Adopting a dog or cat is an exciting experience for a family. There’s no doubt that the kids will have lots of ideas about what they want their new best friend to be like. Whether they’re cuddly or playful: kids will think about a pet as a new best friend and a new member of the family. They want them to be perfect in every way.
Of course, you want the new pet to be the perfect companion for your children, too. Learn about the traits of different breeds and empower yourself to choose the most appropriate pet for your family.
What Makes a Dog or Cat Kid-Friendly?
Finding the perfect pet for your family starts with understanding what, exactly, makes a dog or cat breed right for kids. It starts with temperament: what are the personality traits of the breed? This includes the breed’s attitude toward high activity and loud noises, its tendency toward aggression and its patience with young children’s heavy petting, among other things. In addition, some breeds are more protective of children, which could be an issue if your child has lots of friends visiting who are unfamiliar to the animal. Other breeds are hypoallergenic and perfect for kids with allergies.
It’s also important to consider the size and energy levels of a cat or dog. Will your child react better to a pet that’s full of energy and loves to play, or one that would more often prefer cuddling on their lap? Kid-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean a lap dog or cat; many large dogs are just as good at being companion animals.
To help with your decision, meeting the dog or cat in person is essential. Ask the shelter or breeder questions about the animal’s behavior with its siblings (if it’s a puppy or kitten) or with other shelter animals or a previous family (if it’s a rescue). Consider whether you want to train a puppy or kitten or if you’d rather a pet that’s already been trained with kids.
The Best Dogs for Kids
Based on these qualities, here are the most kid-friendly dogs for your family:
- Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever
One of the best dogs for kids is also the most common breed in the U.S. for five years running: the Labrador Retriever. Loving and playful, loyal and very intelligent, Labs are wonderful dogs for families with kids. They have high energy levels but are quick learners when it comes to training, so they’ll understand their boundaries around children and how to react to kids’ accidental roughness. They’re people-oriented and a great companion for every member of the family.
The Golden Retriever, another popular breed, is just as friendly toward families with children of all ages. These dogs are easy to train and want to make their families happy. Their obedience is why they’re often trained as service dogs. They have lots of energy to play for hours with young kids but are gentle and sweet natured. If your kids dream of running around a yard with a frisbee playing fetch with their dog, the Golden Retriever is the perfect breed.
Poodles, both miniature and standard, are extremely intelligent dogs that learn behaviors and skills easily. Their different sizes mean you can choose the right one for your living arrangement. Fuzzy and confident, they’ll be a fixture of personality in your home. Both sizes of Poodles are obedient and fun, making them great with kids.
Despite their loud barks, Beagles are a calm breed and small enough for responsible kids to carry. Your children will fall for their floppy ears and adorable attitude. They’re outdoor dogs who love to walk and explore. And, with their seemingly limitless energy, they might just tire your kids out.
For calm households looking for a dog that just wants to hang out and be loved, Bulldogs are a fantastic pet. They’re not easily deterred by the rough hands of young children and they’re small enough for any living situation. Plus, their calm demeanor makes them an excellent choice for homes with other dogs or cats.
The Most Kid-Friendly Cats
The best cats for families with kids are:
- American Shorthair
Ragdoll cats are adorable furry pets that will love cuddling with kids and calmly relaxing while they play or watch TV. They have a tendency to lay limply—like a ragdoll—when you hold them, and are generally friendly and laid back. Don’t mistake them for bored; they don’t require constant attention but they’re exceedingly loving to people.
Abyssinian cats are playful, fun cats for energetic kids. They’re a very friendly breed with a willingness to learn that makes them easier than most to train. They’ll entertain themselves, exploring high up places like cabinets and shelves. Children will love their affectionate attitude and funny antics.
One of the friendliest breeds of cat is the Birman. Furry and loving, Birmans are ideal pets for families with young children or other pets. Their patience makes them comfortable around kids who are just learning how to behave toward a pet. They aren’t as energetic as other breeds but they are quite social and love to be around people.
Himalayans are good choices for families with children. A quiet indoor cat, they enjoy relaxing with people and playing an occasional game with the kids. They love their families and readily show affection. These cats are perfect for children because they are gentle, patient and enjoy playing and cuddling alternately.
The American Short hair is a breed that’s adjustable to many living situations and very well behaved. They love their families without crying for attention and are happy to relax on the couch or in their bed. Their gentle disposition and loving personality make them great pets for children of all ages. They also get along well with other cats and dogs and can be trained easily.
A dog or cat is a wonderful companion for kids and adults alike. Learn about the different kid-friendly breeds so that you can choose the pet that will best fit into your household and create the most loving addition to your family.
- “Best Dog Breeds for Children.” American Kennel Club, AKC.
- “Top 10 Cat Breeds for Kids.” Chewy, Chewy, Inc., 7 June 2018.