Last Updated: January 12, 2021
Getting a dog is a truly exciting time. With thousands of breeds and hybrid breeds available, choosing the right breed for your first dog can be baffling.
Above all, you must choose a dog that matches your lifestyle. If you’re an active person that loves to walk or run, choose a dog with a similarly high energy level. If you prefer to stay indoors, opt for something with lower energy requirements.
If you’re looking for a family dog that’s good with children, opt for something that will love you all equally and be happy to join in the fun and games without being overly demanding.
Got cats? Go for a breed that is known to socialize well with other animals.
Below, we have compiled a list of the top 14 best dog breeds for first-time owners that we hope will help you choose the best companion for your lifestyle.
1. Labrador Retriever
There’s a reason the Labrador Retriever has reigned supreme on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular breeds for nearly 30 years. Several reasons, in fact. He is friendly, mixes very well with people, dogs, and even cats. He is very smart and willing to please, hence, his use as a service dog. He is also active and energetic, so he will require regular exercise. Whether you’re a single person or family looking for their first pet, he is a loyal, loving, and responsive companion.
2. Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is very similar to the Labrador. He is loyal and loving, happy to show affection, and equally happy curled up in front of the fire or enthusiastically playing with his family members. His long hair gives him more appeal for some owners, but it will require regular brushing to ensure that he remains free from tangles and knotted fur.
The Poodle is another very popular breed. He is responsive to training and while he requires regular exercise, he is very happy to give and receive attention. He loves children as much as he loves adults, too. Although there is no such thing as hypoallergenic dog fur, the Poodle’s coat is as close as you can get, but it will require ongoing maintenance to ensure it looks its best.
The Papillon has an almost regal appearance. He is also very intelligent, responding well to positive training, and gets along with all family members. His coat will take some brushing, but this breed actually only suffers from minimal shedding. He is an energetic breed, but his size means that it won’t take too much exercise to tire him out. When he is tired out, he loves nothing more than sitting on his owner’s knee.
5. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise is another breed described as “hypoallergenic” because even those with allergies usually have no trouble in the company of this breed. They crave attention and love affection. They are relatively easy to train, and this small breed will thrive on one walk per day and plenty of time in your lap. The Bichon can be shy when first meeting strangers but will more than make up for it when he gets to know a person.
6. Cavalier King Charles
The Cavalier King Charles is a bright little dog that can switch from energetic and playful to lazy and prostrate in an instant. He will still need regular walks, and his long coat will take some attention to prevent it from becoming bedraggled, but he’s a great first-time dog because of his sweet and loving nature.
7. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu was bred as a companion dog, and this is where he excels today: primarily, on the lap of his owner. They don’t have any hunting instincts, which means that they should be friendly and relaxed, and he shouldn’t pose any problems with other dogs or even cats. Their size makes them popular as a lap dog, but be aware that their coat will take regular tending.
Greyhounds are elegant and surprisingly easy to own. They respond to training, and even though this scent hound has been trained for energetic, high-octane sports, he’s more likely to be found curled up on the sofa than charging around. With that said, he does have an instinct to hunt, so he should be kept on a leash and he will need regular exercise. If you’re an active person looking for an active dog that also loves curling up at home, the Greyhound is a very good choice of breed.
The Whippet looks like a small Greyhound and was bred for the same purposes. He is known for having little or no desire to bark, so if noise is a concern, the Whippet is a solid choice. The breed is prized for his sprinting ability, and not his stamina, so he is likely to be found on the same sofa as the Greyhound. Although he will enjoy a brisk run, you shouldn’t trust a Whippet off his leash.
10. Great Dane
The Great Dane may not seem like the ideal first dog. He is, after all, a giant dog breed. He may also have a tendency to slobber and will need his face wiping. But he’s also incredibly soft, loves attention, and he will always aim to please his master. They also have surprisingly low energy levels for a dog of their stature and will be more than happy taking over the entire sofa when stretching out.
The Cockapoo is actually a hybrid breed, combining the benefits of the Poodle and the Cocker Spaniel. They are easy to maintain, although they will require regular brushing, and they are easy to train. They enjoy getting out and adventuring but are also just as happy sitting at home with their other family members.
The Boxer is a high-energy dog and can be quite demanding of your time, but if you want a loyal and loving companion that doesn’t leave your side and loves to get out and exercise with you, look no further than this breed. He can also be known for being a bit silly, especially when young, but he makes a great family dog because of his playful and friendly nature.
13. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier can be considered a great lap dog for first-time owners in a lot of respects. They respond to training when they are young. They adore attention and love sitting on your lap. However, their coat is constantly growing, which means that it not only requires regular brushing but will also need trimming, especially around the eyes. Their loving nature, combined with the fact that they require minimal daily exercise, is what makes them such a good choice.
Choosing Your First Dog
There are thousands of purebreds and hybrid breeds that could have been added to this list. Almost any of the popular Poodle hybrids, like the Labradoodle, could have been added. We could have compiled an entire list of the different colors of Labrador, and then there are breeds like the Vizsla, which are loyal and loving but require more training.
Whatever breed you choose, ensure that its needs meet your lifestyle, consider puppy classes to help you both get to grips with training, and don’t forget to check your local shelters for mixed-breed dogs, because they can make exceptional family pets, too.
Interested in learning about a few other incredible breeds? Try these posts:
An avid animal lover, Roland started this blog to help all varieties of pets and their owners on their journey to living their best lives.