20 Best Dogs for First-Time Owners (From Small to Tall!)

Getting a dog is one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do.

Adding a dog to your life for the first time, though, is definitely not something that you do on a whim! Successful pet ownership needs lots of consideration and planning. 

Not all dogs are made equal, and not all breeds have the same needs and lifestyles.

Knowing your options and taking time to consider your situation can ensure you make the right choice and that you and your dog are happy and healthy! 

We have taken the time to research the best breeds for first-time pet owners.

We considered everything from grooming and social needs to training and energy levels so that you can make the right choice!

Take a look at our top 20 dogs for a first-time owner. 

The Best Dogs for First-Time Owners

1. Greyhound

These dogs are independent but sweet and good with families.

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’re a great choice if you’re always crunched for time and need a dog that fits into your busy schedule.

A clingy dog can be difficult for someone with a hectic lifestyle. 

That being said, they do need an hour of exercise a day, so if you live in a heavily-populated area and your hound won’t have space to chase, you might be better off selecting another dog on this list. 

In terms of personality, Greyhounds are very soft, sweet, and lovable.

Much of the time they’re rather introverted and prefer solitude, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy cuddling and playing from time to time. 

This breed lives between 10 – 14 years, so you’ll have many years of memories with your Greyhound.

Interestingly, Greyhounds tend to bond with one specific family member. This can make them a great choice for someone living alone! 

2. Great Dane

Great Danes are massive but can adapt easily to their surroundings.

Great Danes are comically large, weighing anywhere from 100 to 200 pounds!

These huge hounds are very laid-back, and they’re always up for a cuddle. 

The sheer size of this breed combined with their propensity to drool can be off-putting for some owners.

If you get past this initial barrier, and you don’t mind footing a significant dog food bill, a Dane is pretty easy to look after. 

Surprisingly, we would recommend these dogs for apartment dwellers. Despite their significant size, Great Danes have fairly low energy levels.

They are more than happy to relax at home as long as they can stretch their long legs throughout the day. 

This dog has a short and easily-manageable coat.

Danes require minimal upkeep overall and can be your companion for up to 10 years, making them an ideal first pet.

3. Labrador Retriever

Labradors are one of the most popular dog breeds around the world.

While Labs are affectionate and filled with energy, this breed won’t overwhelm you as a new dog owner.

Labs consistently feature in the most popular American breeds and for good reason!

There are pet Labs and hunting Labs, and both need a good deal of exercise.

A hunting Lab has more energy and needs far more vigorous exercise, but even pet Labs need plenty of walks and a good chase every now and then.

If considering a Labrador, you’ll need to live at least a somewhat active lifestyle.

From hiking and running to playing catch and fetch, Labs can’t get enough of the great outdoors.

Owning this breed can benefit you if you’re looking to improve your health and fitness with a partner! 

With short, thick coats, you can expect a fair amount of shedding. Weighing from 55 – 80 pounds, these beefy pups aren’t lap dogs! 

If you want a super-smart and pretty low-maintenance dog, consider a Lab that will embark on any active adventure with you! 

4. Whippet

Whippets are lean, agile dogs that love to cuddle and play.

Whippets were bred for racing, but this breed is equally content sitting by you and watching a movie! 

Though they love to sprint, Whippets aren’t built for endurance or stamina, so they don’t require much of your time in terms of exercise.

They just need to run free for a bit, and then they’re ready to lounge again. This can make them great for apartment life! 

With extremely short coats, you won’t be bothered by blankets of hair in the house.

If you live in a colder climate, you might want to consider a dog winter jacket for those winter months. 

Whippets are a great medium-sized dog option, weighing 25 – 40 pounds. Whippets are also blessed with long life, still running at even 15 years old!

These make great pets for families who want a pup to grow up with their kiddos! 

5. Shih Tzu

These lap dogs are fuzzy, cute, and highly affectionate.

Shih Tzus are fun to have around! If you have kids at home, one of these puppies will make a wonderful addition to your household!

They’re small, only about 15 pounds, and they are loyal, lovable, and charismatic.

They tend to be a little high-maintenance and will crave your attention and time.

Their coat is also long, requiring regular grooming.

Since these dogs are tiny and love adventure, they’re a great companion wherever you go!

Whether it’s on a walk or a ride in a dog bike basket, they’re ready for adventure.

6. King Charles Spaniel

The King Charles Spaniel is fit for royalty.

The King Charles Spaniel has a sprightly and cheery disposition with a calm demeanor.

