Best Big Dogs for Kids

By: Orvis Staff

Very few parents get through their kids’ childhoods without recurring—maybe even incessant—requests for a dog. If you’re finally saying “yes” and adding a furry bundle of joy to your family, there are other important questions to answer before heading to the rescue shelter or deciding on a dog breed.

The age of your child should be factored into the decision. Very big, jump-around dogs are not a good match for toddlers who may get knocked around by their furry big sibling. Older children and teens can usually take on more responsibility, but shouldn’t be tasked with minding large, headstrong dog breeds. On the flip side, rambunctious kids can accidentally hurt more fragile small dogs and toy breeds.

Perhaps most importantly, take time to teach your children all about dogs. They should know how to play with dogs respectfully, understand dog body language, and when to give the dog space. After they’ve graduated from Dog Safety 101 comes the fun part—finding your family’s new best friend. Here are some of the best big dog breeds who are gentle and always ready to play a game of fetch.

Kid-Friendly Big Breeds

Labrador Retriever
Photo by Sarah, Berkeley

Labrador Retriever – The classic family dog, the Labrador Retriever makes an excellent playmate for kids. Their sporting breed heritage gives them an abundance of energy, and they will gladly run around the yard with their two-legged siblings morning until night. A good thing, because they need hours of exercise each day. If you’ve got a pool or a lake nearby, these champion web-toed swimmers will splash in the water with your children any time. Even when kids get overly excited, Labs are gentle and maintain their even tempers.

Golden Retriever
Photo by Sasha, Salt Lake City

Golden Retriever – Just behind the Lab in popularity, Goldens have a similar mix of patience and high energy that makes them wonderful companions for kids. They also have a goofy side that children adore. Goldens Retrievers are an irresistible breed and often become popular personalities along their regular walk routes—attracting neighborhood kids with their wagging tails. They revel in the attention and it also keeps them from becoming bored and destructive—a possibility when Goldens are left to their own devices.

Great Dane
Photo by Lilly M, used via CC BY-SA 2.5

Great Dane – Sometimes called the ‘Apollo of Dogs,’ Great Danes have an aristocratic demeanor with a healthy dash of playfulness. The well-trained Great Dane is patient with children and enjoys loping around the backyard with them. When your Great Dane is growing, make sure your kids understand that running too much can lead to bone and joint problems in this large dog. Though generally easygoing, like all breeds, Great Danes can develop bad habits such as jumping on people or pulling during walks. Only families with the time commitment for thorough training and socialization should consider a Great Dane. When well trained, they have the soul of a gentle, affectionate lap dog. Make sure little ones know to resist the temptation to ride your Great Dane like a pony.

Photo by DanDee Shots, used via CC BY 2.0

Newfoundland – The quintessential ‘Nanny Dog,’ Newfies are endlessly patient and gentle with children. They are energetic enough for romps around the back yard, and laid back enough for lengthy snuggles. With their intelligent expressions and abundant coats, Newfoundlands are particularly huggable dogs. The character ‘Nana’ in Peter Pan was a Newfoundland and made Newfies famous as a beloved breed for kids. Of course, no dog should be left in charge of a little one, but Newfies have a kindly, protective quality that parents appreciate.

Great Pyrenees
Photo by Cerie, used via Public Domain

Great Pyrenees – Pyrs are known to follow the children of their family around to keep an eye on them and ensure their safety. The breed is large and imposing in appearance, and they tend to be protective of their pack. Somewhat stubborn and strong-willed, Great Pyrenees require attentive training and socialization so they don’t become bossy or assume strange people and dogs are a threat. Like Newfies, on a one to ten huggability scale, Pyrs are a solid ten. But make sure your kids know to back off when your Pyr needs some space.

Each dog has a unique personality, and temperaments don’t always align with the breed standard. When selecting a dog to bring home to your family, talk to your dog breeder about what you are looking for in a puppy. If you’re getting a rescue dog, look to the shelter employees for guidance. For instance, if you have young kids you probably want a dog who exhibits some courage and equilibrium when things get boisterous.

Making the decision to add a dog to the family is so exciting that people sometimes rush to make it a reality. Take your time and you’ll be rewarded with a dog who is the perfect fit for your family. You can use our Dog Breed Selector to start your search for your family’s perfect dog breed.

2 thoughts on “Best Big Dogs for Kids”

  1. What about an old english sheepdog, i have one and he is grest with kids and people. He goes to 2 assisted livings centers to visit residents every thur. He is my best friend.

  2. Our Bernese was the world’s most gentle and loving girl. They are like extra-large goldens with beautiful tri-color coats.

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