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Are you ready to welcome a four-legged member of the family? In our Top 10 you’ll find big and small, energetic and placid breeds. How did we choose? Our favourite breeds for children are gentle and affectionate, and love being part of a pack.
Can dogs be happy with children?
Many dogs form a very strong bond with “their” children, providing emotional support as well as extra exercise.
You’ll find, though, that some dogs are “one-person” creatures. They will form a very loyal bond with one owner and can become snappy or jealous in the presence of children or other dogs. So your choice of dog is a serious decision, and should always account for your present and future circumstances. After all, your dog will live for around 8-16 years, and a lot can change in that time.
The benefits of dog-ownership for children
The sight of a relaxed dog cuddled up with a child melts any parent’s heart. But stay near: you should never leave any dog unsupervised with a child – even if it’s your family dog, and you’ve known them forever. Why? Because any dog might deliver a warning nip if it’s threatened or worried.
Don’t buy a dog as a gift for a child. As a parent or guardian, you have to be on-board with the idea of getting a pet, because responsibility will fall to you (...no matter how much the kids say they will “walk the dog everyday”).
On the plus side, having a dog in your home can bring extra benefits to you as well as your children!
- Boosted immunity – dogs introduce small amounts of bacteria and disease, which builds up human immune systems.
- Gentleness and kindness – children learn how to handle an animal, including feeding, vet visits, and exercising.
- Adaptability and responsibility – children learn that dogs are not always predictable, and have their own special ways.
Our Top 10 dog breeds for homes with kids...
The Golden Retriever
This handsome dog is popular for good reason. The Golden Retriever has brilliant character and lots of traits that make it perfect for family homes.
This big and humble dog enjoys being part of the family; they don’t tend to get jealous around children, and in fact will quickly train them to supply never-ending tummy-rubs!
The Golden Retriever is smart enough for obedience training, and needs a daily 1-hour+ walk. He loves a family expedition with the whole pack. Head to water, woods, or beach – many Golden Retrievers will enjoy a swim or a game of fetch. They’re generally very chilled-out dogs and will go along with whatever’s happening on a daily basis.
The Golden Retriever will require plenty of exercise to keep their joints flexible, and should also have their coat brushed and their teeth cleaned! If you have the space for a Golden Retriever in your home, go for gold.
The Labrador Retriever
In three colours and boundless personalities, the Labrador is always a very special dog. These loving dogs make excellent family companions. They like being in pairs or threes and if there aren’t other dogs they’ll gladly adopt the children as pack members.
Labradors love to run, and need plenty of exercise to avoid the dreaded “barrel belly”. (Of course, if they didn’t scrounge in the kitchen all day, that would also help.) Labradors are prone to gaining weight and this can cause joint problems in later life. If you buy a puppy, check that its parents look trim. When they’re at a healthy weight, you should be able to feel their ribs below the skin.
Labradors have a flat, short coat – part of their design for strong swimming – and won’t need much grooming. But you’ll want to train your Lab, either at obedience classes or even Agility. Labradors are intelligent and can really enjoy task-based training.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Want to go small? The CKC Spaniel has the sensitivity, silky fur and energy of a spaniel – in a smaller package. This dog will love going for long weekend walks with the family, and be equally happy snuggled up at home with the pack.
Known for getting along with everybody, the adorable CKC Spaniel has enormous eyes and floppy ears. Yes, you’ll have to meet their grooming needs and exercise them well, but the CKC makes a fantastic companion for all your family adventures. At home, the American Kennel Club says this dog is also great with young children.
The Bernese Mountain Dog
Or do you want to go supersize? The Bernese Mountain Dog is a mountain of a dog. Standing up to 27” and covered in a thick, fluffy coat, the Bernese is a real gentle giant.
Thought to be one of the most relaxed and least aggressive dogs in the world, the Bernese will certainly demand space in your home. But they’ll give you such love in return! Bernies are suitable for introducing to younger children and tend to have very gentle ways. They’re often suggested as the ideal family dog.
The Bernese Mountain Dog requires exercise, but perhaps not as much as you’d think: space to romp is essential. Famously used in search and rescue missions, Bernese are smart and trainable, so they can be good watchdogs.
The Wheaten Terrier
If someone’s at home all day then another one to consider is the Wheaten Terrier. Larger than most terriers with charming curly fur, this cheeky dog needs frequent and patient grooming – but its fur is almost completely hypoallergenic.
With the hunting instinct of a classic terrier and the affectionate nature of a lapdog, the Wheaten Terrier is a favourite among families who live in a rural or country location. They need constant company and stimulation to prevent them from being bored, but the WT will reward you with undying loyalty and love.
The sweet Pug made it into another Top 10! We aren’t surprised. Highly rated for its attitude to children, the fun and often daft Pug is a big personality in a small package. Their adaptability means they’re recommended for all kinds of dog owners, including elderly people as well as young children.
You’ll probably choose the Pug for his adorable facial expressions, but this pup is a great all-round companion. It was actually bred as a lapdog, beloved by Chinese and European nobility, and is very happy in the home.
Pugs love eating, cuddling on the couch, and occasional games – just like children. Because they’re keen to please, they can be trained, but be careful not to hurt their feelings by punishing them. Dish out the treats, and your Pug will be more inclined to do what you say (hmm.. sounds familiar). We’re pretty certain that your Pug and your children are made to be best buds!
The Beagle is a pack dog, so its instinct is to tolerate and protect pack members – which makes this sweet dog ideal for introducing into a family home. Often used on fox hunts in England, the Beagle would always “get in” to the house and became a beloved companion.
The Beagle has the appealing looks of a puppy, with large brown eyes and floppy “hound” ears. It’s energetic and will require a serious amount of exercise – think an hour plus each day. Beagles love being part of a family, and don’t like being left alone, so will suit a household where someone is usually home.
When Peter and Wendy’s parents decided to get a dog instead of a nanny, they picked the Newfoundland. And Nana did her best to warn them when the kids flew off with Peter Pan! We wouldn’t recommend a dog as a day-care solution. But the Newfoundland is certainly a wonderful and affectionate family dog.
Standing at around 28”, this big dog is renowned for its sweet disposition. It will become utterly devoted to its family, with a soft spot for the children. If you have space, the Newfie is a valuable watchdog who will help to protect your family pack. Their exercise needs are moderate – around 30 minutes + per day, although they’ll benefit from exercise such as swimming and training as well as walks.
Did you know that the Poodle ranks among the smartest dogs in the world? With renowned intelligence, this dog responds to training and will love activity and outdoor exercise. Originally a hunting dog, the Poodle will need lots of walking as well as grooming.
Poodles love people. And they’ll be happy in a family, where their sense of fun and eagerness to please can be indulged. Poodles can be barky if they’re on guard duty, but that’s not always a disadvantage.
Because the poodle is a “hypoallergenic” breed, it has been crossed with dogs such as the Cocker Spaniel and the Labrador to introduce its low-shedding coat, so watch out for the Cockapoo and Labradoodle too!
The Cocker Spaniel
Speaking of the Cocker Spaniel, there’s space to squeeze him in! This popular family dog is small, affectionate, and adaptable – with a soft, silky coat which is absolutely irresistible. It looks dainty, but loves nothing more than a romp in the fields.
Bred as a gundog, the Cocker Spaniel crept into our homes and hearts, and now makes a brilliant bud for the kids. They will appreciate careful grooming and plentiful walks, and will reward you as a fond and gentle companion.