10 of the Best Small Dog Breeds for Families

Is anything more exciting (and perhaps a little daunting) than choosing the right family dog? You're getting an extra two pairs of feet pattering around the house and a best friend for your kids to grow up with.

By searching for a small dog, you're probably thinking about your kids' safety — finding a canine who's not so big that he can knock over little humans. But you should consider the dog's safety too; breeds that are very small (like many in the Toy group) can be easily injured by children who accidentally play a little too rough. With any dog, always supervise his interactions with children and make sure your kids understand how to treat him respectfully. That means no ear-pulling, bopping on the head or invading his eating space.

As we're sure you already know, you've got a lot to think about! Click through our gallery below to check out 10 breeds that may be great matches for families.

Small Breeds That Can Make Great Family Pets

Boston Terrier

Karin Newstrom, Animal Photography

Boston Terrier

Fans of the Boston Terrier will tell you that his dapper, smiling exterior is a pretty accurate window into this breed's enthusiastic, friendly interior. Well-socialized Bostons tend to be a friend to all, including children, and revel in being the center of attention.


Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography


While her Maltese cousins may be too small for most child's play, the Havanese is a bit larger and may be a better choice for families with kids. These dogs usually weigh between 7 and 13 pounds and are known for their lively, clown-like personality and generally easy temperament.

Cocker Spaniel

Olivia Hemingway, Animal Photography

Cocker Spaniel

Many pet lovers think of the Labrador Retriever as the modern "perfect family dog," but you may be surprised to learn that the Cocker Spaniel is the quintessential family dog of yesteryear. Up until 1990 (when the Lab took the No. 1 spot), this typically merry, sensitive and active canine was the most popular breed registered by the American Kennel Club.

Icelandic Sheepdog in Grass Side View

Ron Willbie, Animal Photography

Icelandic Sheepdog

Looking for a rarer breed that you're not likely to see many of at the dog park? Consider the Icelandic Sheepdog. This hardy Nordic breed — which wears the pricked ears and curled tail we love in Spitz dogs — usually thrives on human companionship and is generally friendly and playful with children.

Lhasa Apso Dog Breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

Lhasa Apso

Historically an alarm dog for Buddhist monks in her homeland of Tibet, the Lhasa Apso tends to be suspicious of strangers but affectionate with family members who have earned her trust, including children. Older kids who can learn to treat the Lhasa with respect will be rewarded with a wonderful (and beautiful) companion.

Lemon Beagle Smiling at Camera

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography


Of course, we could never make this list and not include this family favorite! In general, a Beagle will be happy to make your kids part of his "pack" for playing, howling and enjoying long, sniff-filled walks. Keep in mind, though, that everyone in the family needs to be vigilant about not leaving food around — the Beagle is a professional snack thief!

Schipperke dog breed

Lee Feldstein, Animal Photography


Don't let the Schipperke's small stature fool you — he's known to be a sturdy, energetic, intelligent breed who usually has no qualms about being in charge. Active families will have a great time putting his brains and athleticism to work with activities like agility, flyball, obedience and rally.

Pug Tongue Out Looking at Camera

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography


What's not to love about a Pug? Today, they still fulfill the role for which Chinese nobility kept them: simply being companions. Among the largest of the Toy breeds, they're typically sturdy enough for playing with children, as long as the interaction doesn't get out of hand and become too rough. If you've ever been lucky enough to enjoy the company of this breed, you'll understand why the Pug charm has won over many an adoring family.

Norfolk Terrier with a ball

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

Norfolk Terrier

The typically outgoing, happy-go-lucky Norfolk Terrier is one of those canines who has no idea how small she is. The Norfolk tends to be more easygoing and barks less than many other terriers, but she still retains that fiery personality that terrier people love. These dogs usually have a strong watchdog instinct, so you'll do best when everyone in the family pitches in to help with training.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Nothing says "abundant energy" quite like a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. These herding dogs typically live to be part of the family and love spending time with their humans — whether that's learning tricks, going on a hike or working as a therapy dog. Thanks to his bright demeanor and sunny smile, the versatile Corgi has long been a family favorite.

One important note: Each dog is an individual and his temperament is a mix of genetics, training and environment. Just because a breed finds a place on this list, that doesn't mean thatevery dog of that breed will be a great fit for your family.

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