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Best Dogs For First Time Owners: 13 Breeds To Consider


Last Updated: November 30, 2023 | 15 min read | Leave a Comment

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girl meeting cavalier puppy with her parents outside

Welcoming a new canine family member to the family is a joyous, life-changing experience. The excitement is immeasurable for anyone adding to their four-legged family, but it is an even more profound experience for first-time dog owners. One thing that significantly impacts how successful a new pet pairing will be is the canine breed.

Some dog breeds simply are not cut out for inexperienced owners. The best dogs for beginners are easy to train, like people, connect well with people, are not skittish, and are not prone to serious health problems. Not every dog breed is as easy to train, care for, or interact with as others. Low-maintenance dogs for first-time owners are some of the best picks.

Dog ownership comes with a lengthy list of responsibilities, including daily care like food, exercise, attention, and long-term commitments like regular vet visits, teeth cleaning, and grooming. The financial commitment is large, as is time and space. Picking the best breed for first-time owners is just one part of getting ready for new dog ownership. Let’s get to know 13 of the best dogs for beginners.

Best Dog Breeds For First-Time Owners

We are thrilled to introduce you to 13 of the best dogs for beginners. These delightful canine breeds are listed in alphabetical order, and all make adorable, unforgettable, first-time canine companions. Low-maintenance dogs for first-time owners come in all shapes and sizes. Keep in mind that some breeds will fit various lifestyles better. Let’s jump in and say hello to these adorable breeds.

1. Basenji

A lesser-known breed than many others list, the Basenji is a curious, intelligent dog that can be a fantastic pick for the inexperienced dog person. The breed comes from the Congo and is nicknamed the “barkless dog.” Basenjis are not avid barkers. They tend to yodel or shriek instead. The Basenji is very energetic and intelligent, so they need daily mental and physical interaction. This breed is medium-sized, reaching between 21 and 24 pounds when fully grown, so they do well in various living environments. Due to their high prey drive, it is best not to let this pup off leash unless in a highly secured area.

Basenjis are bright, energetic, curious, and somewhat independent. They enjoy exercise, as well as interactive games. They can be chewers, so it is crucial to have plenty of durable chew toys around. The Basenji does well with children, as they also have high energy, so they are happy to play and take a few laps around the park. They have short coats and enjoy grooming but do not need daily brushing.

Training with the Basenji must happen young so they do not develop a stubborn streak. The Basenji is an excellent breed for older children but may not do well with smaller pets in the home. Basnejis are highly affectionate with family but act disinterested or aloof with strangers until they learn to trust them. With the right patient owner and one dedicated to training them young, the basenji might fit in well as your first family pet.

2. Bernedoodle

A Bernese Mountain Dog Poodle mix is a playful, gentle, adorable mix breed that makes a perfect pick for first-time pet parents. While not hypoallergenic, the mixed breed sheds very little and is friendly with people and pets. Bernedoodles are a designer breed developed to create a pup with the look of a Bernese Mountain Dog and the low shed coat of the poodle. As a mixed breed, both appearance and personality can be somewhat unpredictable. However, this specific Doodle mix has proven to be quite popular.

Generally, the Bernedoodle is affectionate, playful, and enjoys being around people. They are quite patient despite their generous size. Depending on the size of the Poodle parent, a mixed breed can reach between 60 and 90 pounds. They have a long lifespan, between 12 and 15 years. As a designer breed, Bernedoodles are on the higher end of the price range, between $1,000 and $3,000 for a high-quality puppy.

Bernedoodles crave attention and are happy to be the center of entertainment. They like everyone and are very eager to please. A Bernedoodle is not a dog that does well when left home alone all day, as they can develop separation anxiety. These dogs also need a larger yard, ample room inside, and high-energy daily exercise. They are not a good pick for apartments or families where no one is home all day. Bernedoodles are quite intelligent, eager to please, and relatively straightforward to train. They respond much better to positive reinforcement, so stick with reward-based training and stay patient.

