If you're here, it's probably because you're thinking about becoming a dog parent. (Congratulations!) The first step in establishing a long and loving relationship with your new fur baby is choosing a breed that's a good fit for your lifestyle and personality. "All breeds exist to fulfill a function such as hunting, herding, tracking, retrieving, eradicating vermin, guarding, or companionship," says Kayla Fratt, certified dog behavior consultant and founder of Journey Dog Training. "Although we often think of dog breeds in terms of looks, their temperament was far more important in original genetic pools. This means that looking at a specific breed makes it more likely to find the right match for your home."
So, what should first-time owners look for? For starters, you'll want a breed that's affectionate, relaxed, easy to train, and compatible with the average household. "Breeds that are described as aloof, loyal, and protective, or needing lots of socialization or training may not be a good fit for most first-time homes," says Fratt. By doing a little homework about dog breeds and their typical characteristics, you'll find one that will become your best friend for life. Just remember that every dog is an individual— what's generally true for a breed isn't always true for every dog of that specific breed!
Whether you're searching for your very first canine companion or simply haven't been a pet parent in a long time, here are the best dog breeds for first-time owners.
1. Labrador Retriever
- Height: 21.5 - 24.5 inches
- Weight: 55 - 80 pounds
Labs have been the most popular breed in the United States since 1991! Their personalities vary widely (and some can be a bit too energetic and smart for first-time homes!), but most are exceedingly friendly and easy to live with.
2. Golden Retriever
- Height: 21 - 24 inches
- Weight: 55 - 75 pounds
Golden retrievers have a similar disposition to labs. They're energetic and need daily exercise, but they're also social, cuddly, and eager to please.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Height: 12 - 13 inches
- Weight: 13 - 18 pounds
"Cavaliers are some of the easiest, most temperamentally sound dogs out there," says Fratt. They're affectionate dogs with moderate energy who generally are happy with medium amounts of physical and mental stimulation each day.
4. Bichon Frise
- Height: 9.5 - 11.5 inches
- Weight: 12 - 18 pounds
"Bichons are stable and easygoing, compared to many other small dog breeds," says Fratt. They're also affectionate, smart, and love to cuddle.
5. Great Dane
- Height: 28 - 32 inches
- Weight: 110 - 175 pounds
Despite their large size, many Great Danes are surprisingly lazy and even-tempered. They're also known for being patient and friendly. If you have enough room for one of these gentle giants, you'll find out they're great at giving big love, too.
- Height: 18 - 22 inches
- Weight: 25 - 40 pounds
Whippets make great family pets. Although they can be a bit shy, they're perfect for lounging on the couch with you. They love to snuggle and the couch is one of their favorite spots. In general, they are calm, affectionate, and playful dogs.
- Height: 27 - 30 inches
- Weight: 60 - 70 pounds
Similar to whippets, greyhounds are mellow dogs. They need regular time to play and run, but are otherwise happy to chill with you. These sleek pups are clean, well-mannered, and quiet, making them a perfect breed for first-timers.
8. Bernese Mountain Dog
- Height: 23 - 27.5 inches
- Weight: 70 - 115 pounds
Large, friendly, and goofy are the most recognizable traits of this sweet breed. Unfortunately, their large size means you absolutely can't skimp on training. With the right amount of patience and attention, they're good-natured and calm family dogs.
- Height: 8.5 - 11.5 inches
- Weight: 7 - 13 pounds
Havanese have funny, outgoing personalities and are smart, curious and sociable. They like to play but don't need a ton of exercise to stay healthy and happy. Plus, their small size makes them an easy commitment for apartment dwellers.
10. Shih Tzu
- Height: 9 - 10.5 inches
- Weight: 9 - 16 pounds
Shih tzus are outgoing, affectionate, and playful. They're known as lively, friendly companions and require minimal exercise. Usually a daily walk and indoor play session will do the trick to keep these cute pups happy.
- Height: 9 - 22 inches
- Weight: 4 - 70 pounds
Poodles are super smart, and they're also great companions for active families. These pups are energetic and definitely need to be kept busy, but eager to please and easy to train.
12. Boston Terrier
- Height: 15 - 17 inches
- Weight: 12 - 25 pounds
If you want an active, friendly pet, the Boston terrier may be right for you. While they're curious and need lots of playtime, these adorable dogs are also adaptable and fun to be around. Overall, they make great companions.
13. French Bulldog
- Height: 11 - 13 inches
- Weight: 16 - 28 pounds
Frenchies are totally irresistible with their playful, smart and adaptable personalities. They're laid back and don't need tons of exercise, though a daily walk will help keep them in their best shape.
14. Lhasa Apso
- Height: 10 - 11 inches
- Weight: 12 - 18 pounds
Smart and funny, the Lhasa Apso loves to goof off with their family but can be a bit standoffish with strangers. They need moderate exercise and are considered easy to keep because of their low-maintenance lifestyle.
15. Mixed Breed
Mixed breed personalities can be harder to predict, even if they're "designer mixes" of two popular dog breeds for first-time owners. "You really don't know what you're getting and could get the best or worst of both parents," says Fratt. "It's even less predictable when you have no idea what the breeds are with mutts." That said, they can still make great pets if you choose wisely. Fratt recommends considering adult mixed breeds, rather than puppies, due to their unpredictability while they're young. Also, getting to know the individual dog in a foster situation before making a decision is helpful for finding the best fit. After all, you want both the dog and your family to live happily ever after together!
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