If you enjoy small dogs and have children, finding the right breed can be a challenge. Because they are fragile or nervous around boisterous children, many smaller dogs are not recommended for families with young children. Some small dogs, on the other hand, are known to get along well with children of all ages.
Even for families with children, many pet experts recommend waiting until your youngest child is five years old before bringing home a dog. By the age of five, most children have good impulse control and can understand and follow dog-related rules. An adult should always supervise all interactions between children and dogs of any breed for their safety.
To ensure a lifetime of happiness and love, choose the right dog, teach children how to interact with them gently and respectfully, and invest the time to properly socialize your new puppy using positive reinforcement methods. This will teach your children about pet care and set your puppy up for long-term success. Even the most “kid-friendly” breed can become shy and nervous around children if they are not socialized.
We’ve compiled a list of the best small dogs for kids so you can find your family’s next perfect pet.
The Beagle, a member of the American Kennel Club Hound Group, was developed to hunt rabbits in packs. Beagles worked well with large groups of dogs, horses, and people. A properly socialized and trained Beagle is extremely friendly and can cope with the loud noises and chaos of family life. Despite its small size, the Beagle is a strong and athletic dog who enjoys playing with children of all ages. Beagles are known to bark and howl, and some may become destructive or attempt to flee if left alone for an extended period and not given enough exercise and mental stimulation. Always keep Beagles on a leash when out and about so they don’t follow their keen nose into trouble.
Overview of the Breed
- GROUP: The Hound Group
- HEIGHT: 15 inches at the shoulder or less, with two height ranges for dogs under 13 inches and those 13 to 15 inches.
- WEIGHT: 20 to 25 lbs.
- COAT AND COLOR: The short coat is available in all hound colours, including but not limited to tri-colour (tan, black, and white), red and white, and lemon and white.
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 10 to 15 YEARS
The playful and fun-loving Bichon Frise originated in France, where the little dogs were originally pampered pets to nobility. Bichons fell into the hands of commoners after the French Revolution, morphing into street dogs. The fluffy white dogs later became popular circus dogs, delighting crowds with impressive tricks, thanks to their intelligence, liveliness, and charm.
Bichons Frises still enjoy playing and want nothing more than to be with their beloved family. They treat people of all ages with kindness and affection.
Bichons, despite their small size, are not delicate or delicate. Remember that the fluffy hypoallergenic coat necessitates professional grooming. They can be wonderful friends if children are taught to treat them gently and respectfully.
Small children may miss Bichons’ subtle signs of anxiety due to their colouring, coat, and small frame. Because they are all white, there is no obvious demarcation of subtle changes around their eyes, and their fluffy coat can make it difficult to notice subtle changes in tail height or movement that may indicate that the pet is becoming nervous. To avoid cornering a small dog and making them extremely nervous, make sure you and your children are aware of the more subtle signs of fear and anxiety in all dogs.
Overview of the Breed GROUP: Non-sporting
- HEIGHT: 9–12 inches at the shoulder
- WEIGHT: 7 to 12 lbs.
- COAT AND COLOR: White curly coat (may have traces of apricot, buff, or cream)
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 14 to 15 YEARS
The Boston Terriers are friendly and animated, and they enjoy all people, including children. The breed was developed in Boston in the late 1800s with one goal in mind: to be a loyal companion. As a result, Boston Terriers make excellent family dogs because they prefer to spend the majority of their time with their owners.
Because of the breed’s small size, the Boston can live happily in an apartment, and daily walks provide ample exercise.
The Boston Terrier is a fun companion for children because it is lively, affectionate, and always ready to play. Bring your Boston everywhere you go, whether it’s to the kids’ baseball games or a stroll through the park.
Because Boston Terriers are so active, it is critical to teach them proper manners. They may be small, but they can jump high and move quickly, so you should never play chase with them! Teaching solid commands with positive reinforcement will mentally stimulate your Boston and set a clear expectation for all family members about what is acceptable dog behaviour.
Overview of the Breed GROUP: Non-Sporting
- HEIGHT: 15–17 inches at the shoulder
- WEIGHT: 15 to 25 lbs.
- COAT AND COLOR: The coat is smooth and short. The muzzle and chest of all Boston Terriers are white. The rest of their body will be black, sealed, or brindle in colour.
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12–14 YEARS
The Cairn Terrier, a member of the AKC Terrier Group, is perhaps best known for playing Dorothy’s little dog Toto in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. More than 200 years ago, the breed was born in the Scottish Highlands, where they hunted foxes, rats, and other vermin in rock piles known as cairns.
Not all terriers are good with children, but the Cairn Terrier adores them and will even seek them out. Despite their small size, Cairns are strong and resilient, and they enjoy playing games.
Children should be taught to be gentle with Cairns, as they should with all dogs, but this breed will usually forgive accidental bumps from children. Cairns have a high prey drive (the instinct to chase and hunt furry and feathery creatures or running children), so they should be monitored around children who are excited, loud, or run a lot. Some Cairns, like most terriers, can get rough with other dogs.
Overview of the Breed GROUP: Terrier
- HEIGHT: 9–10 inches at the shoulder
- WEIGHT: 12 to 15 lbs.
- COAT AND COLOR: The coat is double-coated with a wiry outer. They are available in a wide range of colours. (no white markings though). The most common colours are black, cream, and grey, with a brindle undertone.
