Shelter Dog Meal Donation Count:

Learn More

The Best Large Dog Breeds For Families With Children

Written by: Scott H
Scott Haiduc is the Director of Publishing for iHeartDogs, iHeartCats and The Hero Company. When not working, Scott spends his time on the farm, taking care of his animals and crops.Read more
| Published on July 3, 2015

Pretty much all families searching for a dog are looking for a breed that’s known for being good with children. Luckily, there are plenty to choose from.

If you are on the lookout for which breed is best for your family and you want a larger dog, be sure to check out the breeds listed here.

How To Find A Dog That Is Good With Children

A boy and a girl lean their heads against a dog laying on grass.

While breed certainly plays a major role in a dog’s behavior, it is important to evaluate each dog as an individual. If you have children, you want a dog that is highly social and eager-to-please. They should be friendly, outgoing, and gentle during interactions. No matter how friendly, an overly boisterous dog that jumps up, paws, or mouths can be a danger to little ones.

It is also a good idea to choose a confident, intelligent dog that responds well to training. If a dog is insecure or easily distracted, the loud, grabby behavior of children may be too much for them to handle.

Teaching Children How To Behave Around Dogs

As important as it is to choose a large dog breed that is good for young families, it is equally important to teach children how to behave around dogs. Older children are encouraged to participate in the dog’s care, but must first learn how to read a dog’s body language and respect their boundaries.

Younger kids and toddlers must never be left unattended with any dog, even a family pet. However, even little ones can be taught not to grab fur, pull tails, or scream in a dog’s face. Children under five suffer the highest number of dog bites and it is generally due to them overwhelming, frightening, or injuring the dog accidentally.

It is the parents’ responsibility to teach their children how to safely interact with dogs as well as train their dog to be calm and confident around kids. If you are unfamiliar with how to do this, consult a reputable trainer in your area for help.

13 Large Family Dog Breeds That Are Great With Kids

1. Bulldog

A young child crouching down to hug a very tolerant white Bulldog.

The Bulldog or English Bulldog consistently ranks among the best large dogs for children and babies. They are short, but rather stocky, and may look intimidating to some potential owners. However, Bulldogs are very gentle and lazy making them excellent family companions, particularly for those with children.

They are known to be gentle and tolerant, as well as playful and loyal – a perfect combo for kids of all ages. The Bulldog Club of Greater San Diego describes the breed as “a companion dog with a very even temperament.” They go on to say:

 “They love people and make wonderful family pets, with a general affinity for children. While not necessarily a ‘guard dog’, they do make great ‘watch dogs’ in that they will bark and let you know of any potential intruders.”

2. Newfoundland

Remember Nana from the animated Disney movie, Peter Pan? She was a Newfoundland, chosen for the breed’s reputation as nurturing “nanny dogs” for children. Originally bred as water rescue dogs, Newfoundlands are gentle giants that possess a soft, docile temperament towards people. They are patient, loving, and make excellent family companions.

Despite these wonderful qualities, it is important to remember that growing Newfies may not be aware of their own size. They develop so quickly it is easy to forget they are still puppies with boundless energy that may accidentally knock over smaller children.

Jennifer Costello of the blog, My Brown Newfies writes:

“They can be gentle, yes. They can be wonderful around children, yes. But I feel like the ‘nanny dog’ title gives a false sense of security that they will be the perfect family dog right from the beginning.”

Like all dogs, Newfies require patience and training.

3. Golden Retriever

A Golden Retriever puppy sitting in the grass with a small child.

Golden Retrievers may be large, but they are among the most gentle of all dog breeds. Often described as intelligent, sweet, loyal, and kind, Goldens make wonderful service and emotional support dogs for people of all ages. Due to their intuitive nature, they seem to innately understand that children and the elderly require a softer touch.

Some Goldens are quite active, but this makes them excellent playmates for energetic kids. Even with their high energy, they are among the most trainable and agreeable dog breeds. Golden Retrievers love to learn and they love having a job to do.

Goldens also tend to be quite confident and trusting so they are unlikely to snap if a child pulls their tail or accidentally trips over them.

4. Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog breed in the United States 29 years running with many of the same desirable traits as its Golden Retriever cousin. Like Goldens, Labradors are very playful, but sweet and even-tempered, making them wonderful companions for families with children.

