Dogs are some of the most wonderful companions in the world, but they do require a lot of care, and many people don’t realize just what they are getting into when they get a new puppy. Through exhaustive research, we’ve pulled together the best dogs to own for first time owners.
Whether you’re looking for the best house dogs, the easiest dog breeds to train, or even the most beautiful dogs in the world, our list of good first dogs for beginners can help you make the right decision.
Not all dogs are created equal, and different dog breeds match better with owners depending on their activity levels, lifestyles, and family situations. In the search for the best dogs for beginners, we’ve added pertinent information on the most popular small and large dog breeds. Many of these are among the most popular in America and will make fantastic additions to your home!
Best Small Dog Breeds For First-Time Owners
Popular among both new and experienced dog owners, Bichon Frises are known to have great temperaments and are rated as one of the best personality dogs. They are loyal and loving companions, and don’t require a ton of extra care. The most important requirement is love from you!
With their hypoallergenic coats, Bichon Frises make the ideal pet for those suffering from allergies or living in apartments or small spaces since they don’t shed as much as other dogs.
The typical Bichon Frise weighs between 12-18 pounds and stands roughly 10-12 inches with an average life expectancy of 15 years. They tend to be outgoing and easy to train (Bichons do have a reputation for being difficult to potty train). They require average levels of activity and are generally very healthy dogs.
Bichon Frises should be bathed about once a month with their nails clipped as well. In addition, they should be brushed around three or four times a week, with most pet owners opting to them to a groomer around every 5 weeks.
A very popular toy dog, Papillons tend to be eager to please and are very friendly, sociable, and happy. Papillon translates into “butterfly” in French, referring to their large, wing-like ears.
They are generally low-maintenance, adorable dogs that share a spaniel heritage, which means they also enjoy running outside and chasing after squirrels and pigeons.
As brave as they are sociable, Papillons sometimes forget just how tiny they are so you should have a watchful eye when they’re around larger dogs or cats.
Papillons measure around 8-11 inches in height, weigh between 5 and 10 pounds, and live on average of 15 years. They are generally mostly white with several color combinations. In addition, Papillons do well in both warm and cold climates and in both city and country settings.
They have long, silky hair but don’t have an undercoat, which allows them to only be groomed about once a month. Typically, Papillons only shed seasonally.
Papillons should be brushed during grooming, watching out for mats behind the ears, around the thighs, or inside the hind legs. They only need to be bathed once every few months and nails should be trimmed regularly.
Papillons are great dogs to raise inside because they’re small and have great temperaments. However, they do require regular exercise and possess average levels of energy relative to other dogs.
An incredibly loving and loyal dog, Pugs were recently popularized by the “Men in Black” movie series. However, Pugs have always been popular throughout history.
It’s believed that pugs originated in China, and were even kept as lapdogs by Chinese emperors. Pugs were also popular in the U.K. and a longtime favorite of Queen Victoria.
Pugs became the official breed for Holland’s royal House of Orange after saving William the Silent, the Prince of Orange, from a Spanish assassination attempt.
Pugs are a great choice if you are looking for a small dog that is great with kids, loves attention, and is low-maintenance. They are happy with kids or adults, alone or within a pack, and in the city or countryside. Typically, pugs do best in moderate climates.
Pugs are generally 10-13 inches in height, weigh between 14-18 pounds, and live for around 14 years. They have a short glossy coat that sheds regularly and should be maintained on a weekly basis with either a medium-bristle brush or grooming mitt.
Luckily, their short coats don’t require regular bathing so you can hold off until they make a mess or start developing an unpleasant odor. Pugs should have their nails trimmed regularly.
Pugs love cuddling on the couch and they love eating! The combination of these two makes them prone to developing obesity so you should ensure that your pug gets regular exercise.
Pugs have a ton of personality and are generally easy to train. This intensely loyal dog with a large heart in a small package makes it a perfect first dog for new dog owners.
The official dog of Massachusetts and the mascot of Boston University, the Boston Terrier is another small dog breed that is extremely friendly and loving. With their heritage centered around Boston, Boston Terriers make perfect pets for urban environments.
Boston Terriers are a result of crossing Bulldogs with English Terriers back in the 1860s when blood sports were popular in England. Although the lineage is as a fighting and ratting dog, the modern-day Boston Terrier transformed into a smaller, friendlier pup through selective breeding in Boston.
