Best small dog breeds for kids

One of the best small dog breeds for kids, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a young girl posing for a portrait
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best small dog breeds for kids are the perfect package, offering plenty of playfulness, patience, love and affection, all wrapped up in one adorable little bundle. 

It’s not always easy choosing the right dog to fit your family and lifestyle and small dogs come with additional challenges. In fact, you may have been warned off getting a small dog because of the potential risks that boisterous children pose to their safety.

But the truth is that all children need to be taught how to behave around all dogs, regardless of the size of the breed, and as long as the youngsters in your family understand the rules of interacting with dogs and follow them, there’s no reason you can’t welcome a small breed into your home.

Some of the most affectionate dog breeds are of small stature and they adore loving and being loved by children. Many thrive on the companionship of the younger members of their family and delight in joining in with their adventures.

Most also have all the best bits of children bundled up inside of them - curiosity, energy, a love of play, and a mischievous streak which means bonds can form quickly and be long-lasting. 

To help you select the right canine companion for your family, here’s our pick of the 10 best small dog breeds for kids…

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more gentle, affectionate and sweet natured little dog than the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and because they’re happy being both active adventurers and couch potatoes, they’ll blend beautifully into any family's lifestyle.

Cavies are great with kids because they have endless patience and a playful nature that makes them a lot of fun. They also love cuddling and if your child is feeling unwell, they’ll be more than content to curl up beside them until they’re back to full health. 

2. Pug

Pug dog sat on sofa

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Charming, mischievous and highly entertaining, the Pug is the class-clown of the canine world and kids always take great delight in their hilarious antics. This is a dog that lives to love and be loved, and the more people around to do that, the better!

Pugs are flexible and adaptable, happy in the city or countryside, with small children and bigger ones, and their delightful natures mean you couldn’t ask for a better family companion. They’re also quiet and have a stable temperament, which makes them a safe dog if there’s a baby in the house.

3. Beagle

Beagle playing with toy on the grass

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With a merry personality that makes them an absolute joy to be around and a loving and friendly temperament, the Beagle makes for an excellent family dog. They’re clever, curious, and energetic too, so they’ll love getting out and about with the kids and having adventures.

This is a highly sociable dog and they’ll slot right into big families - in their minds, the only thing better than three children is five! Vibrant yet calm, the Beagle is in many ways exactly like a child - happy and with a natural love of play. 

4. English Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel lying on bed looking at camera

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With a delightful personality and adorable good looks, the English Cocker Spaniel is a total pocket rocket, bursting with energy and in need of a child or two who they can get outside and run about with. But don’t worry, this little guy knows when it’s appropriate to go crazy and when it’s not and will be perfectly mellow inside the home.

Intelligent and affectionate, the English Cocker Spaniel forms strong bonds with its human family, however it’s worth pointing out that their natural penchant for getting excitable when outside means it’s a good idea to supervise them around small children who may accidentally get bowled over. 

5. Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

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Never without a pep in their step, the Bichon Frise has it all - charm, beauty, intelligence, playfulness and curiosity, which makes them a great family dog. They’re also natural comedians and dole out love like it’s going out of fashion, just more reasons why the happy-go-lucky Bichon Frise makes for a great companion.

This is a dog that loves affection, attention, and spending time with others, and because they’re so active, they make for a great playmate at the park, where they’ll enthusiastically chase after just about anything you throw for them. They’re also a non-shed/low-shed breed, so a great choice if you have a child with allergies.

6. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier

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A bright and lively little dog, the Boston Terrier goes by the nickname the ‘American Gentleman’ thanks to his impeccable manners and his black and white coat that makes him appear to be wearing a tuxedo. 

Kind, curious, and mischievous, these friendly and active dogs get on great with kids and their charming, confident and active natures mean it won’t take long for them to win everyone’s hearts. 

7. French Bulldog

French Bulldog

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The French Bulldog has a highly adaptable nature which means they’ll fit into just about any family, lifestyle or location and because they get on with just about everyone, they’ll have no problems bonding with children. 

While they may be little, this is a pup with high social needs, so they’ll certainly make their presence known! They don’t need a lot of exercise, but they are playful and will enjoy romping about in the backyard with the kids or going on short strolls.  

8. Havanese

Havanese dog outside running towards camera

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With big brown eyes that could melt butter and extroverted natures that make them the life and soul of the party, the happy and comical Havanese is a natural choice if you have children.

This is one dog with strong social skills who’ll lap up the attention of anyone and everyone, and their good-natured disposition means they adapt well to being with children and delight in their companionship and affection. 

9. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu bounding happily across a grassy field

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Outgoing and with a love of mischief, the Shih Tzu is known for being particularly affectionate with children, who they adore. These dogs are friendly, charming and are quite happy to live in apartments or homes with small backyards, so you don’t need a lot of space to keep them happy.

This pup is happy outdoors or indoors (basically wherever the family is!) and love to cuddle up on people’s laps. They were bred specifically to be companions, so it’s little wonder they excel in this area. Tender-hearted and generally docile, the Shih Tzu will make a brilliant addition to your family.

10. American Eskimo Dog

American Eskimo Dog lying on grass

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Loyal, smart and versatile, the stunning American Eskimo Dog is both quick and clever, alert and friendly, and because they’re highly social and eager to please, they’re well suited to family life.

Affectionate and loving, they’re curious and love to play, so they’re the perfect choice for any child looking for a companion to go on adventures with. It’s worth pointing out though that they can become hyperactive and highly strung if they don’t get enough mental and physical stimulation, so this is a dog that needs to be kept busy.

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.