Getting your first dog is one of the most exciting imaginable events.
This is absolutely not the sort of decision to make on a whim, though. In the best scenario, a healthy dog could live to the age of 15 or more, so you’ll be devoting a good chunk of your life to keeping him fit, healthy, and exercised.
As such, it’s vital to take the time to think about what you want – and more importantly what you don’t want – in a fur baby.
Maybe you already have some idea about what you want from a dog, but if you have no idea what you’re looking for, bear in mind that some breeds are much better geared toward first-time owners.
Now, breed is not the only relevant factor when you’re comparing dogs, but it’s certainly a solid baseline to work from when you’re determining the most appropriate pet for your lifestyle.
I. Breed Matters But It’s Not All-Important
One of the most common and unfortunate mistakes new owners make is seizing upon the latest fashionable breed without assessing whether it makes a smooth fit. Just because a toy puppy looks cute in Kylie Jenner’s arms, that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you.
Different dog breeds have evolved in line with very specific needs and goals. A lapdog and a hunting dog will obviously have dramatically different energy levels, and they are also very different in terms of temperament.
While many breed traits are hardwired into canines, all dogs are different despite these genetic influences. While dog DNA informs the overall trainability of your dog as well as his tolerance of strangers, you can get around many of these traits with the right nurturing and effective behavioral training.
So, the breed of the dog will give you a decent starting point. From here, you can dive deeper into whether or not the dog in question looks right for your home.
To help guide you, we’ve curated a list of the top 20 dogs best suited to new owners. Equally important, we’ve compiled 10 breeds best avoided by first-time owners, for a variety of reasons we’ll highlight below.
Before we give you a rundown of the most suitable and least suitable breeds for new owners, where do mixed breeds fall on the spectrum?
II. How About Mixed-Breed Dogs for First-Time Owners?
There is nothing wrong with mixed-breed dogs, and they often make a smart choice for first-time dog owners.
Many senior mixed breed dogs end up in K-9 shelters. Opting for one of these elderly furballs gives you the benefit of a fully trained dog with established behavioral habits.
Fancy a younger dog? A mixed breed puppy might not be the first choice for many visitors heading to an animal shelter to adopt a dog, but they make wonderful and loving pets.
As a rough guideline, most mixed breeds tend to lack the extreme behavioral tendencies of their parents, but this is not always the case.
One thing worth bearing in mind is that there is more uncertainty when you’re buying a mixed breed dog. While extreme genetic tendencies usually average out, sometimes an adverse trait from one parent can be magnified in a mixed-breed pup. With purebreds, things are more clear-cut and you know what you’re getting yourself into.
All dog owners have different needs and goals. If, for instance, you plan to take your dog to competitive agility events or you’re looking for a working dog to take hunting, you may find yourself at a drawback with a mixed-breed dog. For most reasonable purposes, though, it’s well worth considering a mongrel.
Bottom line, mixed-breed dogs are a mixed bag, all the more so if the parents are unknown. Predicting the behavior of a new mixed-breed puppy, then, is much more challenging than when you’re buying a purebred dog.
To that end, we’ll help you start firming up your decision by showcasing 20 of the most fitting breeds for new owners.
III. 20 Best Dogs for First-Time Owners
- Great Dane
- Labrador Retriever
- Shi Tzus
- King Charles Spaniel
- Golden Retriever
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- Bichon Frise
- Yorkshire Terrier
- American Staffordshire Terrier
- Basset Hound
Weighing an average of 65 pounds, greyhounds are lean and rangy dogs with extremely high activity levels. Don’t consider this breed if you don’t have the time or inclination to head out for regular lengthy walks.
Greyhounds are highly independent dogs, so they make a great choice if you’re always crunched for time and need a dog that fits in around your lifestyle rather than always yapping at your heels.
In terms of personality, greyhounds are very soft, sweet, and lovable. While they can be fiercely solitary dogs, they also enjoy engaging.
Do not underestimate the amount of exercise a greyhound needs, but remember that they’ll also happily snuggle up on your lap when you’re relaxing with a good movie.
A noteworthy point about this breed in closing: greyhounds typically bond with one specific family member. This renders them a smart bet for seniors living alone, as long as it’s possible to cater for their exercise needs, of course.
