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The Best Dogs For First Time Owners

Written by FOTP Team


Ready to welcome a four-pawed pal into your home?  Are you wondering how they’ll fit into your life, routine, and family?  We may be biased, but we’re pretty much 100% sure that it’s a brilliant decision.  And we’re here to make it easy for you. In this article we’ll look at some of our favorite breeds for first-time owners.  We’ve got big ones, little ones, fluffy ones and feisty ones.  You’ll soon find a dog to love!

Choosing a dog for first-time owners

So you’d love a waggy tail in your life.  Wait up!  Before you start browsing puppy ads, here are some things to consider.

  • How much space do you have at home?
  • Who will walk the dog, and when?  How much time can they spare to walk every day?
  • Do you have the disposable income for food and veterinary costs?
  • How might your circumstances change during the dog’s lifetime?

What are the best dog breeds for first-time owners?

You may be a first-time owner, but you probably already have an idea about your favorite dogs.   If you want someone to enable your decision, we’re here for it – time to talk best breeds.  Here are some of our all-round favorites.

Big and cuddly: Everything you’ve heard about the Golden Retriever is true!  These gorgeous dogs are cuddly, placid, and easy-going.  They are wonderful with children and enjoy long walks with their adult owners, to whom they’ll become very attached.  Goldendoodles – a new mix of golden retriever + poodle – are excitable and bouncy, but super-affectionate and loyal.   

Small and pretty:  If you want a petite dog who will love you unconditionally, look for a stylish Chihuahua, a Yorkipoo, or a Maltese.  Chihuahuas can be feisty and protective, Yorkies can be yappy, and Maltese need plenty of grooming, but they’re all unfailingly loyal.  We’ve met some incredibly affectionate dogs from these breeds!

Lots of walking:  For runners and hikers, a dog will be a brilliant companion – if you pick the right breed.  Dogs such as Labrador Retrievers and Dalmatians are smart with plenty of stamina.   If you can offer 2 hours of exercise every day then you could consider one of various types of Spaniel, Poodle or Husky

The best “beginner” dogs...

If you’ve never owned a dog then it’s normal to feel nervous.  Will your dog bark at everyone who comes to the house?  What if they chew everything while you’re out?  The best dogs for beginner owners will be:

> Easy to train
> Happy with people and dogs
> Relaxed in the home.

Easy to train
While we recommend dog training – which will train YOU as much as your new companion – it is wise to look at trainable breeds which are easy-going and keen to please.

The English Springer Spaniel is a delightful dog which typically loves to play “fetch” and will run energetically on every walk.  Bred for hunting, the ESS is very responsive to training and offers absolute loyalty (and an ear for protection) to their owner.  The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a smaller breed with almost as much energy, and very receptive to training.  If you have lots of space and time for exercising your dog, or perhaps you’re interested in agility training, one of the spaniels will be a great choice.   

Happy with people and dogs
Affectionate and placid: that’s the dog-owner’s double whammy.  Loads of dogs will be content to welcome humans and dogs, on walks and at home; training will also help.  This means socializing your new puppy so they’re used to lots of mammals and smells.  Some of the cuddliest dogs include tough-looking Bulldogs and Boxers, as well as Golden Retrievers, Newfoundlands and Bichon Frise.  If they can get onto your lap, they will – and spaniels and Labradors might also have a good try at it!

Relaxed in the home
Whatever breed you choose, a well-exercised dog will be relaxed at home (and sleep a lot).  There may be an overexcitable puppy phase, but they’ll usually mature and settle.  One of the most chilled-out dogs in the world is the Greyhound.  After a sprint around the local park, this lovely dog will snuggle down in a warm place.  Of course, that’s true for other dogs – look at a Bulldog or Golden Retriever

  What is the best first dog for a family?

Children can’t be responsible for dogs, even if they’d like to!  The duty of walking and vet visits will fall to the adults of the household.  After all, the children will grow up, find other interests, and move out – while the dog might still be at home, needing care.  