Given their formative generations spent in Boston, the breed was officially renamed as the Boston Terrier. They are native to America and were officially recognized by the AKC in 1893 as their 48th breed.
Boston Terriers are compact with a square head, short muzzle, and large puppy eyes. They typically stand from 15-17 inches, weigh between 12-25 pounds, and live for approximately 12 years.
Boston Terriers are infrequent shedders and should be brushed weekly with a soft-bristle brush or grooming mitt to help remove any loose hair. Luckily, Boston Terriers only require the occasional baths, which makes them relatively low maintenance.
They are highly intelligent and possess strong, compact frames with short tails. Boston Terriers are outgoing and eager to please making them ideal pups for training.
The Shih Tzu is probably one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States. They are small, playful, cute little lapdogs that people seem to gravitate towards since they’re so adorable.
Dubbed the little “Lion Dog”, Shih Tzus were bred to spend their days in royal palaces, which make them ideal pups for those living in apartments or condos.
These dogs love to cuddle and will quickly bond with their owners. They love to please other people and are especially great with children. Although they are fond of playing, Shih Tzus are more than content to spend hours snuggling in your lap.
Shih Tzus stand around 10 inches in height, weigh between 9-16 pounds, and live between 10-18 years. They are surprisingly solid dogs for their size and need minimal exercise.
Given their long coats, Shih Tzus require daily brushing and monthly baths to help keep their skin and coats clean and healthy. Oftentimes, dog owners will use a professional groomer to help keep their Shih Tzus looking their best with well-groomed mustaches and topknots.
Shih Tzus’ friendly temperaments make them easy to train using praise and rewards to positively reinforce good behavior. Since they were bred to be household dogs, you should not use any negative reinforcement techniques for training.
The official national dog of France, Poodles of all varieties (i.e., standard, miniature, or toy) make great, low-maintenance pets for first-time dog owners. In France, Poodles are often referred to as the “duck dog” since the breed was originally used as retrievers in duck hunting in Germany.
Poodles are incredibly intelligent and athletic. Due to their great sense of smell, they are also used as truffle hunters. The modern-day poodle is known for class and they are often shown in dog competitions.
Standard Poodles stand over 15 inches in height, weigh between 40-70 pounds (with males weighing more than females), and live for around 10-18 years. Miniature Poodles are between 10-15 inches in height and Toy Poodles stand below 10 inches.
America was the first to breed Toy Poodles in the 20th century to make it the perfect dog for urban environments. Generally speaking, Poodles are great swimmers and are able to learn things quickly.
Poodles are among the easiest dogs to train, and they have awesome temperaments. They are highly social and love to cuddle with their owners. Poodles require regular grooming but they don’t shed much since they are hypoallergenic and are great for anyone who has allergies.
Best Large Dog Breeds For First-Time Owners
Considered a top 3 dog in popularity by AKC, Golden Retrievers originated from Scotland as a mix between Yellow Retrievers and Tweed Water Spaniels. They were originally bred as retrievers for waterfowl hunting and are natural swimmers and fetchers.
Further popularized by movies including Air Bud, Golden Retrievers are known to be family dogs that are friendly, outgoing, energetic, intelligent, and eager-to-please. They are immensely playful and continue to act this way into adulthood.
Golden Retrievers stand around 21-24 inches in height, weigh between 55-75 pounds (males being larger than females), and live for approximately 11 years on average.
They shed about once or twice a year and require weekly brushing, which helps remove any loose hair and helps keep your place clean. Golden Retrievers require the occasional bath and their nails should be groomed regularly.
Given that they were initially bred as hunting dogs, Golden Retrievers love to be outdoors and require lots of activity. This high level of energy makes them great companions for kids who love to come home from school to play with their pups.
Golden Retrievers are among the happiest and friendliest of dogs. They are not only great for families with children but they also enjoy resting by your side. In addition, Golden Retrievers are easy to train and possess fantastic temperaments.
Commonly referred to as the “Cheetah” of the dog world, Greyhounds are perfect for those looking for a larger breed. They are extremely friendly and are known for their speed and agility. They are commonly used at racetracks since they are champion sprinters, utilizing their shock-absorbing feet pads and aerodynamic skulls.
Greyhounds typically stand between 27-30 inches, weigh between 60-70 pounds, and live for approximately 12 years on average. Given their athleticism, Greyhounds typically require higher amounts of protein and calories in their diets relative to other breeds.