2) Great Dane
Great Danes are comically large, weighing anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds and standing a foot high.
These huge hounds are very laid-back and they’re always keen for a cuddle.
The sheer size of this breed combined with their propensity to drool can be off-putting. If you get past this initial barrier and you don’t mind footing a significant food bill, a Dane is pretty easy to look after.
We would recommend this breed for apartment dwellers, Despite their significant sizes, Great Danes have fairly low energy levels. They are more than happy to relax at home base as long as they can stretch their legs throughout the day.
This dog has a short and easily-manageable coat. Danes require minimal upkeep overall and make ideal first-time dogs.
3) Labrador Retriever
While labs are affectionate and filled with energy, this breed shouldn’t overwhelm you as a new owner.
Labrador retrievers consistently feature in the most popular American breeds.
One thing you need to be aware of is the dramatically differing energy levels between pet labs and labradors bred for hunting. The latter require far more exercise, so make sure you choose accordingly.
Whichever type of lab takes your fancy, you’ll need to walk this breed frequently while also ensuring they get plenty of vigorous exercise thrown in. From hiking and running to playing catch or fetch, labs can’t get enough of the great outdoors. As such, they can be beneficial for improving your own health and fitness as a result of these regular outings.
With short, thick coats, you can expect a fair amount of shedding from this breed. Weighing from 55 to around 80 pounds, these beefy pups stand from 20 to 25 inches tall.
If you want a super-smart and pretty low-maintenance dog, consider a lab as long as you’re ready to deal with those supercharged activity levels.
Whippets were bred for racing, but this breed is equally comfortable lounging on the couch.
While you cannot necessarily trust a whippet off the leash outdoors, they make superb pets for apartment dwellers. With medium energy levels, there’s no need to go over the top with exercise. Whippets love a quick sprint, but they’re not build for endurance or stamina.
With extremely short coats, you shouldn’t be bothered by too much dog hair throughout the house. If you live somewhere with a cooler climate, you might want to consider a dog jacket for the cooler months.
Small and lightweight, whippets weigh just 25 to 40 pounds, but they’re quite tall at 18 to 21 inches.
5) Shi Tzu
Shi Tzus have an amusing name and a remarkably cute nature.
If you have kids at home, one of these puppies would make a wonderful addition to the household.
It helps if you’re laid-back yourself since this breed is reasonably demanding, always alert and embracing activity.
These are manageable dog, but they require a reasonable amount of grooming to tame that long coat.
Dinky dogs weighing no more than about 15 pounds and standing just 10 inches tall, Shi Tzus might not be the smartest dogs, but they’re among the most loyal and lovable, as well as being remarkably charismatic.
6) King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a sprightly and cheery disposition with reasonably low energy levels. While these dogs are a good fit if you’re looking for a lap dog, they also respond well to activity if you’re looking to get out and about with your fur baby.
Although this breed has a slightly less truncated nose than a pug, they tend to suffer from broadly simila health problems. Make certain you get the right pet insurance if you invest in one of these breeds as a new owner or you might end up wincing at the vet bills.
You’ll also need to devote plenty of time to brushing the long coats this breed features. Alternatively, send your pup to the dog groomers on the regular.
These tiny mutts weigh not much more than 10 pounds and stand 10 or 12 inches high.
The Leonberger is a huge and intelligent breed of dog weighing an average of 130 pounds. They stand close to 30 inches tall, so make sure you’re comfortably with all that owning a larger dog entails.
Firstly, you’ll need to consider the right dog food for his needs, and you’ll need to make sure he eats plenty of it, too.
You’ll also need to ensure you or another family member can commit to meeting his exercise needs. These dogs are highly energetic and need regular vigorous exercise to stay in shape. This breed doesn’t make the smoothest fit if you live in an apartment or a house with limited space. Leonbergers need room to roam.
If you like the idea of a protective dog that will look over you and look after you, you can’t go wrong with mastiff.
These towering dogs stand well over 30 inches tall, weighing up to 175 pounds. As you’d expect from such a hulking, lumbering dog, mastiffs have low to moderate activity levels. They like a gently wander, but they won’t be clamoring for endless explosive exercise.
Patient and easy-going, despite their substantial size, this breed makes a great match for first-time owners living in apartments. Given a straight choice, these pups prefer staying indoors.
