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14 Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners (With Pictures & Facts)

Written by: Kristin Hitchcock

Last Updated on May 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

female owner walking her golden retriever dog on a pathway

14 Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners (With Pictures & Facts)

Owning a dog for the first time can be exciting and a bit scary. After all, if you’ve never owned a dog before, you can’t know exactly what to expect. You can read about how to take care of a dog and train them properly, but nothing really prepares you for owning your first dog like owning a dog.

Because first-time dog owners have so much to learn, they often do best with easier dogs. Dogs that are more forgiving of socialization and training mistakes allow new dog owners to figure things out without the risk of serious consequences.

Let’s take a look at exactly what makes a dog breed good for first-time owners. Then, we’ll take a look at the best dog breeds for new owners.

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What Makes a Dog Breed Good for First-Time Owners?

There are tons of factors that first-time dog owners may be concerned about when choosing a dog. However, in our opinion, the most important factor is temperament. New owners do best with breeds that are patient, calm, and eager to please. These dogs tend to forgive their owners for mistakes during training.

That said, trainability is also important. First-time owners are trying to learn how to train a dog, so having a dog that trains well helps a lot. Very intelligent dogs can be a lot more work than less intelligent dogs, though. We recommend looking at how eager to please the dog is, not necessarily how intelligent the dog is.

Matching a dog’s energy level to your energy level is also important. However, we recommend aiming lower when you’re a new owner. Energetic dogs that aren’t exercised properly are more likely to develop destructive behaviors, and new owners may have a harder time addressing these behaviors.

The 14 Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

1. Labrador Retrievers

overweight labrador retriever dog lying at the park
Image Credit: McCann Michelle, Shutterstock
Origin: Canada
Lifespan: 10–12 years
Height: 22–24 inches

Labrador Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world for a reason. They’re exceptionally easy to train and very friendly. They tend to have a gentle temperament, making them a great choice for families. In most cases, they’re great for more active families looking for a first dog.

However, their higher energy levels can be a lot to deal with if you aren’t active. They require daily exercise, though some dogs from pet lines need less exercise than others. They also shed quite a bit, so regular brushing is required.

2. Golden Retriever

Beautiful golden retriever dog running playing fetch
Image Credit: Birgit Reitz-Hofmann, Shutterstock
Origin: Scotland
Lifespan: 10–12 years
Height: 21–24 inches

Golden Retrievers are very similar to Labs. In many cases, they tend to be more even-tempered and friendly, though. They’re practically the friendliest dog out there. Most bond very quickly with their families, making them a great choice for those with kids. They’re also less energetic than Labs, but they still require a moderate amount of exercise.

Like many other breeds, they do require regular brushing. They have a thick double coat, but they don’t need to be clipped. In fact, clipping them isn’t recommended.

3. Bichon Frise

Bichon frise dog close up portrait
Image Credit: OlgaOvcharenko, Shutterstock
Origin: Spain
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 5–11.5 inches

Bichon Frise are very playful, cheerful little dogs. Because they’re small, they do best for apartment dwellers or those with a more laid-back exercise. Their coat also doesn’t shed, cutting down on the amount of fur that will end up around your house.

Still, these dogs require regular brushing to prevent matting. They’re prone to separation anxiety, so they may not be a good choice for owners who are gone for much of the day. They do best when they can be with someone much of the time.

4. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Image Credit: Fotyma, Shutterstock
Origin: United States
Lifespan: 9–14 years
Height: 12–13 inches

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels tend to be very gentle and laidback, making them great for those looking for a cuddly companion. They’re also relatively easy to train and often behave great indoors. Their natural, calm nature makes them much easier to care for than other dog breeds. These Spaniels adapt very quickly to different living situations, whether it is a house or an apartment.

That said, these dogs aren’t always the healthiest. It’s important to go through a reputable breeder. They also have moderate grooming needs to maintain their silky coat.

5. Pug

Image Credit: alberto clemares exposito, Shutterstock
Origin: China
Lifespan: 13–15 years
Height: 10–13 inches

Pugs are known for their loving nature and comical personalities. Because of their shortened snout, they can’t exercise much. Therefore, they have very low exercise needs, making them a good choice for owners who aren’t very active. They also have an extremely short coat, so they require practically no grooming.

That said, their shortened snout can also cause tons of health problems. They often cannot breathe properly, leading to issues with everything from exercise and heat to anesthesia. There is often a higher risk in surgery too.

6. Poodles

Toy Poodle dog lying on sofa at home
Image Credit: NDAB Creativity, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany/France
Lifespan: 12–16 years
Height: Depends on size

Poodles can be good for first-time owners if you’re willing to put in a bit more work. They come in three different sizes, and there aren’t many temperament differences between sizes. In many cases, you can choose whichever size works best for your lifestyle and space.

These dogs do not shed, but they do require grooming. You may need to brush them as much as every day. They’re relatively active, so they do best when their owners are pretty active, too.

Their intelligence and exercise level can make it harder for them to work than other dogs, though. Yes, they’re highly trainable. However, if you don’t keep them busy, they will keep you busy.

7. Bulldogs

Big English Bulldog in the room close up
Image Credit: Olga Aniven, Shutterstock
Origin: United Kingdom
Lifespan: 8–10 years
Height: 14–15 inches

Bulldogs can be good first-time dogs. However, it’s essential that they’re socialized heavily, especially if you get a larger Bulldog. Otherwise, they won’t know their own size and can injure others. Beyond that, though, they are pretty inactive and low-maintenance.