While these dogs are a good fit if you’re looking for a lap dog, they also respond well to activity if you’re itching to see the world (or at least the town) with your fur baby. 

They can suffer from respiratory health complications due to their truncated nose.

Make certain you get the right pet insurance if you invest in one of these breeds to help offset medical expenses.

Additionally, you’ll need to devote plenty of time to brushing this breed’s long coat or keep a dog groomer on speed dial. 

King Charles Spaniels can have long lives of up to 14 years!

They are nice and small, hanging out around 10 pounds, and with their low energy levels, you could probably even tuck one into a dog purse or backpack and bring them with you everywhere you go. 

7. Leonberger

This large and loyal dog is ever-willing to protect its family.

The Leonberger is a huge and intelligent breed weighing an average of 130 pounds.

They need lots of food to satiate that big appetite, but the right dog food should give this energetic pup the nutrients it needs. 

You’ll also need to ensure you or another family member can commit to meeting this breed’s exercise needs.

Leonbergers are brimming with energy and need vigorous exercise to stay healthy. They need space too, so they might not be the best choice for apartment living. 

This breed is a great family dog, especially if you have a big property because they are naturally protective and loyal, so they’ll keep watch over your children even when your eyes are elsewhere. 

Finally, Leonbergers have a giant body full of loose hair, and they shed throughout the year.

Frequent brushing can help collect loose hair before it falls all over the house.

We like using grooming mitts to pick up loose hair while petting the dog.

8. Mastiff

Mastiffs are big dogs with an even bigger soft side.

If you like the idea of having a protective dog like the Leonberger, a Mastiff is another great choice.

These towering dogs stand tall and weigh a hulking 175 pounds.

Unlike the Leonberger, though, they have relatively low energy levels. 

They love to wander, but they won’t be clamoring for endless exercise.

They’re patient and easy-going, despite their substantial size.

These pups prefer to stay indoors and require very minimal grooming, making them a great fit for any first-time pet owner. 

One downside is that a Mastiff’s lifespan is a little unpredictable.

It ranges from 6 to 12 years, meaning your furry friend might cause a good deal of heartbreak at their potential early exit from your life. 

9. Boxer

Boxers require little grooming and are family-friendly and playful.

Boxers make playful, high-energy pets and need an owner who will frequently get them on a leash or out on the road.

These breeds blend great with an active lifestyle or on-the-go family! 

Boxers remain very trainable and gain love and respect for their owners easily.

They bond with anyone they see frequently and are very protective of children. 

If all of this wasn’t enough to persuade you to choose a Boxer, they are easy to groom and do not require regular bathing.

10. Pomeranian

These little fluff balls are super cute and pocket-sized for new owners.

Pomeranians are another quirky lapdog.

They grow close bonds with their owner and integrate into families with some patience.

They don’t love high-energy small children, so older children and a quiet household are best for a Pomeranian.

You’ll need to take time to train your Pomeranian, so they know their boundaries because their naturally rebellious personalities will push the limits without it.

They also require regular upkeep with their long fur, but otherwise are surprisingly low-maintenance.

Brush them regularly and give a little exercise, and you’re set. 

Pomeranians also have incredible longevity for a pet, living up to 16 years!

These tiny pups weigh a max of only about 7 lbs, so they won’t take up much space and can participate in any of your family activities with the help of a carrier or leash. 

11. Poodle

Poodles do require regular grooming, but they’re great for households with allergies.

Poodles are popular pets for a variety of reasons.

They’re faithful and have a strong desire for companionship during their 12 1o 15 years of life.

This breed is highly adaptable, so they can fit into any environment including a household with kids.

You will need to make sure they’re well-exercised and mentally stimulated, so an active lifestyle and energetic kids pair great with a Poodle. 

There are Standard Poodles that are between 45 – 70 lbs, and then there are mini and toy forms that are less than 9 lbs.

All types of Poodles are super-smart and easily trained, so they’re a great pick for first-timers. 

It is important to remember that Poodles have an ever-growing thick coat of curly fur that will need regular grooming, but with their small size, it’s not a huge task and the rewards are well worth the effort.

12. Pug

Pugs are friendly dogs with short faces and big personalities.

Pugs are legendary for their cute, friendly, squished faces.

They make great pets because their short, chunky body is made for cuddling and lounging, not running and jumping.

They’re a great low-energy option for those who want a companion lap dog with a fun personality. 

The major drawback with Pugs is their short nose which triggers respiratory problems and short lifespans.