Boxers make playful pets that will bond closely with all family members.
These dogs have pretty high energy levels, so you’ll need to be prepared to grab the leash and hit the road frequently. This breed meshes best with owners who enjoy an active lifestyle.
While boxers can appear hyperactive at times, they are eminently trainable. Indeed, these dogs love the attention you lavish on them while using positive reinforcement to smooth the progress of training.
Boxers interact well with children and they are extremely protective of all family members, children in particular.
As an added bonus, this breed has only very basic grooming needs.
Next up in our exploration of the best dogs for first time owners is another quirky lapdog, the Pomeranian.
Poms typically bond closely with one owner, but they can integrate into a family if required. That said, you should avoid introducing a Pomeranian to a home with young and energetic kids. If you children are older and gentle by nature, a Pom might gel.
You’ll need to take the time to train your Pomeranian so he knows his boundaries. If you fail to train this dog, they might start trying to take advantage.
While these dogs look like their coats require a great deal of upkeep, they are surprisingly low-maintenance. Brush your Pom regularly and give them some simple daily exercise and you’re good to go.
Poodles are popular pets for a variety of reasons, not least of which is their faithful nature and strong desire for companionship.
This breed is highly adaptable and slots in smoothly to almost any environment, including households with kids.
You can find standard-sized poodles, and this breed is also available in mini and toy form, giving you plenty of scope. All types of poodle are super-smart. They also respond quickly and easily to training, ideal for first-time owners not looking for a steep learning curve.
If you bring a poodle home, you’ll need to keep him well-exercised and mentally stimulated. This breed also demands intensive grooming to tame that perpetually-growing curly coat.
Most poodles weigh somewhere between 45 and 70 pounds and stand from 12 to 16 inches tall. Mini poodles weigh from 15 to 18 pounds, and toy poodles weigh less than 9 pounds.
Pugs have characteristic faces that exude friendliness.
The major drawback with pugs is the short nose that can trigger health problems and short lifespans. If you’re prepared to foot the bill, and you accept you might lose your furball earlier in life than some breeds, pugs make great pets for new owners.
These dogs have low to medium energy levels. They enjoy playing around, but a combination of their short nose and short legs means they find running and breathing awkward.
With short coats that require very little maintenance, pugs work well for busy owners disinclined to fuss for hours over a dog.
13) Golden Retriever
Golden retrievers are the third most popular breed in the United States with good reason.
Weighing 65 pounds and standing just over 20 inches tall, these dogs are loving and obedient. If you want a dog that obeys your command rather than challenging you, these docile hounds are a great choice.
Social dogs, golden retrievers also have high activity levels, so you’ll need to be prepared to get outside for plenty of walks.
This breed has such a loving personality that they make perfect therapy pets, and they also slot neatly into family households without making excessive demands.
14) Bernese Mountain Dog
Many first-time dog owners gravitate toward smaller dogs, but if you’re looking for a gentle giant, the Bernese Mountain Dog makes a real conversation piece.
These dogs weigh up to 110 pounds and stand around 25 inches high.
The long coat will need regular brushing, but you should be able to avoid frequent appointments with a professional groomer.
Easygoing and relaxed, this a friendly breed happy to go hiking but not demanding hours of daily exercise.
15) Bison Frise
These tiny pups have lengthy lifespans of 15 years or so, making them a great choice if you have kids in the house.
Weighing 12 pounds and standing just 12 inches tall, these livewires are fascinating to watch and interact with.
Ideal if you don’t want a dog that needs constant walking or if you live in an apartment with limited space, the bichon frise is a superb all-round companion for all ages.
Keep this dog’s coats cut close unless you want to devote a lot of time or money to grooming.
The papillon is a tiny dog weighing from 5 to 10 pounds and standing around 10 inches tall.
A very versatile breed, papillons thrive in a variety of environments. They will get along well with kids, but you’ll need to encourage your children to play gently with this delicate breed.
These dogs enjoy an active lifestyle, so don’t let those diminutive looks fool you. You won’t need to give them an undue amount of exercise, but dedicate enough time to give them a run around and some playtime.
Easy to train and easy to groom, this dog might not be the best known breed, but it makes a smart choice for first-time pet owners.
