Anytime you go looking for a new pup there’s a decent amount of research and a whole lot of thought that goes into the process. When you’re looking to adopt a dog into a family with children, though, it becomes even more complicated. There are grabby toddlers to consider, high-energy, rambunctious pre-teens to think about, and teenagers who could really use some fur-friend love and loyalty. To help you in this very important decision, we’ve provided a handful of the best dogs for every age group of kids based on breed needs and personalities.
Infants and Toddlers
Let’s be real. Infants and toddlers aren’t exactly the most graceful or considerate creatures walking the planet (we say that with utmost love). They can be endearingly clumsy, loud and fussy, and downright intrusive of a pet’s personal space out of sheer curiosity. For these reasons, it’s imperative to have a family dog that’s relentlessly patient, consistently gentle, and has inherent maternal instincts.
Our top choices for infants and toddlers include the Golden Retriever for its unwavering sweetness and patience, Collies for their brilliance, devotion, and caregiving tendencies, and Labs for their people-pleasing, smarts, and loyalty. We also recommend Bulldogs, which are surprisingly gentle, highly protective, and perfectly happy lounging around while you tend to your baby’s needs.
Ages 4 through 7
Those same breeds and qualities we talked about above are also great choices for this age group. With that said, it becomes especially important to find a highly patient and adaptive dog for this category. Children in this age bracket have a tendency to move around and explore quite a bit and may even be aggressive (in a child-like way) with the family pet.
Some wonderful breed options include the Irish Setter, a very playful dog that loves to run around and exercise and gets along brilliantly with kids; Great Danes, which also love interacting with children and are incredibly patient and gentle; and the Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog, a large and majestic breed that’s protective, calm, and very maternal in its instincts.
Ages 8 through 12
As we move into this age bracket, it’s good to look for dogs that are intelligent, active, fiercely loyal, and protective. Children in this age group are typically gentler than the aforementioned and could benefit greatly from dogs that have more energy and a high desire to interact, learn new tricks, and go exploring.
One of our top choices is the Newfoundland, a ridiculously sweet and playful breed that’s known for being exceptionally great with children of all ages. They are very receptive to training and in fact crave that sort of mental and physical stimulation. Another great option is the Dachshund, a very active breed that’s responsive to training and particularly easy to manage thanks to their small size and desire to stick by your side. The Poodle is also a wonderful choice for this age group. They’re one of the most intelligent breeds, eager to train and play, and notably protective of their families.
Ages 13 through 17
All the above breeds we’ve already mentioned make wonderful pets for young teenagers, too. With this age group, though, you can really start to tailor your family pet based on your child’s lifestyle and preferences. You can also start branching out into breeds that perhaps aren’t as good of a fit in previous brackets.
For example, the Bull Terrier is ideal for a young teenager who’s looking for a loving and loyal companion. They are playful and affectionate, but don’t do well with overstimulation or highly rambunctious personalities (ahem, toddlers). They also don’t like being left alone and require about 30 to 60 minutes of activity every day.
Another option is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a pup that thrives in the company of its owner versus being alone. This breed is playful, moderately easy to train, and absolutely loves a good snuggle fest. For a big pup, opt for a Saint Bernard. This giant gentle requires a big space and is better for older children since they require training at a very young age when they’re still small and manageable. And for even more ideas on dogs and teens, check out our article on the topic, Nine Best Dog Breeds for Teens.
Whether you’ve got very young kids or children who are about to fly the coop, it’s always a wise idea to consider the needs of everyone involved, including parents, children, and the dog itself. And don’t discount rescues and shelter pets! Any dog or cat of any breed can be a great companion and family member. Lots of adoptable pets are euthanized every year, so stopping into your local animal rescue or shelter may mean you’ve saved not just one life, but two (your pet gets a forever family and there’s room for another at a foster) – perhaps even three when you consider the emotional and physical health benefits of being a pet parent, and four if you count those benefits for your kids too. Whatever pet you go with, may you have many years of love and bonding ahead of you!
If you consider your pets to be part of your family, you should look into pet health insurance! With various deductibles and an opportunity to be reimbursed up to 90% on vet bills, you can make sure that you can provide your family member with the best veterinary care and not be limited by your wallet. Start by getting a free quote for Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.