13 Best Dogs for First-Time Owners: Ideal Breeds that Make the Transition Smooth!

best dogs for first time owners

Everyone is a first-time dog owner at one point. While I have had dogs my whole life, I still remember the very first dog I could call my own. He was a cute, lively Cocker Spaniel who taught me a lot about what goes into pet care. 

When it comes to dog breeds for first-timers, you’ll want to choose a pup that is easy to train, one that might not have a lot of health issues, and most importantly, one that fits your lifestyle.

If you like to hike or jog, choose a more active pup who can join you. Or, if you don’t revel the idea of constant grooming, adopt a dog — whether mixed breed dogs or a purebred dogs — that has a shorter coat.

While most of the dogs on this list are very intelligent and pick up tasks quickly, you will need to impart training as part of your dog ownership.

That’s one critical element that every dog needs, no matter how smart it is. This includes having to house-train, though if you adopt an older dog, you might get lucky and get one that’s already house-trained.

Best Dogs for First-Time Owners 

There are hundreds of dog breeds to choose from, so where do you start in narrowing down your list for the best dogs for first-time owners?

Luckily for you, we’ve broken it down into a few different categories.

Best Outdoor-Friendly Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

Dipping your toes into the world of pet parenthood? Explore the best outdoor-friendly dog breeds that promise adventure and companionship for first-time owners.

Golden Retriever

best dogs for first time owners
Dog’s Size21.5″ to 24″ 
Weight55 to 75 pounds
Fur and ColorDouble coat, medium length; light to dark golden
Lifespan10 to 12 years

The Golden Retriever is one of the gentlest, sweetest dog breeds you can own. The breed originated in Scotland in the late 1800s. Not only are they easy to train, they’re very receptive to it.

Golden Retrievers are loyal and affectionate breed dogs who truly love their families. Goldens can be prone to separation anxiety and will let you know how happy they are to see you when you arrive home.

Golden Retrievers are generally a low-maintenance breed, but they do need regular grooming to keep their coat free of tangles. 


dogs for first time owners
Dog’s Size21″ to 25″
Weight55 to 70 pounds
Fur and Colorshort coat, minimal grooming needs; brindle and fawn are standard colors
Lifespan10 to 12 years

If you want a silly pup to spice up your life, you’ll appreciate having a Boxer around. They’re fun dogs that also take their loyalty to their family very seriously.

A Boxer will need plenty of exercise as it has high energy levels and can drive you crazy if you don’t let it expel that energy.

Fortunately, when you go to train them, they pick up on tasks easily. The Boxer can benefit from obedience training as well, and they’re eager to please. The Boxer loves children and will often be very protective of them.  

Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

Stepping into the realm of pet ownership in a cozy city space? Discover the top apartment dog breeds perfectly tailored for first-time owners with limited square footage.


good dogs for first time owners
Dog’s Size8″ to 11″
Weight6 to 10 pounds
Fur and Colorsingle coat with long, straight fur; white with red, black, lemon, or sable mask
Lifespan14 to 16 years

The Papillion is a perpetually smiling dog, which showcases its personality. The Papillion dog is a small breed but mighty and is very adaptable, which means they do well in a home, even if it’s your first canine.

While it’s great with well-trained children, the Papillion dog should be handled with care due to its small stature. The good news is you can have the Papillion in an apartment because it doesn’t require a lot of activity.

Shih Tzu

best first dog
Dog’s Size9″ to 10.5″
Weight9 to 16 pounds
Fur and ColorSilky double coat, long; solid colors plus white
Lifespan10 to 18 years

If you’re looking for a cuddle buddy, the Shih Tzu is the perfect partner. Shih Tzus hail from China as one of the oldest breeds in the country, and they’re very well known for being a perfect companion.

The Shih Tzu prefers to be around its family and is content to lounge about, with no high-maintenance exercise needs. While it does require regular grooming because of its locks, the Shih Tzu sheds minimally. 


best dogs to own
Dog’s SizeOver 15″ (Standard); 10″ to 15″ (Miniature); 10″ and under (Toy)
Weight45 to 70 pounds (Standard); 15 to 18 pounds (Miniature); 5 to 9 pounds (Toy)
Fur and Colorcurly coat; white, gray, black, apricot, brown
Lifespan10 to 18 years

The Poodle comes in three sizes: Standard, Miniature, and then, there’s the Toy Poodle. Poodles will blow you away with their smarts as they are highly intelligent and not the divas they’re typically made out to be, thanks to movies.

