9 Best Breeds for First Time Dog Owners

Are you in the market for your very own furry best friend? Then you came to the right place!

Since you may not have a lot of experience with finding the right dog, living with it, and training it, you want to make sure you set yourself up for success.

But how can you do this? By choosing your first dog from the list of best breeds for first time dog owners!

Of course, we’re not suggesting you just take a look at our top choices and choose one of them, but we’re giving you a complete and detailed guide on how to make the right choice.

Yes, you can expect to see a list of dog breeds that work for first time owners in general, but you’ll also learn everything else you need to know before you make a decision.

So, let’s get into it!

Why It’s a Good Idea to Pick a Specific Breed

If you decide on getting a specific breed, you can read up on that breed’s general characteristics.

Although no two dogs of the same breed are identical, there are some general traits that you can expect.

If you are a novice, it will help you to have certain expectations and understanding of the dog you’re getting in advance.

Another good reason to choose a specific breed is if you have specific goals when you think of your dog.

Whether those are goals concerning your dog's energy needs, or you want to have a dog who will help you hunt, or you just want to nap and cuddle all day – deciding on a specific breed will make it more likely that the dog will fit into your lifestyle, especially if you know what you’re looking for. 

Breed Characteristics

You must be wondering which characteristics you need to look for when choosing your first dog. Well, we got you covered!

There are several key things to pay attention to. This section can help you even if you already have a dog.

However, it’s extremely important if you never owned a dog before. So let’s get into it, in no particular order.


Dog and its owner demonstrating new skills

Let’s start with one of the first questions that comes up when talking about dog breeds. This question is - How difficult is it to train this breed? Let’s get real for a second here.

All healthy dogs can be trained, that’s a fact. There’s no dog on this planet who is physically and mentally healthy and impossible to train.

If anyone is telling you this, they either have no clue, or don’t know how to train a dog.
However, some breeds just pick up the training faster.

Individual dogs of the same breed can differ in the speed that you can train them, but we can make some generalizations about certain breeds.

So, if you are getting your first dog, you probably want to look into breeds that have a reputation for being “smart”.

This means picking up quickly and easily, such as knowing when and where they need to pee and poop, and basic commands such as sit, down, stay etc.

Of course, getting an “easy-to-train" breed doesn’t mean it’s going to be an easy ride. It will still take time and dedication, but you may have a bit less of a difficult time with it. 


Friendliness is an important trait that is usually looked at in relation to the dog’s behavior towards strangers and other dogs.

It is expected that a properly socialized dog you care for will be friendly and loving to you and your family.

But friendliness towards strangers and other dogs is not always guaranteed. Some dogs are naturally very friendly and open to contact with the unfamiliar. Some are not.

If you’re looking for your first dog, you may want to look into more friendly breeds. Not because they are better than those that are “non-friendly”, but because they may be easier to handle.

Remember, you want to set yourself up for success and avoid traits you think you can’t handle. The last thing you want to do is return a dog because its not friendly enough.

Of course, if you think that you want a dog who will not be so open to befriending strangers and other dogs, then by all means go for that.

Just keep in mind your lifestyle, how often you come into contact with strangers, and how your new dog will be able to adapt (or not) to that.

In any case, every dog can be thought to be friendly towards strangers with proper training and socialization, but friendlier dog breeds will be easier to manage in that sense. 

Maintenance Level

Owner carrying her dog

The next characteristic to look into is the level of maintenance a specific breed needs.

We’re not going to say that low-maintenance dog breeds are better for novice owners than high-maintenance. This is not the case.

Whether you can handle the level of care your dog needs depends solely on you.

However, if you never had a dog before and you never cared for one, you need to be aware that they are a LOT of work.

You will have a lot of new daily obligations towards your dog, including taking them for a walk, training them, preparing food, making sure they feel safe, comfortable and taken care of etc.

All of this - on top of an already busy schedule you may have.

With this in mind, it’s important to take a second and think about how much time you have to get your dog to the groomers every 2 weeks or monthly, or even to groom them yourself.

If the answer to this is “Oh my, how will I manage?” then make sure you take all high-maintenance dog breeds off your list.

Energy Level

Another important point to think about when choosing a dog breed is their energy level. As with maintenance, we can’t say whether low or high-energy dogs are better for first time dog owners.

This depends heavily on you, your lifestyle and situation, as well as your goals.

However, if you are not an extremely active person (meaning you spend most days outside), then don’t look into high-energy dogs.

On the other hand, if you are constantly out and about, don’t look into breeds who like to chill in one place the entire day.

The point here is that you need to carefully and honestly assess your situation to be able to ensure a happy and fulfilled life for your dog, no matter the breed. 


