Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners 

Dog, Happiness

Written by Rick Chillot

Updated: July 8, 2023

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So you’ve decided to adopt a dog…but which dog? If you’re preparing to become a dog owner for the first time, the number of questions you have to sort through can seem quite daunting: Do you want a puppy or an older dog? How about a rescue? Big or small? Long hair or short? Super-active or couch potato? Talking or non-talking? (Trick question, there are no talking dogs.) One way to narrow your choices is to focus on dog breeds that are especially good picks for first-time owners. Within that manageable category you’re sure to find a friend who meets your particular requirements, and before you know it you’ll go from never-had-a-dog to never-want-to-be-without-one.

To get you started, here’s a round-up of some of the best dogs for first-time dog owners.

Infographic of Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners
Boxers, poodles, and labrador retrievers are among the breeds most suited for first-time dog owners.

The Boxer: A Great Choice for Families

Boxer dog breed with owner.

Boxers love people and exercise, making them one of the best breeds for first-time dog owners.

© Hernandez Carmona

Affectionate and good with kids, the people-loving boxer makes a great family dog, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). They’re energetic and highly intelligent, so be sure to give puppies early socialization and training to channel their energy and enthusiasm in the right direction. Since they do need lots of exercise, plan for daily romps and walks that will satisfy their game-chasing instincts.

The English Springer Spaniel: Eager to Please

Cute welsh springer spaniel dog indoor.

Look of love: your springer spaniel only has eyes for you.


If you could use a little more love in your life, the English springer spaniel will be happy to provide it. These dogs are people-pleasers of the best kind, who like nothing more than to stick close to their owners and be part of the family. Just be prepared for your heart to melt on a daily basis when those big sweet eyes lock on to you. On the flip side, they’re not big on getting too much alone time. And though they do well indoors, these are high-energy canines that need exercise and regular grooming. The English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association describes them as “a do-it-all breed” with “athleticism, beauty, medium build, and active personality.

The Poodle: Ooh-La-La

Beautiful little brown poodle dog in a harness. Miniature poodle pet puppy on a walk in the street.

A poodle is always up for a duck hunt or a game of fetch.

©Korneeva Kristina/

Look, at some point in our lives, we’ve all known someone who owned a poodle: a neighbor, an aunt, a rich widow with a French accent (maybe that last one was a TV or movie character). There’s a reason these dogs are so ubiquitous. They’re pretty dang great. Poodles are smart and easy to train, affectionate, and playful. And they come with a bonus you may not be aware of: their fur is quite hypoallergenic, a boon to allergic dog lovers everywhere. As for the French connection, poodles are the national dog of France. But they call them “duck dogs,” a nod to the breed’s origins as duck hunters.

The Papillon: Small Dog, Big Heart, Big Ears

Palillon breed dog looking at owner,

Now hear this: papillons are as friendly as they are cute.

©Liliya Kulianionak/

Named for their wing-shaped ears (papillon is “butterfly” in French), these miniature marvels defy the stereotype of the floofy, fragile, high-strung lapdog. Papillons tend to have a friendly, happy nature that’s neither shy nor aggressive. They’re affectionate, easy to please, and love to play, whether running around in a yard or retrieving toys in a small apartment. They need regular grooming, but not as much as you’d think for such long silky hair.

The Whippet: Quick, Quiet, and Mellow

Whippet breed dog running through grass.

Let’s go! Whippets are hounds who love to run but also love to rest.


Like their larger relatives the Greyhounds, whippets were bred to run. But because they’re sprinters, their exercise needs can be managed with regular play and activity sessions, outside of which they’re generally happy to relax and hang out in the house or apartment. They’re quiet and affectionate dogs who rarely bark and tend to be patient and friendly with kids and strangers. They shed very little, though their short fur leaves them vulnerable to cold temps. Whippets can experience separation anxiety, so they do best if they’re not left alone for extended periods, or have another puppy to keep them company.

The Labrador Retriever: America’s Best-Loved Breed

Labrador retriever on a walk with owner.

How are you today? When walking your Lab, be prepared to make new friends.

© Dumitru

Who doesn’t love a Lab? This breed has consistently ranked as the most popular in America, as ranked by the AKC’s registration statistics, holding the top spot for more than 30 years and only dropping from # 1 to # 2 in 2022. It’s not hard to understand why the Labrador retriever is the leader of the pack, even among the best breeds for first-time dog owners. The breed is renowned for its affection, sociability, friendliness, and easy-going nature. They’re easy to groom, though they can shed excessively. Really the only downsides to consider are their size — not everyone has room for a dog that can reach 70-80 pounds — and their exercise needs. Because make no mistake: every trip to the park or around the block is going to take twice as long since everyone you meet will want to stop you and pet your dog.

The Mixed Breed Dog: One of a Kind

Pair of mixed-breed dogs waiting for owner to come home.

Mixed-breed dogs make great best friends.

©Alex Zotov/

Whichever breed you land on, be sure to do your homework and work with a dog breeder you can trust. And while making your decision, consider adopting a mixed-breed dog. As ASPCA Pet Insurance notes, dogs with ancestors from multiple breeds can be healthier than their pure-bred cousins. And if you adopt one from a shelter, you’ll be saving a life. Every mutt is unique, which is part of the joy of knowing them. But it also means it can be hard to predict what kind of dog they’ll grow into. So you’ll want to be cautious if you have special concerns, like a small living space or small children in the household. Talking to the shelter staff or current owner may help you find the right match. The ASPCA can help you start your search.

Summary of Best Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners 

Here’s a recap of the breeds we think could be great options for first-time dog owners:

NumberDog BreedTemperament
1BoxerMakes a great family dog as its affectionate and good with kids
2English Springer SpanielEager to please and like to stick close to their owners
3PoodleSmart, easy to train, playful, and hypoallergenic
4PapillonFriendly, happy nature, affectionate, and love to play
5WhippetBred to run, quiet, rarely bark, patient with kids, and mellow
6Labrador RetrieverAmerica’s best-loved breed: affectionate and easy-going.
7Mixed Breed DogOne of a kind and can be healthier than purebreds

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What's the right dog for you?

Dogs are our best friends but which breed is your perfect match?


If you have kids or existing dogs select:

Other Dogs

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The lower energy the better.
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About the Author

Rick Chillot is a freelance writer and editor who's worked in all kinds of print and digital formats, including books, magazines, newspapers, blogs, and graphic novels. He abandoned his pursuit of a biology career when nature refused to cooperate.

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