The Poodle is a versatile pooch that loves to spend time with its owner and does well in homes with children.

However, it’s important to note that Poodles are very energetic, so when you live in an apartment, you’ll want to make sure your Poodle gets plenty of exercise by taking it for a long walk or to a dog park. Poodles also need grooming regularly to prevent tangles and mats. 

Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners with Kids

Diving into the world of canine companionship with little ones at home? Explore the different breeds that harmoniously blend with first-time owners and their bustling households.


best dogs for beginners
Dog’s SizeTwo varieties: 13″ and under, or 13″ to 15″
Weightunder 20 pounds; 20 to 30 pounds
Fur and Colorshort smooth coat; black, red and white; black and tan, blue tan and white; black, tan and Bluetick, others
Lifespan10 to 15 years

If the word ornery had a picture next to it in the dictionary, you’d definitely see a Beagle. This pooch knows how to get you laughing, but it also has a very stubborn streak at times.

It’s known for following its nose and may ignore everything in favor of that.

Beagles make great search and rescue dogs for this reason, but they are also very content to keep you company at home. If you have children, this pup is one of the best you can introduce them to.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

best dog to own
Dog’s Size12″ to 13″
Weight13 to 18 pounds
Fur and ColorSilky, long, sleek coat; ruby, black and tan, blenheim, and tricolor
Lifespan12 to 14 years

Imagine the sweetest puppy dog eyes you’ll ever see, and a picture of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel pops in your mind. This dog breed thrives in homes with children, from babies to teenagers, and is one of the quieter breeds on the list.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will require basic training to instill manners, but they pick up on new instructions very quickly.

Despite their coats, they don’t have strict grooming needs. A brushing a few times a week will suffice.


easy dog
Dog’s Size18″ to 22″
Weight25 to 40 pounds
Fur and ColorShort, smooth coat; black, blue, brindle, blue fawn, fawn, red, white, or a combination thereof
Lifespan12 to 15 years

The Whippet Dog is an easygoing pup, which makes it great for first-timers. They were originally bred to be sprinters and hunt game (rabbits mostly), so they do need a moderate amount of exercise, which you can achieve in your backyard by simply playing fetch.

The Whippet is a very affectionate pooch that likes to play with its family. They’re also gentle, which means they are excellent house dogs to introduce to a home with children. 

Best Large-Size Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

Stepping into the realm of large dog breeds? Discover the most endearing big dogs that are a perfect match for first-time owners with a big heart for even bigger paws.

Bernese Mountain Dog

best medium sized dog breeds for first-time owners
Dog’s Size23″ to 27.5″
Weight70 to 115 pounds
Fur and ColorDouble coat, medium length; black, white, and tan
Lifespan7 to 10 years

Bernese Mountain Dogs are fluffy beasts. They are one of the biggest dogs, but they are so very gentle and highly intelligent, which means basic training is all they need — and they excel at it.

You can find your Bernese Mountain Dog equally at home playing outside with the kids — or you — or lounging on the floor at your feet.

This breed does have more grooming needs than most of the other breeds on this list, and it does shed a lot — so have that broom or vacuum handy.

Labrador Retriever

best dogs to have
Dog’s Size21.5″ to 24.5″
Weight55 to 80 pounds
Fur and ColorDense double coat, short; chocolate, black, or yellow
Lifespan10 to 12 years

Labrador Retriever dog is one of the best kinds of dogs you can have. It’s also one of the most popular dog breeds. The Labrador Retriever is not only playful and lively, but they’re also intensely loyal and affectionate dogs who love nothing more than to cuddle up to you.

If you adopt a Labrador Retriever, expect to spend some time playing outside to keep them active.

Labrador Retrievers also have minimal grooming needs and don’t need regular brushing, though they do have a massive shedding event twice a year.