The Labrador Site notes that:

“Labradors are known to be terrific with children. Their chill, take-it-all-in-stride temperament and typically low aggression levels mean they are usually OK with being petted, cuddled and occasionally prodded.”

5. Bull Terrier

A boy hugging a white Bull Terrier dog.

Although the Bull Terrier may seem like an odd choice, they are a very loyal companions for children, especially when raised together. Bully breeder Peggy Arnault wrote the following passage which is now famous among lovers of the breed:

“Yes, if raised with children, a bull terrier is a perfect companion; gentle and aware of the child’s fragility. Haven’t we all watched a great lump of dog play quietly on the floor with babies, then without warning hurl itself upon an unsuspecting adult with sufficient force to practically land him in the intensive care unit?”

6. Boxer

A boy in a green shirt crouching with his arm around a Boxer dog.

The Boxer is a clownish, fun-loving and gentle dog that makes an incredible companion for active families. The Boxer breed standard calls for a sweet disposition and great faithfulness to its family, which the breed exhibits even towards children.

Keep in mind that Boxers are high-energy dogs that require lots of daily exercise to perform at their best. For this reason, they may not be the best choice for babies and toddlers. While a Boxer is unlikely to snap or intentionally harm a child, they may accidentally knock smaller kids down during play.

7. Bernese Mountain Dog

A little boy reaches to pet a Bernese Mountain Dog considered one of the best large dog breeds for families with children.

The Bernese Mountain Dog is one of four giant breed dogs to make our list of best large dog breeds for kids. Despite their imposing size they are exceptionally gentle and even-tempered.

The AKC describes them as good-natured, calm, and strong with a sweet, affectionate nature. They also note that Berners live to please their favorite humans.

“Berners get along with the entire family and are particularly gentle with children, but they will often become more attached to one lucky human. Berners are imposing but not threatening, and they maintain an aloof dignity with strangers.”

8. Collie

The Rough Collie is one of the most iconic dog breeds when it comes to children, largely due to Lassie fame. The breed is gentle, loving, loyal, and at times, fiercely protective towards its family, including the children. 

Collies are a herding breed so you can count on them to corral the kids should they attempt to wander. They can also be suspicious of strangers so they make excellent watchdogs.

9. Great Dane

A large black Great Dane dog walking on a leash with a tiny child.

The Great Dane is another gentle giant that gets along well with its family and small children. On the subject of whether Great Danes are good with children, toddlers, and babies, the website, notes:

“While they may be giant dogs, Great Danes are a very gentle and affectionate breed. Great Danes are fantastic family companion pets and are very good with small children. They are patient, loving, and can be protective of their family members when necessary.”

10. Basset Hound

Basset Hounds are medium to large-size scenthounds with short legs. They are playful and energetic, but also enjoy cuddling and napping in front of the TV. What a wonderful combination for children! goes so far as to name them the “best family dog,” calling them friendly, outgoing, loyal, and protective yet easygoing enough to tolerate lots of household noise and activity.

11. Standard Poodle

Standard Poodles are very active and intelligent dogs that often get a poor reputation due to their showy appearance. This is unfortunate, because they are extremely social dogs that enjoy the company of adults and children alike. This, coupled with their low-shedding coats, makes them very suitable companions for families with children.

12. Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is the final giant breed on our list and a close cousin of the Bernese Mountain Dog. Both breeds come from the Swiss Alps and are known as playful, but gentle giants. GSMDs become very attached to their families, including children, and make wonderful companions for people of all ages.

The AKC describes them as faithful, family-oriented, and dependable.

13. American Staffordshire Terrier

An American Staffordshire Terrier sticks out her tongue and shows her softer side.

According to the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of Queensland, the breed “has been bred as a pet, family dog, child’s guardian, show dog, and obedience competitor.” Their origins can be traced back to 18th century England before coming to America in the 1850s. It was here that they evolved into two separate breeds: the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. 

The American Staffordshire Terrier Club of Queensland describes them as exceptionally patient with children:

“This Breed is affectionate and reliable with people; In fact the high tolerance which served them well in years gone by gives them unusual patience with children. They barely notice an infant chewing on their ear or a toddler playing ‘horsie'”.

Recent Articles

Interested in learning even more about all things dogs? Get your paws on more great content from iHeartDogs!

Read the Blog