What could be more joyous than introducing a dog to your household? As any parent who’s heard the words ‘Can we get a dog?’ knows, there are a million and one reasons why having a dog can make life better. They’re a loving friend to cuddle at the end of each day, an excuse to be more active, a way to make new friends with fellow dog lovers, and a reminder of the simple pleasures that make life worthwhile, just to name a few.

But along with all the joy that dogs bring comes a huge amount of responsibility. This is another family member you’re introducing to your home, after all! You’re committing to a life-long relationship of caring for another being, which is not something to be taken lightly.

While 29% of UK adults already live with a dog, introducing a furry friend to your family for the first time is a big decision, especially if you have young children. It’s important to consider your family’s lifestyle and needs before making the leap. This article will guide you through some of the key factors to consider to help you choose the most suitable dog for your family, before exploring a few of the most popular family-friendly breeds.

Happy multiracial family having fun together in bed with their little dog

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Dog Breed for Your Family


If you’re introducing your children to dog ownership for the first time, it’s important to keep in mind that they will still be developing proper doggy etiquette. While you’ll need to be proactive about teaching them how to respectfully interact with dogs no matter what kind of temperament your dog has, there are certain breeds with a reputation for more patience with young kids. 

A calm and patient breed, with a reputation for being friendly and sociable, is perfect for young kids who are still learning to be gentle. So-called ‘lap dogs’ like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Shih Tzus fit this requirement, as do larger lovable goofballs like Golden Retrievers.  

Breeds traditionally used for certain occupational functions, like Australian Cattle Dogs, tend to be more reactive, which could make them more volatile when faced with a child still learning about personal boundaries. Safety should come first when choosing a breed for your family, especially if you have young children.


Size is another important consideration, particularly if you have small children. While small dogs, particularly those referred to as ‘lap dogs’ can be a great choice for some families, small dogs are not necessarily always the best option for small kids – they tend to be more excitable and can be less tolerant of rough play at the hands of little ones, due to their fragility.

Contrary to popular belief, big dogs aren’t necessarily more dangerous or energetic than small breeds; however, big, strong dogs can run the risk of knocking small children over (and adults too, for that matter). Size is an important consideration if you’re planning to make walking the dog your kid’s responsibility.

Smaller dogs are better suited to close environments, while big dogs need more space to romp around – even if their energy levels or exercise requirements are relatively low. Size is therefore a particularly important factor to consider for apartment-dwelling families.

Energy Levels

Typical energy levels vary widely between breeds and should be considered when choosing the right dog for you and your family. Families often choose to introduce a dog into their lives as a way to get everyone up and moving more, but it’s important to be realistic about the amount of time and energy you will be able to dedicate to exercising with your dog.

If your household consists of working parents and young children, and getting everyone to school and work five days a week is already stretching your resources, consider whether you’ll really have time to provide your dog with an hour or more of running and walking every day.

Traditional ‘working dogs’, like Collies, require a lot more physical and mental stimulation than so-called ‘lap dogs’. An active breed will struggle to be a happy, well-behaved family member if they’re stuck inside with no play while the rest of the family is away all day. On the flipside, if you’re a boisterous family that’s always go-go-go, a sleepy, docile breed will quickly become overwhelmed and overtired.


Trainability is another important factor to consider when choosing a breed. Typically, more intelligent breeds respond well to training – although watch out for smart dogs who have a stubborn streak! Just because they know what you want them to do doesn’t mean they’ll do it.

If you’re introducing your kids to dog ownership for the first time, chances are they won’t have any experience or expertise in training dogs. The best test case for new trainers is a patient and fast-learning breed that’s eager to please. Labradors, Golden Retrievers and Beagles are all good examples of breeds with these traits.

Border Collies and other working dogs are also very fast learners and will excel in family environments where everyone is committed to training the dog. These super smart breeds are a great choice with older kids or teenagers who are happy to take the reigns when it comes to teaching the dog new tricks and providing mentally stimulating play.

Regardless of how ‘trainable’ your dog is, teaching a puppy proper etiquette for the human world is always a challenge. If training a puppy from square one seems out of reach for your family, consider adopting an older dog who’s already house-trained.


