Adding a dog to the family is a highly personal decision, and parents have different reasons for choosing a particular breed. Most families would agree that they want a friendly and loyal dog, but some might prioritize a protective type or one that doesn’t shed much. A family with not much space would likely choose a smaller breed, while an active household needs a dog that can keep up with them. As for families with small children, one of the calmest breeds of dog might be a perfect fit.
If you’ve ever been around a toddler or preschooler, it’s not hard to see why their parents might want a mellow mutt. A young child would enjoy running around the yard with an energetic dog, but an overly excitable breed might be apt to knock down or jump on a little one. On the other end of the spectrum, a toy breed like a Chihuahua or toy poodle might be too delicate for a family with small children.
“I am very, very leery of kids and small breeds, because [kids] can be rough without realizing it, and if there’s limited adult supervision…” veterinarian Jodi Holcomb Oliver, DVM, cautions to Romper. She adds that not every laid-back dog breed is good for these households, either. For instance, pugs are a calm and delightful pet for homes with older children, but their signature bulging eyes could easily be poked by a curious toddler.
Of course, small children should never be left unsupervised around any dog, no matter how gentle it seems, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Parents should teach their children how to treat a dog gently, and should be aware themselves of the signs that a dog is feeling threatened enough to bite, such as tucking its tail between its legs, backing away, yawning, or growling, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.
So which dog breeds are laid-back enough to suit a home with little ones? Lots of them, so here’s a list to get you started. Keep in mind, of course, that not all of these breeds will be perfect for your individual family, and no matter which breed you choose, you and your family will need to be diligent about training. So do some more homework before you visit the breeder or shelter.
“Famously friendly,” according to the AKC, the ever-popular Lab lives to please its family, is easy to train (which is why it makes a great guide and therapy dog), and it’s good-natured enough to sit still for a hug from little arms. But don’t confuse its sweetness for laziness; like the Golden, this retriever breed needs to stay active, or it might start chewing your shoes out of boredom.
This large breed looks like a giant teddy bear â€” and acts like one, too. Known as “the Mother Teresa of dogs,” according to PetMD, the Newfoundland is both super-smart and super-gentle, adoring both large and small family members. Its drooling and shedding makes it high-maintenance as far as grooming, and a good chunk of your budget will go toward its food, but Newfie owners gladly endure the mess for the sake of the love they get in return.
If you prefer a smaller dog, this not-too-tiny breed is worth a look. The AKC affirmed that Cavs are “sweet, gentle, and affectionate” pups that train easily and fit in well with a household of children and other pets. They’re also adaptable enough to be content with both long romps in the yard and lazy days on the sofa. However, this isn’t the dog for you if you’re away from home a lot; dog trainer Michele Welton explained on her Your Purebred Puppy site that people-loving Cavaliers get stressed if left alone for long stretches. They also need to be kept on-leash during outings, since they’re apt to go chasing after birds and other small critters.
Strong enough to pull a small cart and herd cattle (it’s still used as a farm dog in Switzerland), the Berner is a sensitive softie at heart who’s gentle with children and adores being around its family, according to Petfinder. This breed thrives in cold weather and will enjoy long walks and romps in the snow with your kids. But, like the Newfoundland, the Berner is prone to shedding and drooling. And sadly, they don’t tend to live long; six to eight years is an average lifespan, according to Dog Breed Info Center.
Though the Irish Wolfhound was originally bred to hunt wolves and elk, it also happens to be another gentle giant that’s calm and sweet-tempered around children, said Petfinder. You’ll need enough indoor and outdoor room in your home to accommodate this three-foot-tall companion, but the Wolfhound doesn’t need more than a couple of walks a day to get its exercise. During those walks, don’t let your pet go off-leash; this breed is known to chase after squirrels and other small animals.
This stocky spaniel is an “amusing best friend and gentlemanly housemate,” according to the AKC. They’re docile, friendly with strangers and other pets, and love long sessions of fetch in the backyard. Clumbers don’t need much grooming, though their long ears need regular cleaning to prevent yeast infections. They love their food, but they can become overweight easily; take it easy on the table scraps.