17) Yorkshire Terrier
If you’ve been hunting for a small lapdog eager for interaction and affection, a Yorkshire terrier is well worth popping on your shortlist.
With only moderate energy levels, you won’t need to worry about taking your terrier out for too much exercise. This makes this breed a sound bet for anyone without the time or the inclination to keep going out with Rover.
Affectionate and often very protective, Yorkies are perfect pets for seniors looking for some canine companionship without too much hassle.
When you first bring a Yorkshire terrier home, you’ll need to invest some time in training him. Neglect this and you could end up with an obstinate and vocal dog on your hands.
Yorkies have hair that continually grows, so you’ll need to make sure you stay on top of his grooming needs.
Living up to 16 years, Yorkshire terriers are versatile and forgiving pets that make a superb choicer for first-time owners.
18) American Staffordshire Terrier
If you like the look of a pitbull but you don’t fancy the challenges or stigma that come with that breed, you could consider an American Staffordshire terrier.
Weighing 55 pounds and packed with pure muscle, these dogs might look initially intimidating, but as soon as you bring one home, you’ll see how playful and loving they are.
American Staffies are incredibly loyal. These dogs will focus fully on your needs and protect you at all times.
Outgoing and energetic, make sure you like the idea of heading out for regular walks as these dogs call for plenty of running, hiking, and playing – just make sure you pick up the right durable chew toy.
19) Basset Hound
Even if basset hounds are not as demonstrably affectionate as bulldogs, these dogs are still super-loyal.
Many people looking for their first time are not looking to head out for regular and lengthy walks or hikes. Basset hounds have very low activity levels, so make a wise choice if you fancy a dog that prefers staying indoors.
When you’re initially training your basset hound, you may run into some resistance. Once you break through the barrier, though, you’ll have a low-maintenance pet perfect for your first attempt at dog parenting.
Chihuahuas are the smallest breed and make smart pets that are super-simple to train.
Standing less than 7 inches high and weighing just 5 pounds, you won’t need to spend a fortune on food.
With the right dog food for chihuahuas and a little patience when dealing with this dog’s fiercely stubborn and independent streak, this dinky little toy breeds make wonderful first-time dogs.
With that comprehensive choice of first-time friendly breeds, you have no shortage of options.
How about if you encounter a dog not listed above? Well, you should keep your eyes peeled for any of the following breeds and give them a wide berth.
IV. The Worst Dogs for First-Time Owners
First-time owners should typically avoid stubborn breeds, independent breeds, and any dogs with unpredictable temperaments. While you can get around these issues, you’ll need to think about intensive training and close supervision of your dog around strangers. If this is your first attempt at dog ownership, these challenges are unnecessary.
If you’re thinking about any of the following breeds for your first furball, you might want to rethink…
10 Worst Dogs for First-Time Owners
- Wolf hybrids
- Cane Corsi
- Belgian Malinois
- Border Collie
- Shiba Inus
Beagles might be cute to look at but they are prone to barking and running off, neither of which are ideal if this is your first attempt at owning a dog.
This breed is highly independent with a strong desire to sniff and chase. Very active dogs, they need lots of exercise, and they need to be kept on the leash.
Beagles are not the smartest dogs, but they require very little by the way of maintenance, so on that front you would be OK.
Overall, these pups are challenging for inexperienced owners and as such best avoided.
Huskies weigh from 35 to 60 pounds and stand around 20 inches tall. While this breed is incredibly popular, the sheer number of huskies in animal shelters should give you a clue that something is amiss.
Firstly, huskies have very high energy levels and they respond best in households with active members always taking them out. This breed was designed to pull sleds all day long, so they’ll want more exercise than most new owners bargained on.
With long, thick coats, huskies need regular brushing. They also need frequent grooming sessions to stay looking their best.
3) Wolf hybrids
While breeds that look like wolves are fine, we would not recommend picking up a wolf hybrid dog.
We have bred dogs for hundreds of years to escape the more dangerous and unappealing characteristics of wolves. These animals belong in the wild. Even if they have been raised by humans from an early age, wolf hybrids will still act possessively around food or toys. They can also be potentially very dangerous, so give these things a swerve.
Chows are aloof, generally suspicious of strangers, and often refuse to comply with training. These elements mean chows don’t sit neatly with new puppy parents.
