Best Dogs for First-Time Owners: Comparing the Top 5

A first time owner cuddling their new dog

Key takeaways

Choosing your first dog is an exciting process. However, it's essential you know exactly what to expect and can plan and change your lifestyle based on what you want from a pet.

There are hundreds of different breeds out there suited to different living situations, so doing your research is essential.

We're comparing the top 5 dog breeds that are best suited to first-time dog owners, so you can make an informed decision.

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  1. Key takeaways
  2. 1. Labrador Retriever
  3. 2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  4. 3. Yorkshire Terrier
  5. 4. Golden Retriever
  6. 5. Bichon Frise
  7. FAQs
  8. Final thoughts

1. Labrador Retriever

First-time dog owners will have an incredible experience owning a Labrador. These dogs are incredibly friendly, loyal, and fun! They are very gentle and affectionate, so a great option if you have kids that can keep them entertained all day long, as they do enjoy attention.
This dog breed needs plenty of exercise and walking, and they love to run! So, if you're near fields in the countryside, they could be a perfect choice. However, they're probably not so well suited to apartment living in a city.
Some important things to consider before deciding:

Grooming: The labrador has a shorter coat meaning brushing and grooming isn't quite as extensive as their long-haired friends. However, they do shed a lot, so brushing and washing are essential!

Size: These dogs are a relatively big breed, but it's nothing that's not manageable! Their weight ranges from 25-36kg, and their height ranges from 55-62cm.

Temperament and energy: Labradors have a very even temperament and are generally very happy dogs! While they do have plenty of energy and love to run, they'll also enjoy snoozing on the sofa.

Life expectancy: With the right veterinary care, labradors will often live to around 11-13 years.

A black labrador

Health issues

Many dog breeds have specific health issues that are carried on through generations, because of the way they were bred.
For labradors, this focused on their joints and muscles. The following issues are quite common:

Hip and elbow dysplasia




Top Tip: With regular veterinary checkups, you should be able to spot any potential issues early so you can treat them as soon as possible.

2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an adorable toy dog that wants nothing but endless love and affection. They derive from sporting breeds so they are happy to come along with you on walks and adventures, but equally will cherish a lazy day in bed!
These furry friends are very gentle, happy dogs and love nothing more than pleasing their owners. This makes them easy to train and, if you're interested, popular choices as show dogs due to their obedience. As you can imagine, this also makes them the perfect, low-maintenance family dog.
Some important things to consider before you decide:

Grooming: The Cavalier's long coat is silky soft and only requires some brushing and the occasional wash to keep it healthy. While they do shed a little, it's nothing compared to other long-haired dogs.

Size: These dogs are a very small breed, making them practical for smaller houses and apartments. Their weight ranges from 6-8kg, and their height ranges from 30-33cm.

Temperament and energy: This low-maintenance breed has the happiest and calmest temperament. They have fairly low energy levels, meaning a small walk or two a day will suffice.

Life expectancy: With the right veterinary care, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel will live between 9-14 years.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Health issues

Unfortunately, because the Cavalier was repopulated after World War II from just six dogs, they do suffer from multiple genetic conditions. (source)
Many of the issues can be treated if spotted early, but it's important to be aware of the following:

Syringomyelia: This breed's skull is too small for their brain, which causes abnormal pressure and fluid buildup.

Mitral Valve Disease: This heart condition starts as a murmur and will eventually lead to heart failure.

Hearing and vision issues: Ear infections and dry eye are very common among Cavaliers.

3. Yorkshire Terrier

When discussing affectionate dogs, it's hard to beat the Yorkshire Terrier. These tiny dogs thrive in loving families that can give them endless attention and keep them happy. So, for a first-time dog owner, they're the perfect cuddle companion.
However, they have so much more to them than their loving side. They are fierce hunters and are very confident, meaning they love a good run and a new adventure. Yorkshire Terriers also often have strong and quirky personalities, meaning each one is different.
Some important things to consider before you decide:

Grooming: A Yorkshire Terrier's coat is more like human hair, rather than dog hair. It is silky soft and smooth and needs to be brushed and washed fairly regularly to keep it that way!

Size: These dogs are a tiny breed, making them practical for smaller houses and apartments and easy to carry around. They won't weigh more than 3.2kg, and their height ranges from 18-20cm.

Temperament and energy: While a Yorkshire Terrier's temperament is very consistent, their energy levels can swing from snuggling on the sofa to the zoomies in seconds, so be sure to give them enough physical and mental stimulation.

Life expectancy: With the right veterinary care, the Yorkshire Terrier usually lives from 13 to 16 years.