3. Bichon Frise

Fluffy, white Bichon Frise is famous for its cotton ball-like appearance. Though they only reach between 7 and 12 pounds, the energetic, affectionate pooch leaves a huge impression on anyone they meet. They live between 12 and 15 years and are a reasonably healthy breed overall. The Bichon Frise came from France and was bred to be a cuddly companion. They love human attention, appreciate cuddles, and are always happy to welcome a new friend.

The Bichon is famous for having an affectionate, cheerful personality, but they can develop separation anxiety. They need owners ready and willing to spoil them all day. Bichons do well with children and other pets as long as they are trained and do not become bossy. Remember, the Bichon Frise loves constant attention, and they may get jealous.

The Bichon Frise needs daily exercise, about 30 minutes every day, and is a perfect pick for apartments and small homes. Bichons need lots of toys and should be kept inside unless out with their owners. They do better in a mild climate due to all that hair. Bichons are quite intelligent and respond well to training. It is essential that your pup respect you and view you as the leader, or they may try to take control of the house.

4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an extremely sweet-natured pup that retains that puppy cuteness for their entire life. Though prone to several health conditions, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a top pick for first-time pet parents due to their size, demeanor, and incredibly affectionate personality.

Also known as the Comfort Cavalier, this breed was bred to be a family companion. The Cavie gets along with families that have lots of activity, kids, and other pets but will also do well in calmer homes where they are the only animals. Cavies are small, reaching just 13 to 18 pounds when fully grown, so they can fit in just about any home, even apartments. The breed lives to be 12 to 15 years old, so you can be sure these friendly little pups will be around for a long time.

Cavaliers are known to be dependent upon their human companions. They are very loving and incredibly gentle. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a perfect pick if you are looking for a canine companion who likes to be with others. They love to cuddle and are also particularly good at alerting the family to visitors. Though it’s more likely they will lick them in the face out of excitement than do any work as a guard dog. The Cavie is happy to accompany their owner along on every adventure. This breed is easy to train but is prone to some health conditions, including hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, cardiac conditions, and problems with their anal glands.

5. Cockapoo

The Cockapoo is a breed that looks like it came directly off the stuffed animal shelf at the toy store. These are one of the most popular Doodle mixes and one of the top choices for Cocker Spaniel crossbreeding. Cockapoos are small to medium size, weighing between 10 and 50 pounds depending on the size of the Poodle parent. They have an incredible lifespan, averaging 14 to 18 years. The Cockapoo is friendly with children and other dogs.

These designer dogs are famous for having a well-balanced, calm, agreeable personality. This is part of the reason that these little fluff balls are a fantastic pick for inexperienced dog parents. The Cockapoo is incredibly happy to please and loves human company. Cockapoos are prone to separation anxiety, so these dogs are an excellent choice to be crate trained, keeping them safe and secure when owners leave.

They will need between 1/2 hour and an hour of exercise daily and love taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood. They need room to move around, and unless the Poodle parent is a miniature, these mixed dogs do not do well in apartments. These little dogs are very friendly and will befriend anyone who crosses their path. Cockapoos are highly trainable, as their Poodle parent ranks as the second most intelligent dog breed.

6. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is an all-time favorite pick for families of any size and shape. These dogs are lovable, beautiful to look at, and famous for their easygoing temperaments. Though once bred to be hunting and gun dogs, Goldens are highly trainable and are more commonly kept as family pets today. They are incredibly reliable, trustworthy companions who love to please their owners. Goldens get along well with people, children, other canines, and smaller pets, including cats. Their agreeable temperament makes them a highly sought-after choice for first-time dog owners and busy families.

Golden Retrievers are sizable pups, averaging 55 and 75 pounds or more. They stand 21 to 24 inches from paw to shoulder and live, on average, 10 to 12 years. These canines are famous for their flaxen, golden-hued coats, perpetually smiling faces, and incredibly loving personalities. Goldens adjust well to just about any family situation, providing they have enough room and plenty of exercise. They need about two hours of walking daily, so they do better with active owners with time to dedicate to them for daily walks.

