What are the best dog breeds for first-time owners?

Novice dog owners are often unsure what dog breed to choose since they don’t have any experience. Luckily, there are plenty of great choices out there.

With that in mind, we’ve selected some of the best dog breeds for first-time owners to help you find the perfect dog breed for your lifestyle.

two adorable small dogs laying on the sofa
A white Maltese and Yorkshire Terrier laying on a sofa

15 best dog breeds for first-time owners

A good dog breed for inexperienced owners should be low-maintenance, easy to train and have a friendly and calm personality.

While it is often subjective to determine the easiest dog breed to own, some dog breeds are better for newbies than others.

1. Papillon

a white and brown Papillon dog looking up
A white and brown Papillon dog looking up

One of the most popular lap dogs globally, the tiny Papillon is a hardy dog suited for people with active lifestyles since they need regular exercise, such as daily walks for about 20-30 minutes.

This toy breed is intelligent, friendly, and easygoing, ideal for families with children. The Papillon can weigh from 3 to 9 pounds (1.3 to 5 kg) and reach 8-11 inches (20-28 cm) at the shoulder.

Their silky, long coats don’t need a lot of grooming – daily brushing is enough, which is perfect for novice owners.

2. Poodle

a groomed Poodle standing on a cushion
Meet Kamkam, a Poodle enjoying a day stroll in HK – Image source

This dog breed comes in many shapes and sizes – from the Standard Poodle to the Toy Poodle.

Poodles are very popular as a part of different designer breeds since their hypoallergenic coats can reduce allergic reactions.

They also shed rarely, but they need regular grooming, preferably with a professional groomer.

Poodles are extremely intelligent dogs and eager to please, so they are easy to train. They are also extremely good with children and ideal family pets, but they also tend to have separation anxiety.

3. Golden Retriever

Adorable English Cream Golden Retriever
A happy Golden Retriever laying on the grass under the shade

Friendly, intelligent, and devoted to their family, Golden Retrievers are large dogs that can grow up to 24 inches (60 cm) at the shoulder and weigh up to 75 pounds (34 kg).

Golden Retrievers have a long, waterproof double coat and shed heavily twice a year, so regular brushing is crucial for their coat health, 1-2 times per week.

Golden Retrievers are eager to please, so you won’t have any trouble with training.

However, this is a sporting breed with lots of energy, so they are not a good choice if you can’t spend 40-60 minutes every day walking and playing.

4. Bichon Frise

a stark white Bichon Frise standing
A majestic Bichon Frise standing in the middle of a road

If you are living in an apartment, the adorable Bichon Frise could be a perfect companion.

These furballs are one of the most popular small breeds for first-time pet parents because they can be easily trained and can adapt to any lifestyle.

You will need to visit the groomer regularly to maintain the Bichon’s curly coat unless you keep it trimmed short.

This dog breed can grow up to 12 inches (30 cm) at the shoulder and weigh up to 18 pounds (8 kg). The playful Bichon Frise is friendly, calm, and requires only basic exercise, such as 20-30 minutes of daily walks.

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog in a flower garden
A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel peeking through a flower field

The royal Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is sweet and affectionate, with a gentle demeanor towards people and other animals.

Although they don’t have high energy levels, regular exercise and mental stimulation are necessary.

The Cavaliers can reach up to 13 inches (33 cm) in height and weigh up to 18 pounds (8 kg), so they are suitable for apartment living.

These dogs have a medium-long coat that is often wavy and silky. They shed twice a year and require regular brushing, 3-4 times per week.

6. Labrador Retriever

a Labrador Retriever wearing a scarf
Meet Ziggy, a handsome Labrador Retriever with a fashionable bandana – Image source

The most popular dog breed in the world, the Labrador Retriever is also a very good choice for new dog owners.

They are loving, loyal, great companions for children, and friendly with other animals, but more importantly, they are quite easy to train.

However, Labs are energetic and need plenty of exercises – at least one hour of activity per day.

Labradors can grow up to around 24 inches (62 cm), and they usually weigh between 55-80 pounds (25-36 kg). Despite their dense coat,

Labs don’t need a lot of grooming – a weekly brush will be enough to keep their coat in check.

7. Pug

a Pug Puppy on a walk wearing a dog vest
Meet Hopp, a lovable Pug Puppy smiling – Image source

The friendly Pugs are great dogs in many ways, but due to their brachycephalic snout, they often have breathing problems and may require frequent vet visits.

On the other hand, Pugs are good for first-time owners since they have low energy (a true couch potato), and their grooming needs are pretty basic (brushing every 2-3 days).

Pugs are also easy to train and suitable for apartment living due to their size since they can reach up to 13 inches (33 cm) in height and weigh up to 18 pounds (8 kg).

