the size of the dog, the willingness on the part of the adults in the household to train and socialize the dog – I could go on and on. Of course, the temperament of the dog is very important as well, but I think temperament issues most of the time have more to do with the individual dog than with the breed.
I promised that I’d do some research and try to come back with some suggestions.
You won’t find a link here to any site that purports to have the answers when it comes to choosing puppies for kids. This is because so many of them are based on nothing more than opinion or personal prejudice. Several also advise against certain breeds simply because of their reputation or their size. Essentially, what I did when researching this post was look at literally dozens of sites, and try to identify commonalities.
So, this is by no means definitive, and it also doesn’t necessarily represent the breeds that I would personally consider to be suitable for kids, or unsuitable. If I start adding or deleting breeds, then I’m just as guilty as everyone else out there of allowing their personal opinions to taint what they post.
Consider this as nothing more than a collection of other people’s opinions. When a breed came up over and over as being either “best” or “worst,” I added it to the list. Then I narrowed it down to half a dozen of each to give you the breeds that most people seem to feel strongly about one way or another when it comes to how good they are with children.
Here they are.
The Beagle was originally bred for hunting, and many people still use these dogs to hunt rabbits and other small game. The breed is also very common as a companion dog, and has a loving nature and a willingness to play, so that makes the Beagle one of the best puppies for kids. If you choose a Beagle for your child, they’ll be fast friends for a long time, since the Beagle is long-lived in comparison with many other breeds, usually enjoying a lifespan of 10-14 years.
Beagles can be a bit stubborn, but they’re generally cooperative and therefore a good choice for the novice dog owner. Training is essential, though, and you need to be firm and consistent when working with a Beagle.
You’ll also have to train your child – Beagles don’t appreciate ear-pulling and other rough handling, so your child needs to be gentle. Another thing to keep in mind is that Beagles can be gluttons, and thus can be prone to obesity, so you’ll want to feed on a schedule – this isn’t a breed that should be free-fed. What it also means is that Beagles can be protective of their food, so make sure that your child knows not to disturb the dog when he’s eating.
As to exercise, a Beagle enjoys a lot of activity, so if your child likes to be outdoors a lot, the Beagle will be more than happy to play. When walking your Beagle, it’s a good idea to keep him on leash, since if he catches the scent of something interesting, he’ll take off. Usually, the dog will find his way home, but on the off chance that he doesn’t, that’s not something you want your kid to have to deal with.
Grooming a Beagle is easy – usually a brushing once a week will suffice, although you can brush more frequently. It’s a good way of bonding with your dog.
Generally speaking, Beagles are very pleasing dogs. They’re intelligent, easy to care for, eager to please and typically have no temperament issues.
The Golden Retriever is another of the best puppies for kids, playful, loving, cooperative, and highly intelligent. The breed is also very active, so Golden Retrievers make ideal playmates for children. The only thing to watch out for in terms of play is that the Golden Retriever is very eager to please, so even though he likes a lot of activity, if your child is also extremely active, the dog might continue playing in an effort to please the child long after he’s actually worn out.
Because of the Golden Retriever’s intelligence and cooperative nature, training is easy. Accordingly, the Golden Retriever is a good choice for people who may not have a lot of experience with dogs.
Even with the long hair, it’s not all that hard to groom a Golden Retriever. Daily brushing is best, but bathe only when absolutely necessary in order to avoid drying out the skin and losing too much of the undercoat.
The Golden Retriever is another breed that will live for a relatively long time, typically reaching an age of between 10 and 12 years.
For the past 10 years, the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog in the United States, and definitely among the best puppies for kids. Labs are very tolerant, and therefore well suited to even very young children. They’re also extremely loyal, and possessed of an incredible willingness to please their humans.
Because the Labrador is a fairly sizable dog, it’s advisable to begin training early, before the physical strength of the dog makes him less easy to handle. One issue you won’t have with a Lab is stubbornness – they’re typically quite happy to let you be the alpha in the relationship.
Labs aren’t hard to groom, since they’re short-haired, but they do shed. A brushing once a week will usually take care of most of the excess hair. This is another breed with an undercoat, though, so bathe only if you absolutely have to.
These adorable little dogs are fun-loving and loyal. Because of their size, you won’t have to worry about a Pug knocking your child over, but you will have to supervise in order to be sure that your kid isn’t too rough with the dog.
Pugs can be a bit willful, so when training, it’s important to stay calm and be firm. Of course, you should never shout at any dog, but Pugs are especially sensitive, and can become nervous if you’re too loud. Use a lot of praise – a treat or two wouldn’t go amiss, either.
Pugs can be lazy, so regular exercise is important.
Thanks to the short coat, twice-monthly brushing is probably good enough, although brushing more often can be quite enjoyable for both you and your dog. You will need to clean out their ears and their facial wrinkles regularly, though.
Although there can be some health problems associated with the breed (breathing issues, usually, due to the short nose), Pugs are generally healthy and can live for 12-15 years.
With a life span of 12 to15 years, this will be a loving pet for a long time.
