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The Best 17 Small and Medium Dog Breeds for Families With Kids

January 19, 2022

The Best 17 Small and Medium Dog Breeds for Families With Kids - DJANGO Dog Blog

Looking for a small or medium-sized dog for you and your family? You may have been told that smaller dogs and youngsters do not mix—that tiny dogs can be fragile, yappy, or even snappy. Truth is, there are plenty of small and medium dog breeds that make amazing, loving companions for families with babies, small children, and older kids.

In this DJANGO Dog Blog article, we round up the top 17 small and medium dog breeds for families. We hope this helps you find the perfect pup for your family!

1. AMERICAN COCKER SPANIEL

American Cocker Spaniels have big dark eyes, soft beautiful expressions, long lush ears, and thick wavy coats. Standing 14-16 inches high and weighing 15-31 lbs, Cocker Spaniels are the AKC’s smallest sporting spaniel. As long as they get regular exercise, American Cocker Spaniels thrive in rural, city, and suburban settings. These medium-sized dogs are intelligent, affectionate, and gentle family companions. They love being around kids and tend to put themselves in the thick of the action. They also make great therapy dogs for children with special needs. While American Cocker Spaniels are primarily companion dogs, they are easily trained for agility, flyball, hunting tests, obedience, and tracking events.

American Cocker Spaniels can occasionally be nervous, and some may even pee when excited. Because they are sensitive dogs, American Cocker Spaniels do not respond well to harsh scolding or physical correction. They may bite or growl when they are afraid or in pain. With proper training, American Cocker Spaniels are friendly toward strangers and other pets. They need a brisk, 30-minute walk or fun brain games to keep trim and healthy. Because American Cocker Spaniels are bird dogs at heart, they may try to chase small animals during a walk. Keep them on a high-quality dog leash when you are not in a fenced-in area.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - American Cocker Spaniel

2. AMERICAN ESKIMO DOG

American Eskimo Dogs, affectionately known as Eskies, have thick, snow-white coats with lion-like manes; smiling faces, with black or dark brown eye-rims, noses, and lips; and heavily plumed tails that curl over their backs. American Eskimo Dogs are actually a German breed and part of the Spitz family. They come in three sizes—toy, miniature, and standard—and can average 9 to 19 inches in dog height (floor to shoulder). Despite their small stature, they need vigorous physical exercise and stimulating brain games.

Eskies were bred to be multi-purpose working farm dogs. For this reason, they are naturally wary of strangers and tend to bark excessively, often in a high-pitched voice. But these spunky, clever, and mischievous pups are fiercely loyal to their families. Because American Eskimo Dogs are eager to please and love to be in the spotlight, they are also easy to train and great with children. But they are not above manipulating their owners to get what they want — whether it is a second dinner or extra dog treats.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - AMERICAN ESKIMO DOG

3. BASSET HOUND

Basset Hounds are sociable and low-key dogs with an incredible sense of smell (second only to Bloodhounds!). These hound dogs were originally bred for hunting and are known for their stout legs, big head, floppy ears, and forlorn look in their eyes. Although Basset Hounds need moderate activity to maintain a healthy weight, these dogs will happily sleep throughout the day once they've had a chance to stretch their legs. Despite their moderate to large size at 40-60 lbs, Basset Hounds' pleasant disposition, chill personality, and friendly nature make them excellent with strangers, kids, and other family pets.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Basset Hound

4. BEAGLE

Beagles are happy, lovable, and gentle hound dogs known for their square-cut nose, big beautiful eyes, and excellent sense of smell. Due to their gentle demeanor and small stature, they are easily one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and Canada.

Beagles have an easy-going and tolerant nature, so they are great around kids. While they do not make good guard dogs, they will spring into action if their owners and other family members are in danger. Beagles were bred for long hunts and have incredible stamina. They also make wonderful adventure companions and will keep up on the trails with ease. But they are determined scent hounds and may follow their noses (instead of your orders) if not leashed on the trail.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Beagle

5. BOSTON TERRIER

Boston Terriers are moderate-sized dogs, weighing no more than 25 lbs and with an average height of 15-17 inches. They have a sociable, happy, and curious disposition and are great with children. They will always be down to explore city streets, parks, and trails at your side. Did you know that Boston Terriers were (unsurprisingly) named for the city of Boston? As the American Kennel Club elaborates, "It’s a safe bet that a breed named for a city—the Havanese or Brussels Griffon, for instance—will make an excellent urban pet. Bostons are no exception."

