Getting Your First Dog? Here's How to Find the Best Breed for You

So you've decided to take the leap and become a dog owner. Welcome to the club. Now you just need to find the right breed. Since you're new to this whole pet parent thing, believe us when we say you don't want a dog who may take more time and energy to train, care for or socialize than you have to give. No one wants to be forced to return a dog to a breeder or rescue, because he wasn't a good fit.

Check out our photo gallery below to help you choose a breed. We reveal the best breeds, the more challenging breeds and the breed characteristics that might be a good match for your lifestyle. And remember, dog breeds are individuals, so you can't assume that caring for a Golden Retriever will be a walk in the park or that a Rottweiler will be too overprotective.

What to Look For in Your First Dog


Vidar Skauen, Animal Photography

Get a Breed That Tends to Be Easier to Manage

For your first dog, it may be better if you look for a dog breed that tends to be easy going, family friendly and lower maintenance in terms of grooming and exercise requirements. Veterinary professionals can be a great resource for advice on choosing a pooch, so we surveyed 218 of them to get their take on the best dog breeds for first-time owners. We provided them with a list of the most popular dog breeds and mixes and compiled the results. From Pugs to Labradoodles, here are their recommendations for the top dogs for new owners.

The veterinary experts also shared the dogs they think aren't good choices for inexperienced owners. Many of these are working dogs who were bred to hunt big game or guard property, often making them a challenge for rookies. Others may be prone to health issues or need more daily exercise than you can provide. So if you have your heart set on a BulldogDalmatian or Siberian Husky, for example, you should know you may be in for a tougher time. View the survey results to see which breeds and mixes you should probably avoid the first time around. 

Pug Tongue Out Looking at Camera

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

If You Prefer Small Dogs, Here Are Some to Consider and Some to Avoid

If you live in an apartment, aren't strong enough to handle a big dog or want a companion who will fit on your lap, you may want to consider getting a smaller pooch. According to veterinary professionals, the No.1 small dog for first-time owners is a Miniature or Toy Poodle. This breed tends to be easy to train, hardworking and happy. Check out the rest of our survey to see the nine other little dogs who made the list.

But just because a dog is small doesn't mean he's easier to care for, train or manage than a larger one. Some small breeds, such as Chihuahuas and Corgis, can be nuisance barkers, difficult to house-train or wary toward strangers. Here's a list of the worst small dogs for new owners, according to veterinary experts. 

Chocolate Labrador Retriever in Pond

Anna Pozzi, Animal Photography

If You Prefer Big Dogs, Here Are Some to Consider and Some to Avoid

Do you want a dog who can play with your kids or go on a run with you? You may be best suited for a large dog. It should come as no surprise that the family friendly and popular Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever took the top two spots in our survey. But the rest of the large dogs who made the list weren't as obvious. See the surprising results here.

Of course, thanks to their sheer strength and power, some large dogs can knock you over, destroy your home out of boredom and be difficult to control. You may dream of owning a German Shepherd or Weimaraner, but if you don't know what you're doing, living with one of these breeds can be overwhelming. Novice owners should probably steer clear of these large dog breeds.

Golden Retriever on bed

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

If You Want a Friendly Dog, Here Are Some You Might Like

As a new dog owner, it can be a good idea to get a pooch who tends to be affectionate and get along with people, kids, cats and other dogs. Breeds who are aloof or independent minded can be more difficult to train and socialize than more sociable breeds.

Take a look at our photo gallery to learn about Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers and other breeds who usually want to be your buddy.


Sam Clark, Animal Photography

Would You Like a More Laid-Back Dog Breed? Here Are Some to Consider

Laid-back dog breeds usually like to snuggle on the couch and are generally calm and easy going, making them good matches for inexperienced owners. Breeds like Great Danes and Newfoundlands generally don't need constant activity or exercise to be entertained, which is a plus if you're juggling work, family and trying to figure out how to train, socialize and care for a new dog. But don't mistake their relaxed dispositions for laziness; these dogs still need daily exercise and stimulation. Here are five laid-back breeds to keep in mind.

Active first-time owners will probably appreciate a dog who has the energy to run, play fetch and go hiking. But those high-energy dogs can also be high strung. Canines like Border Collies and Jack Russell Terriers can become bored and destructive if they don't get enough exercise and stimulation. For your first pooch, it's probably a good idea to avoid these five very energetic dogs.  

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