Welcoming a hound into your home is one of the greatest joys in this world, but if you’re a new pet parent it can be helpful to do some research on the best dog breeds for first-time owners. While there are plenty of adorable options out there, it’s a good idea to adopt the same approach you would when picking out a new book and steer clear of judging a doggy by its cover.
When you bring home your adopted bundle of furry joy you want to make sure that life is as easy as it can be for both of you as you adjust to your new life together. For your first go as a pet parent, look for a breed that’s low-maintenance with a laid-back and eager to please nature to make training a cinch rather than a struggle.
While many of the most popular small dog breeds make fantastic first-time canine companions, size doesn’t necessarily equate with ease, with some bigger breeds being more relaxed than their smaller and stubborn counterparts. Likewise, active dogs aren’t necessarily more hard work than couch potatoes for new dog owners, so if you love the great outdoors we’ve included some energetic breeds that are easy to manage.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for one of the most affectionate dog breeds or a pooch who’s a little more independent, we’ve rounded up our pick of the best dog breeds for first-time owners so you can ensure you find your perfect match.
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1. Bichon Frise
This adorable powder puff is a happy and go-lucky little dog with real pep in their step. Known for their curious and playful nature, Bichon Frise are lovers not fighters who make great companions for both individuals and families. Relatively easy to train and highly adaptable, this breed requires professional grooming but only moderate amounts of exercise. At home in both the city and country, their irresistible charm and intelligence make them one of the best dog breeds for first-time owners.
2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
You could melt butter on the warm and gentle eyes of the sweet-natured Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and their frequent displays of love and affection will win the hearts of adults and children alike. Thriving in all kinds of households and getting along with just about anyone, Cavie’s are attentive yet quiet, elegant but low maintenance, and equally happy being an upbeat athlete or a laid-back couch potato, meaning that these are absolutely one of the best dog breeds for first-time owners.
3. Golden Retriever
Friendly and devoted, the intelligent Golden Retriever is the quintessential family dog, excellent with people of all ages and eager to please makes the Golden Retriever another of the best dog breeds for first-time owners. Exuberant with a love of life, this breed is outgoing and relatively easy to train. They have a joyful and playful approach to life and adapt and thrive in almost any environment. Energetic with a love of games, Golden's need plenty of exercise and will do best with owners who love the outdoors.
Small on stature but big on personality, the Pomeranian is vivacious and spirited with a bold and inquisitive nature. Popular city dogs thanks to their compact size, Pom's are alert and intelligent, quickly mastering tricks and games. Although they’ll adapt to family life they do best bonding with one special human who they can lavish their love on.
Adapting beautifully to all climates and homes, the teeny Papillon makes up for their diminutive frame with a hardy and eager personality that loves nothing more than joining in on all the family fun. Adaptable and versatile, they make great cuddle and exercise buddies, equally content snuggled up on your lap or out walking. Performing consistently high in agility events, their alert and smart natures make them easy to train and their outgoing and loving disposition makes them a joy to be around.
The Pug has been winning the hearts and minds of pet parents around the world for decades and it’s not hard to see why. Charming and mischievous, their comical natures can’t help but bring a smile to your face and their desire to shower their owners with love and affection makes this adorable breed the ideal canine companion. Happy anywhere and with anyone that will love them in return, Pugs have a sensitive temperament that responds best to gentle training methods – this alone makes them one of the best dog breeds for first-time owners.
If you’re looking for a playful and high-energy canine companion who’ll be all too happy to accompany you on all your outdoor adventures, then look no further because you’ve met your match in the fun-loving Boxer. Deeply loyal, this breed is affectionate and intelligent with a bright nature and a love of silliness. They need ample exercise every day and are eager to please and outgoing, which makes training them fairly easy.
The Border Collie makes a devoted companion with their graceful and affectionate natures and their love of both adults and children. Although large and active, they are true people pets who are known for being highly responsive and of sterling character. Beautiful on the inside and out, the Collie is a quick learner and very in tune with humans. They respond well to reward-based training and love attention. Exuberant when running about outdoors but calm when inside, Collie’s require minimal grooming and are known for being free from doggy odor.
The lovable Labradoodle isn’t technically a breed of their own but rather a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. Happy and easy to train with tons of energy to burn, these active bundles love people even more than they love exercise. Eager to learn and with unbridled enthusiasm, these sociable and outgoing dogs make great buddies for active humans who love having a constant companion. Their hypoallergenic coats require weekly brushing and occasional trims to stay fresh.
10. French Bulldog
Playful and with a bright intellect, the French Bulldog will happily fit in to any household from singles to families and every kind of situation in between. They love making new friends, whether it’s with other animals or humans, and they require less exercise and grooming than other breeds. They have a slight stubborn streak but at their heart they’re people pleasers so training won’t be an issue. Natural entertainers with big personalities, Frenchie’s don’t like being on their own and will do best with a human who’s happy to have a second shadow.
The Greyhound might not immediately strike you as low maintenance, considering that they are bred to be racing dogs, but you might be surprised. While they love exercise, and ideally need plenty of it, while they are at home they are generally content to snooze while you go about your day, and they make for very affectionate pets. Their natural hunting instincts mean it's probably best if you don't have cats or other small animals, but this aside, they are incredibly rewarding first-time pets.
12. Airdale Terrier
Airdale Terriers are incredibly easy-going and friendly, making them an ideal purchase for those taking their first tentative steps into the world of dog ownership. While they need a good amount of exercise, and will need to be exposed to cats early in their lives so that they become used to them, they are a loyal and reliable guardian, having served carrying medicine and other supplies across the trenches during WW1. They are also proficient rat catchers, so you should be wary if you keep rodents or other small animals in your home, but as long as you keep up with training, you'll have yourself a loving and loyal pet.
13. Shih Tzu
Originally bred to accompany Chinese royalty, the Shih Tzu has continued to make its owners feel like the most important people in the world. As well as their diminutive stature meaning they will need less space than other dogs, they don’t have strong hunting instincts, and aren’t particularly aggressive, making them a not particularly intimidating option for first-time dog buyers. Even so, they will need to be trained well, as they can become unruly should they be given too much leeway during the early days of your ownership. As long as you make sure that they have a decent grounding, you’ll have yourself the perfect lap dog.
Another breed of small stature but mighty heart, Chihuahuas possess the additional benefit of being a hypoallergenic breed, making them an attractive prospect for those with allergies. But even if this isn’t a consideration for you, there’s a lot to be said in this breed’s favor. They are often chosen by owners who live in cities, as they can undertake exercise indoors, making them low maintenance in comparison to larger breeds. Plus, once they’ve expended their energy, they’ll have a long old snooze, giving you some time if you have a busy schedule.
15. Labrador Retriever
You might be surprised to see Labrador Retrievers on this list, as they are renowned outdoor dogs who need a lot of exercise. But as you’ll find out, they possess a number of benefits over other breeds. Firstly, they’re incredibly smart, making them relatively easy to train. Secondly, they’re ideal for those with families. They’re great with children, and love to socialize with other dogs (the feeling may not necessarily be reciprocated, but you can’t blame this on them). Finally, they’re great for taking on holiday with you. They love the outdoors, and will liven up any trip you take.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has spent the past three years dividing her writing time between her two great loves - pets and health and wellness. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with a very mischievous Cocker Spaniel and a super sassy cat, drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.