The Ultimate List of Best Dog Breeds for First Time Owners

So you’ve officially decided to get your first dog. Congratulations! You’re on your way to meeting your new best friend! Now that you’ve decided to get your first dog, it’s time to figure out what the best dog breeds are for your personality and lifestyle.

Today you will learn what the best small and large dog breeds are for first time owners, as well as what you need for your new family member when they arrive. 


Before choosing which breed you want, take some time to think about what kind of lifestyle you have.

Do you live out in the country with lots of land? Or do you live in an apartment in the city? Are you more of a couch potato or a marathon runner?

Different breeds need different amounts of space and exercise, so do your research beforehand.

Don’t be the person who gets a dog that needs to run 2 miles everyday if you hate working out just because you think he’s cute.

That would be a recipe for an overhyped and misbehaved canine, and it wouldn’t be fair to your dog. 

What You Need

The next step to take after deciding on what dog to get is to find the supplies you need for your new family member.

Make sure that you get the basics like food and water bowls, toys, a leash, collar, and dog crate for potty training.

If you’re getting a puppy, pick up some pee pads as well so you don’t ruin your floors. 

Small Dogs

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If you’re looking for a smaller dog, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may be a good place to start.

These dogs naturally have an affectionate and gentle temperament and are eager to learn so they’re easy to train.

You can usually find this dog either being a couch potato waiting for belly rubs, or outside having a blast chasing squirrels.

They are great with kids, and also adapt well to apartment living in case you live in the city.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels only grow to be about a foot tall, weigh about 13-18 lbs as an adult, and live about 9-15 years.

Bichon Frise

Do you want to get a dog but you’re worrying about the shedding?

Fear not, because the Bichon Frise don’t shed at all! This makes them great for people who want dogs but are usually allergic.

With that said, these dogs need to be groomed regularly, so think about if grooming is something you want to make a part of your schedule and budget.

These happy go lucky pups are always in a good mood, and are great with kids, strangers, and other dogs.

However, this breed tends to suffer from separation anxiety so if you’re away for most of the day, consider a different breed.

At full size they stand about 9-11 inches tall and weigh around 10 lbs.

At that size, you can take them pretty much anywhere!

These are great dogs if you live in an apartment. Just make sure to get their daily walks in to keep their peppy personality in check.  

best dog breeds papillion


Have you ever seen those old English and French paintings of royalty holding those little fancy dogs?

Well, once known as the dwarf spaniel, these dogs have evolved to become the Papillion, but still have the same human pleasing qualities they’ve always had.

Standing at 11 inches tall and weighing 4-9 lbs at full size, these pups are super people oriented, easily trainable, and good with kids and other dogs.

Adding onto that, it is important to begin training early on for the Papillion or they will start to believe they are the ones in charge.

So don’t be surprised if you see your little 5 lb dog bossing around the 150 lb Great Dane. 


Believe it or not, these 7 lb cotton balls are actually descendants of large sled dog breeds like the Alaskan Malamute and the Samoyed.

These little dogs are highly intelligent and often in their minds, they think they are larger than they actually are.

This can sometimes lead to harassment and even attacking large dogs.

The good news is that early socialization can usually stop any behavioral problems in Pomeranians before they even start.

These dogs come in a variety of different colors including black, white, orange, blue, and cream.

Keep in mind that while Pomeranians are usually good with children, it may not be a good idea to choose them when there are highly active children due to the dog’s size. 

Yorkshire Terrier

Voted most popular toy breed in the US, the Yorkshire Terrier is definitely one of the best dog breeds for first time owners.

Weighing 4-6 lbs and living 12-15 years, this little dog can be a great companion for many years.

They are highly trainable and are great for apartment living.

Yorkies need a lot of attention and time with their family.

Many hours alone are used to find trouble. These dogs can also be suspicious of strangers and unfamiliar sounds.

Yapping is a common issue for this breed if not trained early on. If you want to learn how to teach a dog not to bark, read this article I wrote on how to stop your dog from barking without a shock collar. 

Shih Tzus

Funny enough, Shih Tzus means “little lion”. However, there is nothing fierce or scary about this breed.

These dogs were bred solely to be companions.

In fact, their favorite activity is following their owners from room to room.

Shih Tzus grow to me 9-10 inches tall, 9-16 lbs and live for 10-16 years.

They are great for apartment living as well as living out in the country and are great with other dogs and children.  

best dog breeds pug


Known as the clowns of the canine world, pugs have a great sense of humor and like showing off for their owners.

Their names come from the latin word “fist” because their face looks like a human fist.

Pugs were bred to be lap dogs and are fantastic human companions. These dogs grow to be about a foot tall, 14-18 lbs at full size and live about 12-15 years.

Pugs are naturally happy, affectionate, loyal, and playful. If left alone too long, they can actually become depressed.

In addition, Pugs are known to shed a lot and because of their flat faces have difficulty breathing in extreme cold or hot weather, so it’s better to keep them inside.

Make sure to find a reputable breeder for this breed as the popularity of these dogs has caused overbreeding from puppy mills. 

Large Dogs

best dog breeds poodle


If I wasn’t such a fan of pitbulls, I would probably go with a nice large poodle.

Poodles come in 3 different sizes, ranging from 10 lbs all the way up to 70 lbs.

They are also great for people with allergies since they are hypoallergenic.

