Which dogs are best with children?

by Mark James on September 5, 2010

They can make an awful lot of mess with the minimum of effort. They need constant attention and affection. They require a lot of playtime to tire them out and give you some well deserved rest. They’re inquisitive, and you have to always keep an eye on them to make sure that they don’t get into trouble. They always manage to steal the comfiest spot on the sofa. They’re liable to poop anywhere, and it’s always up to you to clean it up.

Yes, kids can be a right handful.

If you have young children, you may be putting off getting a dog. It might be that you have concerns about your child’s safety around a pet, you may have your hands full enough with your little one without the responsibility of a dog, or you may be unsure what breed may fit in best with your current circumstances.

You may have also heard a lot of different stories about which breeds of dog are best to have around children. Speaking from personal experience, I have a friend who swore by her yappy, territorial Yorkshire terrier and another who let his daughter play with his massive, slavering Rottweiler without batting an eyelid.

What is universally true is this: there is no totally safe dog to have around your children. We may think of dogs in terms of stereotypes, but a major element of safety is down to the temperament of the individual dog. Golden Retrievers are just as liable to bite as the Pitbull/T. Rex cross owned by the chav down the street. Smaller dogs may be snappy and nervous, whilst a big lump like a Newfoundland can be gentle, despite its size.

Also, you need to know your children. Are your kids gentle bookworms, or Tasmanian Devils? An athletic dog would obviously be more suited to someone more active, whilst a placid breed would be perfect for the shy, retiring child.

With this in mind, let’s look at some of the breeds of dog that are generally accepted as being great with kids.

Labrador retriever

The Labrador retriever is possibly the first breed that springs to mind when considering children. It’s generally accepted that it has a sweet nature, and because of this, it’s the first choice of dog to work with the handicapped. It likes to be active and can be prone to boredom, so it’s a great choice if your kids want to while away the hours playing fetch.

Someone wants his dinner

Someone wants his dinner

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This handsome animal is one of the most popular dogs in the UK. It’s affectionate and playful, and is great around other pets. This breed requires a lot of grooming, and so owning one is a great opportunity to show your children how to care for their pet.

Beagle

This may be a surprising choice, as it is a pack dog and therefore associated most with hunting (and cigarette trials, but that’s another story). They’re naturally friendly, and crave company as they can get bored if left on their own. They’re great for smaller children due to their size, but beware: they can be hard to train. If they become obsessed with a scent, they will ignore your commands.

The German shepherd

This larger breed is better for older children, due to their strength. Don’t let their perceived ferociousness put you off – police use these breeds because they are loyal, and not because the enjoy sinking their teeth into miscreants. They’re very protective by nature, and can be very tolerant with children.

Generally speaking, it’s best to get a puppy if you have a child. This way, you can ensure that it is thoroughly trained and socialised, and it will understand its position in the family ‘pack’. There’s also the last golden rule: always supervise your children when they are with their pet. Even the most tolerant dog can become agitated when teased, whilst puppies – and children, for that matter – can be clumsy and unintentionally hurt their new friend.

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