Choosing a family dog is quite a task as you need to balance a number of needs and requirements.

It is because of this need for balance that more and more families are opting for small breed dogs as family pets, because they tend to be more portable, easily adaptable to different climates and more affordable in maintenance.

Noted for being lively and energetic, they make terrific pets for apartments and are comfort dogs as well. People living alone or the elderly feel better with them around, and their small sizes means they are less likely to intimidate young children.

If you want to choose a small breed dog that plays well with children, there are a few traits you should keep in mind. Family dogs need to love human interaction and should be even-tempered and playful in order to keep up with the demands of children. Children often do not know their own strength, and therefore it is important that your small dog is sturdy to avoid any unintentional injuries. With good training, most small dogs make great family pets. A few breeds, however, do stand above the rest.

Here are some of the best small breed dogs with children:

1. Bichone Frise

Bichon Frise children
Bichone Frise are the perfect small dogs: cuddly, cute and full of life. Bichone Frise are well known for the inquisitive nature, and that makes them the perfect partner-in-crime for small children.

Bichone Frise require a lot of activity for a small breed dog, so it is important that you and your children regularly take them for walks and keep them active. Bichone Frise are also great family dog choices for other reasons: they do not shed and they are a good choice for allergy sufferers.

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2. Beagle

Beagle children

Beagles are hunting dogs who follow their noses into all kinds of playful mischief. Beagles are pack dogs by nature, and if socialised correctly, they naturally enjoy the company of other dogs and humans. This makes them a great choice if you have a house full of children. Despite years of breeding, Beagles tend to have less inherited health problems than other purebred dogs and they have relatively long life-spans of 13-15 years on average.

Beagles are well known for making terrible guide dogs as they take easily to strangers and make fast friends. These qualities, however, mean they are an excellent match with children.

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3. Shih Tzu

Shih-Tzu children

Shih Tzu means ‘Lion’ in Chinese, but these dogs are not predators by any means: Shih Tzus are companion dogs, and they are loyal, loveable and an excellent choice for a family dog. Perhaps the greatest benefit of having a Shih Tzu is that they require minimal exercise, and that coupled with their small size means they are great for families that live in small houses or apartments.

Some trainers do not recommend pairing a Shih Tzu with a family with toddlers, as these small dogs can be unintentionally hurt during play. Shih Tzu thrive on human interaction and become heartbroken when ignored, so they are great for a family with lots of attention and love to give.

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4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier Children

Named after King Charles II, these spaniels are fun, playful and perfect for children. Spaniels are as cute as a button, and they are not too needy in terms of care and exercise: plenty of love and an occasional coat brush will keep your spaniel happy and healthy. Spaniels are sweet dogs by nature and are also highly trainable, with their adaptability making them the perfect dog for any kind of family home.

Another crucial benefit of spaniels is that they are ultra-friendly not just with children, but with other dogs (small or large), making their perfect for a multi-child and multi-dog home. If you're looking for a beautiful dog that plays well with others, then a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel might be the perfect option for you.

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5. Pug

Pug for children

With their cute squished faces and calm temperaments, Pugs make excellent family dogs and their sturdiness despite their small size means that they play wonderfully with children of all ages.

Pugs love to be around their human family, and their constant presence makes them a comfort to all around them. Pugs need little exercise and can even be a little lazy if not properly motivated, so they are a good fit with families who live in apartments or who don't have time to exercise their dog every single day.

However, one thing that should be noted is that pugs are not suitable for those that live in extreme climates, as they do not fair well in either extreme hot or cold. Therefore, they might not be a great fit for families that spend a lot of time outdoors.

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6. Bichone Havanese

Havanese for children

Havanese dogs look like perpetual puppies with their small frame and cute faces. However, these dogs love companionship, making them great companions for children. If you have the time to give to these adorable creatures, you will enjoy the company of a loyal and loving family member.

More on our site: Bichone Havanese Breeds

Overall, small dogs tend to have a longer life expectancy and not subjected to health concerns of big dogs such as hip dysplasia or arthritis. However keep in mind that smaller dogs don’t mean smaller responsibilities. They still need attention, love and visits to your local veterinarian.

However, small dogs do make great family dogs and you are sure to find a loveable family pet on the above list of best small breed dogs with children.

Is there any dog breed absolutely not suited to kids?

Any well bred and well socialized dog is capable of being warm and friendly with kids. But there are a few breeds in particular you might want to avoid. The Siberian Husky might play too rough for young kids, and the Chihuahua can see them as a threat.

Are only small breeds good for kids?

No! There are also many big breeds that prove to be very good with kids. Both the Labrador and the Golden Retriever are famed family dogs. But also breeds like the Boxer and the German Shepherd are known to be very happy and playful with children.

Puppy, or older dog?

If your child is very young (under 6 years old) it is recommended to get a dog which is more than 2 years old, because they need less attention. However, in this case you must make sure that the dog has been well socialized and obedience trained. While it is a common misbelief that small breeds are better with children, in fact, these dogs are usually more fragile, so kids can easily hurt them, which can lead to the dog being aggressive. Herding or protective breeds are not recommended either, as they might try to herd children due to their natural instinct.


Whatever breed you choose, it is always important not to leave your baby or young child and the dog together without supervision, until they both learn the rules. One thing is certain, having dogs can not be a wrong decision, if the parents are responsible. A dog in the family can also teach your child learn responsibility at a young age and that animals need constant care and attention. Learn more about what breeds are considered good with children.