If you’ve recently made the decision to become a dog owner, then this is an exciting time for your family. Dogs offer affection, companionship and playfulness to every member of the household. Of course, all of those positive aspects have to be balanced against the responsibilities that also come with dog ownership. Striking the right balance is essential for first-time owners so that the experience is a rewarding one for them and their pup.
Dog breeds vary significantly in size, temperament and the level of care that they require. Some simply integrate more easily into your household because they are easier to train. This list of the best dogs for first-time owners is by no means exhaustive. Many other dogs may also prove to be ideal pups for people who have little experience with a canine companion. However, the breeds listed here truly are some of the best dogs for first-time owners and are well worth consideration. You’ll find a variety of sizes and personalities. One of them is bound to make a welcome addition to your family.
1. Bichon Frise
If you are looking for a small dog that’s lovable and easy to train, then the bichon frise may be for you. Standing at between nine and 11 inches at the shoulder when full grown, the bichon weighs between seven and 12 pounds and lives for about 12 to 15 years. This small size makes them perfect for everything from apartment living on up. Their fluffy, white hair and doll-like faces mean that they are absolutely adorable. Many people fall in love with just one look, and they are hooked for life. Bichon frises are white with black noses and eyes. As for their temperaments, bichons are happy, playful and gentle. They love to be involved with everything the family does. In fact, it is generally not a good idea to leave these dogs home alone for an extended period of time. Many of them suffer from separation anxiety. If you’re not looking to involve your pup in everything you do, then the bichon might not be for you. Bichons are fairly easy to train because they tend to be intelligent. However, many bichon parents have noted that this breed can be difficult to house train. Firm, diligent but gentle training is required. It’s also important to understand that the bichon needs quite a bit of grooming. Usually, it is best to leave this to a professional. The bichon frise can be a happy addition to many households.
2. Basset Hound
This dog was bred to hunt rabbits, but he is more frequently seen keeping families company these days. With a height of a bit over a foot at the shoulder and a weight of approximately 50 to 65 pounds, the basset is considered a medium-sized dog. He could do quite well even in an apartment. Think of the basset hound as a large dog on short, stumpy legs. Many people feel that this dog’s wrinkled brow gives him a sad look, but that tends to be one of their most endearing traits. Their low-set, long ears are another hallmark of the classic basset hound appearance. They tend to be placid and always look forward to some lap time with their favorite people. Their pleasant, sometimes lazy, demeanor makes them a calming presence in the house. Personality-wise, they are exceedingly loyal and love to be a part of a group. A pack animal by instinct, they don’t like to be left alone for long stretches of time. Being left alone is sometimes a cause for howling and chewing on everything in sight. The smooth, short basset hound coat is easy to take care of. However, these dogs can be a challenge to train. This is because they tend to be stubborn and single minded. When they find a scent they like, they will trail it obsessively. It will likely be necessary to work with a professional dog trainer to make sure that your basset hound starts off on the right foot.
3. English Springer Spaniel
If your family is active, then this pup should definitely be on your list for the best dogs for first-time owners. Bred as a hunting dog that could flush game from the field, the springer spaniel is lively and athletic. These dogs typically weigh between 45 and 55 pounds and stand about one-and-a-half feet tall at the shoulder. Some adult males may be a few inches taller. The springer’s enthusiasm is infectious. He’s anxious to please his family and is intelligent to boot. This makes him relatively easy to train. Keep in mind that the springer spaniel is a pretty high energy dog that needs quite a bit of exercise. A big yard to roam around in or a couple of mile-long walks a day are important. Springers also love to swim, so if you have a pool or if there is a lake nearby, he will love going for a dip to burn off some more energy. With their moderately long hair, it’s essential to brush these dogs at least, two or three times a week. Any less than that, and he may develop tangles. Springers tend to do well with other pets and children, and they can make a happy and energetic addition to your family.
4. French Bulldog
A little dog with a large personality, the French bulldog can make its home practically anywhere. It stands at just about a foot tall and weighs less than 30 pounds. Their distinctive bat-like ears are what draw many people to this breed, though not everyone is enthusiastic about their looks. That’s all right, because the French bulldog has plenty of fans. They tend to be playful and laid back, but don’t be surprised if you spot a mischievous tendency in your Frenchie. These little bulldogs don’t need a ton of exercise. Perhaps two 15-minute walks will be enough to satisfy most members of the breed. Be aware that these are dogs that don’t like to be left alone. They are ideal for people who are seeking an almost around-the-clock companion. An intelligent pup, the French bulldog is pretty easy to train, but he does need a firm approach. It pays to know that these dogs do have a tendency to drool, so keep that in mind as you make a decision.
5. Golden Retriever
Even if you’ve never owned a dog before, you’re familiar with this exceptionally popular breed. There is a reason why so many families have chosen the golden as a companion. These beautiful dogs are loyal, fun, smart and affectionate. Most goldens stand at just about two feet at the shoulder when fully grown. They weigh between 55 and 75 pounds, which may mean that they aren’t suitable for all apartment situations. Sometimes these fun-loving dogs seem slow to mature. They may hold on to playful, puppyish habits beyond their third or fourth year. This typically only endears them to their family all the more. Golden retrievers need both physical and mental stimulation to be healthy. They have lots of energy, so they’ll need room to roam and will require long walks. These dogs love the water, so any chance to swim and use up more of that energy is welcome. Highly intelligent, they will happily take on little chores like fetching the newspaper or waking up family members. It’s just one more way of making this active dog well-adjusted. Keep in mind that this isn’t a dog who enjoys being separated from his family. He’ll want to be with you in the house all day, every day.
The largest of these adorable little dogs generally only stands about 11 inches high at the shoulder and weighs in at about 13 pounds. Nonetheless, his friendly demeanor and expressive eyes give him a huge personality. Havanese tend to be affectionate with everyone they meet whether they are strangers, other dogs or cats. However, they are especially attached to their family. This is so much the case that they tend to suffer from anxiety when they are separated from their people for too long. The long, silky coat of the Havanese needs plenty of attention. Plan for regular brushing and occasional visits to the groomer. Unlike other small dogs, the Havanese needs plenty of exercise. Be prepared to let him run around at the dog park or to go for frequent, relatively long walks to keep him at his ideal weight. These are smart dogs that tend to be relatively easy to train.
This pup has come a long way since the 17th century when they were bred as companions for people working the barges in Holland. His lively, alert personality is perfect for family life. He’s also affectionate and intelligent, making him relatively easy to train. Standing at about one-and-a-half feet tall and weighing in at about 40 pounds, this medium-sized dog is suited to many living arrangements. He’s got an impressive coat of black, gray and white that sheds profusely a couple of times a year. Still, he doesn’t need much in the way of grooming, so he’s a pretty low maintenance breed. Like many of the other dogs on this list, the keeshond loves to be involved with everything the family is doing. Leave him to his own devices for too long, and he may become a problem barker.
Keep all of these wonderful pups in mind as you look for the best dogs for first-time owners. Any of them might prove to be an asset to your family. However, regardless of which breed you choose, it is vital that your puppy receive early training and socialization so as to limit the chances of your dog becoming aggressive or overly tentative. A well-trained dog is usually a happy and healthy companion.