These dogs aren’t the most trainable, and they can be pretty stubborn. They require very patient training. We recommend getting them started in puppy classes early, especially for new owners. Their short coat may seem like it would shed less, but they do require regular grooming (especially their wrinkles, which can get infected).

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8. Whippet

Whippet running
Image Credit: alektas, Shutterstock
Origin: United Kingdom
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 18–22 inches

Whippets are sighthounds, which means that they’re more active. However, they’re small and not nearly as active as other sighthounds. They tend to have bursts of energy, which may involve a few laps around the house. However, they’re often inactive for long periods of time. They can be very cuddly dogs.

They tend to be sensitive, though. We don’t recommend them for homes with families for this reason. Their gentle, affectionate personality just can’t handle much noise!

Whippets do have a strong prey drive, though. We recommend not letting them off-leash for this reason.

9. Beagles

beagle dog standing on fallen leaves
Image Credit: Lenkadan, Shutterstock
Origin: United Kingdom
Lifespan: 10–15 years
Height: 13–15 inches

Beagles may have been bred as hunting dogs for a long time. However, they can also make great companion animals. They’re curious and playful. Most are pretty laid back, though younger Beagles can require a significant amount of exercise. They can also be pretty vocal, so they may not be the best choice for apartments.

Their strong sense of smell means that they can become easily distracted. They require a fenced-in yard for safe exercise. Otherwise, they may find a scent trail and wander off.

10. Boston Terrier

Boston terrier dog on brown terrace
Image Credit: bubutu, Shutterstock
Origin: United States
Lifespan: 11–13 years
Height: 15–17 inches

Boston Terriers are best known for their classic tuxedo-like markings. They’re exceptionally affectionate dogs, and they’ve been bred as companion dogs for a long time. They are intelligent and easy to train, making them a good option for first-time owners. They’re relatively small dogs, so they work well in apartments.

These dogs are inactive indoors, but they do enjoy daily walks. Easy walks and quick playtime sessions can help keep them healthy.

Boston Terriers also have very low maintenance needs when it comes to grooming.

11. French Bulldog

Smiling french bulldog lying on grass in the backyard
Image Credit: Tienuskin, Shutterstock
Origin: France
Lifespan: 10–14 years
Height: 11–13 inches

French Bulldogs are some of the most charming companions out there. They have very large bat ears and affectionate personalities. It isn’t surprising that they are currently the most popular dog breed in America.

However, they also have shortened snouts like other bulldogs, leading to health problems. Their rise in popularity over the last few years has led to an increase in poor breeding, which is only making their health worse. Sadly, many Frenchies don’t live very long. They’re also exceptionally expensive.

12. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu cute small dog smiling in the grass
Image Credit: Brenda Areli55, Shutterstock
Origin: China
Lifespan: 9–16 years
Height: 8–10 inches

Shih Tzus are small dogs with very long, flowing fur. Many dog owners keep them cut short, though, which makes them look like eternal puppies. They require daily brushing when kept long, but they may not require any brushing at all when cut shorter.

These dogs don’t require much grooming. They’re perfectly fine lying on the couch and cuddling. Most are relatively inactive, though they still like laidback walks. They love to be with their people, so they will enjoy playtime, too.

It’s important to only choose dogs from quality breeders. Otherwise, Shih Tzus could have many health problems. They’re prone to both respiratory and back issues.

13. Miniature Schnauzer

miniature schnauzer dog sitting outdoors
Image Credit: Debra Anderson, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Lifespan: 12–14 years
Height: 13–14 inches

Miniature Schnauzers are a great option for someone who is looking for a breed that’s a bit different. They are loyal and protective, not the typically happy-go-lucky dogs that populate this list. They’re easy to train, though, and they can get along with children when properly socialized.

They have a wiry coat that does require some regular brushing and professional grooming a few times a year. When properly cared for, they don’t leave much fur around the house, though.

14. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

pembroke welsh corgi dog going for a walk
Image Credit: Jus_Ol, Shutterstock
Origin: Wales
Lifespan: 11–13 years
Height: 10–12 inches

Pembroke Welsh Corgis are known for their exceptionally short legs and very round bodies. They look like fat sausages, even when not necessarily overweight. These herding dogs are very eager to please and intelligent, making them very easy to train. Still, professional classes are recommended to teach you how to train them.

They are very active despite their smaller size. It’s important to remember that these are working dogs, not lap dogs. They need regular exercise daily.

However, their long backs are prone to all sorts of health issues. It’s important to prevent them from jumping or using stairs too often. Otherwise, they may end up with back issues at a very young age.

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Final Thoughts

There are tons of dogs out there that may work well for a first-time dog owner. Generally, we recommend choosing a dog that fits you, not necessarily what someone claims is the “best dog breed ever.” That means selecting a breed that is generally easy to train, matches your activity level, and can get along with everyone in your household.

When in doubt, research more about the breeds that interest you.

In the end, it’s important to understand that there isn’t a “perfect” breed for anyone. Once you’ve found a breed that matches almost everything you want, it’s time to take the jump and speak to a breeder.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: LightField Studios, Shutterstock

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