The Worst Dog Breeds for New Owners? Our Readers Weigh In

Let us start off by saying that we don't believe there are any "bad" dog breeds. However, not every pooch is the right fit for every owner, and it's possible that a first-time dog owner may find certain breeds more of a challenge than others.

Back in 2013, we asked 218 veterinary professionals (including veterinarians, veterinary technicians and office managers) to give us their takes on the top 15 dog breeds they'd recommend first-time dog owners avoid, and our readers had plenty to say about those picks.

So we decided to survey 668 Vetstreet readers and have them share their opinions on which breeds they thought might be a poor fit for inexperienced owners, based on factors like energy level, trainability, friendliness and more. In the slideshow below, we've listed the results and compared them to what the veterinary professionals said.

The dog breeds that made the list cover a wide range of sizes and personality types. Some tend to be incredibly high energy and often require massive amounts of exercise, while others typically need significant socialization and a confident owner in their earliest stages, and still others present specific grooming challenges. Many of these breeds exhibit impressive IQs and equally impactful athletic abilities, which makes them great choices for certain jobs and environments and a challenging fit for others.

Readers Vote for Worst Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

Belgian Malinois

Tara Gregg, Animal Photography

No. 15: Belgian Malinois

The Belgian Malinois kicks off our list and is a prime example of why certain breeds are a better fit for some owners than others. The Malinois is generally quite intelligent and takes well to training. In fact, this typically active and energetic breed is often among the best at agility and search and rescue, which can make him an exceptional police dog. However, those same traits — intelligence and high energy levels — mean that, for an inexperienced owner, he can prove to be more than a handful.

No. 15 for veterinary professionals was the American Pit Bull Terrier/American Staffordshire Terrier, which we included on that list as an honorable mention, because although he ranked highly as a poor choice for newbies, in the same survey, he received a considerable number of vet votes as the best breed for new dog owners. It just shows you how many differing opinions there can be! 

American Staffordshire Terrier Standing Side View

Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 14: American Staffordshire Terrier

Unlike some of the veterinary professionals we surveyed, our readers placed the Am Staff firmly in the category of breeds new owners might want to avoid. In the right home, this dog can be a terrific, docile, affectionate family companion, though she does tend to need a lot of training. But we've seen how in the wrong hands, her loyalty and tenacity can be exploited by dog fighting rings and unscrupulous owners. Because of this, the Am Staff can come with plenty of societal baggage, and owners need to be aware of any breed bans in their area or residence before bringing one home.   

The Airedale Terrier took 14th place among veterinary professionals, likely due to her tendency to be stubborn and mischievous. 

Saint Bernard Standing in Grass

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 13: Saint Bernard

With his cuddly looks and typically sweet demeanor, you might wonder why the Saint Bernard ranked so highly as the wrong dog breed for a first-time owner. However, while this lovable giant can be a fantastic addition to a family, he can also be very stubborn, and without proper socialization early on (and we do mean early, because, sadly, Saint Bernards usually live only seven to 10 years), he can develop temperament issues. And with his massive size (120 to 180 pounds or more), any behavioral issues can get out of hand in a hurry. One other factor would-be owners should consider? They drool. A lot.

On the veterinary professional survey, the No. 13 spot went to the equally large and drooly Bullmastiff.

Mastiff in Countryside

Ron Wilbie, Animal Photography

No. 12: Mastiff

Speaking of enormous dog breeds known to be heavy droolers, meet the breed our readers named the No. 12 worst pick for new owners: the Mastiff. He can weigh in at more than 200 pounds, and when you pair that kind of heft with a notable stubborn streak, you have a dog who can present a challenge to any owner who's not up to the responsibility of properly training him with consistent, positive reinforcement. Still, among his fans, he's known to be a gentle giant, occasionally seeming deaf to commands but rarely defiant or aggressive.

Veterinary professionals put the Bulldog in 12th place, likely due to the fact that the breed is prone to a variety of health issues.


Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 11: Dalmatian

Who doesn't love a Dalmatian? The striking, spotted, people-loving dog breed is generally quite smart and great at learning tricks, but that brainpower comes with a huge amount of energy. In order to keep a Dalmatian happy, one needs to be prepared to give her appropriate outlets for that energy, lest she become bored and destructive. And it's not only energy she has loads of — she's also an impressive shedder, with stiff hair that tends to weave itself into fabric.

No. 11 for veterinary professionals was the Siberian Husky, which is another prolific shedder with an incredible amount of energy to burn.

Australian Cattle Dog

Tara Gregg, Animal Photography

No. 10: Australian Cattle Dog

This medium-size herding dog has impressive endurance, but it's not just his high energy levels that make the Australian Cattle Dog a questionable choice for someone who's never owned a dog. He's also typically smart and independent with a reputation for being stubborn. If he's not properly stimulated — both physically and mentally — he may channel that energy into chasing cars and bikes, digging up your lawn or any number of other ways he might devise to occupy himself.

In our veterinary professionals survey, the No. 10 spot went to the Saint Bernard.

Siberian Huskies playing outside in the snow

Anna Pozzi, Animal Photography

No. 9: Siberian Husky

It might be difficult to resist her stunning eyes and her generally happy, affectionate personality, but the Siberian Husky was the No. 9 pick for readers in this survey. Like many dogs on this list, she's an enthusiastic and highly peppy breed who requires vigorous daily exercise and consistent leadership. She can also exhibit a strong predatory streak with smaller animals (such as cats), making her a potentially risky fit for many multispecies homes. Additionally, she can be an escape artist who can dig under or jump over many fences with ease.