Great Dane

best types of dogs
Dog’s Size28″ to 32″
Weight110 to 175 pounds
Fur and ColorSmooth, short coat; many colors and combinations
Lifespan 7 to 10 years

In addition to being phenomenal family pets, Great Danes fall on the list of the best service dog breeds out there. These giants are extremely gentle beings, and they bond very closely to their owners.

Despite their gentleness, Great Danes can be extremely protective and fierce when the need arises. Great Danes also need to undergo training.

They respond well to positive training behaviors, such as treats for doing well. The Great Dane is also very playful and extremely intelligent.

Distinctive Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

Explore the world of unique canine charisma with our handpicked selection of distinctive dog breeds tailor-made for those venturing into pet ownership for the first time.

Bichon Frise

best starter dogs
Dog’s Size9″ to 12″
Weight7 to 12 pounds
Fur and ColorCurly coat; white, cream, buff, or apricot
Lifespan14 to 15 years

Cute, fluffy, and happy is the very embodiment of what a Bichon Frise’s personality is like. This pooch is trainable, and you can have them anywhere. They’re on our list of best apartment dogs, as well.

They do need regular grooming because of how quickly their curly coat grows, but you can make it easy on yourself by keeping it cut short.

The Bichon Frise doesn’t need a lot of daily exercise to thrive, a walk or short play session will do. It’s also a low-shedding breed so you won’t need to vacuum up dog hair everyday!

Yorkshire Terrier

best dogs to get
Dog’s Size8″ to 9″
Weight5 to 7 pounds
Fur and ColorLong coat that’s straight and silky; black and gold, blue and gold, black and tan, blue and tan
Lifespan13 to 16 years

Yorkshire Terriers, or Yorkies as they’re affectionately referred to, are a beautiful dog breed that is very content to be with its owners 24/7. It’s very affectionate but can also be protective.

The Yorkshire Terrier makes a great lap or purse dog, and as they’re small dogs, you can take them anywhere.

However, they require structure, and it’s important that you train them from day one. They have more extensive grooming needs as their beautiful silky coat grows very quickly.

Breeds to Avoid 

When it comes to being a first-time dog owner, there are a few certain breeds you’ll want to avoid. Particularly, any dog that needs a lot of hands-on training or has a stubborn nature as they can be difficult to train — not because they’re not smart, but because they’re independent thinkers. 


What Is the Best Dog for a First-Time Pet Owner?

This can be a subjective answer because every dog on this list would be great for a first-time owner. However, I highly recommend the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever because they are incredibly intelligent (with a bit of goofiness mixed in), they’re extremely trainable, and very eager to please.

Additionally, these breeds tend to have some of the gentlest personalities, which makes them one of the best family dogs. 

How Do I Choose My First Dog?

Research, research, research. Consider your lifestyle and what dogs would fit into that. This is incredibly important because having an active dog when you live a sedentary life can lead to frustration on both sides.

If you’re adopting from a breeder, make sure it’s a reputable one. Otherwise, there are rescues that have purebred and mixed-breed dogs that are waiting for their chance at love and life.

How Many Dogs Is It OK To Have?

This is another subjective question, but honestly, you can have as many dogs as you can reasonably care for. I only have one because that’s what fits into my lifestyle, but I foster, too.

So I can sometimes have up to 4 dogs at once, which can be chaotic, but if you adequately care for and support more than one, there’s no reason not to.


First-time dog owners can find the process nerve-wracking, but it’s a journey you’re going to love, I guarantee it.

You’ll have some fun pups, some stubborn pups, and even some that make you want to pull out your hair as much as you love having them around. 

Some people may opt to use the AKC dog breed selector tool, although it might not be as convenient for first-timers.

The most important thing about being a first-timer is to make sure you consult an expert if needed. This could be a trainer in your area or a friend or family member who has plenty of experience with canines.

Most of all, just have fun. The rest will come in time. Love your pup for its unique personality traits, and it will return that love tenfold.

Christina Drury
Meet Christina Drury, a dedicated animal enthusiast, and proud pet parent. She has a deep-rooted affection for all creatures, and Christina has called the Buckeye State home for the past four years. As a seasoned writer, she possesses a versatile writing style that spans various niches, yet her heart truly belongs to animals. With her innate connection and expertise, Christina is committed to crafting engaging and insightful content for animal-related issues.

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