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9 Best Small Dogs for Families with Kids

By Molly Weinfurter


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Small dogs for kids have become increasingly popular. After all, kids can’t hold and cuddle big dogs as easily, so many children prefer dogs that are more their size. Yet, this also means that many kids have bad habits of picking up dogs more than they should. Dogs don’t like to be handled all the time, so having a small dog also means teaching your children extra boundaries. So, which small dogs are the best in a family with younger children?

Best Small Dogs for Families with Kids

What Makes a Small Dog Good for Kids?

While small breeds often get the reputation of being “angry and vocal,” it’s often because people don’t respect their space. Small dogs are so fun to hold and cuddle, so it makes us want to be near them as much as possible. But even the friendliest dogs can get fed up with attention at times, so you need to give little dogs just as much space as any other dog. Most importantly, you need to teach kids how to be patient with dogs

The best small dogs for kids should be patient and calm. Some dogs get annoyed quickly, which could result in a kid getting bit. So, choosing a dog with a more easygoing personality can help avoid this. However, you’ll also want to teach your kid to look out for warning signs that a dog is unhappy. That way, they’ll know when to leave an annoyed dog alone.

Here are some signs of aggression or discomfort in dogs:

  • Licking lips
  • Yawning
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Showing teeth
  • Growling
  • Hair on end
  • Stiff body
  • Tail tucked

If a dog is showing one or more of these small signs, they might bite. While small dog bites are rarely severe like large dog bites, they can still be painful and traumatizing to a child. Even the most well-behaved dogs could lash out if they feel threatened. So, choose a dog that’s patient around kids, but also teach kids to give dogs space, especially if warning signs are present. 

Best Small Dogs for Kids

All dogs are unique, so any dog can be great around kids if given a chance. But the number of dogs looking for homes can be overwhelming, so how do you know where to start? If you know your home is better for a small dog, then here are nine small breeds that have a good reputation with children. But if your heart isn’t set on a small breed, there are dogs of all sizes that are great for families

#1 – Bichon Frise

Bichon Frises are not just great because of their lovable personalities, but they’re also one of the most hypoallergenic breeds. Their soft white hair almost never sheds, meaning they’re great for kids with allergies. Their coats also make cleaning much easier too.


Bichons are playful, loving dogs that get along with just about everyone they meet. They’re gentle and affectionate, even around children. Even though they’re small, they’re still strong and can stand their ground. They’re highly intelligent and love to learn new tricks. These fluffy pups make excellent companions as long as you teach your kids how to properly behave around them. 

Care Requirements

While these dogs love to play with their humans, they don’t need any intense exercise. Just a walk or two a day should be enough to suffice. However, their grooming needs can be much more high-maintenance. Bichons have hair like a human’s, which means it continuously grows instead of sheds. So, you’ll need to bring your Bichon to the groomer at least every month or two to get their hair trimmed. You’ll also need to brush them a few times a week to prevent their coats from getting tangled. 

#2 – Maltese

Like Bichon Frises, Maltese are also playful white dogs. These beautiful low-shedding dogs were once bred to be companions for royalty. Today, they stay true to their companion title for humans of all ages.


The main reason Maltese are great for kids is because they’re gentler than other small dogs. They’re charming and playful, and they don’t get irritated quite so easily. They’re enthusiastic about training, so it’s easy to teach them new skills. Allowing your kids to help train your Maltese can help form a stronger bond between them.

Care Requirements

Maltese love to run around and play when given the option, but they don’t need any intense exercise. Regular walks are more than enough for them. But like Bichons, Maltese also have soft, delicate hair. Their hair should be brushed several times a week to prevent painful mats from forming. If you plan to keep their hair long and flowing like a show dog, you’ll likely need to brush it every day. You’ll also have to visit the groomer every 4 to 8 weeks to trim their lovely coat. 

#3 – Beagle

Beagles are technically a medium-sized breed, weighing around 20 to 25 pounds. They are excellent family dogs because they’re friendly, playful, and easygoing. However, they’ll also keep you on your toes. 


These dogs were initially bred for hunting, so they have plenty of energy and intelligence, which are skills that can also work in a household setting. Beagles are eager to please and will happily learn new tricks as needed. They’re strong and playful, so they love to play fetch in the yard for hours on end. Their energy closely resembles a child’s energy, which is why they often get along so well with kids. 

Care Requirements

Beagles have a thin coat of fur that sheds moderately. Thus, their grooming needs are very minor. However, they love to explore and exercise. They don’t need to go for a jog every day, but longer walks in new locations are often the most satisfying to them. It’s a good idea to keep your Beagle on a leash at all times though because their strong sense of smell can cause them to wander off when they get too curious. 

#4 – Pug

Many people love Pugs for their large eyes and flat faces. But as it turns out, their silly personalities can also be great for kids. They’ll be sure to give any family lots of laughs!


Pugs are friendly and outgoing. They love to run around and play with just about everyone they meet. They can be strong, but also clumsy at times. They can be a big personality in a tiny body, so they need a family who’s able to give them lots of love and attention. While they’re usually very charming, they can also have a mischievous side, which gets them into trouble. 

Care Requirements

These lovable dogs only need moderate exercise and they only shed a little, but their health concerns can be more intense than other breeds. Pugs are a “brachycephalic breed” which means they have a flat snout that makes them prone to breathing problems. Thus, you need to limit their time outside during hot weather. Their skin wrinkles also make them prone to infections, so clean thoroughly in their skin folds when giving them a bath. 