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Boston Terrier

6. BULLDOG

Bulldogs are medium-sized dogs weighing up to 50 lbs and averaging 14-15 inches in height. Although Bulldogs are known for their stocky, muscular, and even intimidating appearance, they are an incredibly friendly, calm, and lovable dog breed. Because they are watchful, loyal, and protective of children, Bulldogs are often called “nanny dogs”. They will tolerate more tugging and pulling from curious children than other small and medium dog breeds on our list. Their calm and laid-back disposition also makes them wonderful apartment pets. With that said, do not mistake their chill demeanor for low energy. Bulldogs love being out and about and need routine exercise to keep them fit and healthy.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Bulldog

7. CAIRN TERRIER

Cairn Terriers are intelligent, fearless, and cheerful dogs originally bred in the British Isle of Skey and in the Scottish Highlands to hunt mice and rats in barns. Weighing no more than 18 lbs and standing 13 inches tall, they can wriggle into burrows and rocky passages after vermin. Cairn Terriers also tend to be southpaws and their well-padded front feet are larger than their back ones.

Cairn Terriers make excellent apartment dogs, happy travelers, and family companions. They thrive on attention from their loved ones and are unhappy being alone for long hours during the day. While they are kid-friendly, they can be bossy and scrappy toward other family pets. Cairn Terriers need long daily walks or vigorous play to keep them happy and healthy.

With a stubborn and independent streak, Cairn Terriers will challenge your authority. You will need to make rules and reward them with toys and treats for positive behaviors. It is downright impossible to stop Cairn Terriers from barking at larger dogs or chasing squirrels or rabbits. For that reason, they should be walked on a leash in public places and only allowed to run free in a fenced-in yard.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Cairn terrier

8. CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other King Charles mixed dog breeds, particularly Cavapoos and Cavashons, are gentle, affable, and easy-going dogs. Although they love a good romp in the dog park, these dogs are also fantastic lap dogs and will happily cuddle or nap by your side for hours on end.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are incredibly sociable and do well around kids and other household pets. This makes them great city pups and family dogs. Their smaller size at 13-18 pounds and disinclination to bark a lot also make them low-maintenance apartment dwellers and easy travel companions.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Cavalier king charles spaniel

9. DACHSHUND

Dachshunds are playful, athletic, intelligent, fearless, and very stubborn. Standard dachshunds (16 to 32 lbs) were originally bred to hunt badgers. These doxies would burrow into the ground-dwelling animals' holes and force them out of their homes. Miniature dachshunds (<11 lbs) were bred to hunt smaller ground-dwelling game, including rabbits and mice.

Despite their long and low-riding frame, dachshunds are incredibly muscular and athletic. They are very loyal dogs and will happily follow their owner down any hiking trail. Although miniature dachshunds' short legs may tire sooner than yours, these smaller sausage dogs are light enough to carry or wear in a dog carrier bag or doggy backpack when they need a few minutes to catch their breath.

Kid-friendly? Absolutely! If introduced early, wiener dogs are good with kids in their own families (though they may dislike your child’s friends). Mike and I (Steph) have a long-haired sausage dog, Django. When we brought our son William home for the first time, Django freaked out for 3 weeks (full story here!). He would nip at our baby's pajama-covered feet or shriek if we went into another room with his baby brother. But now, Django and "Lil Bro" (pictured below) are best buds. Every afternoon when William gets out of daycare, he asks, “Do you have Django in the car?”

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Dachshund 

10. FRENCH BULLDOG

French Bulldogs are friendly, mild-mannered, and smart dogs perfectly suited for apartment and city life. They are also one of the most popular small dog breeds for city inhabitants. Aside from being absolutely adorable, French Bulldogs are great with toddlers and young children. Their calm disposition and disinclination to bark excessively make them wonderful household dogs, especially if you have neighbors living above or below you. Frenchies' smaller stature — they typically weigh no more than 25-28 lbs — also means that they don't take up a huge amount of space and are incredibly easy to tote around town.

One important thing to know before getting a French Bulldog is that they can be prone to breathing difficulties and overheating in certain environments. Frenchies are a flat-faced dog breed. Due to the narrow shape of their nostril openings and tracheas, they are more prone to difficulty breathing and/or heatstroke in hot and humid weather. For these reasons, it is always important to make sure your Frenchie has access to air conditioning when it is above 85°F.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - French Bulldog

11. HAVANESE

Havanese are small (7-13 lbs), intelligent, and spirited dogs with a friendly and social disposition. They are velcro dogs and would rather sit in their owner’s lap than any other seat in the house. Havanese dogs adore children of all ages and will become fiercely attached to them. Although they can keep up during adventures and outdoor excursions, they are not overly energetic or excitable. They do nicely with modest daily exercise and in smaller residences.

