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The list of best dogs for first time owners includes Boxers

What are the best dogs for first time owners?

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Choosing your first dog is a daunting task. If you are beginning the process by researching the best dogs for first time owners, you can already pat yourself on the back.

According to the ASPCA, 47% of rehomed pets are the result of problematic or aggressive behaviors, unexpected growth and health problems. By taking the time to do your homework, to learn what to expect from your dog, you're already ahead of the curve.

To help with this homework, we asked some of the veterinary Experts on JustAnswer to weigh in on the most important things for you to consider when selecting your first dog.

Meet the Experts

Dr. Chelsea Pulter is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She has been an Expert on JustAnswer since August 2016, specializing in the categories of dog veterinary, cat veterinary and general veterinary questions.

You can contact Dr. Chelsea Pulter directly on JustAnswer to ask her your veterinary questions.

Dr. Linda1990 is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She has been an Expert on JustAnswer since October 2013, specializing in the categories of dog veterinary, cat veterinary and general veterinary questions.

You can contact Dr. Linda1990 directly on JustAnswer to ask her your veterinary questions.

Dr. Meghan Denney is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. She has been an Expert on JustAnswer since June 2016, specializing in the categories of dog veterinary, cat veterinary and general veterinary questions.

You can contact Dr. Meghan Denney directly on JustAnswer to ask her your veterinary questions.

What are the best dog breeds for first time owners?

When choosing your first dog, it’s important to consider the dog’s breed. This is a good guideline for what to expect from the dog, from general behavior, to rough adult size, to medical problems the dog could develop. Some breeds require a lot of attention and can become dangerous if they aren’t trained properly, while others are lower maintenance and easygoing.

For first time dog owners, my opinion on the best dog breeds include: Shih Tzu, Mini Poodle, Golden Retriever, Maltese and any mixes of these breeds. Most of these breeds are easygoing without too much energy, easy to train and have great friendly dispositions.

Dr. Chelsea Pulter

The best breed for your home depends on what you value and what qualities you're looking for in a pet. Are you up for a lot of exercise? Then a Lab is a great choice. Do you want something small and frilly that requires a little extra time or money to look great? Then a Pomeranian or a Bichon Frise may be for you. How about impressive? Great Danes, Pyrenees, etc. are sure to make a statement.

For just a great family pet, how about rescuing from a shelter? You might not get all the particulars you're looking for, but you will feel great helping to reduce the overwhelming shelter populations.

Dr. Linda1990

This is a complicated question because it depends on their lifestyle, housing situation, and family (who they live with).

You want to pick a dog breed that will fit with your life. For a house that is always abuzz with activity you will want a dog that is playful, yet laid back, and able to adapt to their environment: Lab, Golden Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Boxer, and Boykin Spaniel.

If you have just bought a house and are alone or have a spouse, the above breeds can work well, and given that you will have more time to spend with the dog you can look into a higher energy breed like a Vizsla, Brittany Spaniel or Boxer

If you are living in a condo with a small yard, or no yard at all, and are either living by yourself, or just have a spouse/ significant other living with you, then we can look at breeds that require less exercise and who will do well in a more restrictive environment. These breeds can also sometimes do better with smaller family sizes. Examples include but are not limited to: medium to small Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Corgis, Shelties, Beagles, etc.

I should say here that any breed with the time and training can be a good dog to have for a first-time home owner. Also, any puppy is going to require more time and work in the beginning because they are babies and have to learn.

Dr. Meghan Denney
Golden Retrievers are some of the best dogs for first time owners
Golden Retrievers are some of the best dogs for first time owners.

ANSWER SUMMARY: What are the best dog breeds for first time owners?

  • The easiest dogs to own are the ones that best fit your lifestyle.
  • Easy going, low energy: Shih Tzu, Mini Poodle, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Corgis, Shelties, Beagles
  • Easy going, active, adaptable: Lab, Golden Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and Boykin Spaniel
  • Small, requires grooming: Pomeranian, or a Bichon Frise
  • Impressive size: Great Danes, Pyrenees
  • High energy: Vizsla, Brittany Spaniel, Boxer

What traits should first time dog owners look for?

Although the breed is a decent starting point for choosing a dog, it's also important to recognize the signs of a dog that will make a great pet. The best dogs for first time owners will exhibit certain traits that you will want to look for when you meet a dog.

Though each dog is different, it is important to look for specific characteristics. If you are looking to get a puppy you want to meet the parents and meet the litter. While visiting the litter, call all the puppies. The ones that come to you are usually more people-friendly and may have a stronger, friendlier disposition to other dogs and people. They tend to want to please you, so it makes training a lot easier. If you are getting a rescue dog or one from the shelter or an older dog, it is important to look for dogs that want to interact with you. This is especially important for first time dog owners as it will help strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

Dr. Chelsea Pulter

Traits are pretty much across the breed spectrum, although with very young children (less than 2 years), I would not recommend a first pet be a Chihuahua, or tiny Yorkie. A new pet should not be the shyest in the litter, should not mind being held on its back, and should at least try to take a treat from the hand without being too aggressive. With young children, I would stay away from breeds with a high prey instinct (need to chase) such as Staffordshire and Pit Bull Terriers. To some degree, Border Collies may fit in this category. But traits take time to develop, so this can change.

Dr. Linda1990

The puppy or dog should be inquisitive and should really not growl or cower when being introduced to their new owner or when you are greeting them. I like to look for a dog/puppy that is “happy” tail wagging, eyes alert and wants to greet you. Kisses are always optimal and appreciated, but not a hard line. 