They can live up to 15 years, though, in good health.

The best way to maximize a Pug’s life is to keep them in climate-controlled situations so they can breathe well, and to take them for regular veterinary checkups.

With short coats that require little maintenance, low energy, and a lovable personality, Pugs work well for busy people looking to take the step into pet ownership. 

13. Golden Retriever

Similar to Labs, Golden Retrievers are popular amongst new owners.

Golden Retrievers are the third most popular breed in the US with good reason.

These dogs are loving, obedient, and trainable. They aren’t rebellious, but instead are a loyal and docile choice! 

They are very social and demand lots of activity! Your Golden Retriever will need plenty of walks and a good yard to play in. 

Golden Retrievers are so compassionate they are used often as therapy dogs.

Combined with the fact that they’re easily trained, they make great family pets. They also weigh about 65 pounds, so they’re a good bigger dog that isn’t massive.  

Golden Retrievers live to be 10 to 12 years old and will shed often throughout the years.

You’ll need to brush regularly and do some more intense grooming every couple of months.

Truly, Golden Retrievers are one of the best first-time pet options. 

14. Bernese Mountain Dog

The Bernese Mountain Dog is gentle-natured and easy to train.

Bernese Mountain Dogs may be large at over 100 pounds, but they’re gentle-natured, polite, and non-aggressive.

They love to help out and are very responsive to training!

This breed has thick fur that doesn’t need to be professionally groomed very often as long as you keep them brushed.

This coat does keep them nice and warm for colder weather, so if you live up north, this could be a great dog for you. 

These dogs LOVE their owners, but it also means they have separation anxiety that is usually expressed by destroying things!

Their favorite activity is to be with you, so they can’t take any sort of neglect.

They drool a lot and are plagued with health problems that make their life rather short, only 6 to 8 years on average. 

15. Bichon Frise

This cotton ball is a lap dog suited for easy living and family life.

These tiny pups have long lifespans of up to 15 years, making them great dogs to grow up alongside young kids.

They weigh just 12 pounds as well, so your kiddos can easily scoop them up to play, and the Bichon loves to play. 

The Bichon Frise does not require constant walking or much space, so they make great pets for any environment.

These dogs are great for playing indoor fetch or hide-and-seek. They love simple games and make great companions for children.

If their coat is cut short, it won’t require much grooming, but they benefit from regular visits to the groomer to keep their hair looking perfectly fabulous. 

This breed tends to bark a lot and housebreaking can be difficult, but if you’re willing to spend the time and are someone who is a bit of a homebody, it can be a great relationship!

They are also great with other pets if you’re planning to add more pups in the future.  

16. Papillon

Papillons are tiny dogs with adorable perky ears.

The Papillon is a tiny dog weighing just 5 to 10 pounds with iconic perky ears and long fur.

They thrive in any environment, and with their small size, they can participate in almost any activity where they can safely interact or be carried. 

They’re easy to groom, easy to train, and they love kids, making them a great family option.

They can play all day as long as it’s not too rough.

They enjoy an active lifestyle but don’t need long hiking trips or a vigorous chase. 

Papillions tend to be healthy pups too, living up to 15 years old.

They don’t love to be left alone and can have a tendency to bark, so consider that when selecting this breed.

They do best when they have daily companionship and can be taken on errands.

17. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkies are very small, but vocal, dogs.

If you’ve been hunting for a small dog with an affectionate personality, a Yorkshire Terrier is a great breed to add to your list.

They are protective, lovable, and low-maintenance, so they’re a great choice for seniors, kids, or a busy owner.

When you first bring a Yorkshire Terrier home, you’ll need to invest some time into training them.

Neglecting to train your pup could result in an obstinate and vocal dog that’s a little on the wild side.

Their hair grows long, so you’ll need to do some grooming yourself and likely enlist some professional help.

It’s well worth it for their beautiful brown and white locks to shine! 

Yorkshire Terriers are versatile, lively, and all-around a great choice for first-time owners. 

18. American Staffordshire Terrier

These dogs may look intimidating but have been some of the best family dogs.

If you like the look of a Pitbull, but you don’t fancy the challenges or stigma that comes with the 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 find they’re playful and loving!

They’re also loyal and will focus on your needs and protect you at all times. 

With these outgoing and energetic breeds, make sure you like the idea of heading out for regular walks and adventures.

American Staffordshire Terriers love running, hiking, and playing.

Due to the breed’s heritage as a fighting dog, it may be banned in some areas, so check local and state laws before investing in a Staffy. 