They are not the most intelligent dogs, but they are affectionate and good with kids.

8. Great Dane

a black and white Great Dane sitting on a couch
Meet Larry, a goofy Great Dane trying to sit on a couch beside a vacuum – Image source

Don’t be intimidated by the size of this gentle giant – Great Danes are really friendly and affectionate dogs that like to cuddle.

That being said, you should only consider this breed if you have enough space for a dog that can grow up to 32 inches (82 cm) at the shoulder and weigh between 110 and 175 pounds (50-80 kg).

Great Danes are easy to train and groom since they have a short coat, although they shed all year round, and daily brushing is necessary.

They are also energetic and need at least an hour of exercise every day, so be prepared for long walks.

9. Shih Tzu

a beautiful Shih Tzu wearing a pink outfit and clip outside
Meet Noel, a charming Shih Tzu wearing a pink frilly dress – Image source

This cute little dog can grow only up to 11 inches (28 cm) and weigh up to 16 pounds (7 kg).

However, the Shih Tzu is a hearty dog with moderate energy levels that requires 40-60 minutes of daily exercise, split into two or three brief walks per day.

Shih Tzus have a luscious coat that requires a daily brush and regular grooming, but they don’t shed much.

These little dogs are friendly, affectionate, and don’t bark as much as other small breeds, but they may be stubborn and difficult to train.

10. Yorkshire Terrier

a Yorkshire Terrier wearing a beautiful harness while laying on the grass
Meet Coco, a spring-loving Yorkshire Terrier enjoying outdoors – Image source

One of the most popular purebred dogs in the toy group is the Yorkshire Terrier.

A tiny dog that reaches heights of just 8 inches (20 cm) and weighs around 7 pounds (3 kg), which makes them suitable for apartments.

Yorkshire Terriers are energetic, but they don’t need more than 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Unlike many other lap dog breeds, Yorkies are easy to train and very affectionate with their family. These dogs have a continuously growing coat that needs regular brushing and grooming.

11. Shetland Sheepdog

a close-up image of a Shetland Sheepdog sitting in the middle of tulip flowers
Meet Luca, a captivating Shetland Sheepdog looking up – Image source

Although they are very similar in appearance to Rough Collies, the Shetland Sheepdog is a different dog breed.

Shelties are smaller and lighter since they can grow up to 16 inches (40 cm) and weigh up to 25 pounds (11 kg). These dogs have long and luscious coats that need daily brushing and regular grooming.

The Shetland Sheepdog is very intelligent, one of the smartest dog breeds in the world. Shelties have moderate energy levels, so daily walks for about 40-60 minutes are enough to keep them fit and happy.

12. Boxer

a serious Boxer relaxing on a couch with blanket
Meet Siin, a Boxer looking so comfortable on a soft sofa – Image source

The energetic Boxer is a good choice for novice owners because it is sociable and affectionate.

Their muscular body makes them look tough and they can grow to 25 inches (63 cm) at the shoulder and weigh up to 80 pounds (36 kg).

Their personality is completely different from their physical appearance.

Boxers are easy to train since they learn quickly and they are not stubborn, but they are energetic and need 40-60 minutes of daily exercise to stay in shape.

They have a short coat that is easy to maintain, but they tend to drool a lot.

13. Maltese

a Maltese looking up while sitting on a wooden floor
Meet Tsuyo, a full-groomed adorable Maltese – Image source

This small dog breed grows up to 9 inches (23 cm) and weighs up to 7 pounds (3 kg), making it a perfect choice for city dwellers.

The Maltese have a spellbinding charm and a gorgeous, silky coat that requires regular or even frequent visits to the groomer, in addition to daily brushing.

Malteses possess great intelligence, so they are easy to train, but they do tend to bark excessively. These dogs are moderately energetic, so a brisk daily walk of around 30 minutes is satisfactory.

14. Corgi

a happy Corgi on top an a-beam
Meet Ruby, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi on a training beam – Image source

The lovely Corgi comes in two varieties – the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the Pembroke Welsh Corgi.

They’re very similar in appearance and personality, with only minor differences in the shape of the tail and overall size.

Although both breeds are considered small and their name originally means “dwarf dog.”

Corgis are sweet, warm-hearted, and unbelievably easy to train, but they’re also extremely energetic and need at least one hour of physical exercise every day.

Daily brushing of their dense double-coat will make visits to the groomer rare, once every month or two.

15. Greyhound

Two Brindle Greyhounds looking up and standing on the grass
Meet Mabel and Daphne, two Greyhounds on a snack break – Image source

Greyhounds are large dogs that can reach 30 inches (76 cm) at the shoulder and weigh up to 70 pounds (32 kg).