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12 to 15 YEARS
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The cheerful, even-tempered Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a friend to all, including children, especially those who are family. This breed is sweet and affectionate, and it enjoys cuddles and gentle play. These small dogs dislike roughhousing, so teach the kids how to interact properly.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, like the Pug, is one of the largest members of the AKC Toy Group, but it is still small enough to live in small spaces and travels with.
Although spirited and active, daily walks around the park or neighbourhood are sufficient to provide adequate exercise for a Cavalier. The easy-care coat requires no major trimming. Brushing and regular grooming, on the other hand, will prevent tangles and matting of fur, which can be painful and lead to skin infections.
Overview of the Breed: Toy Group BREED
- HEIGHT: 12–13 inches at the shoulder
- WEIGHT: Between 13 and 18 pounds
- COAT AND COLOR: The coat is long, sleek, and silky, with feathering around the ears, feet, chest, and tail. Tricolor, Blenheim, Ruby, and Black and Tan are the four colour varieties.
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 12–14 YEARS
The Cocker Spaniel is a cheerful little dog who enjoys spending time with its favourite people. They were bred to be peaceful with people, other dogs, and even other pets such as cats, like many other breeds in the AKC Sporting Group.
Cocker Spaniels that have been well-socialized make excellent companions for children who are gentle and respectful. Cockers enjoy playing and will retrieve as many balls as the kids can throw, as well as participate in almost any game or adventure.
Cockers are active but only require moderate exercise in the form of daily walks and off-leash running in the backyard. Their coat, on the other hand, requires professional grooming on a regular basis.
Overview of the Breed Group: ATHLETIC
- HEIGHT: 14–15 inches at the shoulder
- WEIGHT: 20 to 30 lbs.
- COLOR AND COAT: Silky, flat or slightly wavy. The head is short and fine, the body is medium length, and the ears, chest, belly, and legs are well-feathered. ASCOB (any solid colour other than black), black, or part-colour (black and white, brown and white, red and white, and tri-colour)
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 10 to 14 YEARS
The French Bulldog, or Frenchie as his friends call him, is a versatile and playful breed that enjoys whatever you’re doing.
The French Bulldog appears to be a smaller version of the also kid-friendly Bulldog, also known as the English Bulldog. The only significant difference is that the Frenchie has large “bat” ears that stand up. When you combine their distinct appearance with their inquisitive and affectionate nature, the Frenchie captivates both adults and children.
Frenchies, despite their small stature, can make excellent companions for children if they are taught to play nicely and interact with the dog in a respectful manner. The breed requires moderate daily exercise and has a smooth coat that requires little maintenance. Brush your hair once a week to remove loose hair. Be aware that brachycephalic breeds, such as Frenchies, are more prone to respiratory problems and overheating.
Overview of the Breed GROUP: Non-athletic
- HEIGHT: 11-13 inches at the shoulder
- WEIGHT: 19-28 pound
- COAT AND COLOR: Short, smooth coat in brindle, fawn, white, or brindle and white or fawn and white combination.
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 10 to 12 YEARS
This breed was developed in Havana over 300 years ago, as the name suggests. The only breed indigenous to Cuba, Havanese were prized lapdogs of wealthy plantation owners until the mid-nineteenth century.
Havanese people are charming and social, and they make friends wherever they go. Although many toy breeds are not recommended for children, this dog is small but sturdy and well-known for being excellent with well-behaved children.
The Havanese is also energetic and quick-witted; the kids will enjoy teaching them endless fun tricks. The silky hypoallergenic coat requires daily brushing, which you can do with the kids, or it can be clipped short for easier maintenance.
Overview of the Breed Toy Group BREED
- HEIGHT: At the shoulder, 8.5 to 11.5 inches tall
- WEIGHT: 7 to 13 lbs.
- COAT AND COLORS: The breed can have one or two colours such as black, silver, white, cream, tan, fawn, gold, sable, and red. Its coat can range from silky straight to extremely wavy with ringlets.
- AVERAGE LIFE EXPECTANCY: 14 to 16 YEARS
The Shih Tzu is a charming, outgoing, and irresistibly cute breed that enjoys people of all ages, including well-mannered children. Because Shih Tzu puppies are so small, some breeders may be hesitant to place them in families with children under the age of five. Full-grown Shih Tzu, on the other hand, is strong for their size. As long as extra care is taken to diligently supervise puppy-kid interactions, the Shih Tzu can be a wonderful playmate for gentle children.
The breed originated in China, where it was a prized and pampered lapdog of Chinese royalty for centuries. When left long, the luxurious long coat necessitates daily brushing, though some Shih Tzu owners prefer to keep their dogs in a shorter pet clip for convenience.
Overview of the Breed Toy Group
- HEIGHT: 8 to 11 inches at the shoulder BREED: Toy Group
- WEIGHT: 9 to 16 lbs.
- COAT AND COLOR: A long double coat in almost any colour, most commonly black, white, blue, gold, liver, or combinations of these colours.
- EXPECTED LIFE EXPECTANCY: 10 to 16 YEARS
All of these breeds are excellent for children. However, it is critical that the family recognizes and respects the dog’s cues when they begin to become nervous or fearful. Small dogs’ cues are sometimes overlooked because they are, well, smaller. Crowding any nervous dog can result in human injury and break the human-animal bond that we work so hard to establish when puppies are young.
Before purchasing any dog, always research the breed standard. Look for a reputable breeder, and make sure you have a good relationship with a veterinarian in your area who can help guide medical and behavioural care when necessary. Plan ahead of time and educate your children to ensure a smooth transition of one of these wonderful dogs into your family.