32 best dog breeds for first-time owners

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel stood outside on a rock with background blurred
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Welcoming a hound into your home is amazing, but you're right 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.  

1. Bichon Frise

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Two Bichon Frise dogs standing side by side outside

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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

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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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

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Close up of Golden Retriever outside looking at camera happily with tongue out

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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, Goldens need plenty of exercise and will do best with owners who love the outdoors. 

4. Pomeranian

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Pomeranian looking at the camera

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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.

5. Papillon

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Papillon standing on grass and looking straight up at camera

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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. 

6. Pug

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Pug outside

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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 who 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.

7. Boxer

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Boxer dog looking outside with kitchen behind

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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.

8. Silken Windhound

Silken Windhound

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A relatively new breed, the Silken Windhound is a sighthound breed created in America with Borzoi and whippet ancestry. They are intelligent and trainable dogs, with a size and temperament similar to a whippet, making them a great choice for first-time owners. Personable and affectionate, they tend to be good with cats, kids and people.

9. Labradoodle

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: Labradoodle lying on park bench

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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

One of the best dog breeds for first-time owners: French Bulldog posing

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Playful and with a bright intellect, the French Bulldog will happily fit into 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. 

11. Greyhound


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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

Best dog breeds for first-time owners

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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

Shih Tzu

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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.

14. Chihuahua

Chihuahua esa dog

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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

labrador retriever esa dog

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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.

16. Whippet

Whippet dog sitting outside

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Whippets are lovely, gentle dogs, making them ideal for first-time dog owners. If you're looking for something with a similar build and temperament as a greyhound, without the size, whippets are also sighthounds, but come in a smaller package. They are quiet, peaceful and good pets for busy people, as they sleep most of the time.

17. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier receives pets

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The Boston Terrier made our list of the best-behaved dog breeds because they're such superstars. They're smart, kind and compact, making them a great breed if you have a smaller home and less time to exercise a pet. While they do need daily walks, the Boston is happy with a stroll around the block. 

18. Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound

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The tiniest of sighthound breeds, the Italian Greyhound is small enough to pick up and put in a purse. They are similar in temperament to their slightly larger cousin, the whippet, but can be prone to nervousness. If you like accessorizing, these dogs tend to feel the cold and you may find they end up with a larger wardrobe than you full of jumpers, snoods, boots and coats.

19. Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel sitting in dug out hole

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Cocker spaniels are a little more energetic than their Cavalier King Charles cousins and come in two types. Show line cockers are smaller, with longer ears and tend to be calmer, and working line cockers are higher-energy and have a higher drive to work, similar to springer spaniels. If you're a first-time dog owner, the more sedate show-line cocker is a lovely choice whereas a working line cocker will be more challenging.

20. Poodle

Poodle outside giving a high five to owner

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Poodles are highly intelligent dogs, and generally make good cross-breeds. They are traditionally water dogs, bred to retrieve game from lakes and rivers. They come in four different sizes: toy, miniature, medium and standard. The standard size is a large dog, so whatever size you want: there's a poodle to meet your needs.

21. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire terrier

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The Yorkie is another small dog breed that can be easily scooped up and carried around. They are one of the smallest dog breeds and can be a bit bossy, but are generally good with kids and affectionate. They love cuddling up on the couch and are one of the best dogs for seniors as they have fairly low exercise needs.

22. Bernese Mountain Dog

Woman bending down to stroke Bernese Mountain Dog

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The Bernese is a large breed, but don't let that put you off. They're wonderfully gentle dogs, originally bred in Switzerland as livestock guardians and herders. They are great with kids, with affectionate, sweet personalities and oodles of charm. 

23. Maltese

Maltese dog smiling

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The American Kennel Club describes the Maltese as "playful, charming and gentle," making them a wonderful breed for first-time owners. You will probably need to brush up on your grooming, as Maltese have long, silky white coats that require a bit of maintenance.

24. Great Dane

Great Dane lying on grass

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Although they are one of the largest dog breeds, the Great Dane can be a lovely dog for first-time owners. They grow fast, so if you have one from a pup you need to be prepared for this, but once they've reached full size, they are generally gentle giants with a sweet nature.

25. Basset Hound

Basset Hound lying on floor

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Basset hounds can be stubborn, but this compact little French scent hound can be a great addition to the family, even if you've never owned a dog before. They are friendly, and devoted and stand no taller than 14 inches high, although they tend to be quite dense for their height and heavy. 

26. Beagle

Obedient Beagle dog looking up at his owner while being walked in the park

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Beagles are a classic breed for first-time owners as they are friendly and obedient. They are a British breed established in the 15th century to hunt hares and were a favorite with Queen Elizabeth I. They tend to roam, so be wary of this and keep them on the lead during training and until you are sure you can trust them not to run off.

27. Cavapoo


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A cross between a Cavalier King Charles and a miniature Poodle, the cavapoo tend to inherit the best traits of both breeds. They are affectionate, calm and make wonderful companions, generally happy if they have lots of attention. They have the intelligence of the poodle, with the sweet temperament of the cavalier. 

28. Wheaten Terrier

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier lying on couch

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If you struggle with allergies or just want a dog that doesn't shed too much, the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is a great choice for first-time dog owners. Originating from Ireland, these dogs are sensitive, intelligent and affectionate. They make lovely family dogs, with a sunny disposition and puppy-like temperament that lasts well into their autumn years.

29. Maltipoo


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Another successful poodle cross-breed, the Maltipoo is a relatively new breed of 'designer dog' that mixes the smarts and low-shedding coat of the poodle with the social and charming personality of the Maltese. They are great family dogs and can be companions for older people due to their fairly low exercise requirements. 

30. West Highland Terrier

West Highland Terrier

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Westies are lovely, kind dogs with beautiful white coats. They make good dogs for first-time owners, as they have cheerful demeanors and an independent nature. They make wonderful companions for the young and old alike and are one of the most popular terrier breeds. Their grooming needs are high, as they have a double coat, so make sure you are prepared for this commitment. 

31. Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

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Corgis have the sort of face you can't say no to. Their fluffy rear ends, cute stubby legs and wide smile make them one of the most lovable dog breeds and despite a slightly stubborn nature, they're a good choice for new owners. Whether you get a Pembroke Welsh Corgi or a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, you're sure to fall in love with this charming little dog straight away. 

32. Newfoundland


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Newfies make great family dogs, as they are kind and never aggressive. They may need a job to keep them occupied, but they are really good with kids and are very happy as guardian dogs. They are a giant breed, weighing up to 150lbs, but don't let that put you off: their sweet temper is what they are famous for and they'll make a lovely addition to your family. 

Kathryn Williams
Freelance writer

Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.

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