This breed also often shows very little interest in interacting with people. They are not naturally prone to cuddling up, and they are pretty dumb dogs.
These dogs are demanding when it comes to grooming thanks to the long thick coats they have.
On the plus side, chows don’t need much exercise except for a basic daily walk.
5) Cane Corsi
Cane Corsi are bred as guard dogs. This means they are often very wary and suspicious of strangers.
Fiercely loyal to their favorite humans, they don’t share the same affection for strangers and they can be hostile, even aggressive toward anyone unfamiliar.
These dogs love running and playing. They can be prone to destructive behaviors if not sufficiently stimulated.
Weighing over 100 pounds and loaded with muscle, these intimidating dogs are not for the faint-hearted, and they’re not ideal for first-time owners either.
Dalmatians are difficult to manage, even for experienced pet parents.
With very high energy levels – these dogs were bred to run alongside horses – you’ll need to make sure you can cater to these needs with regular and intensive exercise.
If your kids are moaning at you to get one of these dogs having seen the movie 101 Dalmatians, politely refuse and educate your kids on why dalmatians are difficult to train and own.
Akitas are beautiful dogs, but that doesn’t mean they make a good choice as a first dog.
Bred for hunting, fighting, and guarding, this makes Akitas suspicious of strangers, and often hostile or aggressive. They can also be aggressive around other dogs.
Once an Akita is well-trained and socialized, they can become wonderful and loyal pets, but getting them to that stage takes some time, effort, and experience.
Make things easier on yourself if you’re new to dog ownership and leave the more challenging breeds like this until you feel more comfortable training and controlling dogs. Taking an Akita on as your first pet is unwise.
8) Belgian Malinois
Belgian Malinois are bred for hazardous work and these super-smart dogs are a joy to watch in action. That said, they make terrible pets in most instances.
If you imagine this breed has been trained to track bombs and drugs or to apprehend suspects, they are used to some serious action. If unstimulated, these dogs become extremely restless and prone to destructive behaviors.
Belgian Malinois are bitework dogs, so not only are they prone to biting, but they hold on tightly when they bite.
They might be easy to groom, but that’s about the only respect in which this breed make a suitable pet.
9) Border Collie
Border collies are bred to work all day long on a farm. As such, the average household doesn’t make the best environment for this breed. This is especially true if you live in an urban apartment. Stick to dogs more suited to that city environment.
Super-smart and extremely energetic, this breed is demanding even for more experience pet parents. If you haven’t ever owned a dog before, you may find it overwhelming.
These dogs need exercise throughout the day, and they also need to be continually mentally challenged. If you don’t live up to your side of the bargain, border collies can exhibit unwanted and destructive behaviors.
Even if you have always fancied owning one of these dogs, you should consider waiting until you have a bit more experience under your belt.
10) Shiba Inu
Last but not least, you should also give shiba inus a wide berth. These dogs are drop-dead gorgeous, but they can also be challenging pets for new owners.
More like cats than dogs, this breed is intensely independent. They can also be quite difficult to train. Shy and reserved, they don’t integrate and interact well in large and hectic households.
This breed needs regular lengthy walks, and they need to be kept on the leash. Once these dogs run off, there is no guarantee at all they’ll respond to your commands to come back.
Their short thick coats require regular grooming.
Overall there are many much more appropriate dogs than the shiba inu for your first attempt at pet parenting.
Well, we hope by now you have a much clearer idea of the best dogs for first time owners. Just as importantly, you should also now be well-versed on which dogs don’t make the easiest fur babies.
As you can see from the variety of breeds in today’s list, size is not the only factor when it comes to dogs that are easy to manage and maintain. Many smaller breeds can become a real handful to look after, while plenty of bigger breeds make docile, lovable, low-maintenance pets.
The most important takeaway from today is that you should ease into purchasing or adopting your first dog and take plenty of time establishing what you want from the deal.
You should think about how much you would like to exercise a dog and choose accordingly. If you don’t like the idea of being forced into twice-daily thirty-minute walks, don’t pick a dog with high energy and activity levels.
Give due consideration to where you’re living, too. Someone living in a cramped city apartment should examine breeds that don’t need too much space to roam.
Finally, if your favorite breed is not on our list, feel free to drop us a line and let us know. You can comment on any of our articles directly below them.
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