Many of the sites I looked at suggest the Poodle as being among the best puppies for kids. I need to emphasize, though, that this means the Standard Poodle – not the minis or the toys.
The Standard Poodle is considered to be one of the most intelligent dog breeds, as well as being loyal and patient. Another advantage is that if your child has allergies, the Poodle is also as close as you’ll ever get to a hypoallergenic dog – there’s no such thing as a dog that’s 100% hypoallergenic.
Although possessed of a very steady temperament, regular exercise is very important, otherwise you can end up with a high-strung, destructive dog.
Standard Poodles have an advantage over many other large breeds in that they’re comparatively long-lived. A Standard Poodle will be a beloved member of your family for 10-12 years.
By “mixed breed,” I don’t mean “designer dogs” – those yappy little things like the so-called “Chorkies,” “Puggles,” “Peke-a-Poos” and so on are actually bred for abnormally small size and typically have significant health problems (See A Chorkie is a Mix, Not a Breed for more about designer dogs). I mean a dog whose ancestry can’t really be conclusively determined.
Usually mixed breeds have good temperaments, but the best way to tell how a puppy is likely to turn out is by visiting the mother and the rest of the litter. A lot of the time, these puppies are of unknown ancestry because the breeding was accidental, and the owner has no idea who the father (or fathers, since a bitch can be fertilized by more than one dog over the course of her heat) might be.
If the mother is a nice dog, chances are the puppies will take on much of her temperament. Take a look at how the puppy you’re considering behaves with the rest of the litter, though – you don’t want a bully, and you also don’t want one who’s always trying to keep his distance from his littermates.
One advantage to a mixed breed is price – you’ll probably be able to get a puppy for little or nothing. Also, if you choose a puppy from a shelter, the puppy will usually already have been neutered or spayed.
These are the breeds that most people seem to think are the best puppies for kids. Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin.
Let me stress again that these breeds are being presented only because of a general consensus of opinion. Many of these breeds will make perfectly good family pets, provided that you make sure that you’re dealing with a reputable breeder whose breeding standards include a close eye on temperament, and early socialization of the puppies. Many of the so-called “worst” puppies are on this list simply because there are so many bad breeders out there.
Here you go.
The Dalmatian is indisputably a beautiful dog, but is prone to deafness, and deaf dogs can be easily startled and might snap. If you’re considering a Dalmatian, ask the breeder if there’s any history of deafness in any of their dogs, or if they know of deafness in puppies out of previous litters. It also wouldn’t hurt to have your vet take a look at the puppy.
Another problem with the Dalmatian is that over-breeding has led, in many instances, to aggression. Back when the movie, “101 Dalmatians” came out, it seemed as though everybody wanted one of these dogs, so more and more of them were bred – simple supply and demand.
It can take several generations to breed out aggression, once it’s been bred in. Accordingly, the Dalmatian is not usually to considered to be one of the best puppies for kids.
Here again, you can encounter temperament issues. Chihuahuas can be very territorial, and have been known to snap even at adults in the home if they don’t get their own way. The breed can also be nervous, and again, that translates as a potential for nipping.
The other problem with Chihuahuas is that they’re small dogs, usually weighing no more than 7 pounds. There’s probably a greater likelihood of a Chihuahua being seriously hurt by a child than the other way around.
Although there are a few people out there who simply have a prejudice against Pit Bull type dogs, on most of the sites I investigated, the prevailing belief seems to be that problems with these dogs are generally due to bad breeding. Dominance can also be an issue.
It’s hard to get past the bad breeding, though. What humans have done to Pit Bull type dogs in recent decades has led to breeds like the American Staffordshire Terrier (which was once known as the “Nanny Dog” because of its kind nature and tolerance of children) getting a bad reputation. I’m not saying never consider a Pit Bull type, but carefully observe the parents and the puppies for any signs that might indicate temperament issues.
Despite its reputation, the Rottweiler is no more likely to bite than any other breed of dog, and in fact less likely to bite than many breeds. Of course, if a Rottweiler does bite, there’s going to be significant damage.
My friend Neila breeds Rotties, and she often places puppies in homes with children. She’s never had a report of any problem, and often hears from owners who tell her things like, “The dog you sold me is my kid’s best friend.” Neila breeds for good temperament, so if you’re considering a Rottweiler, make sure that the breeder you’re working with does the same.
Chow Chows are gorgeous dogs, but they are very strong-willed. They can also be quick-tempered, and will not tolerate rough handling. Chow Chows are not well-suited to novice owners, and often respond best to professional training. Unless you’re very experienced, a Chow Chow should probably be the last breed you consider when looking for puppies for kids.
With many of these “worst” breeds, the problem is with bad breeding, so don’t necessarily write them off – just make sure to see the mother (and the father if possible), and choose a reputable breeder.
Generally speaking, there are no “bad dogs,” just bad breeders and incompetent owners. A badly bred, poorly socialized Lab is going to be just as likely to bite as any of the breeds listed here as “worst.” So the main thing to consider when shopping around for puppies for kids is the history of the parents, and that of the breeder as well.
Is there a breed that you think should top the list of best or worst puppies for kids? Why? Leave a comment!