Veterinary Professionals Vote on the Best Dogs for New Owners

We know which dog breeds (and mixes) are the most popular and even which ones are on the rise. But a variety of factors can contribute to a breed or mix's popularity, and just because a dog is hot, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a great choice for everyone.

We went to the veterinary community to get their take on which dogs, both breeds and designer mixes, are the best choices for first-time dog owners. The following constitutes answers from 218 veterinary professionals who were given a list of the most popular dog breeds and mixes. The list was based on information from the American Kennel Club and on data gathered by Vetstreet. [ See Also: 15 Challenging Dog Breeds for New Pet Owners ]

Best Dogs for New Owners

Pomeranian Dog Breed

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 18: Pomeranian

The Pomeranian often seems to think he's the cutest thing around, and most of the time he's right. Tiny, fluffy, curious and clever, he's a happy and adaptable breed that can be equally content hanging out at home or performing on the agility course. Although his size is suitable for a purse, he doesn't seem to know it; his personality is all big dog, all the time. His thick coat needs regular brushing but isn't terribly high-maintenance.

Shetland Sheepdog

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 17: Shetland Sheepdog

Don't call him a little Collie! The Shetland Sheepdog is his own breed and has long been a family favorite for his happy face and loyal, smart and quirky personality. He learns tricks with ease and loves to show off, which, paired with his speed, makes him a great agility dog. Beware, though: The Sheltie is a barker, and don't be surprised to find him herding other members of the family — both animal and human.

Yorkshire Terrier Puppy

Tetsu Yamakazi, Animal Photography

No. 15 (tie): Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkies are considered a toy breed, but this easily portable dog is a total Terrier. He's intelligent and playful with a big enough attitude to handle cats and larger family dogs. His high-maintenance coat may be a challenge for some, but his alert, curious personality more than makes up for it as far as Yorkie lovers are concerned. Bet you won't want to put him down! It's hard to have just one of them. This dog is best for adults or families with older children.


Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 15 (tie): Havanese

The Havanese is a bright, lively pup who enjoys playing games with you, particularly if he's the one who created the game. But just because he has his own ideas, don't think for a moment he'll be content entertaining himself. This dog craves company and plenty of it. His coat requires daily brushing and occasional professional grooming, but he doesn't shed as much as many breeds.

Maltese Dog Breed

Ron Willbie, Animal Photography

No. 14: Maltese

At less than 7 pounds, the Maltese is a tiny toy dog, but his bold personality means he's no shrinking violet. Spunky and puppy-like even into his golden years, this smart little lap dog was specifically bred to love and be loved, which explains why vets agree he's a great pick for first-time dog owners. Remind the kids to be gentle with this in-your-face guy who’s always in the thick of things.


Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 13: Pug

The Pug is an absolute charmer. His wrinkly face and fun-loving personality make him a hit with dogs, cats, adults and children. He's no athlete, and he's happiest when he's included as part of the family, which makes sense since the breed was bred as a companion dog for ancient Chinese nobility.


Tara Gregg, Animal Photography

No. 12: Puggle

The fourth and final designer mix on our list, the Puggle is a cross between a Pug and a Beagle. Beagles are great family dogs who can hang with the most active of companions, yet they are also ruled by their nose and can be hard to lure back if someone accidentally leaves a door open. Oh, and then there's the howling. Pugs, on the other hand, are little homebodies whose short nose can make them less exercise-tolerant than other breeds their size. The Puggle can be a robust little dog with the adventurous yet quieter spirit of a Beagle and the clever antics of a Pug. The best Puggles love to please and have a sense of humor, but, as with all designer mixes, his traits are not fixed, so he has been known to be a bit stubborn, distractible and not overtly affectionate.

Shih Tzu

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 11: Shih Tzu

This sweetheart of a dog lives to love and be loved, and he is happiest when snuggling in your lap. The Shih Tzu, originally bred for royalty in China, is compact, playful and mischievous enough to steal your shoes. He might believe the world revolves around him, but it's not out of arrogance; rather, it's because it tends to be pretty close to the truth. Not surprisingly, his coat requires regular grooming to keep it beautiful.


Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 10: Papillon

He might look dainty, but don't be fooled. The Papillon is definitely a "big dog in a small body," and his energy and intelligence abound, which makes him a perfect choice for active owners but a challenge for the more sedentary. He's clever and active enough to hang with the big dogs in organized sports and at the dog park but small enough to be content in an apartment setting. In order to keep him safe, you may have to remind your kids how small he really is. He'll never believe it himself.