Havanese dogs' small stature and disinclination to bark excessively make them wonderful city dwellers and travel partners. Because they get very attached to their human companions, Havanese dogs should not be left alone all day.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Havanese

12. MALTESE AND MALTIPOO

Maltese dogs are a toy dog breed known for their gentle and affectionate disposition and long, silky hair. Their petite stature and adaptable nature make them wonderful apartment and city pets. Maltese are also fiercely loyal to their families and follow them like a shadow. While they are a kid-friendly dog breed, they are most suitable for older children. Weighing a max of 8 pounds when fully grown, Maltese are very fragile and can be easily injured by toddlers and young children.

Maltipoos are a cross between Maltese dogs and Toy or Miniature Poodles. They tend to inherit both the gentle disposition of their Maltese ancestors and the energy of their Poodle relatives. Routine, modest exercise will keep your Maltipoo happy and healthy.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Maltese

13. MINIATURE SCHNAUZER

Standing 12-14 inches tall and tipping the scale at 20 lbs, Miniature Schnauzers have warm and spunky personalities. They are famous for their walrus-like beards and expressive eyebrows. Miniature Schnauzers are wonderful with kids of all ages and will protect them. While they are extroverted and independent, Miniature Schnauzers are wary of strangers. They easily adapt to city or country life as long as they get an hour of exercise every day.

If a Miniature Schnauzer chooses you as his favorite person, he will always want to touch you or be near you. Miniature Schnauzers are also dig-into-the-sand stubborn and they will pretend they cannot hear you if they are bored. They tend to bark at larger dogs without worrying about the consequences and chase after smaller animals. This swagger can get them into big trouble, so it is up to you to keep them on a leash.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Mini schnauzer

14. PUG

Pugs are loving, loyal, and mischievous dogs that make wonderful family companions and city pets. Although Pugs have a muscular and stocky body, they are rarely aggressive and do very well with small children and kids. They are also very adaptable to their surrounding environment and will easily thrive in both city and suburban settings.

Pugs need regular exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Akin to French Bulldogs, Pugs are a brachycephalic dog breed.  They are prone to breathing difficulties and/or heatstroke after excessive exercise or time spent in hot and humid weather. For these reasons, make sure your Pug does not get overheated and always has access to air conditioning during the hottest summer months.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - pugs

15. SHETLAND SHEEPDOG

Shetland Sheepdogs are highly intelligent (they rank for intelligence in the top 10 of all dog breeds), energetic, and vocal herding dogs originally bred in the Shetland Islands of Scotland. They are eager to learn, eager to please their owners, and typically very obedient relative to other dog breeds. Shelties also have sensitive and sweet personalities, and they are ideal for families with older kids. They are protective of all family members and will bark a lot when people or animals enter their territories. Shelties are also good medical alert, service, and therapy dogs. Their athleticism, endurance, and obedience make them an ideal adventure dog.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Shetland Sheepdog

16. SHIH TZU

Shih Tzus are small and sturdy dogs. They are known for their outgoing and alert temperament and beautiful, flowing, and silky locks. Although Shih Tzus are incredibly loyal to their dog owners, they are also extremely social. They will gladly curl up against a stranger if it means getting a few extra cuddles in!

Due to their level-headed and loving personalities, they are great companions for babies, toddlers, and young children. Their small size and easy-going nature also make them wonderful apartment and city dogs. Like dachshunds, they can be prone to stubbornness. For this reason, they need routine training at an early age to prevent disobedience later in life.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Shih Tzu

17. WHIPPET

Dubbed the “the poor man’s racehorse," Whippets were created in the mid-19th-century by crossing various terriers with small English Greyhounds. Whippets were originally bred to hunt rabbits for sport in the arena and kill small vermin. They are medium-sized dogs weighing 18-48 lbs and averaging 21-22 inches in height. While Whippets can sprint up to 35 miles per hour, they are not a hyperactive dog breed if they can run in a fenced yard or an off-leash dog beach

These intelligent, affectionate, and gentle sighthounds make great apartment dogs, travel companions, and neighbors. While Whippets rarely bark, they are excellent watchdogs. They will tell you when someone is at the door, but they are not good guard dogs. Whippets treat encounters with strangers and other dogs as a chance to make new friends. They become very attached to their families and love being around children of all ages. While Whippets are easy to potty train, they are not amused by the idea of going outside in cold, wet, or snowy weather. Whippets have short, dense fur and very little body fat, so they need a high-quality dog coat to help them stay warm.

Best small and medium dog breeds for families with kids - Whippet

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