Last but not least, think about what kind of doggy lifestage would suit your family. Regardless of which breed you choose, you should consider the pros and cons of introducing a puppy to your household, compared to an older, more experienced dog.

Puppies are undeniably adorable, but anyone who’s ever raised one knows they’re a lot of work, especially early on! Be realistic about who will be responsible for care and training in the early stages – only the most responsible and motivated teenager can really pull this off, so more than likely it will be the parents providing the bulk of the care. Do you have the time to commit to raising what is essentially an extra toddler, in addition to your (human) kids?

A more experienced dog who has already learnt the ropes of family life can be a great option for young families who don’t have the time to commit to the intensive care that a young pup needs. You can certainly opt to ‘adopt not shop’ when you’re choosing a dog for your family. Rehoming a calmer, older dog can be a great alternative to the high needs and bounciness of a puppy. Just be aware of triggers and traumas that some rescue dogs may come with – these high-need furry friends might not be the best match for a household with young kids who are inexperienced with handling dogs.

Mother and toddler Son sit by a christmas tree with their Dog - cairn or westie - who has a wreath around them

What Characteristics Make a Good Family Dog?

Every family is different and every dog is different, so finding the right match for your family’s lifestyle will ultimately come down to your individual needs. However, there are a few characteristics to look out for when choosing a family-friendly dog, particularly if you have small children.

Temperament is the most important factor – you want to choose a breed with a good reputation for being calm, patient, gentle and sociable. Loyalty and protectiveness are not bad qualities when it comes to family-friendly dogs, as long as they don’t translate to aggressive behaviour.

Beyond an agreeable temperament, the characteristics that make a good family dog depend on your family’s individual needs. An energetic dog will suit a family with an active lifestyle, while a docile pup will be perfect for a family of home-bodies. A social dog is great for a family who likes to spend a lot of quality time together, but will quickly get bored if they’re left at home alone while everyone is off doing their own thing.

What Dog Breeds Are Good With Kids?

Breed isn’t the be-all and end-all – each dog has their own unique qualities, and often these personality quirks trump breed reputations! That said, certain breeds, like Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, have reputations for being particularly patient and loving towards children. You can use typical breed characteristics as a good general guide to help you narrow down your choice.


Labradors might just be the first breed that comes to mind when thinking about family-friendly dogs, and for good reason. They tend to love kids, and they’re just as happy having a cuddle on the couch as they are running around at the park. They’re patient and intelligent too, which makes them relatively easy to train. And you’ll be in good company if you choose to add a Labrador to your family – according to a recent study, Labradors are the most common dog breed in the UK.

Labrador Retrievers yellow and red

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are the ultimate lap dog – soft, gorgeous, and known for their sweet and loving temperament. And they’re not just a pretty face! Cavaliers tend to be easy to train and their inquisitive nature means they make great walking buddies. They also tend to get along well with other animals, so they’re a great choice if you’re looking to add to your pack.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel trio


Poodles are an excellent family dog for homes that need a hypoallergenic option. These adorable fluff balls have hair, not fur, meaning they don’t shed! They tend to get along with children well, and despite having something of a reputation for being prissy lap dogs, they’re actually very active and highly intelligent. You can choose from Miniature, Toy, right up to Standard sizes, depending on the space and energy your family has to spare.

black standard poodle

English Bulldog

They might look a little gruff and grumpy, but English Bulldogs can make wonderful family pets. They’re sweet and loyal and they tend to get along well with kids on account of their docility and patience. They’re also on the lower end of the energy spectrum, so they make good pets for families living in apartments or with lower activity levels. Keep in mind that, as a brachycephalic breed, your English Bulldog may be more likely to need special medical care during their lifetime.

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers have a sweet, intelligent, friendly and outgoing disposition. They love a good cuddle and tend to be gentle with children. As an active, high-energy dog, they’ll need daily exercise. They’re a perfect choice for families in need of a furry friend who will join them on their adventures.

Golden Retriever


Beagles tend to be fun-loving, easy-going and playful. They need plenty of exercise to thrive, and their compact size makes them perfect for older kids and teenagers to take on daily neighbourhood explorations. They are loyal and doting, and tend to be relatively easy to train, partly on account of their love for all things food!