Believe it or not, Poodles weren’t always as fancy as they are now. They actually used to be (and in some parts of the world still are) water retrievers.

These dogs are eager to learn and are always up for a good game.

Since they have hair instead of fur, they’ll need to be taken to the groomer every six weeks or so to maintain their appearance.

They thrive in apartments and the countryside, and do well in both cold and hot weather.

Bred to be companion dogs, these fancy pups could be your new best friend and stay by your side for the next 12-15 years. 

best dog breeds whippet


Look at the snoot on this one! This cute pup is a Whippet.

Originally bred to be a poachers best friend, these dogs were fantastic at quickly catching rabbits and other small animals.

Today, these smart canines compete in all sorts of sports and are also amazing therapy dogs.

They are easy to train, full of energy, and great for someone with an active lifestyle.

Whippets prefer hotter weather due to their thin frame, and will definitely need a coat in colder climates.

They can grow to almost 2 ft tall, weigh anywhere from 18 to 48 lbs, and live for 12-15 years. 

best dog breeds greyhound


If you like the Whippet but you’re looking for something bigger, the Greyhound is one of the best dog breeds for first time owners.

Also bred to hunt rabbits, foxes and deer, these magnificent dogs are the fastest runners of all canines, reaching speeds up to 45 miles an hour.

These affectionate dogs are great with kids, strangers, and other dogs and are fine with either apartment or countryside living.

Greyhounds will grow to be between 50 to 85 lbs and live for 12 to 15 years.

If you don’t want to raise a Greyhound from puppyhood, try rescuing one from The Greyhound Project, a nonprofit that rescues and rehomes retired racing hounds. 


If you have an active lifestyle, a Boxer might be one of the best dog breeds for you.

Originally bred to be medium sized guard dogs, these goofy dogs now find themselves as fun first time companions for new dogs owners.

These dogs love their families and thrive off of constant training without harsh reprimands.

Boxers reach around 60 to 70 lbs and have a long lifespan of 10-12 years.

Keep in mind that the boxer is an extremely energetic dog that needs loads of exercise. So if you have a calmer lifestyle, a Boxer may not be for you.

However, if you love hiking, running, camping, and the outdoor lifestyle, a Boxer might be the perfect fit!

Golden Retriever

If you have a family with young kids, a Golden Retriever may be one of the best dogs on this list for you.

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the US because they are easily trainable, great with children, strangers and other dogs.

These dogs thrive in larger households with a backyard, so they might not be the dog for you if you live in the city.

They’re also big shedders, so they’re going to need a nice brush for their long coat. They grow to be about 65 lbs and live 10-12 years. 

best dog breeds labrador

Labrador Retriever

My first dogs ever were a Labrador and a Rottweiler. My labrador was a female and she was the sweetest thing on the planet. (After all the puppy biting of course.)

Labradors come in three different colors: yellow, black, and chocolate.

They weigh anywhere from 55 to 75 lbs and have a lifespan of 10-12 years.

These dogs were originally bred to hunt ducks and other birds for hunters, so they need a moderate amount of exercise.

The ideal day for a labrador usually involves water, so a weekend trip to the beach or a swim in the lake would be a dream come true.

Labs also love to eat, so make sure you don’t overfeed them because obesity from overeating is common in this breed. But overall, the labrador is a wonderful addition to any family. 

best dog breeds great dane

Great Dane

Don’t expect to fit a Great Dane into your Manhattan studio apartment, chances are he’s bigger than it.

These gentle giants have been around for thousands of years. The Great Dane is one of the best natured dogs around, and really are huge babies.

Even though these amazing dogs can grow to be a whopping 200 lbs, they are extremely gentle, affectionate, and are great with children.

Great Danes were originally bred to hunt wild boar, but they would definitely be fired from that job today.

The aggressiveness of these giant dogs was bred out of their genes hundreds of years ago.

They definitely thrive better in open spaces because of their size, so no apartment living for this pooch.

Don’t be surprised if a Great Dane starts to climb on top of you while sitting on the couch. They think they’re lap dogs.

And expect some head nudges when your Great Dane decides that he wants some love. 

Mixed Breed Dogs

A special addition to the list are mixed dogs. These are dogs that have genetics from 2 or more different breeds.

Depending on what the mix is, a mixed dog might be great for you and your family.

One major plus about these dogs is that they are less likely to develop genetic diseases than purebreds and tend to live longer.

Another benefit is that by getting a mix the dog might genetically have only taken the good qualities from each parent and gotten rid of some of the bad qualities.

However, getting a mixed dog that has genetics from energetic and hard to train breeds may be a recipe for disaster. So make sure you know what the dog is mixed from before you adopt.

The last benefit is that almost all mixed dogs are from shelters, so you’d be saving a life!

You can also choose to adopt a puppy, adult, or senior dog depending on how much training you want to put in.

Take a weekend trip to your local shelter and see what dogs are available. You might find your new best buddy while you’re there. 


I hope that this list helped you make a decision on what the best dog breeds are for you. Always make sure to think about your lifestyle and try to match the breed with how active you are.

If possible, find a friend that has the breed you’re interested in and ask to dogsit for the weekend to help you decide if that kind of dog is right for you.

Which breed is your favorite? Let me know in the comments!

Want more great articles on all things dog? Click here for training tips, treat recipes, and more!

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