How to Choose The Best Dog For Your Family

Have your kiddos been begging you for a dog and you are finally beginning to give in, but have no idea where to start? It can be so exciting yet so nerve-racking at the same time, especially if this will be your first dog as a family. Just like most other big decisions you will make, there is a lot more to consider when you have kids that those decisions will affect.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself that will help you determine the best kid-friendly dog for your family. Just remember that getting a dog requires that you not only have a firm commitment to responsible dog ownership but that your children do too.

Avoid Making Stereotypes and Generalizations.

When considering a family dog, specifically in looking for a dog that is good with kids, it is important to know that there is no specific breed that is inherently more dangerous than another.

In short, breed is not a dependable marker or predictor of dangerous behavior in dogs and more reliable indicators include owner behavior, training, sex, neuter status, and geographical location.

American Veterinary Medical Association

The Pit Bull is a great example. While they have a reputation for being vicious, it really has nothing to do with the breed itself. In temperament testing, the pit-bull type dogs passed at a higher rate than many popular family breeds. (Note: pit bulls are not a breed, rather a generic term covering a wide array of mixed breeds of a similar physical type.)  

I will never forget hearing a story from a friend of mine who is an ER doctor. He was telling me how he was alerted that they were bringing in a young child in critical condition and that he had suffered a bite from a pit bull. Knowing I had a pit bull and 2 young children, he had thought of me. After all was said and done, it turned out that the child, really just a baby, was left unsupervised, outside, in the sun. He was actually suffering from heatstroke. The wound that they were referring to was a small insignificant little puncture mark from the pit bull gently dragging the boy to a spot under some shade which actually saved his life.

The bottom line is that any dog can make a great family dog given the proper socialization, training, and care. At the same time, even dogs with reputations to be the most kid-friendly dogs, like labs, can be bite if the wrong circumstances arise.

Check out my personal story.

6 Questions to Help You Choose The Best Dog For Your Family

What Are Your “Musts”?

Do you have a child with allergies that require a hypoallergenic dog? Are certain breeds off-limits due to restrictions in your homeowner’s insurance policy? Will your landlord only allow dogs up to a certain weight? These are deal-breakers in your mind, not just preferences or wishes. Write out your “musts”, it may narrow down what are feasible options or leave you with tons of options to work with your preferences.

Are Your Kids Old Enough for A Puppy?

Consider whether your kids are old enough to be taught proper pet safety and implement what they have learned on a consistent basis. Puppies go through teething just like babies do, and that means they want their mouths on everything, including your kids, their pants, their toys, and more.

puppy biting kid pants

If you have a child that is too young to follow directions to prevent the puppy from nipping, such as not running away from them, they could quickly develop a fear of the puppy, or even worse, they could get injured during what the puppy thinks is playtime. If you have children who are still too young to follow rules, an adolescent or adult dog may be a better option for you.

What is Your Families Activity Level? High, Medium, or Low?

Is your family a laid-back, easy-going family or one that is high energy and always on the go? Your dog’s traits should reflect your family’s lifestyle. A Vizsla may not be a great pick for a laid-back family due to their high energy, where a Basset Hound may be a much better choice. A Vizsla or a Border Collie would be a much better fit for families that are constantly hiking or enjoy going for a jog with their dog.

Dogs have varying energy levels and when a dog has pent-up extra energy that they do not get out, it often leads to destructive behaviors. Unfortunately, many dogs are surrendered or even euthanized because of behavioral problems that could have been avoided by getting their excess energy out.

Do You Plan on Taking The Dog Everywhere You Go or Will He Primarily Be At Home?

Some dogs which are great with kids are not always great with strangers or other dogs, so consider if having a dog that is able to go with you to the kids sporting events, playing at the park, or away on vacations with the family is important to you or not. With proper socialization, particularly during a puppy’s Fear Impact Stage, you can combat this in any dog, but it may require a bit more work on your part.

Dog at kids soccer game

Take into consideration how much interaction you want to have with others if you plan to take your dog on outings. Be aware that if you choose a breed like a Doberman Pinscher or a Pit Bull, that other people and parents may not feel as comfortable being around your dog or having their kids around your dog, due to their own biases. If you are a family of introverts, this can be a plus!

What Size Dog Would You Prefer and Why? Size- Why its important and why it is not

Size should play a factor in determining what type of dog is best for your family. Larger dogs tend to require more money in terms of the cost of food, medications, and services such as dog walking or pet sitting. They also come with bigger messes than smaller dogs. On the other hand, small dogs can be delicate and easily injured if your young one drops or mishandles them.

Dogs of all sizes
What size dog is right for your family?

Don’t choose a size for the wrong reason. For example, some families will choose a small dog, based on the assumption that the dog will be much easier to take care of, when in fact, many small breeds can take significantly longer to housebreak and have more difficulty with basic obedience. Or, because they had a small yard, they got a small dog. Think about a Jack Russell Terrier, weighing in at 15lbs compared to a 185lb English Mastiff, which would you think needs a bigger yard? I would argue the high energy of the Jack Russell would need a home with a decent-sized yard over a mellow, low-energy Mastiff.

Breeder vs Rescue?

The consideration of whether to get a dog from a breeder or if you should rescue one can feel extremely overwhelming. Post that question on social media and you will see a heated argument arise. The key is to educate yourself on the pros and cons of each and make the decision on what is best for your family.


Adoption is literally saving a dog’s life. That’s huge. It also tends to be less expensive. Adoption fees are considerably lower than the cost to purchase from a breeder and will often include the cost of initial vaccines, and things such as spay or neuter. It can also save you the frustration of housebreaking and bypassing the teething phase. Mixed breeds also tend to have fewer health issues.

On the other hand, the unknowns such as background and breed mixes and their traits can be concerning. Factors such as socialization, if the dog was mistreated, or has certain fears or triggers can add unneeded worries for some families.

Pet Finder is a great resource for looking for a rescue dog.


When you go through a breeder, you know the background which is a big plus. The key is to make sure it is a responsible breeder. A responsible breeder will minimize any genetic health issues and often provide genetic screening as well. They breed their dogs for the best temperament and fully disclose all findings. You should be able to meet or see the parents so you have a good idea of the size and temperament. Many breeders will also begin proper socialization and training prior to sending a puppy off to its new owners. As you may expect all this is costly to a responsible breeder, and it is passed on in the cost of purchasing one of their pets.

Whatever you choose, just make sure it is right for you and your family. Make sure if you do want a puppy from a breeder that you do your homework and make sure it is a responsible breeder. And don’t forget, you can often find breed-specific rescues which are great options when you want a specific breed but not necessarily a puppy. It can often be the solution that is the best of both worlds.

Other Questions to Ask Yourself

Once you have answered these questions you should be able to narrow down a list of potential breeds or a breed you would like to find in a mix. You can then begin to compare your top choices or decide that any dog with your list of traits would work for your family. Other things to consider which may help narrow the list further are grooming requirements, health maintenance, and budget.

Just remember, finding the right dog for your family is only half of what it takes to have a perfect family pet. The other half is on you. It is your responsibility as a parent to ensure your children are educated in pet safety and responsible pet ownership. Remember, even the most well-trained dog can be pushed into situations where they feel the need to protect themselves. There are plenty of resources out there to help with this but a good start is to teach your kids about dog body language, and how to interact with dogs, and when it is okay and when it isn’t.

Here are some great resources to start.

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