Greyhounds have a shorter coat, which requires weekly grooming using a damp cloth. They shed occasionally but at a lower rate than most dogs and are low-dander, making them a great option for those suffering from allergies. Greyhounds should be bathed regularly and you should check their ears weekly for any wax buildup.
Since they were bred for their athleticism, Greyhounds require regular exercise and are very energetic. They were trained to hunt using their eyes rather than their nose so Greyhounds are much more independent than many of their dog counterparts.
Greyhounds can be somewhat harder to train since they’ve learned to think independently over the years. They should be socialized with other dogs, children, and adults at an early age.
They have sensitive personalities and react much better to positive reinforcement and encouragement. They are highly affectionate with their owners but can be a bit more skittish around new people.
First bred in Germany in the late 19th century, Boxers are a mix of the Old English Bulldog and the Bullenbeisser, a now extinct dog of Mastiff descent. They were originally used for bull-baiting and cattle herding.
Boxers are characterized by their muscular frames, tight-fitting coats, and long legs. They are incredibly intelligent, loyal, and friendly. The combination of their playful temperaments and their protective instincts has earned them high regard as great dogs for children.
Boxers stand around 22-25 inches in height, weigh between 50-80 pounds (males are larger than females), and live for around 11 years on average. Their coat requires very little grooming and Boxers only need to be bathed occasionally.
Boxers are very playful and they require daily exercise to help use up all their excess energy. They are known to jump and leap around so you will need to train them at an early age to avoid having them jump up on people.
Luckily, Boxers are highly intelligent and are relatively easy to train. They are great at problem-solving and have been used in competitive sports, herding, therapy, drug detection, service, search-and-rescue, etc.
Boxers are an excellent choice for those looking for happy, outgoing dogs that are nice for families. They are generally low-maintenance, healthy dogs with an affinity for playing outdoors. They have unique dietary needs but this can be easily solved by buying the appropriate dog foods for them!
However, Boxers sometimes don’t get along with other dogs of the same sex and they also don’t do well under extreme heat or cold conditions. If you can avoid these, Boxers will make a fantastic addition to your family!
Ranked as the most popular dog in America, Labrador Retrievers are fantastic family dogs with outgoing personalities and friendly temperaments. They are typically found with yellow, brown, or black coats and are great problem solvers and highly intelligent.
Labrador Retrievers are known to be exceptionally friendly and tend to get along well with other dogs and neighbors. Their love of water not only makes them perfect for bringing to the beach or lake but also easier to bathe.
Labrador Retrievers typically stand around 22-25 inches in height, weigh between 55-80 pounds (males are bigger than females), and live for 11 years on average. They require occasional bathing and weekly brushing to help maintain their thick, beautiful coats.
With high levels of energy, Labrador Retrievers require daily exercise or may utilize their pent-up energy in other, unwanted activities around the house. As the name may suggest, they were bred to retrieve things and were originally used in Newfoundland to jump into icy water and bring back any fish that had fallen off their hooks.
Labrador Retrievers are eager to please making them an easy dog to train. Their outgoing personalities, love for people, and generally strong health make them the perfect addition to any family.
Although a less commonly known breed, Pointers are a fantastic option for new dog owners. They were originally bred in England to help hunt game birds since they would literally point with their snout where birds were hiding.
Pointers are known to be even-tempered dogs that make good house pets as long they have proper avenues to use up their high levels of energy. They are extremely quick and agile dogs making them the perfect running companion for avid runners that want to take their dogs out hiking or around the block!
Pointers typically stand between 23-28 inches in height, weigh between 45-75 pounds (males are larger than females), and live for around 12-17 years. They have a shorter coat that requires very little maintenance and should be brushed weekly.
Given their great temperaments, Pointers generally live well with other dogs or even cats (as long as they are properly introduced at a young age). They tend to be alert and agreeable, making them easy to work with and are also used for search-and-rescue, therapy, and service.
Pointers are generally very friendly, lovable, and healthy. However, they are typically better suited for active people because they have high levels of energy. If you love to go to the park, beach, or hiking, this may just be the perfect dog for you!
Get The Best Dogs For Beginners
If you are seriously considering a new puppy, we recommend you leverage the knowledge from local veterinarians, breeders, and dog fanatics to help you make the appropriate choice to match your activity levels, family, and needs.
The above are just a few of the most popular dog breeds for first time owners. There are tons of dogs out there that would be a fantastic addition to your home. It may take a bit of research, but you’re sure to find the right canine companion for yourself and it’s totally worth it!