dad pushing wheelbarrow with beagle and boy
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Maybe you grew up with a sibling who was allergic to dogs or your parents had über demanding jobs. Whatever the reason, this is your first time seriously considering dog ownership. Congrats, pet-parent-to-be! You’ll make a great first time owner.
The idea of picking your first pooch may be overwhelming, but you’re not alone. We’re on your side to help you find the best and furriest fit for your family. Keep reading to discover our recommendations for the best dogs for first time owners.
Considerations for First-time Dog Owners
We won’t sugarcoat this—getting a dog is a big responsibility. Dogs are members of the family and require lots of attention. It’s important to make sure you’re ready.
When it comes to finding the perfect pup for you, keep in mind that every dog has their quirks and potential medical hiccups. Before choosing your new best friend, do some research and consider these factors so you can make the most sound choice for both you and the dog.
Breed: If you don’t have time to give your dog at least an hour of exercise each day, skip the high-energy breeds originally bred to work (German shepherd, Australian shepherd, etc.) in favor of a breed that doesn’t have the high exercise needs, like a Havanese or shih tzu.
Purebred: If you decide to go the route of getting a purebred dog, know that you could have more risk for health problems. “All purebred dogs can have issues,” Deborah Thomson, DVM in Virginia says. “They come with genetically predisposed problems. It’s not to say that because you have a poodle for instance, you’re going to have a life-threatening condition. But let’s say your veterinarian wouldn’t be surprised.”
Mixed-breed dogs: Mixed-breed dogs, whether that’s from a shelter or a designer hybrid pup, tend to be healthier because they have more than one genetic line. If you are getting your dog from a shelter, remember that these dogs can have some behavioral problems and might need more training and require a bigger commitment for you. Before you adopt a dog, always ask the shelter for as much information on the dog as possible and what type of home they think is best for the pup.
Puppy mills: In your search for the perfect pooch, watch out for puppy mills, commercial facilities that breed dogs purely to sell them, without regard for the dogs’ health.
But regardless of what dog you get or where you get your pup from, all new pet owners should invest in pet insurance to mitigate vet costs.
“I do recommend pet insurance,” Thomson says. “Full-on pet insurance for the first year. And then after, you know what they can and cannot get into and what their personalities are like in the second year. In the second year, then you can make a decision on how much insurance you want to keep.”
With all of that in mind, ultimately, it’s up to you where you find your new furry friend. But regardless of what life stage you’re in, we have tailored recommendations for you.
RELATED: The New Pet Parent’s Guide to Adopting an Adult Dog
Best Dog Breeds for First-time Owners in Apartments
Chances are, you’re a young adult who’s still living the rental life and are wanting a companion that won’t feel too cramped by your living conditions. Here are some generally good-tempered dogs for apartment dwellers.
Reddish blonde maltipoo puppy stands sideways on table outdoors
OlgaOvcharenko / Adobe Stock These little dogs look like teddy bears, and they’re just as happy to play fetch as they are to snuggle.
The Maltipoo is a hybrid breed, combining all the best characteristics of a Maltese and a poodle into one lovable bundle. Maltipoos max out at 20 pounds, making them perfect for living in an apartment. They’re also highly intelligent, thanks to their poodle ancestry, which makes them easy to train! Bonus: their curly coats are nearly hypoallergenic, meaning you won’t need to vacuum up dog hair every other day.
RELATED: 13 Tips for Every First-Time Dog Owner
Papillon dog sitting in a yellow backpack worn by man in a black leather jacket
Svitlana Sokolova / Shutterstock
Good things continue to come in small packages. The teeny tiny papillon stands not even a foot off the ground but that doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to go on a long walk over your lunch hour. Her ears are her most distinctive quality, and she’s very proud of them—they perk up over her face like spread butterfly wings, hence her French name, which means butterfly. For grooming, make sure to give her teeth a nice brushing every week and to bathe her every couple of months, and she’ll be squeaky clean again.
Two brown and white shih tzus with front ponytails lay in a yard
Alex / Adobe Stock Shih tzus love companionship, be it with their humans or other animals. They coexist well with cats and other dogs, making ideal furry siblings.