Two stray dogs posing for the camera

Last but not least, you also need to consider the physical features of a breed, such as their typical size, and weight.

There are no one-size-fits-all dogs, and you’ll again have to assess your situation before making a decision.

Keep in mind that the bigger the dog, the more food it eats and the more space it needs. Live in a small apartment? Then large breeds are probably not for you.

Depending on your situation, make sure you have the means to provide your dog with everything they need when it comes to necessities.

These five breed characteristics are just some of the most frequently talked about when people choose dogs. We also find they are among the top ones to look at for first time dog owners.

But they are by no means the only characteristics to look at. The list goes on, but the important thing is to consider the entire picture and then make the right choice for you.

However, it’s not a bad thing to have a starting point. This is why we compiled a list of dog breeds that have been shown to work well as first dogs in the family. 

List of the Best Breeds for First Time Dog Owners

Now that you’re familiar with some key characteristics to look for, we want to give you a starting point.

This list of best breeds for first time dog owners is just for reference. We’re not claiming you won’t find a perfect dog for you that belongs to a breed that’s not on this list.

But here are some breeds to research when you begin looking.

1 - Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Sad Cavalier King Charles Spaniel looking at the camera

You’ve probably seen this cute little face on your TV already. These royal dogs appear frequently. But there is a good reason why they are loved so much, especially by first time dog owners.

Their character is just right. They are playful, but gentle and affectionate, making them perfect for families, as well as those who just want a lovely companion.

Even though they weigh up to 28 pounds and can grow a maximum of 13 inches, these dogs are fearless and graceful.

But they are not your regular spoilt little dog. You can expect them to adapt to every situation and carry everything out with extreme patience.

As such, it’s much easier to handle them as a novice dog owner. 

2 - Poodle

Adorable little Poodle laying on the grass

There’s a good reason why people claim poodles are the smartest dogs out there! They are very easy to train, pick up everything quickly, and they are very clean.

You do need to groom them regularly so their fur and skin remains healthy. They are also pretty active, so make sure that fits into your lifestyle.

Another great thing about poodles is that they come in various sizes, which is a great choice to have when selecting your first dog.

3 - Papillon

Papillon surrounded by leaves

Here’s another smaller dog, but a versatile one. If you need a lap dog/exercises partner in one, the Papillon is for you. They are small, but they are active and free-spirited.

They will use every chance to play and be best friends for you and your kids. You can teach them tricks quickly and easily.

Papillons are not high-maintenance at all, which makes them perfect for busy families.

4 - Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise with a black harness

This breed is another smaller dog which is generally a happy ball of fluff. Whether you want a calm companion or a fun one for you and your family, you’ll be able to find it in a Bichon Frise.

They are pretty smart and easy to train, as well as adaptable to various situations. They are more indoor dogs, meaning they will manage great if you live in an apartment.

They require moderate exercise so they can fit even in a busier lifestyle. As a new owner, you should be aware that their fur requires a bit more maintenance.

5 - Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier calmly laying on a sofa

Another smaller breed on our list is the Yorkshire Terrier. But these small guys are much feistier than the previous breeds we talked about.

They need a structured training plan and moderate exercise, or you could end up with a frustrated dog aggressive towards strangers.

6 - Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever with its baby

You probably already heard that a Golden Retriever is the ultimate family-friendly dog.

And that is true! They are quite energetic which would fit into any family that loves to play, go outside, and have fun. But they are also very loving and loyal.

Their patient nature is perfect for children and they can be trained easily and quickly, even by inexperienced dog owners.

Keep in mind that this breed belongs to the “high-energy, active dogs” category, so they need plenty of exercise to get the best out of them.

7 - Labrador Retriever

Chocolate Labrador sitting on a chair

Another great family breed is a Labrador retriever. They share a lot of characteristics with their golden counterpart including being loyal, affectionate, smart, but also extremely high-energy.

One minor advantage they have over golden retrievers is slightly shorter fur. You still need to brush them regularly but no complex grooming is needed frequently.

8 - Great Dane

Great Dane laying on a summer bed

For all of the ‘big dog’ lovers among you, a Great Dane is a perfect choice. These gentle giants are great family dogs, and their calm nature can fit into any household.

What’s special about these dogs is how well they can live in smaller places and apartments, despite their size.

They don’t need a crazy amount of exercise, and they are pretty low maintenance. The only downside we see here is their pretty short lifespan, just 7 to 10 years.

But a Great Dane would make these years memorable.

9 - Bernese Mountain Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog waiting for food

Finally, another large breed on our list is the Bernese Mountain Dog. This breed is also a familiar one and is loved by many novice dog owners.

