The Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners? Our Readers Weigh In

Many dog lovers can't imagine living in a puppy-free home, but there are plenty of people who though they adore dogs, for one reason or another, they have never owned one. Maybe they weren't quite ready to take on the responsibility, or perhaps they only recently moved to a dog-friendly home.

Regardless, when someone is looking to become a first-time dog owner, there are a number of traits they might want to look for in their new pets, and narrowing the search down to dogs who embody those characteristics can be a smart way to find a good match. Things like how easy a breed is to train and how friendly the breed tends to be are certainly good things to know, and traits like energy level and child friendliness can also be important.

A few years ago, we surveyed more than 200 veterinary professionals to get their thoughts on which dog breeds are best for new owners, but we found that many of our readers disagreed with the findings in the comments. So, we recently asked 668 of our readers the same question. Find out how their answers compare in the gallery below!

Readers Vote on the Best Dog Breeds for New Owners


Eva-Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 13: Maltese

Kicking off our list of great breeds for new owners is the Maltese. This cute little pup stands out with her silky white coat, shoe-button eyes and typically bright, bold personality. She's generally intelligent and cuddly, but her small size (four to seven pounds) means she's not the best choice for families with small children who may accidentally play too rough with her.

Vets named the Shetland Sheepdog as the lucky No. 13 best pick for new owners.

Shih Tzu

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 12: Shih Tzu

Our next dog is also known for her compact size and normally sweet personality. The Shih Tzu is usually playful and a little mischievous, but this dog was bred to be a companion, and she tends to do that very well, as long as she's provided with the proper training and socialization.

Because of the tie in our veterinary professional survey, there was no No. 12 vet pick.

Bichon Frise dog breed

Julie Poole, Animal Photography

No. 11: Bichon Frise

Another small, sweet dog first-time owners might consider is the Bichon Frise, who was bred to entertain. A relative of the Maltese, she can also be a bit too small for families with rambunctious young children, but she's usually quite the cuddler. And her curly coat means that shedding doesn't tend to be an issue.

Vets had a tie here between the Bichon Frise and the Yorkshire Terrier.

Two Beagles Side View

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 10: Beagle

The Beagle nosed his way right into the top 10 with our readers! His portable size and adorable face are certainly draws, but owners should be aware of just how strong his desire to follow a scent can be, because even the most well-trained Beagle can exhibit selective deafness when he has to choose between his owner's commands and an interesting smell.

Vets named the Maltese the No. 10 dog on this list.

Cocker Spaniel

Olivia Hemingway, Animal Photography

No. 9: Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel long ago earned a reputation for being a wonderful family dog, and although she's not as popular as she used to be, she's still known for her gentle and playful personality. She's generally an adaptable pup, happy to hang around the house or go hunting for birds.

Vets picked the Pug for this spot.

Toy Poodle Sitting on Couch

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

No. 8: Toy Poodle

The Toy Poodle is a small dog with a reputation for a big brain that can make an excellent addition to many families, although, like some of the other breeds mentioned, his small size can be a problem with young children. His curly coat sheds very little, but it does require grooming every month to month and a half, most likely by a professional groomer.
Veterinary professionals selected the Shih Tzu for No. 8.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 7: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the largest members of the Toy Group, weighing between 13 and 18 pounds. Although she's generally devoted to her people (and their laps), she tends to be a good partner to take on long walks and hikes, making her a good choice for an active owner who wants the portability of a small dog.

Vets gave No. 7 to the Papillon.

Collie dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 6: Collie

Collies are known for being family friendly, explaining why readers voted the breed as the No. 6 best dog breed for new owners. This is a typically trainable breed that's often eager to please everyone in the family, and though she can be highly energetic outdoors, she tends to remain calm inside the house. And that coat probably doesn't need as much grooming as you think it does!

Vets voted the Boston Terrier into sixth place.

Pug Tongue Out Looking at Camera

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

No. 5: Pug

The charming Pug took fifth place with our readers, and we can see why. He's generally good with other dogs, cats and kids, and though he's typically not a dog you should take out for a run, he tends to be lively and enjoy outings and walks with his family. Inexperienced owners should be aware that the Pug's adorable flat face comes with some serious health issues, so be sure you learn more about this typically charming breed to make sure he's a good fit for you.  

Vets gave No. 5 to the Bichon Frise.

Dachshund dog breed

David Jensen, Animal Photography

No. 4: Dachshund

We'll admit to being a bit surprised to see the Doxie so high on the list. This small dog can pack a lot of spirit into that small package, and while she's known for being intelligent and devoted to her people, she's also developed a reputation for being stubborn and difficult to housetrain. 

Vets voted the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into this spot.

Poodle Laying on Carpet

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

No. 3: Poodle

We saw the Toy Poodle a few slides back, and the full-size version cracked the top three with our readers. As with his smaller counterpart, the Poodle generally has both beauty and brains, not to mention a delightful sense of humor. His coat can be a blessing (low shedding!) and a curse (so much grooming required!). He's usually easy to train, excelling at lots of activities, such as agility and obedience, and he'll be happiest in a home where he's continually given the opportunity to learn from his people.

Vets named the lovable Labrador Retriever No. 3.

Two Labrador Retrievers on Sofa

Robin Burkett, Animal Photography

No. 2: Labrador Retriever

No. 2 with our readers is the lovable Lab. This typically exuberant, friendly dog has been the most popular breed in America for 25 years now, according to the American Kennel Club, and it's easy to see why. She tends to be incredibly versatile, able to act as a service dog, an athlete or just about anything you can pick out for her to do. She usually requires plenty of mental and physical stimulation, though, or she can become bored, and a first-time owner might be surprised at just how much damage a bored Labrador can do to a room. 

Vets put the Poodle in second place.

Golden Retriever Smiling Laying in Grass

Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 1: Golden Retriever

When it comes to the top dog for new owners, readers and veterinary professionals were in agreement: The Golden Retriever is No. 1! Sweet, gentle and an infamous people-pleaser in most cases, the Golden commonly makes friends with ease. He generally loves spending time with his family and is often highly active, so he's best suited for a home with owners who are prepared to help him channel his energy in appropriate ways (rather than, say, chewing up the couch cushions). He usually enjoys mental challenges, making food puzzles a great idea.

It's important to note, however, that every dog is an individual, so while these breeds may tend to exhibit traits that first-time dog owners would likely seek out, there are lots of factors that can shape a dog's behavior, regardless of pedigree (like training, environment, health and more). So, if you're the one researching your first dog or helping out someone else in that situation, make sure you look into more than just the breed. (Our new dog owner guide content might help!) One other item to note is that, in our veterinary professionals' survey, we included designer breeds and mixes (such as the Labradoodle). In our reader survey, we opted to leave those mixes out and focus strictly on purebreds. So some of the rankings on the vet survey have been adjusted accordingly to be able to do an appropriate comparison.

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