From romping in the yard and cuddles in bed to tail tugging and ear pulling, dogs are loyal to their kids through thick and thin. If you’re looking to add a dog to the family, you may wonder which dog breeds are best with children. In fact, you may have heard some breeds referred to as “nanny dogs,” which can sound pretty appealing to a parent. So, what exactly makes a dog a good nanny?
Just like Nana the dog from Peter Pan, the term “nanny dog” refers to any breed of dog that’s known to be good with children. Ideally, a nanny dog would protect the children just like a human nanny, while showing them lots of affection, being patient, and entertaining them without toppling them over while playing. But Lori Teller, DVM, DABVP, clinical associate professor at Texas A&M University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, explains to Romper in an interview that while nanny dogs may be a nice term for breeds that tolerate children well, it shouldn’t be taken literally.
“I think there's nothing more wonderful than the bond that can develop between a child and a dog as they grow up together. However, the term ‘nanny dog’ can be misleading and potentially encourage parents to drop their guard," says Teller. "The number one victim of dog bites are children less than 5 years old, and they are most likely to be bitten by a dog they know. Young children and dogs should never be left alone together unsupervised. Both children and dogs need training and guidance to learn how to appropriately interact."
Teller suggests that families with children who want to add a furry family member start by researching breeds with traits that mesh well with kids.
“A good place to start is by looking for breeds with certain characteristics, such as loyal, patient, energetic, friendly, and easily trained. That being said, the individual dog’s personality is the most important thing,” says Teller. “Breed characteristics are a good place to start when looking for a family dog, but individual personality should be the overall determinant.”
While no dog is truly a nanny dog, there are certain breeds that are more even-keeled and patient around children than others. A pup from one of these eight breeds may be the one to consider adding to your family.
“These breeds are sturdy, even-keeled, and outgoing. They love attention and positive interactions with others,” says Teller.
1. Golden Retriever
When you think of a family dog, your mind probably goes straight to a golden retriever. The American Kennel Club (AKC) calls these big blondies “outgoing, trustworthy, and eager-to-please family dogs,” who are easy to train and playful even in old age. They’re one of the breeds most commonly used as service dogs for these reasons, and would make an excellent fit for a family with children, too.
2. Labrador Retriever
If a golden retriever isn't what comes to mind, a lab is probably what you envision as the quintessential family pet. Whether chocolate, yellow, or black, all labs share a friendly disposition. The AKC calls them affectionate, companionable, high-spirited, and active. As a large breed, they’ll do well with plenty of exercise and can play outdoors, go on walks, and keep up with little ones in the house for hours.
3. Saint Bernard
If bigger is better for your family’s lifestyle, this breed has that in the bag. These giant floofs are friendly and loving, and as the AKC says, “famously watchful and patient nanny dogs for children.” Just make sure to keep your kids from climbing all over your gentle giant like a pony, even though these saints would probably tolerate it.
Loving, happy, energetic, and curious. Who wouldn’t like the AKC’s description of beagles? Not only are they an adorable, medium-sized family dog option, but their personalities make them excellent playmates for kids of any age. And since they’re bred to hunt in large packs, they probably won’t mind having more than one human sibling.
5. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
Staffordshire bull terriers fall under the pitbull umbrella, which can make many parents skeptical of bringing them around children, but like any breed, properly socialized Staffys can make great pets. They were one of the first breeds coined nanny dogs thanks to their special love of children, says the AKC, and today they’re known to be sweet-natured, family-oriented, and patient with kids. They're also one of the breeds most commonly found in shelters, so adding a pup like this to your family shouldn't be a large expense.
If you have an active family who loves being outdoors and stretching their legs, a vizsla can keep up. The AKC says that, as a hunting breed, they’re likely to form tight bonds with their humans since they want to work closely together. Their intelligence also makes them easy to train, and their popularity in America as a family pet increases each year.
7. Bichon Frise
If all these bigger breeds are too large for your life, consider a Bichon. They’ll need more grooming maintenance than some of the short-haired breeds mentioned here, although they are hypoallergenic, but they’re some of the friendliest toy dogs out there. They especially love learning and performing tricks, per the AKC, so older kids can enjoy training them to do all sorts of things and practice them for years to come.