Often used as a therapy or support dog, the Golden Retriever is highly known for their intelligence and willingness to learn new things. Along with that, Goldens are generally very healthy and are not prone to many genetic conditions, though they often develop eye concerns as well as hip and elbow dysplasia. Though they do not do well living in apartments, in homes with plenty of space, and dedicated owners’ golden retrievers can be one of the best picks for first-time owners. Just be ready for lots of shedding and brushing every day.

7. Goldendoodle

This mix between a Poodle and a Golden Retriever makes a fantastic family pet and also is a good pick for first-time owners. Goldens breed is quite popular due to their teddy bear appearance, fluffy coat, and fun personality. They can come in two sizes, standard size and miniature. Those with a Standard Poodle parent weigh between 50 and 70 pounds. The Mini Goldendoodle will reach between 20 and 40 pounds at full size.

Goldendoodles are happy-go-lucky dogs with a lot of energy who genuinely enjoy life. They are always ready to play. These mixed pups inherit the high energy of their Poodle parents. They will be calm at home as long as they get plenty of exercise but are not hyperactive. Doodles can become clingy, often referred to as a Velcro dog. They are not independent, so expect to have your Goldendoodle glued to your side.

Goldendoodles are highly admired for their beautiful coat, which can be curly, wavy, or straight. Depending on the code type they inherit, these dogs may need daily brushing, though these Doodles are likely to be extremely high shedders. They can come in various colors and have an adorable, almost stuffed animal-like face. The beautiful mixed pup is highly intelligent and loves to please his human family. With the proper training and socialization starting when they are young, the flaxen-haired Goldendoodle can be the perfect dog for beginners.

8. Greyhound

The regal Greyhound, famous for its incredible speed, is also a popular family companion. Greyhounds are incredibly affectionate and crave human attention. These dogs are also known to be very patient and quite lazy. Though they can reach incredible speeds on the racetrack, Greyhounds are low energy in their day-to-day life. They do not need high-impact exercise every day. In fact, they prefer a leisurely walk around the block. Always keeping a Greyhound on a leash is essential because they are quite fast when left to run free. Because of this, they need early training and socialization so they can walk on a leash safely.

Agile, muscular, and athletic, the beautiful Greyhound can reach between 50 and 85 pounds when fully grown. They reach 27 to 30 inches in height from paw to shoulder. This breed can live a fairly long time, with an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years. They are friendly with children and other dogs and do well in multi-pet households with the proper training.

Greyhounds are a more expensive puppy when adopting a purebred. They are also a popular parent to create mixed breeds with due to their elegant look, agreeable personality, and incredible speed. They do well with training but are incredibly sensitive, so owners must carefully use firm but gentle training. Patience is critical with the svelte Greyhound.

9. Labrador Retriever

If you are looking for a low-maintenance dog for first-time owners, the Labrador Retriever is a perfect pick. The Labrador Retriever is a beloved favorite in the United States. Labs are not known for their friendly, outgoing, and affectionate nature. These dogs are extremely easy to train and very smart. With proper socialization and training, they make fantastic family pets. The Lab does better with active owners and will not do well sitting around the house all day.

Labradors can get pretty large, between 55 and 80 pounds or so fully grown. They stand 21 to 24 inches tall, paw to shoulder, and live between 10 and 12 years on average. Labradors come in several colors, including black, chocolate, red, yellow, and silver.

Labradors are known for getting along well with children. They are also shorter-haired, do not shed as much as other breeds, and do not need daily brushing. Because of their intelligence and willingness to please, Labs are often picked as service, assistance, guide, detection, therapy, and search and rescue dogs. Labradors have also been trained to work in the medical field in the area of sniffing out and detecting early-stage cancers.