Feeling regal? Shih tzus are one of the most ancient dog breeds on this list and no wonder they’ve lasted this long: they can live to 18 years old. They’ll sit right on top of your lap and you won’t even remember they’re there; they weigh less than 20 pounds. Shih tzus are really sweet dogs and love your attention; just make sure to socialize them as a puppy so they’re used to the hubbub of city living and don’t bark at your unit’s neighbors. They also can be prone to dental issues, as toy breeds typically are, so establish a good dental hygiene plan with your veterinarian to keep their pearly whites in tip-top shape.
Best Dog Breeds for Outdoorsy First-time Owners
Need a hiking companion? These dogs can keep up with you on trips through the woods or while you try to PR on your 5K time.
Golden retriever dog on a hike wearing a backpack in a mountain with his owners in the background
Maya Karkalicheva / Getty
Golden retrievers are where intelligence meets understanding, perfect for a first-time owner. These dogs are incredibly smart and take to training with ease. They also live for being outdoors. Goldens require at least an hour of exercise every day in order to stay physically stimulated. But they’re up for anything, so you can opt for a long walk Tuesday and a swim on Friday, for all they care. Goldens also love mental exercises and would love a puzzle toy or two to play with while you’re occupied with other things.
RELATED: There Are Three Different Types of Golden Retrievers—Here’s How To Tell Them Apart
Welsh Springer Spaniel
welsh springer spaniel profile outdoors
camillakorsnes / Adobe Stock
Care for a workout? This redhead can’t wait to join you. The Welsh springer spaniel is an amazing dog for high-energy owners and their spaniel personality makes them perfect for a newbie like you. They are up for anything as long as you’re around; they’re not called Velcro dogs for nothing! The Welshie, like other spaniels, comes equipped with adorable floppy ears, so make sure to clean them every couple of days to keep them free of bacteria.
Portuguese Water Dog
Portuguese Water Dog on rocky beach
capecodphoto / Getty They’re not called water dogs for nothing—these guys love to splash and swim whenever they get the chance. They even have webbed feet!
Their name says it all. Portuguese water dogs love to swim! If you’re also a water fanatic, then get ready to meet your match. These curly boys and girls come in all different colors and even come equipped with webbed feet for paddling around the pond. They’re also incredibly smart and willing to go the extra mile to please their owner. Just make sure to keep them active so that they don’t get bored.
RELATED: 10 Best Dog-Friendly Hikes and Trails to Tackle With Your Adventurous Canine Companion
Best Dogs for First-time Owners With Children
Extend your family with these kid-friendly canines. They’ll fit right in among the household ruckus.
dad pushing wheelbarrow with beagle and boy
AleksandarNakic / Getty
The beagle has always been a family favorite and for good reason. Their small stature makes them a perfect companion for your human children. They take a little longer to house train than other pups might, but they’re incredibly worth it and will help teach your kids how to take care of a dog, too. Move over, Snoopy! The kiddos have a new favorite beagle.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Red and white spaniel stands in grass
Bigandt.com / Shutterstock No matter if he’s white and chestnut, tricolor, or solid ruby, a Cavalier is one handsome pup.
Cavalier King Charles spaniels are “amazing” and come highly recommended by Thomson.
“I absolutely love Charles spaniels,” Thomson says.
And for good reason. Spaniels are extremely adaptable to almost any situation and possess the epitome of puppy dog eyes. They thrive best when their people are around and will love your children as much as you do. It is important to know that these spaniels are at a fair risk for a number of health concerns. But that is on an individual basis, as are most doggy diseases. The best thing to do is to establish a good relationship with a local veterinarian and talk about concerns they may have.
woman sitting in a field kissing her whippet dog
encierro / Adobe Stock
The whippet is a delightful sighthound that is oftentimes referred to as the Goldilocks of dog breeds: medium-sized, easy to groom, and easygoing, making them an awesome choice for your family’s first dog. Because they were originally bred to sprint and chase rabbits, playing fetch or frisbee with them a couple times a day would be ideal and can be a great family activity. Similar to a shih tzu, keep an eye on their teeth. Their long snout can make for dental problems down the road.
