The Worst Dog Breeds for Families With Small Children

Same sex female couple sitting with their son and dog
Thinking of getting a dog but have small children in the house? These are the breeds that you might want to think twice about. |

Thinking of getting a dog? Chances are you’ve given at least some thought to the specific breed you want. Do you want one that’s a good running companion? How about a large dog that will be up for an adventurous lifestyle? Do you want a canine with a specific temperament? Or one that can get along with your whole family, including small children?

Many dogs are great with children. But others don’t adapt well to households with young kids. After all, little humans often show a natural aptitude for scaring and annoying dogs. They stare, move quickly, and often speak (or scream) in high-pitched voices. Most dogs think children are playmates and aren’t figures of authority in the same way adults are. In the interest of ensuring a safe, peaceful coexistence for everybody, you need to know which breeds to avoid when you head to the local humane society. Some breeds are better than others for families with small children.

Let’s be clear. Choosing the “right” breed — or avoiding the “wrong” breed — doesn’t let you off the hook in teaching your children how to safely and respectfully interact with a dog. That’s still an important part of bringing a dog into your household. But you can increase your odds of starting off on the right foot — or paw — by avoiding dog breeds that don’t often gracefully coexist with small children. An individual dog may be an exception. But the breeds ahead are typically more comfortable with adults or older children.

1. Akita

A dog hair specialist prepares an American Akita breed dog's hair at the Budapest Fair Center on February 17, 2012 during the first international dog exhibition and racing of this year organized by the Hungarian Kennel Club.
Akitas are guard dogs who might go too far in an attempt to protect your family. | Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images

Akitas are known to be great family companions. But they are guard dogs, which means they have generations of instinct to serve as their family protector. An Akita will react to anything or anyone perceived as a threat. Akitas don’t like to be teased and don’t react well to children outside of the family. That can be problematic when your children have play dates with their friends. If you’re set on getting an Akita, keep in mind it’s best to get a puppy who will be raised around kids, instead of expecting an adult dog to suddenly tolerate children’s behavior and noise level. And keep in mind some Akitas who grew up without any contact with children don’t readily accept them

2. Alaskan malamute

Alaskan malamute
Alaskan malamutes are difficult to train and too powerful for small children. | Olivier Morin/AFP/Getty Images

Alaskan malamutes are great dogs for people who love the outdoors. But they can be difficult both to train and to live with. They become rambunctious and bored without sufficient physical exercise or challenging activities. Even Alaskan malamute puppies are large and powerful. And they have the tendency to play extremely rough, which is less than ideal if you have small children in the house. Additionally, Alaskan malamutes are extremely possessive of their food, which can lead to some dangerous situations if your child approaches while the dog is eating. They’re also known for pulling and even breaking their leashes. So if you want a dog your child can walk with you, an Alaskan malamute shouldn’t be your first choice. 

3. Australian shepherd

Australian shepherd
Australian shepherd | Miguel Villagran/Getty Images

Australian shepherds are herding dogs. That is great if you have sheep — but not so much if you have small children. These dogs can be good with children if they’re raised with kids. But because of their herding instincts, many try to nip at children’s heels when they run. Most Australian shepherds can be trained to stop this behavior. But a few don’t grow out of the tendency and will need to be carefully watched when they’re in the same area as running, playing children. Herding dogs, including Australian shepherds, are often difficult to train and handle. They need be physically active and mentally challenged, and if you don’t address instinctual behaviors, those behaviors can get out of control.

4. Bullmastiff

Jack Russell closer to a bullmastiff.
Bullmastiffs are sweet and love attention, but because of their huge stature they can easily hurt small children (and smaller dogs). |

Bullmastiffs are gigantic dogs, which is a pretty good reason all on its own that they aren’t ideal for families with small children. They are surprisingly agile given their size. But they can still unintentionally hurt small children who get in their way. Bullmastiffs are also difficult even for adults to control, so they aren’t a good choice if your child wants to help walk the dog. They like to please and crave attention, but they’re so big that even a well-intentioned nudge can end up hurting small children. 

5. Chihuahua

A Chihuahua dog owner presents his dressed up pet during the 'Run of the Chihuahuas' annual race in Washington on May 4, 2013. The annual Chihuahua race marks the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo celebrated on May 5. (Photo by Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images)
Small children easily agitate Chihuahuas. | Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

Chihuahuas are notoriously feisty and can even get aggressive. That means if you have small children, a Chihuahua might not be the right dog for you. If you get a puppy, a Chihuahua can be trained to coexist with children. But kids also need to be taught the correct way to interact with the dog. Chihuahuas are small and easy to injure if you handle them incorrectly. Even petting such a small dog with too much force can cause injuries. Many Chihuahuas don’t tolerate rambunctious children, and some will even get agitated simply when children are running around in their vicinity. 

6. Chow chow

A Chow Chow
A chow chow | Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images

Chow chows are sturdy dogs, which might be appealing if you have an active young family. But they aren’t the best dogs for children. They are naturally reserved and aloof, which means they aren’t as cuddly and playful as their appearance might imply. Typical kid behaviors, such as yelling, running around, and trying to manhandle the dog, can trigger aggression in chow chows. As with any dog, a chow needs to be adequately socialized to get along with your family. But they’re more difficult to train than most breeds. And many aren’t equipped with the skills to cope appropriately with children. 

7. English toy spaniel

cute dog on a table, avoid bad foods for dogs
The English toy spaniel is usually a good-tempered dog — just not around small children. |

English toy spaniels are smaller and quieter than many other spaniels, which might make them sound like an attractive choice. Although it’s true these dogs are generally good-tempered and amenable to cuddling, they are also easily overwhelmed by children and the stressful situations they create. English toy spaniels don’t tolerate rough handling. And even though they need a great deal of companionship — which might sound good if there’s almost always somebody at home in your household — they just aren’t very child-friendly dogs.

