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Best Small Dog Breeds for Kids and Families

Typically, little kids and little dogs do not play well together.

Many small dog breeds are too fragile or don’t possess the temperament required for dealing with young children. However, if you’re looking for a family dog and don’t want a larger canine, there are small dog breeds suitable for sharing life with well-behaved kids ages 5 and older.

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1. Pug

It’s hard to resist the squished-in face of the pug. This breed is the largest member of the American Kennel Club’s toy group but still shouldn’t weigh more than 18 pounds at maturity. Of course, pugs may weigh more if overfed, but that’s another story.

These loving dogs are blessed with good, forgiving dispositions, and are sturdy enough for a little roughhousing with kids. A pug maybe your child’s best friend forever, and he’s also a decent watchdog.

He’s not suited for long walks or jogging but makes a fine house pet. Because of his moderate exercise needs, the pug is an excellent choice if you and your family live in an apartment or townhouse.

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2. Boston Terrier

This dapper dog from Boston is kid-tolerant and makes a fine family pet. For show purposes, the Boston terrier is separated into three weight classes:  less than 15 pounds, between 15 and 20 pounds, and 20 to 25 pounds.

He’s also a sturdy specimen, always ready to play with his young companions.  His short coat is easy to care for and he doesn’t shed much.  In addition to kids, he gets along well with cats and other dogs.

3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The gentle, sweet Cavalier King Charles spaniel readily adapts to family life.  When full-grown, Cavaliers weigh between 13 and 18 pounds.  Kids are natural playmates for these affectionate little dogs.

Whether it’s romping in the backyard or snuggling on the couch watching TV, children and Cavaliers soon become inseparable. One caveat: This breed doesn’t like to be alone for long periods.  A Cavalier isn’t the best choice for the family with no one home during most of the day.

4. Havanese

The Havanese breed and kids are made for each other.  Although this Cuban national dog usually doesn’t weigh more than 15 pounds in adulthood, he’s a little powerhouse.

The Havanese is smart, playful and easily trained. He does require a fair amount of grooming if kept in a longer show coat, but a family dog can sport a “puppy clip.” Although he’s a good watchdog, the Havanese isn’t yappy.

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Final Thoughts On Best Small Breeds For Kids

If a small breed is right dog for your family and lifestyle, contact a reputable breeder. Check out the American Kennel Club or the national breed club websites for information.

A good breeder makes sure the puppy and family make a good match.  Of course, puppies aren’t the only option. Search online for breed rescue groups who may have adult dogs available. These dogs are likely housebroken and have had some basic training.

For other types of dogs, check out our full list of dog breeds.

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  1. Reply
    LilyJ 11/14/2015 at 11:55 am

    Havanese is my favourite one – he is so fluffy and just adorable! These days I’m just dreaming about getting this dog in our new home. We will see, what will happen this year, or another haha :)) anyway, I think it would be better if you add the photo of these 4 dogs, not everyone knows them :))

  2. Reply
    Andrea Robinson 11/15/2015 at 9:15 am

    OMG, you couldn’t have picked four more wonderful breeds for a family wanting a small dog that’s tolerant of kids. These are all wonderful. I would definitely have a hard time picking my favorite out of these four, as each breed has specific traits that make my heart melt.

    For the pug, it’s not so much the squashed-in face that I like, but the upbeat personality. Havanese, a Bichon-type dog, have a sweetie-pie disposition that’s hard to beat. They’re wonderful family dogs. I have a special place in my heart for Bostons and Cavaliers, as I’ve had the privilege of training some of them and watching them grow up.

    Terrific article and very helpful. I’ll keep it in mind next time I know of someone looking for a smaller dog.


  3. Reply
    Mike 11/16/2015 at 5:40 am

    Pugs made the list, yes! I’ve always thought pugs are so awesome. Shame about all the medical problems they can have, though.

  4. Reply
    Caitlin 11/17/2015 at 6:50 am

    Great post! I’m always curious to see what dogs do best in a family situation with children. And who couldn’t love a squishy-faced little pug? I knew very little about Havanese dogs. They sound wonderful though! A small dog that isn’t yappy seems to be pretty rare.

  5. Reply
    Amy 11/17/2015 at 7:53 am

    What a cute picture! ha ha! Thanks so much for this article. I think you hit the nail on the head and narrowed it down very well. It’s always a tough decision to know which dog to get when you have kids, but these are some great options.

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