Best Dogs for First-Time Owners

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on July 10, 2023
3 min read

There’s a lot to consider when deciding to own a dog for the first time. It’s not just about picking a canine that looks cute. You’ll want to keep in mind things like a dog’s temperament, personality, ease of training, and more.

Some breeds are easier for new owners to manage, making the process of learning how to care for your four-legged companions a more enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Bichon frise. The bichon frise is a happy-go-lucky little dog that loves cuddling and human companionship. They hardly shed, so owners aren’t constantly cleaning hair from furniture and clothing. These dogs are playful but gentle, making them great for families with children and other animals. While active, they don’t need a lot of room to run and play.

They are fairly low-maintenance but do need regular grooming, since they have longer fur.

Boxer. Boxers are a larger and more active breed that are both loyal and playful. When properly trained and socialized, they get along well with children. They tend to be protective of the youngest members of their human family. While rambunctious, these dogs are easy to train, especially when young. They do need a lot of exercise, so a large fenced-in yard or running partner is a must. 

Cavalier King Charles spaniel. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a small and sweet dog that loves to be with humans. They get along well with all members of the family. They will adapt to their owner's lifestyle, whether that is more laid back or more active. 

Despite having longer fur, they’re easy to maintain with regular brushing. They have a moderate energy level, so they don’t need a lot of exercise, but they don’t like to be left alone for long. 

Golden retriever. Often referred to as a “perfect family dog,” the golden retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the U.S. They’re loyal, gentle, and excellent with children. 

These dogs are adaptable and get along well in almost any household. You will have to train them, but it should be an easy process. They will shed a lot once or twice a year, at which point you will need to groom them every day, but otherwise they should only need weekly brushing and occasional baths. Golden retrievers also need a lot of space to run to exercise and avoid boredom

Poodle. There are three sizes of poodle: toy, miniature, and standard. No matter which type you choose, poodles are intelligent, outgoing, and easy to train. Regardless of size, poodles are active. They also need much more regular grooming than some of the other breeds on this list. Considered a hypoallergenic breed, these dogs don’t shed, making them a great choice for dog lovers with allergies.

Pug. Pugs are small, loving, and charming. They’re also goofy and love to show off. Originally bred to be companion dogs, pugs are eager to please and love to follow their humans everywhere. They thrive in homes where they can get lots of love and attention. 

One of their flaws is that they can be a bit stubborn, but you can train them with plenty of patience and treats for motivation.

Before you bring home any dog, there are a few things that you need to consider:

Where you live. Larger dogs typically need more space than smaller ones to run and play. If you rent your home or live in an area with a Homeowner’s Association, you should also check if there are any size or breed restrictions. 

Ages of your kids. Young children may be unintentionally rough, which can hurt a small dog. Bigger dogs are typically more sturdy. No matter what 

size dog you choose, be sure to monitor young children and dogs together.

Your activity level. Breeds like golden retrievers and boxers need a lot of exercise. If you’re an active person, they may be an ideal companion. If you live a more sedentary lifestyle, a less active dog may suit you better. 

How long you spend out of the house. Some dogs, like pugs and Cavalier King Charles spaniels, thrive when they get a lot of love and attention. If you’re out for several hours a day, be sure to select a breed that doesn’t mind being on its own. 

Show Sources


American Kennel Club: "Best Dog Breeds for Kids,” “Bichon Frise," "Cavalier King Charles Spaniel," "Golden Retriever."

American Boxer Club: "Meet the Boxer -- A Unique Breed."

Humane Society of Macomb: “Personal Space.”

Pug Dog Welfare & Rescue Association: "So You Want A Pug?"

TherapyPet: "Poodle Facts: All You Need To Know Before Adopting."

Versatility In Poodles: "BUYING A POODLE."

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