If you have children, you might wonder which breeds are the best small dogs for kids. Before you consider a new pet for your family, it is incredibly important that we go over a few imperative notes.
The first and foremost, just because a dog is friendly towards children does not mean you should leave your young child unattended with a dog, nor does it mean you should allow your child to grab, tug, pull, or otherwise mishandle a dog or puppy. Small dogs in particular can face serious injury if squeezed or dropped. Instead, you should teach your kids how to gently interact with dogs of any size or age.
The second important consideration when deciding on the best small dog for your kids is remembering that every dog is different. We base this article off specific breed characteristics. However, not every dog follows those breed characteristics to a tee. The most important consideration when choosing a small dog for your family is remembering that you must train the dog properly to ensure a calm and well-behaved pet, and you must ensure that everyone in the family is on board and giving the dog the correct signals.
For help with training your dog, please see our Dog Savvy Small Dog Training Made Easy course, or our Ask The Trainer for personalized assistance with training.
Without further ado, we give you our picks for the three best small dog breeds for families with children!
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has an excellent background when it comes to breed history, particularly for families looking for lap dogs or emotional support animals. As their name suggests, people bred generation after generation of this dog to create the perfect lap companion for royalty.
The final product of this breeding means a small sized dog that enjoys spending time with people and isn’t shy about climbing up into your lap for a nap. Affectionate and attention-loving, this breed will happily meet the emotional needs of children and adults alike.
With that said, even though this breed enjoys affection and is not shy about “cuddling,” you should always ensure that your pet is comfortable with the type of handling and interaction you are using.
Do not force your dog up into your lap or hold them there while they attempt to leave. Instead, allow the dog to approach you and encourage them to spend time with you by showering them in praise and love, and plenty of belly rubs!
You might begin to detect a trend in our choices with the Shih-Tzu. This breed graced the lap of Chinese royalty. In fact, some royalty considered the breed a sacred animal! Researchers believe that the monks in Tibet bred the Shih-Tzu and presented the breed to Chinese Emperors as gifts.
Even though you can find these charismatic little dogs in Chinese tapestries dating back 2,000 years, North America didn’t receive this breed until the late 1930s. By the 60s, people fell in love, and for good reason! In similar fashion to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, this breed has an innate capacity for affection and attention. Bred as a lapdog, the Shih-Tzu typically enjoys nothing more than spending time with its owner and basking in as much love and praise as possible.
As is the case with any small breed dog, simply because a dog is a “lap dog” doesn’t mean that your individual dog will hold true to this standard. While your puppy is young you must behave calmly and affectionately towards them, handling them carefully and gently to prevent any negative associations between being picked up or held and discomfort occurring. Always treat your dog gently and calmly, and instruct your children to do so as well and you will have a best friend for life.
This breed is another potentially great choice for families, under the right conditions. The Maltese is a little ball of energy, which can make it a great companion for a child.
However, you must teach both the dog and the child how to interact with one another at a young age. Without proper socialization, Maltese have low toleration for nonsense like tail and ear pulling, and can unfortunately learn to snap at anyone who attempts to do so.
Thankfully, if you teach your dog from a young age that children will handle them gently and calmly, they can become wonderful companions. Consequently, you must teach your kids how to interact with the puppy properly and calmly, so that the puppy does not develop any bad habits.
Proper socialization isn’t the only thing you should worry about with a new small breed puppy. Small dogs can develop any number of unwanted behaviors when their owners don’t have the proper tools to train them the right way.
Maltese in particular have a propensity to bark at just about anything when they are not receiving the correct amount of mental stimulation. If you are looking to train your small breed dog or puppy on their basic behaviors, check out our Dog Savvy Small Dog Training Made Easy course.
No Small Dog is Perfect
Some dogs might have a more innate need for affection and attention than others, and some might naturally love the prospect of a nice long nap in your lap. However, no small dog is perfect. Even the “best” breed in the world can pose problems when they are not trained properly or if they have poor socialization, or simply a bad experience.
Thankfully, if you are willing to put your time, effort, and your heart into caring for your dog, they can often become a wonderful companion for you and your kids. With the proper training and a little help from a few hundred years of selective breeding, these dogs might just be the perfect choice for you and your family with some patience and love.