Best dogs for first time dog ownersLiz Mallia
So you’ve made the decision to get a dog. The only snag is that you’re an absolute beginner: you’ve never had a dog before!
Before looking at different breeds, you should have a look at our guide to Responsible Dog Ownership. It will give you an idea of how to prepare for a new dog, and what is required from you as a dog owner.
Breed is a good criterion to help you choose your new dog. Keep in mind that the breed will only give you a general idea of a dog’s temperament, energy, health, and so on. In any case, puppies and younger dogs tend to be energetic, regardless of breed, and will require more work than an older dog. A mixed-breed dog can be a good choice for a beginner, but it will be more difficult to gauge their temperament, trainability, and exercise needs (and size if they are young). Whether you choose an older or young dog, a pedigree pup or mixed breed dog, it is important to get your new pet from a reputable breeder or organisation. They will be able to help you make a good start with your new companion.
As a general note, if it’s your first dog, go for breeds that have relaxed, easy-going characters, and that are easy to train. Since this is your first dog, you’ll make a few mistakes along the way, but a relaxed dog will be able to cope with any little inconsistencies. Stay away from assertive, stubborn, or sensitive breeds, as these tend to be more difficult to train.
The adorable Bichon Frise is fun and friendly, if a little mischievous! These little dogs clever and easy to train. The Bichon Frise has a sociable nature and gets on well with other people and animals. They are surprisingly energetic for their size, so this little pooch is not for couch potatoes!
The hardy Cairn Terrier is small and smart. These dogs are happy to live in apartments as long as they get enough exercise. The Cairn Terrier is clever, and if properly trained can learn all sorts of commands, though it’s best to start training from a young age.
These fuzzy little dogs have big personalities. Combined with their cute looks and affectionate nature, it’s no wonder these dogs are becoming so popular. The Coton de Tulear makes a wonderful pet. They are highly intelligent dogs, and surprisingly athletic for their size, and can turn their paw to all sorts of doggy sports, such as canine agility and obedience training.
The Labrador Retriever has proven itself time again as both a great sporting dog and a wonderful pet. Their short fur means they are very easy to groom, but you’ll need to give your Labrador plenty of exercise. This makes the Labrador a good choice for energetic families or just someone who enjoys daily walks. This breed is very intelligent and keen to please, so provided you get a healthy puppy from a reputable breeder, you should be just fine.
Greyhounds may seem like an odd pick for this list. Surely these big, athletic dogs are no good for beginners? The truth is that Greyhounds are typically very relaxed, even lazy dogs. These lovable dogs have no special exercise requirements, and will be fine with a walk twice a day (but try to keep them on a leash; if they start running you’ll never catch up!). Greyhounds also tend not to bark much, and adapt well to living in smaller homes.
Poodles, and most poodle-mixes, are excellent dogs for beginners. Poodles come in all different sizes, from giant to toy, and in several different colours. The Poodle is fairly easy to care for, though you’ll need to take care of their curly coat (you may need to consult a dog groomer). Poodles of all sizes are clever and capable of learning a wide variety of tricks.
Loyal and affectionate, the Shih Tzu is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Their main flaw is their stubbornness, so you should start training your Shih Tzu at a young age to avoid problems later. They more than make up for their stubbornness with their affection, playfulness, and charm!
The silky haired Havanese is intelligent and sweet. They adore people and will stick to your side like glue. Their small size makes them well suited for apartment life, and they don’t need a lot of exercise. The Havanese is prone to separation anxiety, but if you work from home (or can bring your dog to work) you’ll have no trouble.
Originally bred for hunting, but today more popular as a pet, the Cavalier is famously docile and affectionate. They are sweet, quiet dogs that crave company and get on well with just about everyone. Cavaliers are a good choice for families with children, but should not be played with roughly!
David Rosenfelt once said that “The face of a golden retriever feels like home”: a perfect description of what some consider the perfect family dog. These large dogs are friendly and extremely sweet tempered, especially with children. Due to its size, the Golden Retriever is best suited for a larger home, and also needs regular exercise.