Bichon Frise

Bichon Frises are gorgeous, fluffy little friends that make the perfect companion for families living in apartments or smaller homes. While they love to play as much as the next dog, they have lower exercise requirements than most. If movie nights and curling up on the couch is more your family’s speed, a Bichon Frise could be the perfect pet for you.

Bichon Frise

Shih Tzu

Known for their easy-going, loyal and loving temperament, Shih Tzus make a great family pet for just about any lifestyle. They’ll thrive on a daily walk, but they don’t need huge amounts of physical exertion to remain fit and healthy. Unlike some smaller dogs, they’re not too bouncy or boisterous, so they’re suitable for families with younger children too.

Shih Tzu


Boxers just want to be part of the pack and in on all the action! This fun-loving breed is perfect for families who love to get out and stay active. Boxers require plenty of daily exercise and will respond well to the challenge and mental stimulation of training, especially while they’re puppies.

Boxer puppy


These little dogs are just bursting with character! With a curious and intelligent nature, Pugs make great family pets. They love to be at the centre of attention and pack plenty of energy into their small bodies, so will love to accompany you and the kids on daily trips to the park. Keep in mind that, as a brachycephalic breed, your Pug may be more likely to need special medical care during their lifetime.


Irish Setter

Irish Setters are sweet, loyal and highly intelligent. They enjoy activity, mental stimulation and being at the centre of the pack, so they’re a great choice if you’re looking for a dog to accompany your family on your daily adventures. This is a great choice for families with a bit more space and plenty of energy to offer.

two Irish Setter dogs

Border Terrier

Border Terriers have a reputation for being loyal and loving, with their desire to be safe and sound at the centre of the pack making them happy to go with the flow – just as long as they’re with their family. They can be energetic, but they also love a cuddle at home and will be happy to slot into your family’s routine.

Border Terrier

Hungarian Vizsla

This majestic breed is full of energy and loves being stimulated both mentally and physically. This makes them great to train, and perfect for an outdoorsy family looking for a buddy to come along on active days out. Hungarian Vizslas need to be with their people more often than not, so keep this in mind if your family has a busy schedule that often keeps you away from home.

Hungarian Vizsla

Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffons make an adorable little companion, with their quirky expression more than matched by their intelligent and inquisitive nature. They’re compact enough to thrive in apartments, as long as a member of the family is around to give them a good run around each day to meet their activity requirements.


Shaggy and solid, Newfoundlands are the definition of ‘gentle giant’, with a reputation for being sweet, loving and patient. These traits make them perfect for young families looking for a calm and reliable companion to join their crew. As a big dog, they need ample space to move around and will thrive on daily activity.


Bernese Mountain Dog

Another large breed with a whole lot of love to give, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a reputation for being loving, patient, kind and loyal. They’re a great dog if you’re looking for a companion to share in every moment with your family, from hikes to movie marathons. Weighing in at over 40kg, they may be at risk of knocking over smaller kids, just because of their heft – despite rarely showing aggression.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Staffordshire Bull Terrier

Staffordshire Bull Terriers sometimes get a bad rap, but anyone who’s met one of these beauties knows that their stocky body harbours a big softie’s heart. In fact, they’re often referred to as ‘nanny dogs’, because of how loving and protective they are around children. If you’re after an agreeable mid-sized dog for a young family, a Staffy could be the one for you.

Staffordshire Bull Terrier blue

French Bulldog

French Bulldogs are popular in cities, and not just because of their adorable, pocket-sized looks. They tend to be relatively docile, so while they’ll enjoy accompanying you on the occasional family outing, they’ll be just as happy to doze at home. As with all brachycephalic breeds, keep in mind that your French Bulldog may be more likely to need special medical care during their lifetime. You should also do your research to make sure you’re buying from an ethical breeder who is taking measures to avoid perpetuating health risks in the breed.

French Bulldog


For most of us, Lassie is the first thing that springs to mind when we think of Collies. This loyal, intelligent, kind and agile character is a good representation of the breed’s typical qualities. If you’re an active family looking for an energetic and quick-witted friend to accompany you on your adventures, a Collie is a perfect choice.


