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Best Small Dogs for Kids

little boy holding beagle puppy. Photo by pixydust8605

If you're looking for the best small dogs for kids and family life, it can be almost any breed, but some more than others have a reputation of being great company for kids.

And since you started here first, your chances of finding the perfect dog for you and your children just got even better!

For the sake of arguement, we'll say a well behaved 3 year old is able to learn and respect the boundaries of animals... And the dogs chosen below have breed characteristics, in general, that make them perfect playmates for small humans that can play nicely.

Any dog breed, be it a mixed breed from the shelter or purebred from the shelter ...because we hope you'll adopt :)... should be chosen with the intention of giving him proper training. Start here to learn the basic obedience commands all dogs should know.

Aside from a few extremely rare breeds, you'll find the most complete compilation of the best small dogs for kids below! We've chosen these dogs because we've spent a great deal of time with them, owned them, known others who've owned them or researched them extensively for you.

All you have to do is pick one, then research their characteristics and maintenance needs to determine which one is the best fit for your family and lifestyle!

American Eskimo rescue dog

American Eskimo

Lively, energetic, spunky, alert and playful are all great adjectives that I would use to describe the lovable American Eskimo. Thor found a loving forever home thanks to Ohio American Eskimo Rescue. If you're considering an American Eskimo for your family, be sure to check for rescue groups near you.

Beagle, great small dog for kids


If you love the sounds of a mournful howl and don't mind a little shedding, in my humble opinion, a beagle is one of the best dogs for kids of any age. Typically eager to please, happy and ready to play, who wouldn't love the easygoing beagle!

Bichon Frise makes a great small dog for kids

Bichon Frise

Awww! A fluffy white Bichon Frise is sure to melt the heart of any child. We would usually warn against mixing toddlers with any small breed dog, but if your child is taught respect from an early age, a dog like Beverly is probably looking for you, as well! Check to find a dog like Beverly near you.

Boston terrier small dog good with kids

Boston Terrier

Looking for a breed that's easy to train, always ready to play and has more energy than your child? Also entertaining to children is the loud snoring and farting :)! Learn more about Boston Terriers here.

Keith Kissel from flickr snapped this awesome photo of Astro! Astro and other Boxers like him are literally dying to be adopted. Please consider rescue no matter which breed you choose.


Not the smallest of small dogs, but they aren't huge and make great dogs for small kids and family life. You'd be hard pressed to find any dog as goofy and playful, yet loving, patient and sweet-natured as a Boxer. Sadly, like many breeds that are over bred, they end up in shelters through no fault of their own, so you're sure to find one at a rescue group near you.

Happy Bull Terrier sitting in grass. A great photo by Robert Tadlock on Flickr.

Bull Terrier

Looking for a high energy dog to match your high energy elementary age student? A bull terrier would be a good dog to research if your child is 6 years+ and polite and respectful. But because they're energy makes them akin to little wrecking balls, they probably wouldn't be the best dog for kids around toddler age or younger.

Cute Cairn Terrier looking up. Photo by Laura K on flickr!

Cairn Terrier

It's Toto! Ok, it's not actually Toto from the Wizard of Oz, but Toto was a Cairn Terrier. This breed, in general, usually loves children, but it's a terrier, nonetheless. Be vigilant with any dog of any breed around any child. Kids will be kids just as dogs will be dogs.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would make a wonderful companion for your school-age child. While great with children and a perfect companion for adults as well as children, this breed is not without it's problems. Learn as much as you can about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, just as you would with any breed before bringing one home. Rarely excitable and the perfect size... not to mention ADORABLE! Learn more about the Cavalier King Charles right here!

Cocker Spaniel

Adopting an adult Cocker Spaniel is GREAT way to ensure that you get a dog who's good with children. The rescue group will already have knowledge of the breed characteristics of the dogs in their care. Adopting an adult dog comes with several other bonuses, too! Already out of chewing phase, more likely to be housebroken and his temperament will already be established. Best of all, you will forever be his hero! Learn more about the gentle, sweet-natured Cocker Spaniel here!

Englsih Bulldog

Don't let the heavy frown and the mean looking stance fool ya on an English Bulldog or Olde English Bulldog. These guys are full of gentle kisses and lots of love. Probably not the best dog for chasing sticks in the park as they overheat easily, but a more willing companion to a polite child you'd be hard-pressed to find. Click here to see this English Bulldog garden flag (and others)- designed by me ; )

French Bulldog

The small, compact body of the French Bulldog is well suited for family life whether you live in a tiny apartment or have sprawling acres to run and play. French Bulldogs are also well known to be great companions, not just for well behaved children, but other pets, too. Learn more about their maintenance needs, health issues and more before setting your heart on a French Bulldog.


Havanese are one of the few toy breeds voted the best small dogs for kids, and therefore a great family pet. In all actuality, a puppy of any breed isn't a good idea for a 2 year old, but if your child is 4 years or older, well behaved and respectful, then a dog like Kandie may be just the dog for you! Kandi was once available for adoption through Havanese Rescue. Check to find a Havanese near you in need of a loving forever home.

Jack Russell Terriers

Jack Russell Terriers love to play and would be great for an older child who loves to run and doesn't mind throwing the occasional stick! Between the two of them, they could wear each other out and your job is done! Your child has a friend to keep him away from the television and your dog has a playmate... it's a win-win, really! This breed is also easy to come across at any shelter, nationwide.

Miniature Poodle

Another great option is the miniature poodle, not a tiny toy poodle or a large standard poodle, but somewhere right in the middle. The eager-to-please, entertaining, smart and happy disposition of the miniature poodle makes him of the best small dogs for kids and family life.

Miniature Schnauzer

Not particularly fragile, a Miniature Schnauzer makes a great family pet and yes, this breed is one of the best small dogs for kids in most situations. Just remember, if your child is too small to understand boundaries, it's not fair to the dog or the child to expect too much. Dogs are not babysitters and most toddlers aren't gentle. However a child a little older than toddler age who understands that dogs don't like to have their eyes poked might be the perfect playmate for a Miniature Schnauzer.

Any Mixed Breed Dog

A mixed breed dog brings all the loveable qualities of every breed, all rolled into one! They're often smarter, have fewer health problems and are just as loveable as any fancy-schmancy purebred. Already have a breed in mind? The best small dogs for kids could be nearly any mix of nearly any breed

Perhaps you've been thinking of one of the doodle breeds? Check out and enter poodle (or any breed) into the search bar along with your zip code. Then be sure not to scroll past the mixes. Your rescue dog will never stop repaying you and your kids with endless, unconditional love!

Discover more than 10 benefits of adopting a rescue dog!

Finding the Best Small Dogs for Kids

Almost any dog can be a great family dog. Go to the shelter. Look for a dog who will match the energy needs and lifestyle of your family. If you don't want a dog that you will have to fuss over, then don't choose a high maintenance dog. If you want a dog who's happy to lay around most of the day, adopt an older adult dog.

Want to know which dogs I personally wouldn't recommend for kids?

If I were looking for a playmate for my 3 or 4 year old, I probably wouldn't start off with a tiny chihuahua for obvious reasons... and I love chihuahuas! If you're unsure why, start here.

And, for the sake of argument, I know that many people swear by pit bulls being great family dogs and I do believe that most of them are, but I don't recommend them as playmates for small children. (Before you send me hate mail, read all the way to the bottom of the page.)

I have owned and loved sweet-natured doberman's who were great family pets, but based on my experience with the breed in general, they are sometimes unpredictable and temperamental.

Choose Rescue. You can't go wrong. In general, the best dogs for kids, of ANY breed would be the one you'd find within a rescue group who's proven themselves to be great around children. I'd argue that point to anyone who challenged me on puppies who've been raised with children being the better of the two... from personal experience alone. An older dog with a proven personality is the far better of the two.

For all of you who would want to disagree with me, please understand that I've already considered all of your arguments and heard all of the stories that would contradict my well-thought-out opinions on all of these breeds.

The fact is that ANYONE can breed a dog, and most of the breeds on this page are a dime a dozen, bred for the sake of making a few bucks by someone who has no earthly idea about breeding for the sake of temperament or breed standard.

Use due-diligence when "shopping" for a dog... and please consider adoption no matter which breed you choose. THERE ARE SO MANY BENEFITS, I made a whole page about it! Seriously, take a look!

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