If you are going to look at a litter of puppies I would recommend going a few times to see the litter before making a choice as personalities can change over time. Spend time with the puppies each time because some of the puppies may be more shy than others and it can take time feel comfortable.

Make sure the dam and sire are healthy. Make sure the environment the puppies are housed in is clean.

Dr. Meghan Denney
A friendly dog looking for attention from his happy owner
Look for confidence, curiosity, and affection when choosing your furry friend.

ANSWER SUMMARY: What traits should first time dog owners look for?

  • You should meet a dog a few times if possible, to get to know its personality.
  • Friendliness: You want a dog that will approach you, greet you, and want to interact with you.
  • Confidence: The dog should not cower or growl, and should take a treat without aggression. You should be able to roll the dog on its back without conflict.
  • Inquisitiveness: Look for a dog that is not too shy, is happy, wags its tail, and has alert eyes.

For just a great family pet, how about rescuing from a shelter. You might not get all the particulars you are looking for, but you will feel great helping to reduce the overwhelming shelter populations. All dogs are great dogs!

What is the best way to raise a dog?

Many first time dog owners choose puppies because, well, puppies are cute. Puppies are not always the best dogs for first time owners, because if they're not trained properly, they become dogs that are difficult or impossible to live with. Knowing how to raise a puppy properly is the key to success.

Before you get a dog or a puppy it is important to consider different training methods to use. I personally like Dr. Sophia Yin's approach to puppy training as she approaches it very simply and focuses on strengthening the bond between puppy and new owner. With a new puppy, socializing them with people and other dogs is very important. Getting this started at about 10-16 weeks old is the best time. I know this is in the middle of your puppy's vaccine series, so it is important to look in to dog training academies that offer puppy-only classes and require vaccination records.

Dr. Chelsea Pulter

The best way to raise a dog is with love and lots of attention. Obedience training early on can help set rules and schedules that really help your pet become a good canine citizen. Plus, interacting with a trainer and other puppy owners can answer a lot of behavior questions that may pop up.

Dr. Linda1990

Puppies require time. Those first few months are really crucial for bonding, potty training, socialization and basic commands (sit, stay, etc.).

Making sure your dog stays healthy (a lot goes into this one. We will be staying with the basics.)

  • Diet: feed a diet that is formulated for the life stage of your dog
  • Be prompt to respond when signs of illness show up. Dogs can get incredibly ill just within a few hours, so even one episode of vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy can be a symptom of severe illness. I should also mention that pet owners often want to “wait and see”, but this often results in more veterinary bills because the longer a disease condition goes on unchecked the harder it can be to treat. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
  • Disease prevention: Please get your puppy vaccinated for the core diseases that are often fatal to puppies. Please keep up with the recommended protocols every year to keep your dog protected. Vaccinate for diseases that your dog may be risk for in relation to your geographical location. Talk to your veterinarian about your dog’s health. We are here to work as a team with you to make sure your dog stays healthy and happy.
  • Positive re-enforcement training: Try not to get angry or yell at your puppy for mistakes they make. Now I know that asking you to never raise your voice when your favorite shoes are ruined is asking a lot. As pet owners, we don’t always get it right and that’s OK – we are not perfect. Do your best to not yell, or get overly physical with your puppy when they have messed up. Take a few minutes to cool down and figure out why the mistake occurred. Were the shoes left out, or a door not closed, or did the puppy get bored? When they do something right praise them.
  • Financial preparedness (savings account) for situations that we cannot predict like emergencies, illness, or trauma. Pet insurance is something to consider because you never knew you needed it until your puppy gets sick and needs care, and you do not have the funds to get them the care they need. This is not for lack of desire to help them, but rather a financial hardship that prevents you from doing so.
Dr. Meghan Denney
A dog owner giving his puppy a reward after obeying his command
Teaching your dog to obey commands and using positive reinforcement will benefit both you and your new dog in the end.

ANSWER SUMMARY: What is the best way to raise a dog?

  • Training should start when the puppy is 10-16 weeks old.
  • Offer lots of love and attention, reward successes, and don’t get angry or yell at your puppy for mistakes they make.
  • Early obedience training establishes schedules and rules.
  • Socialization with people and other dogs is crucial.
  • Consider dog-training academies.
  • Learn from instructors and other puppy owners.
  • Ensure the puppy’s diet is appropriate for its life stage.
  • Vaccinate your dog on schedule and watch for signs of illness.
  • Consider pet insurance to prepare for veterinary expenses.

Any closing thoughts?

Getting a dog for the first time is an adventure and will last a lifetime. Have fun and don't forget your veterinarian is the best source of information. Please ask us anything!

Dr. Chelsea Pulter

We can discuss vaccination schedules, food choices, protecting your new pet from potential diseases and parasite protection after you get your new pet. Regardless of where you get your pet, you should always introduce the pet to your veterinarian within three days of bringing him/her home.

Dr. Linda1990

Keep your sense of humor! Puppies are fun, but man, are they a lot of work. If you put in the time and effort when they are young, you will have a companion who loves you unconditionally for as long as they are in your life.

Dr. Meghan Denney

The number of households with pets in the United States has increased by almost 50 percent in the last two decades, and 10 percent of that total consists of first time pet owners. Those studies also show that Americans are spending more time and money caring for their pets. As more people take the time to learn about things like the best dogs for first time owners, we are collectively becoming better pet owners.

No matter which dog you ultimately choose, as a first time dog owner, you will find yourself out of your depth at some point. When you need the answer to a veterinary question right away, you can trust the qualified Experts on JustAnswer to get you the information you need.

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