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Considering dog ownership for the first time? Not sure which are the best dog breeds for novice owners?
All dog breeds were created with specific purposes in mind, resulting in widely varying temperaments. Breeds bred to be guard dogs are less friendly and social. Those bred for retrieving tend to be more active and obedient. And dog breeds bred to be lap dogs are just that, perfectly content to take a nap in your lap.
These different temperaments make some dog breeds more suitable for first-time dog owners than others.
To help you decide which breed is right for you and your family, we’ve compiled a list of the 15 best dog breeds for first-time owners.
A giant breed dog might not be the best choice for all first-time dog owners, but the sweet, gentle Bernese Mountain Dog truly is one of the best dog breeds for novice owners. Known as “Berners” by those that love them, they’re good-natured, eager to please and super affectionate. And, as if they know they need to be careful of their size, they’re calm, easy to train, not easily riled up, and patient with kids.
They’re medium-energy dogs and need a decent amount of exercise. A perfect day for a Berner would be a hike in the woods with their humans, followed by an evening nap. Berners need daily grooming.
You’ll find lots of small breed dogs on the list of best dog breeds for first time dog owners, but the fluffy white Bichon Frise is in a class of its own. Easy-going, affectionate and eager to please, Bichons treat everyone around them, people and dogs alike, as friends they haven’t met yet. They’re playful, a touch goofy, and great with children.
Bichons are hypoallergenic, making them perfect for first-time dog owners with allergies, but their fluffy coat does need regular grooming. Bichons are low- to medium-energy dogs, but do get the zoomies on occasion.
No list of best dogs for first time owners would be complete without the loyal Boxer. Affectionate, friendly and easy to care for, Boxers regularly make the list of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. And it’s no surprise! The cheerful Boxer is a social dog, loves to play and is famous for its patience with children.
They’re best suited to active first-time dog owners as they are high-energy and need plenty of exercise. Boxers are easy to train and need minimal grooming.
Known as Cavs, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the easiest dogs to own, making it perfect for first-time dog owners. Gentle, affectionate, adaptable, and friendly with everyone they meet (including other dogs), this breed is also easy to train. They’re sociable and want to spend time with their humans. They’re as content to lay down at your feet as they are to go for a romp in the backyard. Whatever you want to do so long as they’re included in the fun.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels need regular grooming but only an average amount of exercise.
The second spaniel to make our list of best dog breeds for first-time owners, the English Springer Spaniel is cheerful, affectionate, and eager to please. Like Cavs, Springers want nothing more than to spend time with their humans, even if it’s only to curl up at their feet. But they are also high-energy and do need regular exercise, including plenty of games of fetch. They’re easy to train and because your approval is so important to them, they’re highly obedient.
The English Springer Spaniel’s beautiful silky coat needs regular brushing and trimming to prevent it from getting tangled and matted.
Very much like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, only larger, Golden Retrievers are famous for their happy-go-lucky attitude and friendliness. They’re also loyal, affectionate, easy to train, and obedient. They’re happiest when you’re happy with them. Golden Retrievers aren’t only good dogs for first-time owners in general, they’re great for first-time owners with kids. They’re non-aggressive and well-known for their patience with children.
Golden Retrievers are best for active first-time dog owners as they absolutely need about two hours of exercise per day. They’re also prolific shedders, so not great for first-time owners with allergies to dog hair.
Unlike racehorses, which are notoriously high-spirited and hard to handle, the racehorse of the dog world is undemanding and easy-going. Greyhounds might be super fast, but they don’t actually require lots of exercise. In fact, for most Greyhounds, one or two half-hour walks are plenty. (If you have a backyard, giving them a chance to sprint full out is fun for both of you.) Like most other great dogs for first-time owners, Greyhounds are gentle and loving. They enjoy cuddling with their owners but also don’t mind meeting new people and dogs.
Greyhounds are ridiculously easy to groom.
The friendly, outgoing Labrador Retriever has topped the list of favorite dog breeds in the U.S. for more than 30 years. They also regularly top the list of best dog breeds for families with kids. There’s almost nothing bad you can say about this breed. Affectionate, playful, eager to please, the Lab is everything most people want in a dog. They’re good with kids, excited to meet strangers and play with other dogs, and generally happy-go-lucky about life. They’re also easy to train and obedient.
Labs are high-energy and athletic. They’re a great breed for runners, boaters (they love the water) and other active first-time dog owners. They have a double coat, so need extra grooming during shedding season.
One of a handful of toy breeds on our list of best dogs for first-time owners, the Papillon is everything you want in a canine companion bundled up in a tiny size. Despite their diminutive nature, they’re confident and friendly with strangers. They’re also cheerful, and above all, affectionate with their human family. Because they’re so easy to please, training them is a breeze and they’re quite obedient. They’re also easily adaptable, so fit in whether you live in an apartment or house.
While Papillons are spirited little dogs, they don’t need a lot of exercise. Regular grooming is a must.
Poodles are one of the most intelligent dog breeds out there. They're also affectionate, friendly with strangers, and always eager to please. Because they’re smart, they love learning and learn fast, making them easy to train. And because they crave their humans’ approval, they’re quick to obey. Combined with their athletic ability, this is why Poodles excel at so many doggy sports. Plus, they’re great with kids, especially those that want to spend lots of time in the backyard playing.
Poodles need several hours of daily exercise and mental stimulation. They also require regular (and usually professional) grooming.
We can’t imagine a list of best breeds of dogs for first-time owners without the Pug included. These friendly, fun-loving pint-sized dogs make everyone smile. They love being silly and want nothing more than to spend time with their human family. Pugs don’t need much exercise. A half-hour walk is more than enough for these little guys. After that, they’re happy to plop down in your lap for a long nap.
With their short fur, Pugs are easy to care for, but are prone to respiratory issues. Pugs crave attention so are best suited for first-time dog owners who work from home.
The silky Shih Tzu is one of the best dogs for first-time owners. Like the other breeds on this list, the Shih Tzu is outgoing, affectionate, and forms strong bonds with their humans. They’re lively little dogs that love to spend time with their owners and are particularly great with kids. They get along with everyone and do well with other dogs, as well. Because of their size, they don’t need a lot of exercise and enjoy curling up for a nap on their owner’s lap.
Their long, silky coats do need regular maintenance.
Not as well known as the other breeds on our list of good dogs for first-time owners, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a happy-go-lucky, friendly dog that is deeply devoted to its humans. An exuberant Wheaten welcoming its owner home is a thing to behold! Excellent with kids, Wheaten Terriers are affectionate and love to romp and play. They’re not as easily trainable as other breeds on the list, as they do have a slight stubborn streak. But that gives their personalities a little extra kick.
Wheatens need regular grooming to keep their coats mat-free, and they need lots of exercise.
Like Greyhounds, the similar looking Whippet is a great dog breed for first-time owners. Whippets are affectionate and love spending time with their humans. They’re playful, but calm and are excellent with children. They’re social with other dogs, but they can be nervous around strangers if not socialized. Whippets need a solid run on a daily basis, but are also content to nap away the rest of their day.
Their short coats make them super low maintenance; a weekly brushing is more than enough.
We know, not a breed, but rescue dogs belong on the list of best dogs for first-time owners as much as any of the breeds above. Mostly a mosh up of various breeds, rescue dogs have their own charm. Firstly, most rescue dogs are overjoyed to have a home. They might be nervous at first, but eventually their joy at being “home” will shine through. And they lavish that joy and happiness on their new owners.
Also, shelters and foster homes take the time to get to know the dogs before adopting them out. So, you’ll know your new dog’s personality before you take him or her home.