For a first-time pet owner, picking the perfect pooch can be overwhelming. If you're debating a canine companion, there are multiple factors to consider. Families need a breed that gets along well with children and has a mild temperament. Older folks should look for lower-energy pups that don't require constant walking and playtime. People who live in Florida probably don't want an ultra-furry Husky. And you'll need to know what to budget for—doggy daycare if you go to the office, grooming, and pet food, to name a few. To make the decision easier for new pet parents, we talked to several veterinarians who shared their top dog breeds for beginners. Read on to see if you're better suited for a happy-go-lucky Lab or a tiny Yorkie.
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There's a reason so many families choose Labrador Retrievers for their first pet and why they're often used as service dogs. "Labrador retrievers are friendly and easygoing, which makes them ideal puppers for beginners," says board-certified veterinarian Melissa M. Brock. Moreover, they're intelligent, loyal, and great with kids, according to veterinarian and behaviorist Paola Cuevas.
This high-energy and active breed needs a lot of exercise, so children can quickly learn responsibility through daily walking. Labs also love the water, making them great beach dogs and easy to bathe. And if you think you may add more dogs to the family down the road, a Lab is a safe bet.
"They're extremely sociable and don't mind being in the company of other dogs, even if they've never met before," shares Brock. The only thing to consider is that you may spend a good chunk of time vacuuming. "Their thick and water-repellent coat sheds a lot!" cautions Cuevas.
When it comes to being affectionate, good with children, and good with other dogs, the American Kennel Club (AKC) gives Golden Retrievers the highest possible scores. Much like Labs, they're a perfect choice if you have kids since they're "patient, calm, and gentle," according to Brock. They also are well suited for multi-pet households and are very easy to train.
Goldens require daily exercise—in fact, the AKC says they're great companions for "long runs and bike rides"—but they're slightly less energetic than Labs (though they are on par in the shedding department).
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Poodles come in three sizes—Standard (more than 15 inches tall at the shoulder), Miniature (15 inches or under), and Toy (no more than 10 inches), according to the AKC. That makes them adaptable to a variety of households. "These active, graceful, and people-oriented dogs have won great popularity as home pets because they're an intelligent breed that's loyal and easy to train," promises Cuevas.
A Poodle is a good match for an active lifestyle. "Originally bred as hunting dogs, they love to retrieve and play both on land and water," Cuevas says. If you live near a beach or lake, note that Poodles are exceptional swimmers. Their low-allergen coats don't shed much, so they're easy to groom, and they score top marks from the AKC for how affectionate and good with children they are.
Any Poodle mix (better known as a "doodle") is considered an "easy breed," according to veterinarian and TrendingBreeds founder Amanda Takiguchi, DVM. But she recommends a Goldendoodle if you want a bigger dog. "They're very smart, they learn quickly, they're super friendly, and they're hypoallergenic," she says.
Goldendoodles also love to play. According to pet behaviorist, dog trainer, and CEO and founder of PetDT Jacquelyn Kennedy, they "don't have the excessive prey drive of some terriers, and they don't require as much exercise as, say, a Husky."
A fenced-in yard where they can freely run around for 20-30 minutes is ideal, explains Pet Finder. The adoption website also notes that "good puppy socialization is key to their development," so you may want to consider enrolling your new pup in a playgroup or hitting up the local dog park.
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Maltese are considered good family dogs because they're "very affectionate and easygoing," says Brock, though the AKC only gives them a three out of five for how well they get along with small children. Since they're lap dogs, they're also perfect if you work from home and want a gentle companion.
Beginners will appreciate that Maltese are pretty down the middle when it comes to their personality. They love to learn new tricks, which makes training them easier, and their energy level is moderate. They barely shed, but they do require daily brushing and regular baths to maintain their lustrous coats.
These cuties are sweet and small, so they're ideal for city apartments. Affectionate and gentle, Shih Tzus are especially happy when their owner shows them love. They adore being picked up, cuddled, and carried around, so be sure you have enough time to devote to them. They also enjoy being busy, which means you'll be buying them lots of toys.
Shih Tzus have long hair that requires daily brushing, according to the AKC. And they're a bit high-maintenance when it comes to grooming. "Remember to comb the mustache and topknot daily, and gently clean the corner of the eyes with a damp cloth. To protect the Shih Tzu's eyes from being irritated, the hair on the top of the head should be trimmed short or tied up into a topknot," explains the AKC.
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This breed is a great option for a smaller home because of its size and personality. "Yorkies are known for being affectionate and loving, but they tend to be less needy than Shih Tzus in terms of physical contact," explains Brock. They're easy to train, are hypoallergenic, and don't shed much. A Yorkie is also a wonderful breed for people who live alone, as they're high on the AKC's watchdog meter. "Tenacious, feisty, brave, and sometimes bossy, the Yorkie exhibits all the traits of a true terrier," they say.
Their glossy hair, which can drape down to the ground, requires just as must attention as Shih Tzus. "Either you need to budget for routine grooming or learn to do it yourself," Takiguchi advises. Their coats are very similar to human hair and if kept long, they should be brushed every day, says the AKC.