Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.
There are several small dog breeds that are ideal around children.
Finding the Perfect Small Dog for Your Household
Just because a dog is small does not necessarily mean it is well-behaved
around children. I have seen my fair share of clients asking for advice on how
to help stop their Dachshund from biting their toddler. I have also seen some
ugly bites from small dogs. Of course, the damage a small dog inflicts on a
child cannot be compared to the bite inflicted by a dog weighing 80 pounds or
more, but things can still get ugly.
There are many small dog breeds with temperament issues; however, it is also
true that there are small dogs that do well around children.
Six Small, Child-Friendly Dogs
Obviously, such lists need to be read with a grain of salt since as mentioned,
no generalizations can be made. Even within a litter of puppies, many
variances can take place among them and there can be significant temperamental
differences between one puppy and another. Also, the behavior of a puppy will
not necessarily stay the same through growth, so no guarantees can be made
that a puppy will grow up to be a stable dog blessed with a wonderful
Here are some small dog breeds with the “potential” for being great companions
for well-mannered children.
Pugs are in general very tolerant of children. The breed is childish on its
own, engaging in silly endeavors just to amuse its family members. According
to the American Kennel Club, “The pug is small but requires no coddling and
his roguish face soon wiggles its way into the hearts of men, women and
especially children, for whom this dog seems to have a special affinity.”
2. Miniature Schnauzer
Outgoing, eager to please and intelligent, this dog generally makes a
wonderful family pet. According to the American Kennel Club, schnauzers are
hardy, healthy, intelligent, and fond of children. Versatile and excellent
watchdogs, Schnauzers can ultimately make sturdy playmates for kids. Miniature
schnauzers should never be overaggressive or timid per the AKC’s standard.
The AKC depicts Beagles as versatile dogs that stay happy only when around
their family. It is not a casual fact that Beagles are among the top choices
for families. With Snoopy being a beagle, people naturally feel this breed
makes a good choice for children. The AKC cautions though that Beagles take
their food very seriously, therefore children should be cautious and treat
them with respect when they are eating. This, of course, also applies to any
dog regardless of breed, temperament and size.
The national dog of Cuba, Havanese are easy-going, smart, and well-behaved
fellows that do well as family dogs. Their friendly and good-natured
disposition makes them excellent children’s companions. According to the
American Kennel Club, they make great playmates for youngsters; however, as
with other small-sized dogs, they may not do too well with small children.
These dogs are great family companions that are generally accepting of
children. However, their likeliness to be underfoot may cause problems and not
because of temperament problems. The American Shih Tzu Club recommends that
children sit when playing with Shihtzu puppies and that they slide their feet
across the floor to avoid accidentally stepping on them. Especially when
puppies, children may hurt them accidentally. (See below.)
6. Bichon Frise
These cute white cotton balls are playful and make great companions for
children. Sociable, happy-go-lucky, obedient, and faithful, Bichons make a
great addition to families with children. However, according to the Bichon
Frise Club of America, it is best to think it over in households with very
young children. Often mistaken for a stuffed animal, children may poke their
fingers in their eyes or pull their tails, possibly triggering a defensive
Seven Breeds Not Suitable for Very Young Children
These are just a few examples of small dog breeds that may not do too well
with small children either because of temperament or size. Many breeders will
refuse to place puppies of small breeds in families with small children.
However, in general, no dog does well with a small child who treats the dog as
a toy. For this reason, it is best to wait a bit to get a dog as the child
matures and learns how to treat dogs kindly. In the meanwhile, a “Furreal” pet
may be a great, safer alternative!
According to Michele Welton, Maltese dogs are not suitable for young children.
Being very fragile, a clumsy child could easily injure a Maltese by
accidentally stepping on these delicate dogs. Sitting on a Maltese, squeezing
the dog or dropping it on the patio can prove to be quite dangerous. Many
Maltese are also overwhelmed by the quick movements and acute voices of
children. Stress, fear, avoidance, and defensive biting may occur. According
to the American Maltese Association, Maltese dogs love children but they do
not always make the ideal pet for a young child. The dog can be easily injured
by rough handling. Supervision is a must.
2. Yorkshire Terriers
As cute as these dogs can be, just like the Maltese, Yorkshire terriers are
delicate, especially the smaller specimens. Michele Welton claims them to be
intimidated by the roughhousing and mischief of small children. According to
the American Kennel Club, Yorkies do best with children who are kind, well-
mannered and over the age of six.”
3. Cavalier King Charles
These dogs love to be a part of the family and require good training and
socialization when puppies. According to the American Kennel Club, they
generally do well with well-mannered children that are gentle with them.
However, loud boisterous children may easily frighten a dog of this breed.
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These dogs do well with older, well-mannered children, but they are not
suitable for very young children. This is not because Shih Tzu do not like
children, but simply because when they are puppies they could be seriously
injured. According to the American Shih Tzu Club, this is why breeders who
allow a Shih Tzu puppy to go to a family with small kids emphasize the
importance of having the children interact with the puppy only by sitting on
Michele Welton classifies this breed as not suitable for small children, no
matter how well-meaning. Their clumsiness may easily hurt the dog and they may
feel overwhelmed by their sudden movements and loud voices.