Great Dane

The Great Dane is a good example of a large – okay, enormous – breed that gets along brilliantly with kids. They tend to be very gentle and patient and will love to curl up with the family on the couch (you’ll all just need to bunch up to make enough room!) They do need a fair amount of exercise, and you should keep in mind their size and strength if you’re planning on delegating daily walks to the kids.

Great Dane


These snow-white fluffballs are a ray of sunshine, happy to go with the flow and slot into the family’s day-to-day activities. They enjoy a fair amount of exercise and will respond well to consistent training, making them a good match for families with older kids who are keen to get involved in raising your new pup.


English Bull Terrier

Like most terriers, English Bull Terriers are full of energy and love to play. They’re compact but strong, making them best suited for slightly older kids who won’t be knocked over in the fun of the moment during playtime. This mid-sized breed is a great choice for a low-maintenance family who would prefer to spend their time hiking than preening!

English Bull Terrier

Cocker Spaniel

Arguably one of the most beautiful breeds, Cocker Spaniels are the second most common breed in the UK, according to one recent survey. Alongside their silky soft fur and doe eyes, they’re also highly emotionally intelligent and known to be kind, caring, patient companions. As much as they love cuddles, they also need to be active, so they’re a perfect choice for a family looking for a friend to join them on daily adventures.

Cocker Spaniel


Don’t be fooled by their tiny little legs – Dachsunds are built to run! These little pocket rockets are full of energy and love to explore. They’re also adored for their quirky good looks, and come in a variety of hair lengths from smooth to long, which you can consider depending on the time you have to dedicate to grooming. They’re a great choice for active families.


What Age Should Your Kids Be to Get a Dog?

There’s no single ‘right’ age to introduce your kids to a dog – it all depends on your family. As long as there’s an adult in the household willing and able to take responsibility for the dog’s care and ensure that your child and dog get to know each other safely, dogs and kids can get along at any age.
That said, if you’re planning to adopt a puppy, or a dog with particularly high needs, you might be better off waiting until your child is old enough to understand things like personal space and being gentle, for safety reasons.

If you’re planning for your kids to take responsibility for some of your dog’s care, it’s important to be realistic about their capacity to help out. A motivated 5-year-old may be able to start with some dog-related chores like grooming and cleaning up, but if you expect your child to walk the dog or manage their feeding schedule, you might be better off waiting until your kids hit their teens.

Are Some Dog Breeds More Family-friendly Than Others?

Some dog breeds have a reputation for being more family-friendly than others, based on certain characteristics like temperament, size and activity level. Labradors, Poodles, Beagles and Shih Tzus are some popular breeds that get along well with children. That said, every dog and every family is unique, so finding the best dog for your needs is a highly individual choice.

Our list above goes into more detail about the qualities of some of the most popular family-friendly dog breeds, to get you started on your search for the perfect match.

woman kissing little baby while dog watches from sofa

Which Dog Breeds Are Not Good With Kids?

Some dog breeds are generally considered more dangerous than others because of their strength and potentially aggressive temperament. Some of these breeds, including Pit Bull Terriers and Japanese Tosas, are banned in the UK. Legality aside, these dogs are not typically family-friendly and should be avoided if you have young kids or are inexperienced with dogs.

Whether a particular breed is a safe and suitable choice for you will depend on your family’s unique factors. A strong, active breed might be perfectly suitable for a family with active teenagers but could pose a risk for smaller children. Similarly, a shy, docile breed might do well in a quiet household but could become agitated around a more boisterous family.

Choosing to welcome a dog into your family is an exciting time for everyone. It’s also a huge commitment. The decision requires a good deal of research and consideration to ensure that everyone in your family, your new dog included, is happy and safe and gets along well with one another.
It’s important to be informed before committing to a pooch, to make sure it will be compatible with your family’s lifestyle and fulfill your motivations for introducing a dog to your home. While each dog’s individual temperament is unique, learning about breed characteristics is a helpful way to start your search.

And remember, opting to adopt an older dog can be a great choice for many families since they often have lower care and training needs than young puppies. They’re also much more affordable than purebreds and can be just as gorgeous – in both looks and character!

Interested in learning more about suitable dog breeds for other ages and types of people? Check out our related articles: