9 Best Dog Breeds for First Time Owners in 2024

Cheerful lady with dog on grass

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Thinking about getting your first dog? How exciting!

As a seasoned dog expert, I’m thrilled to point you in the right direction in selecting your first companion.

Imagine the joy and unconditional love a dog can bring into your home when you’ve researched and found a breed that suits your needs.

In this guide, we’ll explore the best dog breeds for first-time owners, drawing from my personal and professional experience and the breed standard with each breed.

Whether you’re seeking an active companion or a pup that likes to relax, this guide will help you find the perfect match.

I’ve curated this list of dog breeds that are generally beginner-friendly:

  1. Labrador Retriever
  2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  3. Pug
  4. Golden Retriever
  5. Beagle
  6. Shih Tzu
  7. Whippet
  8. Rat Terrier
  9. Toy and Miniature Poodle

Read on for an in-depth description of each breed and what makes them excellent dog breeds for first-time owners. 

Best Dog Breeds for First Time Owners

Black Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retriever

Labrador Retrievers, often called ‘Labs,’ are a popular breed known for their playful and intelligent nature and come in three colors: yellow, black, and chocolate.

Characterized by a warm and friendly temperament, they are an ideal choice for first-time dog owners. Labs are quick to become beloved family members, bringing joy and companionship to households.

Their adaptable nature and balanced disposition make them a classic choice, particularly for families. These dogs symbolize affection and loyalty, a testament to the bond between humans and their canine friends.


The temperament of a Labrador is one of its most endearing qualities. These dogs exhibit a blend of gentleness and playful exuberance, making them perfect playmates for children and delightful companions for adults.

Labs maintain a cheerful disposition and are known for their patience and tolerance, which make them particularly well-suited for family life. Their friendly nature extends to humans and other animals, showcasing their innate social skills.

Grooming Needs

Labradors are a double-coated breed known to shed, particularly during the change of seasons. However, their overall grooming needs are relatively low compared to other breeds.

Regular brushing, especially weekly, can significantly minimize shedding and keep their coat healthy. While they shed heavily twice a year, consistent grooming practices can manage this effectively, making it a manageable task for first time owners.

Training and Exercise Needs

Training a Labrador Retriever is often a rewarding experience due to their intelligence and desire to please their owners. These traits make them highly trainable, even those new to owning dogs.

While they are energetic and enjoy being active, their exercise needs are not overly demanding. A good balance of daily exercise and mental stimulation is sufficient to keep a Lab happy and healthy. Their adaptability in training and exercise makes them a perfect fit for various lifestyles, from active individuals to more relaxed family settings.

dog cavalier king charles spaniel for a walk in the autumn park

 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, affectionately known as Cavaliers, are renowned for their friendly and loyal nature.

These small and elegant dogs have a rich history and are celebrated for their grace and affectionate character. Their size and temperament make them ideal pets for a variety of living situations, from apartments to larger homes with yards.

The Cavalier embodies a harmonious balance of playfulness and serenity, making them one of the best dog breeds for first time owners.


The temperament of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of its most charming attributes. These dogs are known for being tolerant, patient, and particularly good with young children and other animals.

Their gentle, affectionate nature makes them not just pets but a source of comfort and joy in the household. Cavaliers are social creatures, displaying friendliness towards their family and strangers, making them excellent companions in various social settings.

Grooming Needs

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels has a beautiful, silky coat that requires regular grooming to maintain health and appearance. Regular brushing prevents tangles and mats, especially in their longer fur around the ears and tail.

While their grooming needs are moderate, they are not overly demanding, making it a manageable task for first-time owners. Regular baths, nail trims, and ear checks are also part of their grooming routine, ensuring their overall well-being.

Training and Exercise Needs

Training a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is generally a pleasant and rewarding experience. These dogs are brilliant and eager to please, making them responsive to training. They excel in various dog sports, including obedience, rally, and agility, showcasing their trainable nature.

Cavaliers tend to be highly motivated for food, toys and affection. Their willingness to learn and adapt to their owner’s lifestyle makes them ideal for first-time owners learning the intricacies of dog training.

Pug walking green forest. Pug, portrait. Pug dog playing outdoors. Portrait of beautiful male Pug


Pugs are a breed characterized by their even and stable temperament, great charm, and outgoing, loving disposition. These small, sturdy dogs, with their distinctive wrinkled face and curled tails, have captured the hearts of many with their expressive eyes and endearing personality.

Pugs are not just pets but bundles of joy that bring laughter and warmth into their homes. They are known for their friendly nature and desire to be the center of attention, making them perfect small companions for those seeking a dog with a big personality in a small package.


The temperament of a Pug is one of its most appealing qualities. These dogs are renowned for being friendly, cheerful, and affectionate. Pugs thrive on human interaction and love to be part of family activities.

They are typically good with children, other pets, and people, making them excellent family dogs. Their playful and loving nature makes them excellent small companions who can bring a smile to anyone’s face.

Grooming Needs

Pugs are a low-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming. They have a short coat that requires minimal grooming, although they can heavily shed; however, regular brushing can help manage shedding.

Pugs require special attention to their facial wrinkles; they should be cleaned regularly to prevent infection. While their grooming needs are generally straightforward, Pugs can be notoriously tricky when it comes to getting their nails done, so patience and gentle handling are essential.

Training and Exercise Needs

Training a Pug can be a rewarding experience as they live to please their people. They are generally easy to train due to their intelligent and affectionate nature. Pugs respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praise.

Keeping training sessions short and fun is essential, as Pugs can thrive with exciting engagement. Consistency and patience are vital in training this breed, but their eagerness to please and love for their owners often make the process enjoyable.

Two golden retriever dogs

Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are celebrated for their gentle, playful natures and an intrinsic sense of loyalty that renders them reliable and trustworthy companions.

These beautiful dogs, with their lustrous golden coats and friendly eyes, embody a blend of joy and dignity. They are not only famous for their physical beauty but also for their heartwarming personalities.

Golden Retrievers thrive in a family environment and are known for their love of outdoor activities, making them the epitome of an all-around great family dog.


The temperament of a Golden Retriever is one of its most cherished attributes. These dogs are outgoing, trustworthy, and have an eager-to-please personality.

They take a joyful and playful approach to life, maintaining a puppyish demeanor well into adulthood. Golden Retrievers are highly social animals, thriving on interaction with humans and other dogs. This affectionate dog and their love for snuggles make them integral members of the family.

Grooming Needs

Golden Retrievers are considered high maintenance in grooming due to their thick, water-repellent double coat. Regular brushing is essential to keep them in good condition and to minimize shedding and the potential for mats.

They also require regular baths to maintain their coat’s health and appearance. While their grooming needs are more demanding than other breeds, many owners find this bonding time with their pets rewarding.

Training and Exercise Needs

Training a Golden Retriever is usually a gratifying experience, thanks to their intelligence and eagerness to learn. Goldens are versatile in their training, excelling in obedience, agility, and even therapeutic and assistance roles.

Their adaptability and friendliness make them amenable to socialization with other dogs and people. While they are active and require plenty of exercise, their training needs are less about intensity and more about consistency and engagement, making them well-suited for first-time owners.

Young african woman in casual wear with beagle puppy


Beagles are known for their happy, affectionate nature, making them suitable pets for various owners, including active families. These small to medium-sized dogs, with expressive faces and floppy ears, represent friendliness and curiosity.

Historically bred as scent hounds, Beagles possess a keen sense of smell and an adventurous spirit. Their adaptability and cheerful disposition make them a popular choice among dog lovers, particularly appealing to those who enjoy an active, outdoorsy lifestyle.


The temperament of a Beagle is one of its most endearing qualities. They are known for being friendly, sociable, and affectionate. Beagles are mainly known for their joyful nature, often playful and curious.

Their sociability extends to humans and other animals, making them great family pets. However, potential owners should be mindful of their vocal nature; Beagles can be more prone to barking than some other breeds, which could be a consideration for those living near neighbors.

Grooming Needs

Beagles are relatively low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Their short coat is easy to care for, requiring minimal grooming and occasional baths. Regular brushing can help manage shedding and keep them looking their best.

While their grooming needs are straightforward, owners must keep an eye on their Beagle’s diet, as they can become overweight, especially after puppyhood.

Training and Exercise Needs

Training a Beagle can be more challenging than other breeds due to their curious and energetic nature. They are scent hounds, which means they can sometimes get distracted by smells and follow their noses.

However, with consistent training, Beagles can learn commands and good behaviors. Keeping training sessions engaging and fun is essential, as Beagles respond well to play and rewards. Their intelligence and eagerness for activity make them enjoyable training partners despite the occasional stubborn streak.

Cute Shih Tzu dog sitting on bed looking at camera in cozy home

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are renowned for their perky and happy temperaments, making them delightful companions in various households. These small, sturdy dogs symbolize elegance and charm with their flowing coats and distinctively sweet faces.

Initially bred for royalty in China, Shih Tzus carry themselves with a noble and proud demeanor. However, they are anything but aloof; they are lively, friendly, and thrive on human companionship, making them excellent house pets.


The temperament of the Shih Tzu is one of its most appealing features. Most Shih Tzus are lovely and rarely exhibit snippiness. They tend to be lively and friendly and enjoy the company of their human family members.

This breed is known for getting along well with people of all ages, other dogs, and even pets of different species. Their affectionate nature and love for companionship make them not just pets but integral and loving members of any family.

Grooming Needs

Shih Tzus are famous for their long, luxurious coats requiring regular maintenance. To make grooming easier, many owners opt for a “puppy cut,” which keeps the hair short and more manageable.

Regular brushing is necessary to prevent tangles and mats regardless of hair length. They also require regular baths and grooming sessions to maintain their health and appearance. While their grooming needs are higher than some other breeds, many owners find the bonding experience and the beauty of their dog’s coat worth the effort.