Best Large Dog Breeds for First-time Owners
Owning a large dog can be daunting, but they will love you just as hard as any smaller breed. One thing to note, though, is that larger dogs may cost more to take to the vet just because they require more medication due to their body mass. This is why pet insurance is a win-win for dog owners, especially if you’re wanting a larger breed. For those that need more dog to love, these big boys and girls make the perfect pup companions.
Goldendoodle running on the beach with a tennis ball in his mouth
W.H. Photography / Shutterstock Goldendoodles love water. If you take him to a beach or lake, be prepared for a day of zoomies and play.
Poodles and golden retrievers are both great dogs, so it only makes sense that their offspring would capture the hearts of dog lovers everywhere. Goldendoodles do this easily. One of the larger differences between doodles and golden retrievers—pun intended—is that doodles can weigh up to 90 pounds, thanks to their lengthy poodle stature that gives them some extra height. Their coats are also low-allergen, which means they don’t shed much. They are happiest by your side and are ready to convert you into a full-time dog person.
Bernese Mountain Dog
bernese mountain dog sitting on wall
Westend61 / Getty
The “B” in Bernese stands for big. Bernese mountain dogs can be up to 115 pounds but every ounce is chock full of love. They are a hardy breed, so as long as you have enough room for them, Berners are ready to make themselves at home. They also take well to training, but make sure to train them early while they’re small so they don’t accidentally knock you down while you’re teaching them to sit, stay, and fetch. Additionally, one of the best purchases you can get to accompany your new Berner is a new vacuum. Because as much as they love you, they also love to shed!
RELATED: How to Win the War Against Dog Shedding
Unique Dog Breeds for First-time Owners
These outside-the-box picks for your first pup are sure to capture your heart.
West Highland White Terrier (Westie)
West highland terrier stands on rocks near river
Evelina / Adobe Stock They might look dainty, but these dogs are scrappy. West Highland white terriers love to be outside and go on adventures.
The West Highland white terrier (AKA Westie) is a high-energy but very self-sufficient pup. Although they’re small, they don’t necessarily need to be pampered. Westies are the perfect mix of intelligence and playfulness along with being low-shedding and independent. With proper training at the beginning of your relationship, you’ll capitalize on their smart instincts and also burn off their extra energy. Because of their high prey drive, Westies are better off being the only small child (human or otherwise) in the home but take very well to their owners and older kiddos. They also love being active, making them adaptable pups who are also relatively healthy!
three Basset Hounds running in a park
dageldog / Getty Look at those folds and droops in action! Basset hounds are known for their signature sag—not only is it cute, but it actually helps them follow scents.
Only those with a cold, cold heart can resist falling in love with this iconic droopy-faced hound. Basset hounds are dogs with strong loyalty tendencies and are also incredibly gentle, making them a great addition to any family, even if you were a cat lover in a former life. Even though they characteristically walk low (like, very low) to the ground, these big guys can weigh up to 65 pounds. Make sure to keep a keen eye on their diet, as these living, breathing sausages can be prone to obesity. Luckily, bassets love long walks and will be happy to take an after-dinner trot to keep the weight in check! Just as long as they are free to use your couch for a nap afterward.
chinese crested dog standing outside
Kseniya Abramova / Getty Dental hygiene is a must for hairless Chinese cresteds, as they can be prone to missing, overcrowded or decaying teeth.
This smallfry is always sure to turn heads. Chinese crested dogs are either born hairless or as a powder puff, giving them a very unique appearance no matter how they turn out. If you’re looking for a quirkier companion or are allergic to doggies, then hairless is the way to go. You’ll just want to make sure to have sunscreen on hand for treks outdoors. Chinese crested dogs can live up to 18 years, partly thanks to their calm demeanor. You can maximize your time with your special lapdog by making sure their teeth, skin, and eyes are well taken care of.
Ready to Make a Decision?
When narrowing down your list of potential first dogs, it’s important to remember that breeds can be unpredictable, just like humans. While some characteristics like size and grooming needs can be researched before adopting, personality is harder to nail down. After all, all dogs are individuals. The best thing you can do as a first-time dog owner to set you and your pooch up for success is meeting with a licensed veterinarian to make sure you know what to expect for years to come.
Above all, we’re so happy that you’ve come over to the dog side!