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10 Best Dogs for First Time Dog Owners & Families | Pupford

December 6th, 2023

Filed under Lifestyle + Stories

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We may be a little biased here, but we think being a dog parent is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. And especially choosing the best dog as a first time dog owner (parent) is an extra special experience!

But we also know it can be a little overwhelming to decide which dog breed will be the best for you if you’ve never raised one before.

That’s why we put together a little guide to help prospective pup parents like you make an informed decision about your fur-ever friend. Along the way, we’ll share some extra tips and tricks that new dog parents should know to help you out even more.

Quick Note About the Word "Owner":

Here at Pupford, we prefer the terms 'dog parent' or 'dog guardian' instead of dog owner! You will see it used interchangeably, but we encourage you to look at raising a dog as a companionship and two-way dynamic. The mindset of being an "owner" can bring about a lot of problematic training behaviors & techniques (as an example) that have caused harm to dogs for decades.

So, we say pup parents. ❤️

Let’s get right into it so you can go find your new family member sooner!

Questions to Ask When Selecting a Breed

black dog on grass | Pupford

While each dog breed is lovable in its own way, there are definitely some breeds that are better suited for different experience levels and circumstances.

As a first time dog parent, it might be tough to know exactly what those factors are for you, so here are some questions to ask yourself to get started!

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free New Dog Starter Course (even if you don't have a dog yet). Get started now! 🐶

Are There/Will There Be Children In The Home?

If you have or plan to have small children in your home with the dog, you’ll want to keep that in mind when choosing a breed.

Dogs can be your kids’ best companions and it’s beautiful to watch them grow up together! It’s just that some breeds are a little more gentle and therefore make better playmates for your children.

Best dog breeds for families with children include (but are not limited to):

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • Pug
  • French Bulldog
  • Collie

Small, Medium, or Large Breed Dogs?

large dog walking on sidewalk | Pupford

No, we’re not talking about your coffee order here.

Some people want a small dog they can scoop up in their arms, while others want a big ole doggo running around.

There’s nothing wrong with preferring a small, medium, or large breed, it’s just something else to consider carefully!

Small Dogs

Weighing in at up to around 20-15 pounds, small dogs make great lap dogs or apartment dogs.

Some breeds include Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Pugs, Shih Tzus, etc.

Medium Dogs

Weighing in around 25-55 pounds, medium dogs are a great sweet spot for people who want playful dogs or working dogs.

Some breeds include Australian Shepherds, Beagles, Poodles (especially poodle mixes), etc.

Large Dogs

Weighing in at up to 100 pounds, large dogs are great for active lifestyles.

Some breeds include Labradors, Great Danes, St. Bernards, etc.

This article gives a great breakdown of characteristics for each of the size classifications if you want more information!

Related Reading: How Big Will My Puppy Get?

Are You Looking For a Mellow Companion or An Adventure Buddy? How Much Time Can You Dedicate to Exercising Your Dog?

dog on mountain with human | Pupford

Is your ideal Sunday spent at brunch with friends or on a hiking trail?

The dog breed you choose should match your level of activity, not the other way around.

If you’re not meeting your dog’s activity needs, they could use their pent up energy towards destructive behavior. On the other hand, forcing a more mellow breed to be more active could make them overtired or prone to injuries.

You’ll want to make sure you fully understand how much exercise your dog will typically need and make sure it aligns with your lifestyle and schedule.

If you’re looking for an active adventure buddy, consider a breed like (not a complete list) Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and Poodles.

They’ll require a few hours of exercise a day, such as vigorous playtime (our Labs love fetch) on top of daily walks.

If you’re looking for a laid back pal for a less active lifestyle, consider a breed like (not a complete list) Basset Hounds, English Bulldogs, Pugs, Great Danes, Shih Tzus, and Great Danes.

These dogs will probably be okay with shorter daily walks or play sessions.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free New Dog Starter Course (even if you don't have a dog yet). Get started now! 🐶

What Type of Living Space Are You In?

Along similar lines, some dogs will need big, fenced-in yards to run around in while others are okay sticking to the couch in your apartment.

It’s also important to think about what your living situation will be in two, three, five years from now… do you anticipate moving to an apartment that may have a weight limit for pets?

Are you saving up for a house in the suburbs with a dog run nearby?

Keep your current -- and future -- living arrangements in mind when considering your dog breed!