Training and Exercise Needs

Regarding training, Shih Tzus are not the easiest breed to housebreak, requiring patience and consistency from their owners. However, they can learn house manners with a regular routine.

They don’t need a lot of activity, so training sessions should be short, fun, and engaging. Despite the challenges in housebreaking, their eagerness to please and affectionate nature make the training process a rewarding experience for both the dog and the owner.

Whippet dog running in the park on a sunny day


Whippets are known for their speed, sleekness, and sensitivity, making them a unique and appealing breed. These medium-sized dogs, with their slender build and elegant appearance, embody both athletic prowess and gentle grace.

Despite their sporting background, Whippets are surprisingly laid back and are known for their delicate nature. They are adaptable to various living situations and are often considered easy-care dogs, which, combined with their affectionate demeanor, makes them suitable for multiple households.


The temperament of a Whippet is characterized by gentleness, patience, tolerance, and affection. These dogs are known for their calm demeanor at home, yet they can be competitive and spirited when on the chase.

Whippets are adaptable and typically quiet dogs, making them a good choice for peaceful households. They can be sensitive and may require understanding and gentle handling from their owners. Despite their high prey drive, Whippets are loving and devoted to their families, making them rewarding companions in the right home.

Grooming Needs

Whippets have low grooming needs. They have a short, smooth coat that requires minimal maintenance and regular brushing to reduce shedding. They also benefit from occasional baths to keep looking their best.

Their nails should be trimmed regularly; like all breeds, they require routine dental care. The ease of grooming makes them a convenient choice for first-time owners who may need to become more accustomed to more intensive grooming routines.

Training and Exercise Needs

Training a Whippet requires understanding and patience, especially given their high prey drive. They could be better for off-leash activities in unenclosed spaces, as they may chase after small animals.

However, with consistent training, Whippets can learn basic obedience and good manners. Engaging them in activities stimulating their mind and body, like agility or lure coursing, can be particularly rewarding for the dog and the owner.

two tri color rat terriers looking at camera

Rat Terrier

Rat Terriers, known for their intelligence and sociability, are a fantastic choice for those who appreciate a vibrant and people-oriented canine companion. They excel in agility and obedience sports, showcasing their athletic nature and quick learning abilities.


These dogs are highly social and build solid and affectionate bonds with their owners. They are energetic and playful, often thriving in an environment where they can interact regularly with their family. Their friendly nature makes them great companions for various activities.

Grooming Needs

Rat Terriers are relatively low-maintenance when it comes to grooming. Their short, smooth coats require minimal brushing, typically once a week.

They shed seasonally, but using a shedding brush during these times can effectively manage their shedding. A monthly routine is usually sufficient for bathing, making their upkeep manageable for busy owners.

Training and Exercise Needs

Early socialization and obedience training are essential for Rat Terriers. Their intelligence and agility can sometimes lead to mischief if not properly guided. Regular walks and play sessions are vital to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. Athletic dogs enjoy and benefit from various activities, ensuring their overall well-being is maintained.

Portrait of a cute brown toy poodle at home, daytime, indoors

Toy & Miniature Poodle

Toy and Miniature Poodles stand out with their highly intelligent and agile capabilities. Renowned for their elegance and intelligence, they excel in various dog sports, such as agility and obedience. Their distinct appearance and enthusiastic nature make them a unique choice for dog lovers.


Poodles generally love being the center of attention and flourish in human company. They are smart and intuitive to their owner’s emotions, making them a comforting and joyful companion.

Known for their playful, medium energy level and affectionate nature, they make great family pets, showcasing loyalty and a strong desire to please their owners.

Grooming Needs

Poodles require consistent care, regardless of their size. They need regular brushing and grooming appointments to maintain their coat’s health and appearance, even with a simple sporting clip.

A good skill set with clippers is necessary for those who prefer to groom at home due to their unique fur texture.

Training and Exercise Needs

Miniature Poodles are active and athletic, requiring ample daily exercise to stay healthy and happy. They enjoy long daily walks and interactive play sessions, providing excellent bonding and training opportunities.

Their agility and intelligence make them keen participants in various physical activities, ensuring they remain mentally and physically stimulated.

Things to keep in mind when looking for your first dog

When looking into certain breeds, consider the following:

  1. Research the Breed: Understand the breed’s standards through its national club and seek breeder or rescue referrals.
  2. Commitment: Acknowledge the responsibilities of dog ownership, including care, exercise, and training.
  3. Choosing a Breeder: Opt for a reputable breeder. Remember, purebred does not always mean well-bred. Focus on breeders who conduct health and temperament tests.
  4. Selecting a Rescue: Research the rescue organization thoroughly. For specific breeds, consider breed-specific rescues that can match you with a suitable dog.


Bringing a dog into your life is both thrilling and significant.

Researching different breeds, understanding the commitment, and choosing the right breeder or rescue is crucial.

As you prepare to welcome a new furry member into your family, remember that the joy of dog ownership comes with the responsibility to provide love, care, and training. If you’re ready to take this step, please continue your research, reach out to experts, and make an informed decision. Good luck!

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