Begging for a dog is a time-honored childhood tradition — up there with learning to ride a bike or losing the first tooth. Whether or not your family is ready for a dog is another question, and is highly personal. Kids’ ages and maturity levels, housing, schedules, and division of responsibilities should all be considered. But if your family is ready, a dog can provide kids with a lot more than just cuddles. Benefits for kids with pets include everything from better cognitive function to higher self-esteem. But it’s not as simple as “go out, buy/adopt dog.” Because not all dogs will love a house with kids.
If you’re in the market for a dog, you may want to consider looking at specific breeds or breed mixes. Characteristics that have been bred into certain dogs for generations that once made them “work dogs” may now make them great family pets. If you are committed to rescuing a dog, you can contact a breed-specific rescue in your area or use Petfinder. Nicole Ellis, a professional dog trainer with Rover, tells SheKnows that if you are looking at mixes and rescues, finding a dog that has been fostered can also be an excellent way to get more information on the individual dog.
We also asked Ellis to share her top 10 dog breeds for families and kids. From dogs that will be happy to cuddle to energetic pups that can spend hours running around the backyard with the kiddos, here are her picks.
1. Great Pyrenees
If you’re interested in taking on a big dog, Great Pyrenees can be a perfect fit. Ellis says that the breed is known as the “gentle giant” and can be great for families. “They are a guardian breed that was meant to protect a flock, so being with their family is important for them,” she continues. That means these pups should also be with families who are able to devote a lot of time to them; bonding and consistency are key. But, despite their size, they don’t need a ton of exercise. “They would enjoy a large yard to roam or one to two brisk walks a day,” says Ellis. Aside from lots of love, Ellis also recommends Pyrenees owners stock up on a good animal hair vacuum (or some lint rollers).
Another deceptively gentle large breed, “Rots” are often the opposite of the stereotypes shown in movies. “As with any strong dog, training is key,” says Ellis. But, if a Rottweiler is well taken care of and trained, you’ll find them to be devoted as well as “calm, patient, and reserved,” she explains. A herding breed, they can also be very protective over their families.
Labradors are “the quintessential American family dog” with good reason, says Ellis. They are good-natured and loyal, making them ideal family companions. Naturally social, they generally are happy around company as well. Plus, since Labs are a retrieving breed, your kids can enjoy another quintessential family dog experience: games of fetch in the backyard.
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If you’re looking for a low-maintenance dog for your family, look no further. “They want nothing more than to lay on the couch with their families and be loved by kids,” says Ellis of bulldogs. While that makes them ideal for busy families, bulldogs do require regular exercise: “Make sure you’re still able to give your bulldog walks on a regular basis and regulate their food intake,” Ellis continues. Potential bulldog owners should also be aware of common health problems to the breed that may develop down the line.
Another big dog with a gentle heart, “Newfies” are great with kids. They’re actually known as the “babysitter dog,” says Ellis. She describes them as “calm and eager to please,” and wonderful with kids of all ages. The biggest drawback, besides how much you’ll have to spend on dog food, is mess: They’re a drooly bunch, and shed a lot on top of that.
6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Ellis describes this breed as “hopelessly devoted” to their families. They’re great companions for kids, both for playing in the backyard and cuddling on the couch. Kids will also love petting their long, soft hair. But because of the breed’s luxurious coat, they will require frequent brushing to keep it healthy and untangled.
7. Bichon Frise
While Bichon Frises might call to mind a prissy dog groomed into a Q-Tip for a dog show, they’re actually super playful and high-energy, perfect for kids with similar dispositions. And while their coats do require regular maintenance, you don’t have to keep them fluffed and groomed at all times, either. Because of their natural curiosity, anyone looking to adopt a Bichon Frise should also make sure they have a secure backyard. “These lovable little cotton balls can be quite the escape artists,” says Ellis. And while they can be great for active kids, families who are more laid-back might want to pass on this breed.
A tiny breed, these dogs can weigh as little as three pounds. “Despite being diminutive, they have big personalities and a gentle, loving nature that jives well with family life,” says Ellis. They’re another breed that can also look very different from their show-dog persona. While their coat will require grooming, it can be kept short for easier day-to-day maintenance. While their tiny size makes them a natural draw for kids, Ellis notes that you should teach your kids how to safely hold a Maltese, especially when they are puppies.
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A “friendly, curious breed,” Ellis says beagles are known for having a temperament that works well with kids. While they are known for their deep howls, they won’t make great guard dogs: They’ll be too ready to cheerfully greet anyone who stops by, Ellis explains. But generally, they’re happiest when at home with the family, though they will need daily walks: They’re scent hounds and used to tracking smells over distances.
10. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
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Yes, corgi fans, you can use your kids as an excuse to get this beloved pup. “Affectionate, sweet, and wicked smart, these canines are programmed to please, so begin training them early on,” says Ellis. A herding dog, they’re happiest at home with their flock…er, family. But because they are herding dogs, they can be bossy and may not work as well with toddlers and young kids under five.