Overall, large dogs tolerate roughhousing better than small dogs do. However, some children may be fearful because of a dog's size, so choose a large dog with the right personality.
By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
"Talk to shelter or rescue workers to get as much information as possible on the dogs in their care," says Jonathan Klein, professional dog trainer and animal behaviorist who runs the L.A. training facility, "I Said Sit!" "And observe the body language of the dog. Stillness, looking away, yawning, or shaking its fur and scratching are all signs of stress. Mixed breeds tend to be stable and healthy because they don't have behavior idiosyncrasies due to overbreeding. These friendly dogs are unique and make great family pets."
Although they are herding dogs, collies will not herd children. They are playful and gentle -- remember how Lassie kept saving Timmy from the well? Collies need exercise and daily brushing. They are great dogs for active families.
Great DanesDespite their size, many Great Danes think they are lap dogs. They love children, are quite protective of their human families, are easy to housebreak, and need very little grooming. They love being played with and brushed. Because of their large size, you do need to keep an eye on them when they're around kids. Great Danes and other large dogs can accidently knock over a small child.
Bernese Mountain Dogs This large breed is quite laid back around children and families. Bernese mountain dogs are a bit standoffish toward strangers. Daily brushings are a good way for your child to bond with the family dog, and if you have other dogs or even cats, a Bernese usually will get along with them.
Labradoodles are a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle. Thanks to their intuitive nature and easy trainability, labradoodles are often used as therapy and service dogs. They are gentle around children and crave attention. The labradoodle's non-shedding coat makes it a great choice for allergy sufferers.
Golden RetrieversWhen their mouths are open wide, they look like they're grinning. Golden retrievers are amiable and extremely friendly to all -- even strangers. Even their bark is more of a "hello" than a threat. As they age, they still have that innocent and playful puppy manner, so obedience training is necessary for a well-behaved dog.
NewfoundlandsNewfoundlands are those big bear-like dogs. They are so friendly that they don't seem to mind when a toddler climbs aboard. While Newfoundlands are incredibly gentle, parents should pay attention to make sure that their kids aren't hurting the family dog. Newfoundlands need a lot of space, some exercise, and daily brushing.
Great PyreneesBred to protect livestock and children, this totally loving dog with a thick fur coat is a splendid family dog. Great Pyrenees are protective and kind around children. They require exercise, large living quarters, and daily brushing.
They're not as tall as Great Danes, but are twice as thick. Thanks to their size, mastiffs make excellent guard dogs, and they are surprisingly affectionate around children. They need exercise, grooming, and lots of attention.
Known for their intelligence, standard poodles are easy to train -- partly because they enjoy pleasing their owners. They need to be groomed, exercised, and doted on.
Michele C. Hollow writes the family-friendly pet blog "Pet News and Views."