8. Greyhound

Greyhound at Alhaurin de la Torre dog shelter
Greyhound at a dog shelter | Jorge Guerrero/Getty Images

Greyhounds are calm, quiet, and slender dogs. They’re known for being the fastest dog breed in the world. But they aren’t always a good match for families with small children. These dogs prefer peace and quiet and might not do well in a loud household. Most freeze when challenged or threatened. But sometimes, they become defensive and protective of their space. They also have a strong instinct to chase anything else that runs (which sometimes might include your child). Greyhounds are emotionally sensitive to stress and changes in their schedule. So a hectic household might not be the best fit. And greyhounds have skin that tears easily, so accidental run-ins with active children or falling toddlers could hurt both parties involved. 

9. Jack Russell terrier

Jack Russell terrier
Jack Russell terrier | Franck Prevel/Getty Images

Another small dog that’s less toddler-friendly than you might assume? The Jack Russell terrier. These terriers are small and adorable, but they typically do better in families with older children than those with infants or toddlers. That’s because a Jack Russell’s rambunctious temperament can easily overwhelm young children. Fortunately, older kids will find this terrier a great playmate. So if you have your heart set on a Jack Russell, you can just wait until your children are old enough to understand the dog’s behavior and appreciate his companionship. They make great family dogs when raised alongside your kids. Just wait until your children are firmly out of the toddler stage before bringing one home.

10. Pekingese

Malachy, a Pekingese, after winning Best in Show during the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Annual Dog Show held at Madison Square Garden February 14, 2012. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
Your kids might be fascinated by a Pekingese, but their interest won’t be reciprocated. | Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The Pekingese is a small dog that might look fascinating to small kids. But this dog isn’t a good companion for a young child. That’s because toddlers can unintentionally treat this small dog roughly, and the dog isn’t going to tolerate such behavior for long. In fact, a Pekingese who’s poked or prodded by even a well-meaning child will quickly defend himself. These dogs are also possessive of their toys and food. And they want a lot of attention. That means they can become resentful of small children who take the focus away from them. 

11. Rottweiler

A Rottweiler competes in the Westminster Dog Show on February 11, 2014 in New York City. The annual dog show has been showcasing the best dogs from around world for the last two days in New York. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Rottweilers are extremely protective, which can backfire when small children are involved. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Rottweilers are extremely protective dogs. That sounds great, but it might backfire if you have small children in your household. A child who is laughing and screaming while playing, for instance, might seem to be in danger to a Rottweiler. That means Rottweilers might take unnecessary measures to protect the child from a friend or family member, and that won’t end well. They’re large dogs and can be clumsy in their adolescence. They also have a tendency to lean against people in an attempt to herd them. Plus, Rottweilers can become defensive in the presence of energetic children and might even attack a child who’s screaming and running away from the dog. 

12. Saint Bernard

Saint Bernard rescue dog in Zermatt
Saint Bernards are so big they can inadvertently hurt small children. |

If you know anything about Saint Bernards, you’re probably aware they’re giant dogs (who drool a lot). They are usually calm and patient animals. But they’re often unaware of their size. Thanks to their gargantuan stature, they aren’t a great fit for families with small children. Any large dog can inadvertently knock over a child — a problem you wouldn’t have with a smaller dog. Saint Bernard puppies can be taught to be a respectful part of a human family. An older Saint Bernard who isn’t used to being handled won’t be friendly or suitable for children. But if you do opt for a Saint Bernard puppy, it’s important to start training when the dog is small and easy to control.

13. Shih Tzu

A Shih Tzu
A Shih Tzu | Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

Shih Tzus are small and cute, so they might seem like a great choice for families with small children. But not everybody agrees. Some Shih Tzu breeders refuse to sell puppies to families with preschool-age children. That’s because while Shih Tzus like children, they’re notorious for darting around, chewing on shoelaces, and tripping up even agile adults who understand why puppies behave the way they do.

If a child trips over a puppy, both the child and the dog can be injured. In fact, that’s why the Shih Tzu breeders who do sell puppies to families with young children advise that those children sit on the floor when playing with the puppy. Young Shih Tzus’ temperaments can be negatively affected by the way young children play. So if you’re set on getting a Shih Tzu for your family, it might be wise get an older dog (or a larger breed). 

14. Siberian husky

Two Siberian huskies being walked
Siberian huskies are great dogs — just not for families with small children. | Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

Siberian huskies are rugged and beautiful dogs that are great companions for active people who love the outdoors. But like the Alaskan malamute, a Siberian husky isn’t an ideal fit for families with small children. These dogs play rough, even when they’re young. If allowed to roughhouse, a husky can inadvertently nip or even bite while playing with your child. They can unintentionally hurt infants. So despite their even temperaments, huskies aren’t great companions for young or small children. 

15. Weimaraner

A Weimaraner waits to compete in the Westminster Dog Show
A Weimaraner waits to compete in the Westminster Dog Show. | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Weimaraners are famously intelligent dogs. They need rigorous training and an owner who can take charge. And they can be loyal companions for everybody in your family. Without enough physical exercise, they can become too rambunctious to safely play with small children. In fact, young Weimaraners generally aren’t recommended for households with small kids because of their tendency to bounce and play too roughly. If you want the dog to get along with kids, a Weimaraner either needs to be raised with your kids or slowly (and safely) acclimated to them.