They are pretty smart, and need just several repetitions to learn easy commands. If you’d like to have a smart dog, this one’s for you.

But this breed is also pretty active. Not so active that they need to spend hours running, but they would need a couple of long walks daily to meet their activity needs.

These were our top 9 breeds for new dog owners. We tried to include tiny, small, medium, and large dogs, as well as dogs of various energy, activity, and maintenance levels.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone, you just need to find one for you. 

Should You Consider Mixed Breeds?

Now, we’re sure there are some of you reading may want to adopt or get a mixed breed dog to be your first pet. But is that a good idea? Absolutely!

If you are thinking about getting a mixed breed, we recommend going into a shelter and adopting a dog.

Mixed breeds are amazing pets, loyal, funny, loving, just as perfect as any pure breed dog.

However, as a first-time owner, you should know that mixed breeds are not as predictable as pure breeds.

What we mean by that is that you may have a mix of 3 or 4 breeds in one dog which acts in one way, and the same mix in another dog which acts completely differently.

There are no rules to genetics here so you never know what you’re getting. But that shouldn’t stop you if you want a mixed breed dog. 

The reason why we’re recommending getting one from a shelter is that they are usually socialized dogs, and the staff in the shelter spent time with them.

They will be able to tell you what to expect when it comes to the character of that dog, as well as all the characteristics we talked about above.

This way, you’re not going into this completely clueless. You’ll get all the necessary information beforehand, so you can decide whether that specific dog is for you or not.

Finally, if you decide on a mixed-breed dog, you can likely expect a moderate dog when it comes to everything.

The more they are mixed, the fewer extremes they display in their characteristics. This is especially convenient for first-time dog owners. 

How to Choose the Best Breed for You

Retrieving data. Wait a few seconds and try to cut or copy again.

Now that we talked about various questions you may had about best breeds for you as a novice dog owner, as well as which characteristics you should look for and what to avoid, let’s look at the steps you should take right now to start narrowing down your list of best breeds.

Remember, we gave recommendations and a list to look at as a starting point. But that doesn’t mean you should strictly stick to our list.

Maybe there’s a breed out there that would fit you perfectly, that we haven’t talked about. So here’s what you should do.

1. Make a List of What You Don’t Want

You should start with something that is pretty easy, which is writing down all the characteristics you don’t want in your new dog.

Maybe you’re not sure what you do want yet, but you definitely have an idea of what you don’t want.

Try to cover everything including size, weight, fur color, maintenance level, energy level, trainability, friendliness, affection, general health, intelligence, exercise needs, the potential to bark, sensitivity etc.

For example, you can say you don’t want an extremely energetic dog over 80 pounds who’s aggressive towards strangers and other dogs, and needs 4 hours of high-intensity exercise during the day.

You can also say you don’t want a 35-pound lap dog who’s going to lie around the entire day, have separation anxiety, and not be able to walk more than a mile without dropping to the ground.

You get the idea - look at your lifestyle, conditions you can offer to a dog and see what doesn’t fit.

2. Start Researching

Now that you know what you don’t want, it’s time to see what fits that description.

There are various sources online where you can find dog breed lists, with typical characteristics of that breed. Take your list and start comparing and crossing off breeds.

While doing that, look at all the other breeds you’re not crossing off. This will get you an idea of what’s out there and it will be easier to do the next step. 

3. Make a List of Desirable Characteristics

At this point, you should have a list of acceptable breeds. You crossed off everything that wouldn’t work for you. Now’s the time to narrow this list down further.

Make a list of characteristics you’d like your dog to have. Maybe you won’t find all of this in one dog, but at least you’ll know what you’re looking for.

4. Start Looking for Dog Owners and Ask Them About Their Experiences

Once you narrowed down your list to 10 to 15 breeds (ideally even less), start looking for real-life owners of these breeds.

The best point to start is online, joining Facebook groups dedicated to that breed, looking up on forums, visiting websites etc.

Ask around your neighborhood, or even better, go to a dog park.

People love talking about their pets, and if you’re open and honest about the fact that you’re looking for your next pet, they will love to help you with their experiences.

Talk to as many people as you can to get an idea of how that specific breed actually acts. This will help you to make a final decision. 

Final Thoughts

And there you have it – the list of best breeds for first time dog owners, together with a detailed guide on how to choose the best breed for you.

Remember, this is just a starting point. Finding the perfect match for you will take time. Don’t rush it, take all the time you need.

Even if you think you already know the perfect breed for you, take a second to do extremely thorough research before you act.

Don’t get carried away with appearance. Yes, we know you maybe love the color or how the fur looks, but fur is just a small part of your new pet.

Far more important are all the characteristics we talked about. So, sit down, prepare to do some in depth research, and good luck!