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Which Small Dogs Are Good Family Pets?

Most adults recall their first family dog. Bruno or Buddy was a cherished member of the family and as a parent, it’s likely you want your child to experience the same love and care for a family pet. Small dogs are good family pets, especially with young children who are just learning how to love and care for living beings.

“There are many dog breeds -- and mixed breeds -- that work well as family pets,” says Dr. Patrick Mahaney, a Los Angeles veterinarian. “In general, I suggest breeds that exude a calm energy and are small-to-medium breeds.”

Choose the perfect small dog to join your clan armed with recommendations from pet experts.

French Bulldog

A brachicephalic breed, the French bulldog is a family-friendly and outgoing pooch, says Mahaney. “The compact size and affectionate nature makes the French bulldog a great apartment dog for city living, too,” he says.

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The Maltese has kept its small stature despite hundreds of years of breeding, says Mahaney. If your family is in search of a pint-size pooch, Mahaney recommends this intelligent and gentle breed with a non-shedding white coat as the perfect pick.

Chinese Pug

If you have an energetic toddler who loves to play dress up, a Chinese pug may be a good fit for your family. “These dogs are very good with children and love people in general,” says Dr. Jan Huntingford, Ontario-based small animal veterinarian. “They like to dress up, so for little girls who want to put clothes on the dog, they are perfect.” Chinese pugs have a lot of energy, but they are smart and quick learners who don’t mind being pulled around by excited toddlers, adds Huntingford.

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This crossbred dog is a great mix of miniature schnauzer and miniature poodle and is great for families. “They tend to love people and children and will play endlessly,” Huntingford says. “They have a lot of energy, are very intelligent and love to go for walks.” This affectionate mix will keep up with an active family on busy days and cuddle during downtime.


If you have an active young boy, a beagle is a likely candidate as his canine companion. Beagles are generally affectionate and love children, says Huntingford. “They adapt well to life in the city or country and are very interested in their surroundings.” Huntingford warns, though, that these trusty companions, require training to control howling or digging.


A low-maintenance option for a small family pooch would be a dachshund. These friendly companions require little grooming and have a low incidence of allergic skin disease, says Bruce Coston, a veterinarian in Woodstock, Virginia, and author of “The Gift of Pets.” “They are usually good-natured, hardy and live a long time,” he says. Watch out for obesity, though, with this breed, warns Coston. No table scraps for Fritz.

Bichon Frise

A popular choice, the bichon frise is known for longevity and a friendly personality. “They are good with kids and generally have low shedding,” says Coston. Although some grooming is necessary, this breed is typically a low-maintenance option for families, Coston says.


If your family wants affection, shelties are up to the task. This breed is engaging, loving and devoted, says Coston. “They are great with kids and neighborhood children, too,” he says. Make sure, though, that the family is devoted to grooming with a sheltie around since your pooch will require daily brushing, adds Coston.

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