Because of their vulnerable back, these dogs may be seriously hurt if
accidentally dropped by a clumsy young child. Children are okay with them as
long as they are not allowed to roughhouse. However, they may not do well with
small children, but often when this happens it is because of a Dachshund’s
unpleasant experience with a small child, explains Ann Gordon in the book
This breed is the smallest and most vulnerable; small children can easily
injure or kill a Chihuahua puppy just by throwing a toy. According to the
Chihuahua Club of America, young children who tease or scare a Chihuahua puppy
may trigger fear aggression which may lead to a bite even in a dog with a
As seen, there may be some dog breeds that do better with children, but as
of yet, no dog breed can be claimed to be “bomb proof with children”. The
making of a dog that is good with children is the balanced result of nature
and nurture. A genetic predisposition to being tolerant and well-adjusted
along with good experiences and loads of socialization around children, pave
the road to a potentially great companion for children.
Small dogs are susceptible to injury around small children.
Remember: The Dog Isn’t Always to Blame
Parents play a primary role in teaching children how to behave around dogs. A
recent study revealed upsetting results when it came to the knowledge children
had about dogs, which was passed down by parents.
Parents Must Teach Their Children How to Behave Around Dogs
It is incredibly important to teach children how to handle small dogs well.
Many small dogs are in great peril around children. Poor Dachshunds may suffer
serious back injuries from a child handing the dog rough, whereas tiny dogs
such as Chihuahuas are at risk of being stepped on or hurt by a rambunctious
Most of all, children need to be taught how to behave around dogs, regardless
of whether the dog is large, small or a puppy. Often the finger is pointed
towards the dog, when the child is ultimately to blame.
In one case, according to Nicholas Dodman, one of the world’s most respected
veterinary behaviorists, a dog bit a child and was euthanized. On post-mortem
examination, it was found that the poor dog had a pencil jammed in its ear,
penetrating the dog’s eardrum! Dr. Dodman finds that in many cases it is not
the dog that starts the trouble—it’s the child.
No black and white generalizations can be ultimately made on the best small
dogs for children, as there are many variances to keep in mind. Here are some
tips and considerations to up the chances for success.
Tips for Choosing a Small Dog for Your Family
- While small dog breeds with a higher level of tolerance should be generally safer, consider that all dogs have the potential to bite if pushed far enough.
- Get your small dog from a reputable breeder who has already started puppy socialization with children. Also, consider that generally reputable breeders are willing to take the dog back if there are any problems, while for backyard breeders sales are for the most part final.
- Avoid questionable sources such as pet stores, backyard breeders and ads in newspapers.
- Adopt only puppies that are over eight weeks old. Many small breeds are better off adopted after 12 to 13 weeks old.
- Read the breed standards carefully and research small dog breeds with calm, tolerant temperaments.
- Small does not translate into safe. Countless small dogs bite children and some even cause lots of damage.
- Make compatibility with children your main criteria when searching for a small dog breed.
- Make sure the puppy learns good bite inhibition, one of the most important life lessons a dog should know.
- Most of all, train your children how to properly handle dogs. Never leave a dog with a child unsupervised, no matter its size. Let children know that a dog should never be bothered when eating, sleeping or chewing on a bone.
If you are planning to purchase, adopt, or rescue a dog and you have
children, do your research and talk to as many breeders, dog owners, and
trainers as possible. No generalizations can be made about dogs, so it is
important to understand that behaviors atypical to the breed may arise in
certain dogs regardless of research, genetics, and environmental influences.
- Understanding the Nature Versus Nurture Concept in D…
Learn if your dog is a result of genetics or learned behaviors. Understand why
the dog nature and nurture concepts are ultimately intertwined.
© 2012 Adrienne Farricelli
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 05, 2012:
Kali, they are generally OK with children in general, but if you read the
details you will see they are not suitable for very young children either due
to their small size or because of little tolerance to the sudden erratic
movements of little ones.
kali on April 05, 2012:
grate little hub, but i have one question, why did you say havanese and shih
tzu’s are good w\ kids, and also bad? anyway, good job
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 13, 2012:
Pandula77 you are welcome, good luck in finding your new canine companion!
Seafarer thank you, for posting the question which inspired me to write this
Karen A Szklany from New England on March 13, 2012:
Thank you for this very information-packed and well-written hub in response to
Dr Pandula from Norway on March 13, 2012:
Just when I am thinking of buying a puppy for my son. Great hub and thank you
Better Yourself from North Carolina on March 11, 2012:
Great hub, Great information! Thanks for sharing!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 11, 2012:
Thank you yogakat. My mom got me a cat when I was only 5 and she told me she
was concerned about the decision after I put the poor cat inside the
refrigerator! luckily, she was fine just licking a slice of left over chicken!
YogaKat from Oahu Hawaii on March 11, 2012:
Well written and chock full of information. Completely answered the question.
Too often parents do not teach their children to respect and cherish their
pets. The reason to have pets in a child’s home is to teach them respect and
care for others. My children respected and loved our bevy of pets. Voted up
and awesome, useful, interesting.