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Best Dogs for First-Time Owners: 18 Dog Breeds for Beginners

best dog breed for first time owners golden doodle

Are you looking to join the estimated 38% of American households that are home to dogs? To make your decision a bit easier, we’ve researched a list of the best dog breeds for first-time owners, based on breed traits, in celebration of #NationalDogAdoptionDay Oct. 25!

As you research dog breeds, you will find that some breeds are better for newbies than other breeds. However, every dog has its own personality, so take time to get to know the breed and the dog before you take it home. While there’s no such thing as a “bad” dog breed, not all dogs make great pets for owners who lack experience with canines.

Check out our new dog supply shopping list to ensure you have everything you need before bringing home your pet. 

Main photo by Bharathi Kannan on Unsplash

What Dog Breed Traits Make for Best Beginner Dogs

When searching for your first dog, you must consider a dog’s temperament, behavior, health, and intelligence. Dogs that are stubborn, difficult to train, have high grooming needs, or are prone to numerous health conditions could warrant serious thought before jumping into pet ownership. 

18 Top Dog Breeds for Newbies

It’s easy to get excited about welcoming a dog into your family. Let’s face it; they are cute, cuddly, and known as “man’s best friend” for a reason. The adorability factor aside, some dogs are inherently a better choice than others for first-time pet owners. Here are the best beginner dogs based on a Vetstreet.com survey of veterinary professionals and the reasons to consider them before other breeds.

The list below refers to “pure” breeds; however, we’d suggest that any mixed breed with the following lineages will likely make for excellent pets as well. 

18. Pomeranian — This breed, while at the bottom of the list, is a good dog for new owners because Poms aren’t high maintenance and are happy and easily adapt to their environments. Read more about the Pomeranian.

17. Shetland sheepdog — One of the best dogs for first-time owners, Shetland sheepdogs are loyal, intelligent, and easy to train. 

15. (tie) Yorkshire terrier — This intelligent breed gets along well with other pets and humans, making Yorkies one of the best first dog picks. They’re best for adult-only homes or those with older children, mainly because of Yorkshire terriers’ size. Their coat requires regular attention. Read more about the Yorkshire terrier.

15. (tie) Havanese — One of the best dogs for new owners is a Havanese. This breed is a lively breed that loves playing with their human family. Their coats require daily brushing and routine professional grooming, but they aren’t heavy shedders. 

14. Maltese — The Maltese is one of the top dog breeds for beginners with their lovable personalities. Learn more about the Maltese.

13. Pug — Pugs are great dogs for beginners. They’re happy when they are with their humans and love to be the center of attention, which is easy to do with their adorable face and personality. Learn more about pugs.

12. Puggle — The puggle, a pug and beagle mix, is considered a good first dog thanks to their sense of humor and desire to please their owners. 

11. Shih tzu — A born cuddler, the shih tzu is among the top dog breeds for first-time owners. Their coats require regular maintenance but aren’t heavy shedders. Read more about the shih-tzu.

10. Papillon — The papillon (French for “butterfly,” because of their ears) may appear dainty, but they have high intelligence and a world of energy, making them one of the best first-time dog owner breeds for active owners. 

9. Boston terrier — Boston terriers are good dogs for first-time owners thanks to their friendliness. This breed gets along with pretty much everyone they meet. Boston terriers are equally content with high-energy activities or the couch. Read more about the many terrier breeds.

8. Bichon frise — Bred to be a companion dog, the bichon frise is affectionate and loves to perform tricks for their humans. 

7. Labradoodle — One of the best mixed breeds for first-time dog owners, the labradoodle, a crossbreed between a labrador and poodle, brings a moderately active, friendly, and smart pet. 

6. Goldendoodle — This golden retriever and poodle mix is intelligent, energetic, and friendly. 

5. Cockapoo — Another designer breed to make the best first-time dog owners’ breeds list is a crossbreed between a cocker spaniel and poodle. It is an affectionate, easy-going low-to-no-shedder. Their coats require regular brushing.

4. Cavalier King Charles spaniel — This toy breed loves being with their humans, whether that’s sitting on their owner’s lap or going for a long stroll. 

3. Labrador retriever — This friendly breed not only makes for a great first dog but is exceptional as service and therapy dogs. They are good dogs for first-time owners who are active. Read on about the labrador retriever.

2. Poodle — The poodle is energetic, smart, and considered by many as hypoallergenic, making them excellent pets for people who are new to the world of dogs. Read more about poodles.

1. Golden Retriever — The loyalty, gentle disposition, and people-pleasing personalities of the golden retriever breed make them the best first-time dog. Learn more about golden retrievers.

What if Your First Dog Isn’t the Best Dog for You

Every dog has its day. Although there are no guarantees that your first dog will be everything you dreamed he would be, there are a few things you can do to make it work with your new pet. 

If you’ve got yourself a barker, you’ll need to train your pet to stop barking before it gets out of control. With an ultrasonic training device, time, patience, and consistency, and of course, plenty of treats and praise, you can reduce or eliminate your pet’s nuisance barking. 

New to DIY dog grooming? Don’t sweat it; grooming your pet shouldn’t be a traumatic experience for you or your dog. Seek out a professional groomer through your vet or go the DIY route and groom your pet at home. Or do both; some breeds need TLC brushing between visits to the professional groomer. If you opt to groom your dog, start with a dog grooming kit that includes professional quality nail clippers with a removable nail file, a de-shedding tool, and a silicone washing brush. 

Above all else, give your new relationship some time. With love, you will find that you made the right choice for your first dog!