The best dogs for apartments include: Pugs, Bichon Frise, Chihuahua, Shiba Inu, Boston Terrier, English Bulldog.

Dogs that are better suited in large yards include: Boxers, Bullmastiffs, German Shepherds, Vizslas, Pointers.

What Level of Biddability Are You Looking For?

brown dog with first time dog owner | Pupford

Regardless of what breed you choose, you’re going to have to put time and effort into training.

With that said, some dog breeds naturally pick up training and can learn wider skillsets than others (aka biddability).

If you’re looking for an easily (or easier, at least) trainable dog breed, some recommendations include:

  • Border Collie
  • Poodle
  • German Shepherd Dog
  • Golden Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Papillon
  • Rottweiler
  • Australian Cattle Dog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • English Springer Spaniel

This isn’t to say that other breeds won’t train well, you just may have to put in extra time and effort.

The 10 Best Overall Breeds For First Time Dog Owners, aka Parents

dog being trained by human owner | Pupford

There are some dog breeds that are a pretty good blend of all the qualities we discussed above. These dog breeds make for a great first dog in many families.

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free New Dog Starter Course (even if you don't have a dog yet). Get started now! 🐶

This list isn’t in a particular order and isn’t exhaustive of all the amazing breeds out there that make great first-time dogs, but here are the top 10 suggestions of dog breeds for first time owners and some of their traits ⤵️

  1. Shih Tzu
  2. Pug
  3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  4. Whippet
  5. Greyhound
  6. Labrador Retrievers
  7. Golden Retrievers
  8. Bernese Mountain Dog
  9. Great Dane
  10. Yorkshire Terrier

Now, let's look at each breed in detail below.

Shih Tzus

  • 9-16 lbs
  • Medium energy
  • Require regular grooming
  • Good for homes with kids
  • Require more training to grasp skills but are overall laid back


  • 14-18 lbs
  • Medium energy level -- they’re playful but less active because of their short snouts
  • Require regular cleaning of their face wrinkles but overall low maintenance for their coats
  • Happy go lucky companions
  • Great for apartments, families, and easily adaptable to most situations
  • Prone to health conditions
  • Lots of dog in a little body!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

  • 13-18 lbs
  • Medium energy level
  • Requires regular brushing/grooming
  • Average trainability


  • 25-40 lbs
  • Medium energy level
  • Short coats
  • Average trainability
  • Good for apartments


  • 60-70 lbs
  • Medium energy level
  • Short coats
  • Average trainability
  • Calm and affectionate but tend to chase, so it’s best to keep them on a leash

Labrador Retrievers

  • 55-80 lbs
  • Very active (they need lots of exercise)
  • Short and thick coats
  • Very intelligent and trainable
  • Affectionate and great for families

Golden Retriever

  • 55-75 lbs
  • Very active (they need lots of exercise)
  • Long coats that require regular brushing
  • Very intelligent and trainable
  • Relaxed, friendly, and great for families

Bernese Mountain Dog

  • 80-110 lbs
  • Medium-high energy level
  • Long coats that require regular brushing
  • Quick learners
  • Friendly and relaxed

Great Dane

  • 100-200 lbs
  • Medium energy level
  • Short coat that requires little maintenance
  • Average trainability
  • Gentle and patient

Yorkshire Terrier

  • 5-7lbs
  • High energy level
  • Long coat that requires regular grooming
  • Average trainability
  • Highly affectionate and protective
  • Big dog in a little body!

Recap of Best Dogs for First Time Dog Parents

dog looking at treats | Pupford

One quick note before we wrap up -- we get a lot of questions about mixed-breed dogs for first time parents. There’s nothing wrong with it!

Adopting a mixed-breed dog from a shelter can be a rewarding first-time experience, it’s just important to either understand the combination of breeds you’re getting or be flexible and patient as you and your new dog learn each other!

Hopefully, this helped you in making the decision of what breed to get for your first dog!

And when you do welcome your new dog into your family, here are two helpful resources for getting off to a great start:

Dog Checklist: 31 Things You Need to Know
New Puppy Checklist: 21 Items Your Pup Needs

If you're preparing for a new dog, sign up for our 100% free online New Dog Starter Course (even if you don't have a pup yet). Get started now!

🐶 Don't miss out! Sign up for our 100% free New Dog Starter Course (even if you don't have a dog yet). Get started now! 🐶


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