#5 – Boston Terrier

Like Pugs, Boston Terriers also have a big personality in a little body. Despite being more athletic than other small breeds, these dogs were bred to be devoted companions. They often do best with a family who loves to play with them. 


Boston Terriers love to have fun, which often involves them running around until their heart’s content. Yet, they don’t handle alone time well. They love to be around their humans as much as possible, and lounging around all day just isn’t their style. They’re affectionate and adaptable, always excited for new adventures. 

Care Requirements

Since they have so much energy, you can’t neglect exercising your Boston. These little dogs love to go on long walks and have intense games of fetch. If you don’t let your dog get their energy out, they might develop destructive behaviors to pass the time. While they’re a healthier breed than Pugs, they still have a flat face, which means you should limit their time in the sun. 

#6 – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are excellent companion dogs. They love cuddles and playtime, as long as the humans they spend time with are gentle. Since they’re generally laidback, they can even make great travel companions. 


These dogs are sweet, easygoing, and affectionate. They’d much rather relax than spend their time running around. However, they can have small bursts of energy, especially when they’re young. They’re the ideal lap dogs because once they curl up beside you, they might never want to leave!

Care Requirements

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a fairly easy breed to care for. A walk or two a day is more than enough for them, and they barely shed. Their coats also don’t need major trimming like a Bichon or Maltese. Instead, just make sure you brush them once a week and bathe them occasionally. 

#7 – Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniels are similar to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in terms of appearance and personality. However, they’re technically a medium-sized breed, weighing between 20 and 30 pounds. Yet, they’re still small enough to curl up on your lap.


These dogs are great companions for kids because they’re gentle and respectful. It takes a lot to upset them, so as long as your kid knows how to respect boundaries and your Cocker Spaniel is well-socialized, they should become best friends in no time. These dogs are small enough that they won’t knock children over while still being large enough to stand their ground around energetic kids. This is why they’re such popular family dogs. 

Care Requirements

Cocker Spaniels only need a normal amount of exercise, which means casual walks throughout the day. They can also benefit from playtime, especially with kids, but they won’t tire you out with endless energy. The only advanced needs these dogs have is grooming. They barely shed, but their coats can get tangled easily and should be handled by a professional groomer. They should be brushed every three days and taken to the groomer every six weeks. 

#8 – French Bulldog

French Bulldogs are another playful breed with a similar personality to Pugs and Boston Terriers. They’re highly adaptable and always eager to make new friends of all ages. 


These dogs might look small, but they’re also sturdy, which means they aren’t intimidated by the high energy levels of children. They love to play as much as possible and they get excited very easily. They’re naturally affectionate and curious, so they’re not afraid of trying new things. If possible, your Frenchie will want to join you on every adventure in life.

Care Requirements

Frenchies don’t need any intense exercise, but they need a way to remove their excess energy. Going for walks, playing in the yard, or visiting the dog park are all great ways to keep your dog happy. Yet, they are another brachycephalic breed with wrinkly skin, so they can have a lot of similar health concerns to Pugs. Visiting the vet regularly and keeping them out of the sun can help them live a long, healthy life. 

#9 – Havanese

Finally, the Havanese is another lovable dog that can be great around children. They were bred as treasured lap dogs that comforted wealthy families in Cuba. Today, they are still incredibly charming, making them great companions for all kinds of families. 


Havanese are friendly, social dogs who love meeting new people. They’re sturdier and more patient than similar breeds, which is why they’re often recommended for children. They’re also smart and eager to learn new tricks. Practicing training with children is a great way to help your kids better understand your Havanese. 

Care Requirements

Havanese love playing in the yard and going for short walks, but they don’t require much exercise beyond that. They have silky coats of hair that shed very little, which means grooming can get complicated. It’s recommended that you brush your Havanese at least once a week to prevent tangles from occurring. Then, taking them to the groomer for a haircut every month or so can help keep their fluffy coat maintained. 

Is a Small Dog Right for Your Family?

Some families prefer large dogs while others prefer small ones. It all depends on your family’s lifestyle. If you live in a small house or apartment, then a smaller dog might be the right choice for you. Small dogs can also be great for families who don’t have the energy to run and hike with their dog all the time.

Smaller dogs are also great for families who like to travel because it’s much easier to transport dogs under 20 pounds. Additionally, they can be more affordable because they eat less food and require smaller supplies.

Don’t choose a small dog just because your kids can hold them though. Young children should never be allowed to handle a dog without supervision, so don’t encourage them to hold and cuddle dogs. Instead, you’ll need to show them boundaries and explain that a small dog isn’t just a toy. Small dogs are still living creatures, so you shouldn’t get one just to treat them like a plush toy or accessory. 

If your kids are asking for a small dog, make sure you discuss the dog’s care before bringing a new dog home. Also, make sure everyone in your family meets the dog before you adopt them. If the dog seems uncomfortable around your children, then it’s okay to wait and choose a different dog. Getting a dog is a big decision, so take your time and make sure you choose the dog that’s perfect for your family. 

About Molly Weinfurter

Molly Weinfurter is a freelance writer and editor that specializes in family, travel, and animal-related topics.

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