The No. 9 pick among veterinary professionals was the German Shepherd, an extremely popular breed that has been known to outsmart more than a few humans.

Border Collie

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 8: Border Collie

While we're on the topic of extremely intelligent dog breeds, let's take a look at the Border Collie, which earned the No. 8 spot on the list with readers. According to many people, he's literally at the head of the canine class when it comes to brains, and he's a workaholic with laser focus and impressive energy to boot. This can be fantastic if you need a dog to herd your flock, but not such a good thing if you aren't able to give him the daily exercise he needs.

The vets we surveyed put the Australian Cattle Dog in eighth place.

Side view of Alaskan Malamute dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 7: Alaskan Malamute

The Alaskan Malamute has a few tendencies that are likely the reason this breed landed at No. 7. He is wildly energetic, a dog fur factory, legendary leash puller, determined digger, exuberant eater and would give Houdini a run for his money when it comes to escaping a fenced yard. However, he's also known to be joyful and friendly. Plus, you can't deny the dog's got some serious style.

The No. 7 spot on the veterinary professionals' list went to the Dalmatian.

Jack Russell Terrier on Bed

Leanne Graham, Animal Photography

No. 6: Jack Russell Terrier

So far, the dog breeds on this list have all been at least medium-sized, but that changes now. The No. 6 worst pick for new dog owners, according to our readers, was the Jack Russell Terrier. The typically super-active and super-smart JRT was born to dig. And bark. And investigate. An owner ready to celebrate those traits is a great fit, but anyone else might want to look into a different breed.

Veterinary professionals voted the Weimaraner into sixth place, probably because, despite his gorgeous gray coat and habit of closely following his owner everywhere, he's generally intelligent, energetic and has no off switch. Plus, he can be a hazard to small pets, like cats.

Doberman Pinscher

Julie Poole, Animal Photography

No. 5: Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher can have a bit of a reputation as a difficult dog. While she has plenty of devoted fans praising her generally loving and loyal nature, there are reasons she has that rep. Developed as a guard dog, the Doberman typically has an innate ability not only to protect her family but also to anticipate danger and threats. But if the Doberman isn't socialized and trained to behave appropriately around strangers, she may show excessive suspicion of guests in your home – suspicion that can turn into aggression. Which is probably why she earned the No. 5 spot with our readers.

Veterinary professionals named the Rottweiler the No. 5 worst dog breed for new owners. Although the breed can be a true gentle giant, her powerful, protective nature can also be a major problem with an owner who's not willing to put in the time to socialize and train her.

German Shepherd Standing in Grass

Leesia Teh, Animal Photography

No. 4: German Shepherd Dog

His fans often say that if the German Shepherd had opposable thumbs, he could take over the world. And to be honest, the readers who named him the No. 4 worst choice for first-time dog owners would likely agree. It takes real dedication to live with a GSD, as the breed requires a substantial amount of mental and physical stimulation. Typically athletic and brainy, the GSD needs activity and a job to do, otherwise, he'll likely find a destructive outlet for all that pent-up energy.

In fourth place with veterinary professionals was the Alaskan Malamute.

Chow Chow dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 3: Chow Chow

Third place among our readers was the Chow Chow, a breed of Chinese origin known for her ability to be an excellent guard and watchdog. Unlike so many of the dogs on this list, the generally independent and dignified Chow Chow doesn't need a huge amount of space or activity. However, she's often seen as aggressive due to improper training and socialization in her puppyhood, which means she's definitely a better choice for an experienced dog owner willing to put in the time and effort required to raise a well-socialized dog, rather than one who simply fell in love with her teddy bear-like coat and wants to cuddle her.

The No. 3 pick with vets was another breed hailing from China: the Chinese Shar-Pei, which, interestingly enough, didn't even make the top 15 with our readers. However, the Shar-Pei can be highly territorial and tends to bond with one person, remaining distrustful of everyone else. Additionally, her dramatic skin folds can predispose her to chronic skin and eye conditions that could overwhelm a first-time dog owner.


Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 2: Akita

He might be considered a national treasure in his home country of Japan, but the Akita isn't for everyone, according to our readers who named him the second worst dog breed for new owners. He was developed to hunt big game like bear and elk, and in Japan, he's often seen working as a police or guard dog. But this large (almost giant) breed can exhibit a strong prey drive, making him a potentially bad choice for homes with cats or other small animals, and he may be aggressive toward other dogs, too. He's often very protective of his family and aloof toward strangers, and in order to successfully train him, an owner needs to first own his respect — something a new dog owner will likely struggle to do.

No. 2 for vets was the No. 3 pick for readers: the Chow Chow.

Two Rottweilers in Grass

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 1: Rottweiler

At the top of the list of worst breeds for first-time dog owners, according to our reader survey, was the Rottweiler. Plenty of people sing the Rottie's praises as a gentle giant and loyal companion. His enormous head, muscular build, intimidating weight (up to 135 pounds) and protective instincts often make him a fantastic choice for police work. However, for the inexperienced owner, those traits (paired with the breed's tendency to use independent judgment when it comes to protecting his people) can be the source of serious issues. In fact, the Rottweiler is often the target of breed bans, so anyone interested in bringing this breed home needs to be well-read on laws and legislation in one's area. Checking the fine print on your homeowner's insurance policy would also be a wise move.

Veterinary professionals named the Akita as No. 1 on this list.

Let us know what you think about the survey results in the comments below.

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