Because of their friendly nature, Labradors are a top pick for first-time owners. Labs are not great guard dogs but are happy to welcome visitors to the home. Labradors are highly sociable and get along well with other dogs and even cats. They also adore food, so owners need to be careful not to feed them too much.

Personal Experience with A Labrador Retriever As A First-Time Dog Owner

The first dog I adopted on my own was a black Labrador Retriever named Bear. He was a very good dog, smart and eager to learn. For the most part, he was easy to train. Bear was always very affectionate and was not aggressive towards kids or other dogs. However, he was an aggressive chewer, both during teething and beyond. He also grew larger than expected. Bear ended up having some health problems that run in Labradors, including epilepsy. The disease did not present until he was about 2 years old. I would recommend a Labrador for a first-time dog owner, as long as they have the space and energy to keep up with the high demand for exercise. Also, be sure to ask for health screenings when adopting to ensure you get a healthy pup.

10. Papillon & Papillon Mixes

The fluffy, dainty Papillon is a highly recommended breed for first-time owners. Papillons love to be spoiled and want to be with their owners around the clock. The designer breed has been around since the 17th century. In French, the word Papillon means butterfly and the breed has long flowing ears and hair as beautiful as the dainty wings of a butterfly.

The Papillon reaches just 5 to 10 pounds and stands 82 and 11 inches tall when fully grown. A Pap has a long lifespan, expected to be around 14 to 16 years, which is always something to consider when adopting a new dog.

One of the reasons the Papillon is recommended for first-time and inexperienced dog owners is that they were bred solely for companionship. They love to be around people, so they may not be a good pick in households where the entire family is gone the whole day. They have high energy but can get plenty of exercise around the house and on short walks around the block. These dogs have two different looks: the more well-known with the erect butterfly ears or the second type with dropped-down ears that look more like a miniature Spaniel. These pups are called Phalene Papillons.

The Pap does well in small homes but appreciates plenty of space. Papillons are very friendly with strangers, love visitors, and, though they might bark a bit, are overjoyed rather than on guard around new people. Paps are highly trainable and love to please their owners, so they eagerly take on new tricks and commands. These highly sociable dogs love fun and want nothing more than to spend every minute of every day beside their owners.

11. Poodle

Though often associated with France, Poodles originally came from Germany. The German word “pudel,” on which the breed’s name is based, means to splash in the water. Poodles were originally bred as water retrievers, though they are more often kept as family pets today. They rank high on the list of most intelligent breeds, are easy to train, and can learn almost anything. Their high trainability makes them a popular choice for pets but also for service and therapy dogs.

Poodle mixes, known as Doodles, are incredibly popular as four-legged family members. The cuddly pup is highly intelligent, highly energetic, and affectionate, making them adaptable companions for many diverse kinds of owners. They are hypoallergenic and low shedding, making them much lower maintenance than heavier coated breeds. Poodles come in three sizes: toy, miniature, and standard, and can range from 5 to 55 pounds or more. They are also popular as parents for mixes due to their enviable coats, agreeable nature, and intelligence.

Regardless of size, Poodles are incredibly active dogs with plenty of energy. They need about 90 minutes of exercise every day. Poodles love to swim and will enjoy a walk to a local pond, river, or lake. Poodles are highly popular for first-time pet owners because of their agreeable temperament and high social personality. They can suffer from separation anxiety, so they do their best in households where owners are not gone all day.

12. Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu was once the prize companion of Chinese emperors. Sometimes called “lion dog,” this little pooch is beautiful and makes a fitting pick for first-time dog owners. The toy-sized doggie only reaches between 9 and 16 pounds when fully grown. Shih Tzus are famous for their unique look, warm, wide eyes, large ears, and long flowing hair. These silky locks make Shih Tzus look much larger than they truly are.

Shih Tzus do well in apartments. They only need a little space. However, they need daily walks to keep them from having pent-up energy and getting bored. One or two short walks around the block and a game of fetch are a perfect way to get them active. The tiny Shih Tzu does not do well outside and should stay inside with their owners unless outside on a leash.

