Best Dogs for First Time Pet Owners

Words are often aren’t to describe how much people love their dogs, and for good reason! They’re loyal, friendly, helpful, trainable, and love you more than themselves. 

While many people enjoy the company of their friends’ and family’s dogs, and would love to own their own dog. However, picking out your first dog can be a daunting task. If you’re one of these people, you’re in the right place.

In this post, we shed light on the six best dogs for first-time pet owners. The breeds we’re about to discuss were chosen based on five main characteristics: adaptability, playfulness, trainability, health, and socializing. 

So, without any further ado, let’s get to know these six beginner-friendly breeds. 

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1. Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is a familiar name even for those who have never owned a dog in their life. Golden Retrievers are fantastic first dogs for many reasons.

Happy Golden Retriever resting in the grass


Since they can tolerate most weather conditions as long as the temperatures aren’t on the extreme side, they’re suitable for any household. 

They, however, need to be let out for walks occasionally, and they don’t like being left alone.


Golden Retrievers are some of the friendliest dogs out there. They get along well with kids, other pets, and strangers, and they’re super loving towards their owners.


Goldens can put on weight quickly, and are often guilty of being canine garbage disposals (another aspect of their very accommodating personality!) This means that their food intake should be carefully monitored, and they should get regular exercise to stay trim.

They also shed a bit too much, but their grooming is fairly easy. While they’re not the drooliest dogs out there, they do drool more than some of the smaller dogs on this list.

Their life expectancy ranges between 10 to 12 years, and weigh between 55 and 75 lbs.

Golden Retriever puppies eating food


These dogs have a lot of energy. Most Golden Retriever owners get tired before their dogs are done playing. However, despite having too much energy, they’re not at all intense. They’re happy and excited to be around their people.


Since they love to please, Golden Retrievers are quick learners and easy to train. They also enjoy the mental stimulation provided by training and exercise. At the end of the day, they want to make their people happy, which typically translates to an easy to train (if excitable) dog.

2. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu is mandarin for “little lion.” However, there’s nothing scary or aggressive about this little pup. If anything, it’s one of the most adorable breeds.

Shih Tzu jumping up towards the camera


While Shih Tzus are adaptable to many different living situations, including apartments, they do not fare well with overly warm or cold temperatures.

They have an average tolerance to being alone, so they won’t mind staying on their own at home while you work, but they won’t like it if they’re left alone for several days.


Shih Tzus are very affectionate towards family members and people they see regularly. They also get along so well with strangers. Additionally, they adapt with other pets at home, as well as kids. 


This dog is bred specifically to reduce shedding as much as possible, so you shouldn’t worry too much about loose hair everywhere.

Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed (meaning they have a short snout) and are prone to overheating. You’ll need to take care to protect them in warmer climates.

Ironically, though, as small as they are, they tend to gain weight quicker than you might expect, so avoid overfeeding them.

Their life expectancy ranges from 11 to 16 years, and they weigh between 9 and 16 lbs.


These little pups aren’t overly rambunctious, but that doesn’t stop them from being playful. They tend to get tired quickly, making them less needy for regular exercise.

Shih Tzu puppy


Shih Tzus are fairly smart, which makes them easy to train. They’re not as willing-to-please as Golden Retrievers when it comes to training, but with time, they will listen to you.

3. Labrador Retriever

Another Retriever joins the list! The Labrador Retriever has been the most popular dog breed in the USA for the past 30 years. They’re incredibly playful, loyal, and friendly.

Labradors come in three colors: yellow, chocolate, and black.

Three Labrador Retrievers outside


Labrador Retrievers are outdoor, hunting dogs that love to run and swim. They adapt well to weather changes within reason (although all dog owners should avoid exposing their pets to extreme hot or cold).

They are people pleasers that will make the best of any situation, and genuinely love to be around their people. With that said, they do need attention in the form of time spent with their people, and exercise. They don’t like being cooped up for too long and need regular walks.


There’s not much to be said here. Kids, strangers, other pets, or family members; you name it, a Labrador Retriever will befriend it. They’re one of the friendliest breeds out there.


Labrador Retrievers are big, happy pups. While their high energy levels help them keep excess weight off, they do like to eat a lot and can gain weight because of this.

A good breeder can help you find a Lab that avoids health problems common to this breed, such as hip or elbow dysplasia. These joint issues can be extra tricky with weight gain–another reason to keep your dog well-exercised.

They shed a moderate amount, but are easy to groom due to their short coat.

Their life span is between 10 to 12 years, and can weigh between 55 and 80 lbs.

Labrador Retriever puppy


Labrador Retrievers were bred to be friendly work companions. With that comes a lot of energy. This pup can and will play around whenever possible. They need a lot of exercise and playtime to exert all of their energy.

Since they’re quite large and somewhat intense, they can knock over smaller dogs or toddlers (although without meaning to).


This breed is one of the easiest to train. They’re smart, energetic, motivated, and they’re willing to listen. This is one of the reasons why they are frequently trained as service or police dogs.

4. Papillon

Papillon means “butterfly” in French, named after the dog’s butterfly-like ears. These toy dogs weigh around 10 pounds at max, and their ears are almost the size of their faces. 

Don’t let the size fool you, though, they have a lot of energy and they’re not afraid to show it!