19. Basset Hound

These droopy-faced dogs are fun to look at and low-maintenance.

Even if Basset Hounds are not as outwardly affectionate as other dogs, they are still very loyal.

They require very little activity and prefer to stay indoors.

No lengthy walks or strenuous play is needed with this pup! 

When you’re initially training your Basset Hound, you may run into some resistance because they are renowned for stubbornness.

Once you break through their stubbornness, you’ll have a low-maintenance pet that is perfect for your first attempt at dog parenting.  

The Basset Hound grows to be about 40 to 65 pounds of lazy, but don’t let that fool you.

If a Basset sees a cat, squirrel, or other small rodents it will find the energy you never knew it had.

Once on the trail of a quarry, it can be remarkably difficult to get back until it has satisfied its curiosity.

It is important to get a Basset Hound out for some daily exercise because while their exercise needs are very low, they tend to get overweight from laying around.

20. Chihuahua

Chihuahuas have a stubborn streak but are small and loyal to their owners.

Chihuahuas are the smallest breed and make smart pets that are very easy to train.

They weigh just around 5 lbs, so you won’t be spending a fortune on food. You also don’t need much space! 

This breed tends to be a bit stubborn and independent, so they’ll require some patience, but they’re lots of fun and can travel with you anywhere!

They’re easy to groom, needing weekly brushing and frequent petting with a grooming mitt to keep the shed hair from spreading everywhere.

They have a long lifespan too, living an average of 14 to 16 years. This is another great breed to buy as a puppy so it can grow up alongside children. 

Be aware that their small size means they are delicate! Rough housing with kids is a no-go with this toy breed.

Children must be trained to play gently with this spunky little dog. Fetching games and puzzle toys are great for playing with a Chihuahua.

Additionally, they tend to form a close bond with a single member of the family, so Chihuahuas will have a different relationship with each member of the family.

This personality trait makes them especially good for a single-person residence. 

How Do I Choose the Best Breed for Me?

Now that you’ve read through our lengthy list, your head might be spinning with too many options!

How can you narrow it down?

Below are a few things to consider when selecting the perfect breed for your lifestyle to make sure both you and your pup are happy and comfortable. 

Consider the Temperature

Some breeds are not meant for frigid temperatures which can be a problem if they also require a lot of activity.

Additionally, a long-haired pup might not love their usual hikes if it’s blistering hot.

Consider how the average year-round temperature in your area might affect your dog selection. 

Consider Your Property

There is a dog for you whether you have an apartment, house, or a lot of land.

A delicate dog might not make the best farm pet and a massive hound might not be the best apartment pet, so just make sure the living situation matches the pet.

If your property or yard is plagued with sticker bushes, thorns, and grasses that drop seeds, avoid having a long-haired dog that will wander in the thorns and get them matted in their fur.  

Consider How Much Time You Have

Some dogs require a lot of training or a lot of exercise.

If you don’t have time in your schedule, you’ll find both of you are frustrated and unhappy. 

If you leave home for work all day long, an affectionate breed that suffers from separation anxiety is not a good match.

These dogs will act out in destructive ways in their unhappiness.

There’s nothing wrong with being honest about the amount of time you’ll have to commit to all things dog-related and choose a breed accordingly.

Read More: Can My Dog Be Home Alone? How long can you leave your dog alone? We answer this and provide helpful tips!

Consider Your Family

If it’s just you, you and your spouse, or you and a lot of kiddos, you’ll want to make your choice on a dog based on your entire family situation.

Not all breeds mesh with energetic kids and some breeds specifically only bond with one person.

Some breeds would rather nap, and others need interaction from as many people as possible to stay healthy and well-balanced.

Knowing your expectations and choosing your dog accordingly can save a lot of headaches, frustration, and heartaches.

Consider Your Finances

Not only is there the upfront cost of purchasing a dog, but there are continual costs to keep them happy and healthy. 

Some dogs require a lot of food or grooming.

Some dogs might even need some professional training or have a lot of vet bills, so take a look at your pocketbook before selecting a breed. 

Every dog needs regular vet checkups and healthy food to live the longest, healthiest life possible, but some dogs are more genetically robust than others. 

Consider Your Lifestyle

One last thing to consider before buying a pet is your own lifestyle.

There is nothing wrong with being a homebody or wanting to go on adventures every day, but make sure your pup has the same mindset!

Choosing a dog with a personality similar to your own can help you achieve the dog companionship that you desire.

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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