The best first dog for a family depends on YOUR temperament, as much as the dog’s.  Do you love to hike at weekends?  Do you have a big or small home?  Do you have chaotic toddlers, or quiet teens?  Do you love camping holidays?

Here are some of our favorite first dogs for a family.

Poodles and some poodle crosses make brilliant family dogs.  Fun and faithful with plenty of stamina for long walks, the classic Poodle is less dainty than it looks!  They have curly, hypoallergenic coats which make them more suitable for allergy-sufferers.  As a result, poodles have been cross-bred with smaller hounds – with some now-famous results!  The Cockapoo is a real teddy-bear with lots of energy (from the cocker spaniel) and excellent trainability.  

You already know about the classic Labradors and Golden Retrievers, but have you looked at a mix?  The Springador (springer/lab cross) is a family-friendly dog with lots of exuberant energy and unconditional loyalty.   Smart and trainable, they can have short or longer coats.   Because they are cross-bred, they can have reduced risk of the genetic problems specific to Springers or Labradors. 

What is the best dog for first-time owners who work?

Working full-time is a barrier to owning your first dog.  Why?  Many will pine or howl during a long day alone, and sometimes they’ll get creative with their chewing – just to show how much they missed you.  

However, if you work part time (or can coordinate with your household so that someone will be home more), or you’ve made the switch to WFH, there are some dogs which are more independent or amenable to being left alone while you make the occasional trip to the office. 

Basset Hounds are slow-paced and sweet-tempered, and they love to lounge.  The Chow-Chow is a surprisingly autonomous dog, despite a very loyal heart.  Traditional guard-dogs, like the Bullmastiff and Shar-Pei, are somewhat accustomed to being Home Alone.   

Of course, companionship is truly embedded in the dog character.  They don’t want to live in an empty home.  Most will form an unbreakable bond with their owner – and that’s exactly why we love them so much. 

What are the best dogs to adopt for first-time owners?

Just because you lack experience, don’t dismiss the dog rescue.  It’s got some of the best dogs for new owners. 


When you apply to a rescue, you won’t be matched with a dog that isn’t right for you.  The rescue spends time examining every application to make sure its dogs find good homes.  That means they’re looking for the right size, temperament, and requirements.  Just like a dog matchmaker!

Okay, we’re kidding.  But if you’re prepared to attend training classes and give your new companion lots of patience... your perfect pup could be waiting in a rescue.

Rescue centers have an ever-changing jumble of random breeds and cross-breeds: there are usually more of whatever-is-currently-fashionable.  If you’re looking for a hypoallergenic breed, watch out for the “poos” – poodle crosses which are bred for their low-shed coats. 


Be open to accepting a cross-breed dog!  Cross-breeding eliminates genetic problems (like vision and obesity) which can run in pedigree dogs.  Cross-breeds can be healthier and maintain the best character traits of their parents.  Remember that the rescue center staff have come to know the dog, and will be able to tell you all about its temperament.  

If you’re set on a puppy, ask if there is a waiting list for litters.  (Puppies usually arrive with fewer neuroses and can be trained early.)

Our top tips for first-time dog owners 

1 – Spend time doing research. This article’s a good start, but you should make a shortlist of potential breeds and note their characteristics.  Your family is unique.  Your dog will be too!

2 – Work out how to adjust your schedule to fit a dog.  Once you bring a puppy home, you’ll need to devote time – not just for the initial house-training, but every day.  You might need to coordinate with your household to make sure that people are around.

3 – Budget for the cost.  You can read about the cost of a dog here, and you can work out prices for food and vaccinations or contact your local veterinarian. 

4 – Investigate obedience classes.  We highly recommend attending obedience classes with your new dog.  You can save money by doing it yourself using a book or video tutorials but real-life experience is invaluable.

5 – Everyone’s a novice owner once!  We’ve all been there.  You’ll learn about dog ownership in chats with other owners, at training sessions, and on walks!  In no time you’ll be a seasoned dog-owner.