12 Great Dogs Who Make Instant Playmates for Kids

Discover the pup who will claim your kiddo’s heart, lick away their tears, and help wear them out (thank goodness!)
By Kristi Valentini
November 20, 2020

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Growing up with a pup is a fantastic experience. Dogs that are good with kids make wonderful built-in buddies for their human companions (big and small). They're more than willing to romp around the yard, play dress-up, and at night, help scare away the boogeyman from under the bed. 

The key to having a pooch the whole family adores is to pick the right one. Some dog breeds are naturally better when it comes to palling around with kids. Whether the dog is small or big doesn’t make as much of a difference as their temperament. 

Dogs that are easygoing, playful but calm, and tolerant of little hands poking and pulling are best for families with children. Check out these good dog breeds for kids to find your family’s match.

Golden retriever running through grass toward camera
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1. Overall Best Dog for Families With Kids: Golden Retriever

Consistently ranked among the most popular dogs in the U.S., golden retrievers are great dogs for families with kids. They’re people pleasers who are up for fun whenever and wherever—this breed is just as happy playing fetch as they are going for a swim. A golden’s go-with-the-flow attitude, friendly personality, and patience with children make the breed the overall best family dog.

Red and white spaniel stands in grass
Credit: Bigandt.com / Shutterstock

2. Best Small Dog for Kids: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

When you think about the Cavalier King Charles spaniel, think small, sweet cuddlebug. This affectionate breed is happiest when he’s an integral part of the family, from curling up to watch morning cartoons to going on road trips to chasing balls outside. Cavaliers were bred to be companion dogs and they do well when they can be with their families all day long.

Adult Newfoundland sits with head titled in grassy field
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3. Best Big Dog for Kids: Newfoundland

Because of their massive size (up to 150 pounds!), Newfoundlands can seem intimidating. But inside, these giants have a heart of pure gold. They’re mild-mannered, mellow sidekicks who would do anything for the ones they love. Nicknamed “nanny dog,” these big boys are good at watching over their brood and don’t need a ton of exercise. A leisurely walk or some playtime with the kids is enough.

pug looking up at camera
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4. Good Dogs That Are Gentle With Babies: Pug

Pugs are quiet and happy to chill for hours—two qualities any new parent will appreciate! A friend to all, pugs were made to be companions to Chinese emperors and they still enjoy their role as royal lapdog and court jester. But don’t worry, even if your pug gets a little jealous of your family’s new addition, he’s more likely to sulk than to snap.

irish red setter profile
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5. Best Dog for Kids Who Like to Play Outside: Irish Setter

A love of adventure combined with their sweet nature make Irish setters perfect companions for outdoorsy families. This stunning breed has puppylike enthusiasm well into adulthood, which means they need lots of exercise to get all that energy out. If you want a pooch that has the stamina for hiking, swimming, and long runs, an Irish setter might be the right dog for you.

Collie standing in a grassy field
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6. Smartest Dog for Your Kid Genius: Collie

Collies serve as the poster-child breed of smart dogs thanks to the classic TV show Lassie. Super loving and loyal too, collies are experts at reading your body language and are naturally gentle with tots. Pair this brainy dog with a kiddo who's into teaching tricks and they’ll both be entertained for hours!

tri-colored beagle standing on cobblestone
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7. Best Hound Dog Breed for Kids: Beagle

With cute floppy ears and pleading eyes you can’t resist, beagles have long been a favorite of American families. This hound breed is small but sturdy, spunky, and a ready playmate for kids that know how to be gentle with dogs—beagles may react to tail tugs and ear pulls. Beagles were bred to hunt in packs and still crave companionship. So they’re best with families that are often home or happy to take their pups on adventures.

English Bulldog stands off to the side in grassy field, tongue out
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8. Best Dog Breed for Kids That Also Love Cats: English Bulldog

English bulldogs look tough, but they’re actually big mushballs on the inside. The breed is known for its special fondness for kids and getting along great with other pets, including cats. Perhaps it’s their calm and friendly demeanor or the fact that they just can’t muster the energy to fight with anyone—English bulldogs are notoriously laid-back. These couch potatoes don’t need more than a daily walk around the block or a fun game with their people.

boxer looking into camera
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9. Best Dog for Energetic Kids: Boxer

There’s no doubt that boxers are athletes. Just one look at their muscular frame and you can tell that this breed was born to move. But what might surprise you is that while they’re definitely energetic, boxers are social butterflies, too. They never tire of companionship and want to be where the action is, which is usually wherever kids are. Boxers are clownish sweethearts that win many families over.

Copper-colored Brittany basset stands on rocky shoreline
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10. Cutest Kid-Friendly Dog: Fawn Colored Brittany Basset (Basset Fauve de Bretagne)

Do scruffy dogs make your heart melt? Then you’ll be quick to fall in love with the fawn-colored Brittany basset (also called the Basset Fauve de Bretagne). A medium-sized breed, the Brittany basset has scrappy good looks and a friendly, playful personality that pairs well with kids. The bonus: Their wiry hair repels dirt and doesn’t mat, though a weekly brushing is still a good idea.

soft coated wheaten terrier closeup face
Soft-coated wheaten terriers originated in Ireland, where they were known as a "poor man's dog" popular with commoners.
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11. Best Hypoallergenic Dog for Kids With Allergies: Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier

While no dog is technically hypoallergenic, some are less likely to cause a reaction to dander or hair. The soft-coated wheaten terrier is a fun-loving and energetic pup that doesn’t shed. But the breed’s silky, wavy mane does need a good brushing a couple of times a week. Wheatens are a bouncy, active breed. They’re ideal for keeping up with older kids who can’t sit still—but not so great for a home with tykes who can get knocked over by excited wheatens.

Fluffy Keeshond dog smiles off to the side with tongue out
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12. Best Medium-Sized Dog for Kids: Keeshond

Keeshonds are an incredibly charming breed. Not only are they pretty fluff balls who sport a permanent grin, keeshonds are also extremely gentle and loving with children. They don’t need more than a daily walk and their medium size makes them sturdier than a small dog but not overwhelmingly big for little ones—they’re just right. Smart and easy to train, Keeshonds make excellent family dogs as long as you’re willing to brush that gorgeous coat once a week.