Shih Tzus are very smart and easily trained but can be stubborn. Owners must keep them active, have patience, and stick to positive reward-based training. Once trained and socialized, they make unforgettable pets.

13. Yorkshire Terrier

Famous for their adorable appearance and incredible smarts, the Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie, is suitable for inexperienced dog owners. Yorkies are friendly with other dogs and do well with children as long as they have been socialized early. The Yorkie breed is very affectionate and famous for its teddy bear appearance and vibrant personality. They have an independent streak and can be stubborn, so training is essential. First-time owners may want to consult with a professional trainer to ensure they instill proper behavior expectations early on.

The Yorkie is a popular pick for families and does well in apartments and small homes due to their small size. They reach between four and seven pounds when fully grown and do not need a lot of room to get plenty of exercise. A Yorkie lives, on average, 13 to 16 years, so they will be by your side for a long time to come.

Picking the Best Dogs For Beginners

girl and dad petting beagle puppys paw

Selecting the best dog for a first-time owner is a delicate process. It is crucial to remember that only some breeds will be suitable for some owners. Low-maintenance dog breeds for beginners are a good choice, as they are easier to train and care for. There is no one-size-fits-all dog. Some breeds with a reputation for being easy to train may turn out to be difficult. Conversely, breeds that are troublesome for some can prove to be agreeable, even for an inexperienced owner. It all depends on the specific owner and individual puppy. The dog’s age and owner’s age also play a crucial role in how well any canine acclimates to a new situation.

6 Tips For First-Time Dog Owners

  1. Be ready for a significant financial commitment. From the initial investment in the adoption fee and setup to long-term care, feeding, grooming, boarding, training, and other needs, you can expect to spend several hundred dollars a month on your four-legged family members.
  2. Consider the size of space you have when selecting a dog breed. Picking a pooch that needs a lot of room means you need a yard and access to space. If you live in an apartment, consider a smaller breed.
  3. Pick a breed that will mesh well with your activity level and schedule. If you must be gone a lot, picking a clingy pup prone to separation anxiety is not wise.
  4. Several dog breeds are highly active and need daily exercise. It is unhealthy for them physically and mentally not to get appropriate physical activity. Ensure that you can provide any animal you adopt proper exercise every day.
  5. All dog breeds shed to some extent. Ensure you know how much a breed will shed and are prepared for this, especially if allergies concern you.
  6. Decide if you want to adopt from a breeder, a shelter, or a breed rescue.

Getting Ready For Your New Puppy

Bringing a new four-legged family member home requires some preparation and work ahead of time. Once you have selected the best breed, owners must purchase supplies like dog crates, beds, leashes, food and water bowls, toys, blankets, harnesses, training tools, and more. Finding and setting up a relationship with a veterinarian is crucial so your dog can get all their required puppy shots, regular care, and vaccinations as they age. It is best to have a veterinarian in mind before bringing your puppy home if anything unexpected happens. Consider consulting with a professional trainer or looking into online training courses like SpiritDog training to prepare.

Along with having the right supplies, it is crucial to pick healthy, balanced dog food suitable for your dog’s age, breeding, and life stage. Puppies need food with higher calories, carbohydrates, and fats to support their rapidly growing bodies and brains. Active adult dogs need food that offers complete nutrition and will provide them with enough energy to get through their day. Food must also support their body’s health, especially bone and joint health. Be sure to discuss any specific nutritional needs or other medical concerns about your new pup with your veterinarian.

The information provided through this website should not be used to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease; it is not intended to offer any legal opinion or advice or a substitute for professional safety advice or professional care. Please consult your health care provider, attorney, or product manual for professional advice. Products and services reviewed are provided by third parties; we are not responsible in any way for them, nor do we guarantee their functionality, utility, safety, or reliability. Our content is for educational purposes only.

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