Which breeds of dog are safe to have around when raising a small child?
Any breed of dog can be perfectly safe or extremely dangerous. You have to test out the dog for aggressive behavior and educate your toddler on appropriate dog handling.
For example, I stress to my kids that they should not bother the dog while she's eating. At the same time, our dog doesn't have any food issues -- they can stick their hands in her dish and not get bit or mauled.
We researched this very carefully having had a border collie prior to having children. While our collie was a lovely dog we were absolutely certain it was not a good breed to combine with small children.
Instead we acquired a Large Munsterlander and she has proved a very safe and reliable type, very tolerant of infant roughness and wholly unaggressive.
My dog is a lab/chow mix, and is absolutely fantastic with children. The only time he's snapped at (and didn't actually connect with) either child is when my son was bending his (the dogs) penis into a pretzel shape. My response was, of course, "Don't do that to the dog."
But a lot of that could be training, because from a very young age I've had the dog learn to settle and be handled by me so I could check his paws for cuts or his ears for ticks. I also trained him to start and stop eating on command and to tolerate having his food taken away. So he has learned to be very docile.
So probably you want to pick a dog breed that is considered very trainable and has an activity level that matches your lifestyle. Then make sure that the dog receives a great deal of obedience training, either from a professional or with professional help.
All of that said, I'm a fan of retrievers, they're smart, easy to train, and don't have a lot of prey drive (at least, not compared to terrier breeds).
The wagandco.com website offers a rating for child friendliness for each breed. It might help.
Any dog can be dangerous if the training isn't good. Whether a dog is bred to be aggressive or not is of secondary relevance to me than whether the dog has had proper discipline that establishes you and your family members as alpha over the dog. If you're going to get a big, powerful breed without recognizing the potential for aggression, and therefore don't exercise the dog and give it firm discipline, then of course that inbred aggression will show. But if you get a teacup poodle and treat it like a princess and let it get its way all the time, of course it's going to become territorial and bite other people, even children.
I've been attacked by a very poorly-trained Mastiff, and have seen a friendly but overly eager German Shepherd bowl over an 80-pound child in her excitement to get out the door. That said, someone in my family received the nastiest dog bite she'd ever had thanks to a 3-pound Chihuahua. My cousins own a small poodle mix who will sooner bite your head off than look at you simply because they let the dog be alpha over them.
A rule of thumb that I've heard is "for small children, big dogs". The reasoning is that big dogs will be unconcerned by young children and won't feel threatened, and can take a lot of abuse from an active toddler. Smaller dogs will be more likely to be confrontational with kids.
That said, you need to do your research very carefully, and you have to get to know the specific animal. All dogs are different and have different personalities, so safety should be your #1 concern.
It's not about the breed; it's about the owner.
My husband grew up with pitbulls and was very rough and tumble with them. I cringe listening to the potential disasters that never happened. Conversely, people get bitten by labs too.
I recommend you choose a dog that suits your lifestyle. Then, learn how to be good owners and teach your children how to be respectful and careful around animals.
I have had a dog that was raised with out children around, and when My and my Estranged Wife moved in together he was unable to adjust to having a 2 year old around 24x7. He had been taught that dog's teeth never touch human flesh so he never bit or attacked my daughter, but he did start to become more aggressive towards them.
This was for a couple of reasons. My Estranged Wife never established she's alpha to him, and she didnt properly teach our daughter how to act towards him. He was growling at her and I had to give him up.
Regardless how a dog is raised you must constatnly monitor their behavior around the children and never let the dog think it's ok to snap or growl at the child. You must also teach your child how to act towards a pet. It's a two way street.
When my son (at the time 1.5 years old) was intoduced to my mom's Pomerianians, I watched him for a long time to make sure he would not mis treat them and they would respond well to him.
The main point I'm making here. ANY dog can be good with kids, it's dependent on their training, but you also must make sure you child knows how to respond to the dog.
It depends more on the individual dog and child than the dog's breed.
With that said, I'd recommend a large breed dog. Because they're so big, most large breeds have been selected for extremely gentle behaviour, while smaller breeds can sometimes be overly dominant, defensive and/or aggressive. A nippy chihuahua may not be a big deal for an adult, but a child will find them a lot more threatening. Conversely, a child is also more likely to unintentionally hurt a small breed dog. (Even a cat is better off, since they are more agile and can climb out of reach.)
The next issue is whether to get an adult or a puppy. A puppy will be more excitable and hyperactive, and while most large breed puppies aren't aggressive, they don't necessarily know their own strength and could knock a child over. So if you get a puppy, you'll have to put a bunch of work into teaching a solid sit-stay sequence, and making sure the puppy always sits while greeting the child.
With an adult, you have less control over their temperament, since they spent their formative early months somewhere else. Some adult rescues can be emotionally unstable due to past negative experiences. But if the dog meets your child and acts calm and gentle and happy with them, then they'll probably act the same way in your home.
On your child's side, supervise interactions at first and teach your child how to pet gently instead of grabbing or poking or pulling. Also show the kid how to play with the dog using a dog toy, so they keep the dog's excitement directed at the toy instead of their own body.
Most important, whatever kind of dog you get, is that you supervise early interactions and be ready to teach both child and dog how to treat each other.