Which breeds of dog are safe to have around when raising a small child?

  • Safer for which, the dog or the child? Our Min Pin is the unfortunate recipient of a little 'too much love' from our 2 year old!
    – Mario
    Commented Dec 13, 2011 at 17:01

9 Answers 9


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.

  • 2
    +1 - With food possessiveness, we've made it a point to train for that early (the dog, not the child). Having said that, even if your dog is good with children, it's important to teach kids how to approach dogs, esp. ones that they don't know well.
    – H.Y.
    Commented Mar 30, 2011 at 21:26
  • 3
    -1, though I can't downvote directly you with my reputation. This "any breed of dog is safe, with the right training" is a dangerous and wrong meme. What parents are concerned about is not the average case scenario, but the worst case scenario, as raising a child is a considerable investment. That is, one is most concerned with that 1% of the time the dog loses his temper. And, with that in mind, the data clearly show that some breeds, such as pitbulls and Rottweilers, can inflict devastating damage to toddlers that one does not find with more human amenable breeds, such as retrievers.
    – Uticensis
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 0:15
  • 2
    @Billare: This report is deeply flawed. "Pit bull" is not a breed of dog, it's something the uninformed call dogs they find scary. 1-12 deaths in the entire US in the course of three years is a statistical blips. That means that less than a fraction of a percent of each of the real breeds listed were involved (I can't offer info on the made-up one). Finally, the so-called "research" gives no information on the training, upbringing, or general temperament of these dogs, and thus doesn't even attempt to refute the notion that these factors, not breed, determine whether a dog is dangerous.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Apr 9, 2011 at 14:19
  • 1
    @Billare that report is run by an organization that makes no attempt to hide the fact that they primarily exist to push an agenda aimed primarily at eliminating pit bulls as a legal domestic breed. The "statistics" were derived from simple internet searching, and therefore it is completely erroneous to claim that the report reflects a "scientific approach". Please note that according to that study, wolf-hybrid dogs are "safer" than German Shepards, and Jack Russell Terriers are tied for the 10th most dangerous breed, ahead of many large hunting breeds.
    – user420
    Commented May 11, 2011 at 17:36
  • 1
    I showed my roughly three year old nephew how to put food down for our dogs, make them wait, then shout "okay" when he wanted them to eat. Dogs are social animals; for the most part, if they're well raised, they will take orders from anyone they think is higher than them in the pecking order. Note "for the most part" - dogs will also try to elevate themselves in that order, and push the boundaries, so never leave young children unsupervised with dogs. Commented Jun 1, 2011 at 2:17

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).

  • We've always kept dobes (doberman pinschers) -- most of them rescue dogs who needed a ton of training -- they were all not only safe, but great helpers around the kids. You should see how some people freak out seeing a dobe around my son, meanwhile their "perfectly safe" (read: it's small so I think I don't have to train it) dog is snapping at the kids for no reason, knocking them over, stealing food, and generally trying to dominate them at every turn.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Apr 1, 2011 at 17:05
  • Downvoters, I would appreciate some feedback.
    – philosodad
    Commented Apr 7, 2011 at 21:05

The wagandco.com website offers a rating for child friendliness for each breed. It might help.


enter image description here

  • 8
    This is extremely dangerous disinformation. Did you know that most dog bites in the US are from golden retrievers? Because of this breed's iconic image as the perfect family pet, they are the least likely to be properly trained, and thus most likely to attack. The breed is irrelevant -- it's the dog's upbringing that matters.
    – HedgeMage
    Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 23:13
  • 1
    @HedgeMage, the fact that the questioner asked here shows that he isn't just going to blindly get the iconic family pet dog, but instead is thinking carefully about breeds. The breed isn't irrelevant, there are big variations in temperament between dog types. Of course the upbringing is important, but so is the breed, sex, and age of the dog in evaluating how safe it is with children.
    – hawbsl
    Commented Apr 1, 2011 at 8:35
  • 1
    @HedgeMage Where are YOU getting your information from? Besides, your statistic seems meaningless to me on its face -- is that dog bite statistic adjusted for the sheer number of domestic golden retrievers? Parents should concerned about rates per dog, not the total numbers.
    – Uticensis
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 1:16
  • 2
    And worse, you're helping to spread that horrible meme on training. Ugh. Genetic differences between breeds means some of them are less trainable than others; some breeds have been bred to be stubborn in receiving directions from non-handlers, and some of them have been bred to be unyielding aggressive beyond a certain threshold. These differences are relevant, and important.
    – Uticensis
    Commented Apr 6, 2011 at 5:23
  • 2
    @Billare - have to disagree from personal experience. I have seen a Pom bite through a friend's shoe and into his foot. All dogs CAN be vicious.
    – Rory Alsop
    Commented Apr 8, 2011 at 7:56

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.

  • 1
    My theory is that big dogs have had aggressiveness bred out of them. Aggressive big dogs are dangerous. Aggressive little dogs are merely annoying. Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 4:47

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.

  • excellent answer. I would add that if you get an adult dog, you may have MORE control over temperament, since it is known. Of course, you need to find an adult dog with no behavioral issues. Secondly, and I think this is really important, start as early as possible to teach your kids about the body language of dogs - dogs don't 'smile' if they show teeth they are feeling aggressive or threatened. Jumping up is not necessarily aggressive, it can be excitement and so forth.
    – Ida
    Commented Feb 9, 2016 at 19:02

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .