Getting a dog is an exciting time, but there’s lots to consider when choosing one so you can be sure the breed will suit your lifestyle.
Some dogs need a lot of exercise and training, while others might require daily grooming. Also, while certain pure breeds are associated with specific traits, every dog has its own unique personality.
Regardless of which breed you go for, it’s important to ensure that the dog you get has been well socialised to minimise any potential behaviour problems in the future. It should also be screened for any breed-specific health problems.
Below are five examples of lifestyles and the likely breeds that might be a good match, along with the best and worst breeds for a first-time dog owner.
How much play time and mental stimulation a dog needs is such an important factor when considering which dog is best for you. If you aren’t able to fulfil this need, it can impact the dog's personality and behaviour in other ways. Playful and active dogs need interactive games to keep them mentally stimulated and more exercise to keep boredom at bay and remain fit and healthy.
If you enjoy outdoor pursuits and are looking for a companion, the Border Collie – with its stamina, intelligence and agility – is a good choice. But this herding breed will also require a lot of mental stimulation and time commitment from its owner.
Meanwhile, the Golden Retriever’s confidence, great manners and love of all things new and challenging can make this breed one of the best dogs to own.
With its outgoing personality, intelligence and sociable nature, the Cockapoo is a great choice for people who will enjoy getting out and about with their dog.
When choosing a family pet, it’s important to find a breed that will easily fit in, especially if you have children or other pets.
If you are looking for a playful and obedient breed that loves children, the best dog to buy might just be the Labrador Retriever, but it’s important to keep in mind that these dogs need at least two hours of exercise a day. Active, playful dogs are much more suited to families and owners who have similarly energetic and dynamic personalities.
With some of the larger breeds, their size combined with their love of people can make them intimidating to smaller children. The dog’s strength and tendency to jump on people can lead to some knocks and bumps, even though they mean well. Therefore a few extra training sessions might be necessary.
Certain breeds, such as the Shih Tzu, Dachshund and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, are more suited for city living due to their compact size. They also don’t have the high exercise requirements of breeds such as Collies and Labrador Retrievers.
In fact, some high-energy or noisy small dogs, such as some terriers, may not fare so well in a small living space. Lower-energy breeds like the Great Dane can cope quite well in an urban environment, if you have a home large enough for this giant breed. High-energy dogs, such as Setters or Dalmatians, are usually unsuitable for urban living. Greyhounds are a good urban breed and are happy to relax once their exercise is done.
Always at work
If you’re going to be away from your dog for long periods of the day, think carefully about the commitment that getting a dog involves. It’s possible to have a dog if you work full-time, but you’ll have to be well organised: taking them out for some exercise before you leave the house, making sure they have safe interactive toys and feeders to keep them entertained, or even enlisting the help of a professional dog-walking or pet-sitting service.
Many dogs can be trained to stay at home but some breeds, such as the good-natured Basset Hound or the highly adaptable Pug, fare better than others. However, your dog shouldn’t be routinely left alone for longer than four hours at a time and highly active breeds should be avoided by busy people.
Anxious dogs, like Chihuahuas and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, won’t be happy being left on their own either. They may need extra care and patience from their owners to reassure them that everything is ok, and are best suited to owners who can afford to give them this extra attention.
People with allergies
All dogs shed skin cells and have allergens in their saliva, but dogs that have hair rather than fur don’t shed as much and tend to produce less sniffle-provoking dander (flakes of dead skin). The Bichon Frise is a hypoallergenic dog breed that rarely sheds, while Poodles have a thick and fluffy coat that is not prone to shedding. Meanwhile, the Miniature Schnauzer has a thick, wiry double-layer coat that rarely sheds at all. However, these types of dogs may need daily grooming.
Best and worst breeds for first-time owners
Low-energy Greyhounds are known to be one of the easiest dogs to take care of, while Golden Retrievers or Labradors are gentle, fun-loving and amenable to training. Border Terriers are alert and playful and the Bichon Frise is a good-natured breed, ideal for owners who enjoy brushing a dog.
There’s no such thing as a ‘worst’ dog breed, but as a first-time owner, it is important to do your research and make sure you choose a dog that suits you and your family. Some breeds might benefit from a more experienced dog owner who knows the ins and outs of dog handling. This includes both German Shepherds and the easily aroused, fearless Jack Russell Terrier.
The highly energetic Border Collie requires more physical and mental stimulation than other breeds. Meanwhile, the ‘mud magnet’ Springer Spaniel requires a lot of exercise and daily grooming.
If you are rehoming a rescue dog, ask the rehoming centre for advice on choosing the right breed to suit your lifestyle. Check out our bringing a new dog home guide to help your pet get settled into their new environment