Papillon standing outside


Papillons love living in a family home. They tolerate high temperatures within reason, but their single-coated fur means that they struggle with cold weather. Be sure not to leave them outside in the winter.

While they love living indoors, they hate being alone, and they might get depressed quickly. Do your best to have your little pup hang around people most of the time.


Papillons take some time to get used to other pets, but they love kids and family members. They also get used to strangers faster than some people do.

Their small size makes them easy to handle, pick up, and play with, and they enjoy it!


These small pups don’t shed too much and they’re fairly easy to groom. They are generally healthy creatures but because of their small size, you will need to be careful with them.

They live from 12 to 16 years, and weigh between 5 and 10 lbs.

Papillon sitting by a window


Papillons have a lot of energy, but they’re gentle and safe due to their small size. They love playing with toys, people, and other pets.

They need to be taken for walks regularly, though. It’s hard to use up all of your Papillon’s energy with indoor activities alone.


Papillons are remarkably smart. People consider them one of the most trainable toy dogs out there. They also need a lot of mental stimulation, and training can be a great outlet for this.

5. Pug

Pugs are small, energetic, round-faced pups that love food, running around, and people. They like to make their owners happy, which makes them very loving and obedient.

Pug on a walk


Like Papillons, Pugs love living indoors. However, their temperature tolerance is on the low side, for both cold and hot temperatures. This is due in part to their brachycephalic nature (short snout).

Keeping your pup cool in the summer and warm in the winter is important!

While they’re cheerful and happy most of the time, keep them alone too long and they’ll quickly lose their smile. Like several of the other breeds on this list, they are social creatures.


Pugs are lovey-dovey dogs that are especially friendly around kids and seniors; they love being around them and playing with them. They also like being around other pets (with a bit of training), and they’re not too shy around strangers.


They may be small, but their potential to gain weight is surprisingly big. As mentioned earlier, they love food, and they sometimes eat when they’re not hungry just for the joy of it. Keeping their food intake monitored is a necessity.

They also shed a lot, but their small size and short coat make them easy to groom. 

Unfortunately, Pugs’ general health isn’t the best. They’re liable to many health problems, even with a healthy lifestyle. This is true of many short-snout (brachycephalic) breeds, as their compressed skull leads to breathing and other issues.

Two pugs outside wearing bandanas

Visiting a vet regularly is needed even if the pup has no signs or symptoms.

They usually live between 11 to 15 years and weigh between 13 and 15 lbs.


Pugs are very playful, and as mentioned earlier, are social creatures that like children, adults, and dogs alike. They’re middle-range when it comes to energy levels.

Although they’re fairly small, they tend to be a bit more intense than your average dog. They shouldn’t be left unsupervised with kids.


Pugs are not the smartest breed on this list. But since they’re happy and eager to please, they are trainable dogs. They don’t bark too much and are highly adaptable.

6. Poodle

Poodles come in multiple sizes: Standard, Miniature, or toy. So, you get to choose the size as a bonus!

Poodles are great for first-time owners. They love to exercise with their owners and they make great cuddling companions.

Poodle outside with fall leaves in the background


Poodles are easy to raise indoors. But, they were originally raised to be retrieving dogs and can handle the great outdoors as well.

They’re active and intelligent dogs, so they aren’t suited well to being left alone for long periods of time.


Poodles love being around people. They love being with adults and kids alike, but they’re said to be very in tune with human emotions and can be pick up on stressful emotions quite easily.

Because of Poodles’ high intelligence, they’ll need a lot of mental stimulation to stay happy. These dogs may become bored or destructive if left to themselves too long.


Poodles, like all creatures, are prone to certain health issues. A good breeder can help you avoid Poodles with genetic issues so you have a healthy and happy pup.

Poodle puppy at the beach

Did you know that Poodles’ fancy haircuts have a functional purpose? Poodles were originally bred to be retrievers, and the fluffs of hair are strategically placed over joints and vital organs to keep them warm while out in the wilderness. While Poodles require extra grooming, they are hypoallergenic and don’t shed much.

Standard Poodles (the largest of the Poodle breeds) live between 12 to 16 years and weigh between 40 and 70 lbs.


Poodles have a lot of energy and are very active dogs. They’re very playful dogs and will accompany you outdoors, at the dog park, or wherever else.


Poodles are said to be the second smartest breed of dog (after Border Collies), and this natural intelligence makes them easy to train. Poodles are highly active dogs and will need mental and physical exercise to stay happy.


There you have it! Six breeds that are well-suited to new dog owners because of their friendliness, adaptability, health, and ability to socialize and train well. While each dog is unique, the breeds mentioned in this article tend towards being agreeable, happy, and easy to train.

Purebreds aren’t the only option available to new dog owners: there are plenty of shelter pups that need a forever home! Just be aware of any behavioral issues they might have, and ask the shelter staff to help you assess whether a given pup would be a good fit for you.

No matter what dog you pick, training and your behavior toward the dog is very important. Think of these breed characteristics as a starting point, not a guarantee for easy dog ownership.

Dogs who are trained well and treated well will become great pets, whereas not even the friendliest of genetics will overrule neglect or abuse. So whatever dog breed you pick, be sure to follow through with training and good treatment.

If you are planning to get a new dog, check out our guides on getting your home ready and a new dog shopping list.

PuppyLists is written by Kat, who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 15 year old Lab mix.