Boston Terrier

Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 9: Boston Terrier

Friendly, portable and enthusiastic, the Boston Terrier gets along with just about everyone he meets. He was bred to be a buddy, after all, so he's happy so long as he's with his human family. And depending on that family's activity level, he can be a competitive canine athlete or a cuddly couch potato, making him another great choice for those new to dog ownership.

Bichon Frise

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 8: Bichon Frise

The Bichon Frise was bred specifically to be a companion, so it's little surprise veterinarians deem him such a great choice for new dog owners. Wonderfully affectionate and endlessly entertaining, he has long been a popular circus performer, but he'll be perfectly happy performing his tricks for his family at home.


Vidar Skauen, Animal Photography

No. 7: Labradoodle

Like our No. 5 and 6 dogs, the Labradoodle is a popular crossbreed, this time mixing the exuberant, hardy Labrador with the stable, even-tempered Poodle. At his best, this is a smart, affable and moderately active dog who can excel in obedience, agility and being your best buddy. His size can vary depending on whether his Poodle genes are toy, miniature or standard. As with the other designer mixes, it's important to keep in mind that his traits are not fixed.


Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 6: Goldendoodle

The Goldendoodle combines the No. 1 and No. 2 breeds on this list, so it's no surprise he ranks well within the Top 10. A cross between the Golden Retriever and the Poodle, an ideal Goldendoodle is intelligent, friendly and hopefully more active than rowdy. Because traits of crossbreeds are not fixed, there's no guarantee that your Goldendoodle will be hypoallergenic or even a particular size, but he's likely to be a loving family dog.


Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 5: Cockapoo

The first of several designer mixed breeds on this list, the bright-eyed and scruffy-coated Cockapoo is a happy-go-lucky charmer. Ideally, this dog will combine the best traits of the Cocker Spaniel and Poodle, creating a jovial and affectionate, low- to no-shed pup who requires professional grooming. However, because he is a crossbreed, there's no guarantee as to what you'll end up with, and both breeds are susceptible to ear infections.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Tetsu Yamazaki, Animal Photography

No. 4: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This popular toy breed loves people, whether that involves sitting on laps or going for long walks. The Cavalier is happy, trusting and easygoing, making friends everywhere he goes. Although he can be stubborn, he generally responds well to positive reinforcement and tends to be adaptable enough to sit quietly with an older person, then turn around and play with an active child.

Labrador Retriever

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 3: Labrador Retriever

The lovable Lab has been a favorite breed in the U.S. for more than 20 years, and it would appear that vets agree with this choice, naming him the No. 3 best breed for new dog owners. This friendly breed is a popular choice for service and therapy dogs, and his athleticism makes him an excellent hunting dog and canine athlete. Labs can be challenging and rambunctious as puppies and young dogs, and they have the reputation of eating just about anything. These beauties are best suited to active families who enjoy taking the dog along on their adventures.

Poodle dog breed

Stephen Taylor, Animal Photography

No. 2: Poodle

Smart, energetic, sensible and entertaining, the Poodle is another breed that's great for the beginner dog owner. Poodles have a reputation for being a bit aloof with people they don't know, but we just think they're less "needy." He's available in three sizes, but whatever size you choose, be aware that if you want his curly coat in anything but a basic cut, you're going to spend a lot of time going to the groomer.

Golden Retriever Dog Breed

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 1: Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is the No. 1 choice of veterinarians for new dog owners, and it's no wonder. His sweet, gentle, people-pleasing personality makes him a delightful addition to most families. He loves to play, displays loyalty and affection — and, if that weren't enough, this guy is a real looker. Those good looks come at a price, though: His gorgeous coat needs regular brushing and bathing.

One note: The reasons a particular breed or crossbreed might be considered the "best" choice can vary, and while we did not ask specifically within the survey why a dog might be considered best for a new owner, we can speculate that considerations include behavior, temperament, health and intelligence.

We noticed some interesting trends within these answers. For one, the number of smaller, less work- or sport-related dogs is certainly noteworthy. Additionally, many dogs on this list require grooming rather than home brushing. It would appear that, along with the rise of takeout food, lawn care and cleaning services, our society is leaning toward more compact dogs with lower exercise and daily grooming needs. Does this mean we're spending less time with our dogs or that we're changing the ways in which we're spending time together? Not necessarily; it might simply mean that we are opting to maximize the quality of the time shared while minimizing hair cleanup in the house.

For more information on these and any other dog breeds, be sure to visit our Breed Hub. And if you think the vets missed the boat by leaving out your favorite breed, tell us about it in the comments!

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