“Happiness is a warm puppy,” famously declared Lucy van Pelt in a snuggly “Peanuts” panel.
While this may be true, it probably helped that Lucy’s pal Snoopy was a beagle. The good-natured breed has a reputation for being with children—which isn’t the case with every breed.
“Dogs are excellent companions for children,” says Gina DiNardo, executive secretary of the American Kennel Club. “But you want to look for a breed that has a good temperament, is easygoing, has a good energy level, and is highly trainable.”
If you’re thinking of adding a four-legged friend to your pack, consider these kid-friendly breeds recommended by the AKC.
Although originally bred to hunt rabbits, the beloved beagle has adapted exceptionally well to family life. Social by nature, the cheery breed has plenty of energy for keeping up with kids. Keep in mind, however, that old habits die hard, and beagles still have some hunter instincts. They can’t resist tracking a scent or chasing prey, so make sure you have a secure yard and a good grip on that leash. And as for their famous howl, well, they’re probably not well-suited for apartments.
Patient, protective, and playful, boxers are a popular pick for families with children. With a long history of working alongside humans as everything from hunters to cattle herders to war dogs, they thrive on interaction and make excellent guards. If you have young children, keep in mind that boxers are on the larger side and exceptionally strong—if overly excited, they could unintentionally knock over little ones.
Although relatively new to the United States, the Bracco Italiano has been a popular pooch in Europe since the Renaissance, and it’s easy to understand why. Smart, calm, and easily trainable, the Bracco is a gentle people-pleaser with plenty of patience for children. The mellow breed is also known to be good with other pets.
Although famous for their egg-shaped heads, bull terriers offer much more than goofy good looks. This affable, loyal breed loves humans and dogs alike with proper socialization, and has tons of personality. They do best with plenty of affection and exercise, so a large family with attention and time to spare is ideal.
The golden retriever is one of DiNardo’s personal picks when it comes to family dogs. Easy to train and even easier to love, goldens are frequently used as service dogs due to its signature mix of smarts and sweets. Golden retrievers thrive on outdoor play and never turn down a swim, so prepare the kids for long sessions of fetch at the park.
Another of DiNardo’s favorites? The lovable lab. “Labrador retrievers are great for families with children,” she says. “They’re very loyal, have great temperaments, are easily adaptable, and have good energy levels.” Quick to bond and friendly to a fault, Labradors will be a hit with the kids and the neighbors alike. If a Lab is on your list, make sure to budget for plenty of rigorous exercise to keep him happy and healthy.
Don’t be intimidated by the Newfoundland’s size—this gentle giant is famously good with kids. In fact, a sweet temperament is “the most important single characteristic” according to the AKC’s breed guidelines, and they’ve been beloved throughout history. Lewis and Clark owed their lives to their loyal Newfie, Seaman, while Lord Byron built his buddy Boatswain a tomb larger than his own. Obviously, the Newfoundland’s size (up to 150 pounds for a male) and extensive grooming needs should be taken into consideration.
Used to guard livestock since ancient times, the Spanish mastiff is a naturally protective yet gentle breed, which is appealing to families looking for a kid-friendly guard dog. The mastiff has a calm demeanor, and despite its massive size needs only moderate exercise. It is, however, important to keep size in mind—that adorable, wrinkly little puppy will grow up to weigh anywhere from 140-200 pounds.
If you’re looking for a family dog on the smaller side, the Wheaten may be for you. This fun-loving Irish farm dog knows how to play—and play, and play, and play—but also enjoys a good family movie night. Many families appreciate that the breed doesn’t shed, but their unique, silky coats do require daily grooming and frequent trims to avoid matting.
If you grew up watching Sesame Street, chances are you have a place for Weimaraners in your heart. The friendly, obedient dogs made easy guest stars, and the breed is a hit with kids off-screen as well. Extremely smart and eager to please, Weimaraners require diligent training and plenty of exercise to keep them engaged and healthy.
Regardless of the breed your family settles on, consider adopting—if you don’t find the dog you’re looking for at a local shelter, a breed-specific rescue may be able to help. If you choose to purchase a puppy, ensure that you work with a responsible breeder, such as one that has earned the AKC’s Breeder of Merit distinction. And as always, keep mutts in mind! Mixed-breed pups are just as family-friendly and have been shown to avoid some of the genetic disorders that afflict purebred dogs.