A Yorkshire Terrier

Health issues

Despite Yorkshire Terriers being a pure breed, compared to others, they have significantly less severe potential health issues associated with their breed.
The following can be common in many small dogs, including Yorkshire Terriers:

Tracheal collapse

Dental disease


Liver shunt

4. Golden Retriever

It's no surprise that the Golden Retriever has made it to our list. They are widely recognized as one of the best dogs you can own, and not just for first-time owners. This dog breed is incredibly loyal, gentle, and loving and will become another family member as soon as you take them home.
They are wonderful family dogs that will keep your kids entertained and safe for hours. They enjoy long rambles and adventures but are also excited about evening cuddles and rest. They can often be thought of as dopey and a little bit silly, making them one of the funniest and loveable dog breeds out there, but they are actually incredibly intelligent.
Some important things to consider before you decide:

Grooming: Retrievers need plenty of brushing and washing due to their long, shedding coats. During the summer, the amount they shed can be difficult to deal with, so make sure you consider this before making any decisions!

Size: Golden retrievers are a medium-sized dog breed. They weigh between 27-34kg and are between 51-61cm tall.

Temperament and energy: Your golden retriever is almost guaranteed to be a sweetheart. Their temperament is calm and kind, and they are very emotionally intelligent. They have high energy levels and will need plenty of attention and exercise!

Life expectancy: With the right veterinary care, this dog breed will usually live between 10-12 years.

A golden retriever

Health issues

Golden retrievers experience a lot of similar genetic health issues as labradors. Despite having a nice, long life expectancy, to help them live a pain-free life, it's essential you get them regularly checked at the vet.
Look out for symptoms of common health issues in retrievers, like:

Hot spots (areas of infected or inflamed skin)

Hip and elbow dysplasia



5. Bichon Frise

A Bichon Frise makes the perfect first dog. They are adaptable, cheery, and sociable, making them the ideal companion for cozy evenings or adventures out and about. They are very loyal, which can occasionally lead to some separation anxiety, but they're also very receptive to training, meaning you can ensure their behavior suits your lifestyle.
It's important to socialize these pups from a young age, as sometimes they may be a little timid. However, the vast majority will assume every person and animal they meet is their new best friend!
Some important things to consider before you decide:

Grooming: The Bichon Frise's fluffy white coat is almost completely hypoallergenic, meaning even though they shed, the hair gets caught in their undercoat. It's recommended you brush them at least weekly for their comfort, and, like other breeds, clipping their nails regularly is recommended too.

Size: This is a small, manageable, and practical breed, with a height of only 25cm - 30cm. They weigh in at about 5kg-9kg.

Temperament and energy: These pups are very consistently merry, meaning you'll have a dog that'll cheer you up when you think it's impossible! They are adaptable and easy-going and only require a small amount of exercise for their health (although they'd like a lot more!).

Life expectancy: A Bichon Frise will be by your side for a while, with the average life expectancy being between 14 and 15 years.

A Bichon Frise

Health issues

Unfortunately, like any pure breed, the Bichon Frise doesn't escape some genetic disorders and inherited health issues. Be aware that the following can be common:

Hip dysplasia

Luxating patella (kneecap slipping out of place)

Dental disease


Liver shunt


What is the easiest dog to own?

There are many easy-going dog breeds for first time owners. Some of the easiest dogs to own include Dachshunds, Poodles, Chihuahuas, and Greyhounds.

Which dog is easiest to train?

Certain breeds take to training a lot easier than others. For example, a border collie is a very easy dog to train, and they are an incredibly intelligent breeed, meaning they can quickly pick up new tricks and behaviors.

Which dog breeds do best home alone?

While responsible dog ownership usually means not leaving your pup home alone, some dog breeds are more independent than others. For example, Greyhounds will sleep most of the day, so they are good at staying home alone, and Chow Chows are naturally independent pups who like their space.

Which dog has the least problems?

A dog's breed can determine the health issues they are likely to face in their lifetime, and purebreds can inherit a lot of genetic disorders. While mixed breed dogs will always be healthier, the Chihuahua usually has the least health problems compared to other purebreds.

What breed of dog is best behaved?

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is usually regarded as one of the best dog breeds for behavior. They are happy, adaptable, and loyal dogs who are happy to socialize and can be trained easily.

Final thoughts

As a first-time owner, it's essential you really consider what you want from a pet and what you can give them. Remember, it's a huge commitment, so you need to do your research, first.
While opting for a purebred dog can be helpful because you can assume certain characteristics, a mixed breed or mutt will also be a healthier dog!

Written by

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Lauren Jeffries

In this blog, I combine my two areas of expertise: pets and writing. I share my personal experiences alongside plenty of animal behavior research to help owners look after their pets. I have always lived with furry friends and am now a loving cat mum to two orange kitties.

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