They have short coats and shed minimally, so a weekly brush covers all their grooming needs. They’re intelligent and training is usually effortless since they’re also eager to please their humans.

The impressive Greyhounds are the fastest dog breed in the world, despite not being the most energetic dogs.

They need about an hour of daily exercise, split into 2-3 brisk walks, but it is also advisable to let them run freely once or twice a week like in the video below, or they can become bored and act destructively.

Challenging breeds new dog owners should avoid

All dogs are great if you know how to handle them, but some dog breeds are simply not suitable for first-time owners.

Canines with a reserved and independent nature may be unfriendly or hard to train and manage, while highly energetic dogs need a lot of exercise and attention.

Breeds with long or medium-sized coats may have specific grooming needs and can be too high-maintenance.

a Dalmatian puppy and Beagle puppy on a dried log
Meet Oreo and Dexter, a Dalmatian and Beagle friends in a forest – Image source

New dog owners should also avoid large breeds with a difficult temperament, especially wolf hybrids since they can be too much even for experienced owners.

Here are some other challenging dog breeds to avoid:

  • Border Collie
  • Beagle
  • Treeing Walker Coonhound
  • American Pit Bull Terrier
  • Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Cane Corso
  • Siberian Husky
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Akita
  • Bullmastiff
  • Airedale Terrier
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Dalmatian
  • Belgian Malinois
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Rottweiler
  • Weimaraner
  • Bloodhound
  • Chow Chow
  • Dalmatian
  • Tibetan Mastiff
  • St. Bernard

Don’t like our list? Learn how to make your own breed list

We have covered some of the most popular dog breeds for novice owners by focusing on certain suitable traits, but you can also create your own list of suitable mental and physical traits in dogs.

Choose the breed according to that list, but you need to be realistic about your needs to make sure that your new best friend fits perfectly in your life.

What you want is not always easier

First-time dog owners aren’t always sure what they can handle and our advice is to focus on easy breeds over some personal preferences. Start with traits that you don’t want in a dog when you make your list.

Another tip is to make a list of questions that will eliminate certain breeds from contention, like these:

  1. Do you want a small dog or a big dog?
  2. Can you afford regular trips to the groomer?
  3. Can you afford doggie daycare?
  4. Is barking a big problem?
  5. Are you looking for a breed that gets along with other pets?
  6. Do you want a family dog?

It can help you narrow the search, but you still need to do additional research.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

a Sheltie and Boxer sitting on a pebbled road
Meet Lucy and Theo, a Sheltie and Boxer enjoying the beach – Image source

Why breed matters for first-time owners?

The dog’s breed matters for all pet owners, but it is especially important for people without dog ownership experience.

Things like size, temperament, coat type, energy level, and trainability are the most important factors to consider, as well as the dog’s age since puppies are difficult to care for.

Choosing the wrong breed for your household and lifestyle can badly affect your first experience as a dog owner.

Luckily, you can avoid this with proper research and by being realistic about your needs, abilities, and goals. The key is to choose a breed that fits your lifestyle as much as possible.

Are mixed-breed dogs good for first-time owners?

Mixed breeds are not a bad option for new dog owners, but only if you know enough about the dog’s ancestry.

Otherwise, the dog may be quite different from what you expect, although mixed breeds rarely show extreme behavior of their parents and instead tend to average out these tendencies.

Choosing crossbreeds can be a good choice if you don’t have specific goals, like doing certain competitive sports with your dog.

And if you’re looking for a hypoallergenic dog, certain designer dogs can be a great option, like various Poodle mixes.

Are rescue dogs good for first-time owners?

Adopting a dog is another way to go for first-time owners, but you have to beware of certain things. Some rescue dogs are not properly trained, which can make it more difficult to manage them.

Also, many of them have been through traumatic experiences, which can make their behavior unpredictable and make it hard for you to gain their trust.

On the other hand, adopting a dog that’s been with a foster family can be a smart choice since you will have all the necessary information about the dog’s temperament and behavior.

These dogs will also be trained and housebroken, making it easier for you to manage them even without experience.

Which of the best dog breeds for first-time owners should you choose?

a Poodle wearing an orange scarf and a Corgi with a blue scarf sitting
Meet Remy and Waffles, a Poodle and Corgi enjoying the puppy date – Image source

Our list of the best dog breeds for first-time owners should serve as a guide to finding the right pet for your needs, but it’s not a complete list and there are many other good choices out there.

As we emphasized before, the key is to choose a breed that suits your lifestyle by focusing on the traits aligned with your preferences.

Have any questions for us? Maybe you want to suggest another dog breed for first-time owners? Let us know in the comment section.

Further reading: What do first-time dog owners need?

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