Which Dog Breed is Best For Me?
Once you’ve made the momentous decision to look for a new canine companion, your first question is likely to be: Which dog breed is best for me? How do I know if my new dog will fit into my lifestyle — or my apartment?
The American Kennel Club currently recognizes nearly 200 different dog breeds, each with their own unique history, temperament and physical characteristics. While it’s true that every dog is an individual, knowing the general characteristics of the breed you’re looking for is an excellent starting point for your journey to find your perfect pup!
The Best Dog Breeds for First Time Owners
The best dog breeds for first time owners will have a strong desire to please that makes them relatively easy to train. They’ll be naturally friendly and eager to play, but also happy to snooze for much of the day.
First time owners should avoid breeds that tend to be aloof, reserved, independent, highly driven or otherwise challenging to train. These include but are not limited to German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Siberian Huskies, Shiba Inus, Chows and Border Collies.
Good small breed options for first time dog owners include Papillons, Malteses, Bichon Frises, Yorkshire Terriers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. All of these breeds tend to be sociable, low-key and easy to train. Whippets are another good choice, as well as Toy or Mini Poodles.
Being a first time dog owner doesn’t mean you can’t have a large dog, though! There are many large breeds that make excellent first dogs, such as Boxers, Standard Poodles, and the ever-popular-for-good-reason Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers.
The Best Dog Breeds for Cats or Other Pets
The best dog breeds for cats will be patient, tolerant and gentle. They should ideally be low-energy, as sudden exuberant movement will startle your cat. What’s most important is that they have a low or nonexistent prey drive and are obedient enough to actually listen when you call them away from the cat (or ferret or bird). The good news is, if your family includes both four-legged and two-legged children, many of the breeds that are likely to be feline-friendly are also kid-friendly for the same reasons.
The sweet and lovable Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are the classic family pet. They’ll want to be everyone’s friend, including the cat’s! However, both of these breeds are very high-energy and active, and will require good training to know when to leave Whiskers alone if your cat doesn’t want to play.
In general, toy dog breeds that were bred for companionship (rather than for hunting) are friendly to all — human and non-human. Some of the best toy breeds to coexist with cats include Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Papillons, Pomeranians and Pugs.
Then there’s the so-called “bully breeds'' like bulldogs, pit bulls and boxers, which were originally bred to bait bulls. With such an intimidating origin, you may not realize that actually, these breeds tend to be exceptionally chill around small animals! Because they don’t see your cat or other pets as prey, and also don’t see them as a threat, most bully breed dogs simply won’t worry too much about them. Some of the most mellow bully breeds include English Bulldogs and Boxers.
Also surprising is that some of the most cat-friendly canines are scent hounds. Because these hounds were bred to work in packs, often alongside humans, horses and other animals, they generally love all animal company and don’t have quite as much of a prey drive as terriers do. They also hate being alone, and are likely to want to be BFFs with your kitty! Pack-happy hounds include breeds like Beagles and Basset Hounds.
Finally, some working dogs were specially bred to protect other animals from harm, so they can learn to see your kitty as part of their “flock” that needs defending. The huge and lovable Great Pyrenees is an excellent example of this. Other gentle giants that are generally patient with their fellow pets include Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Great Danes.
Remember that if you’re looking for a cat-friendly dog, you should stay away from sighthounds and terriers. These dogs were literally bred to chase down and kill small animals — and your cat, hamster or bunny definitely qualifies! You may also want to avoid most herding breeds, as they may like your cat but still try to “herd” it in a way Whiskers won’t appreciate.
The Best Dog Breeds for Families
Are the kids begging for a puppy? It might be the perfect time to add a four-legged family member! The best dog breeds for families will be friendly and patient, with enough energy to play with the kids but not so much energy that they cause chaos.
Many toy breeds are ideal family dogs, as they were bred for those exact traits. Pugs are perfect for their goofy personalities, and Cocker Spaniels are low-key and patient enough to tolerate small humans. Dachshunds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are energetic people-loving dogs that love learning new tricks and make excellent family pets.
The same is true for many medium breed dogs, such as Shetland Sheepdogs, Beagles and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers. Large dogs that are ideal for families include the sweet and gorgeous Irish Setter and the “gold standard” of family dogs: Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers. Although many herding breeds are too high-energy for young kids, Rough Collies are known to be gentle and patient with children (yes, like Lassie!).
Finally, if you can handle the extra drool and hair, many extra-large dog breeds are truly gentle giants. Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards (yes, like Beethoven!) make for loving and laid-back family dogs.
The Best Dog Breeds for Seniors or Retirees
Having an animal companion makes a big difference in many people’s lives, and this is especially true for seniors. With no kids at home and no job to go to, many seniors appreciate the friendly company of their faithful pooch each day.
That’s why the best dog breeds for seniors will be people-oriented and sociable. They’ll also be a small or medium breed, as even the best behaved large dog may get over excited sometimes and knock their parent over by mistake!
Seniors benefit from dog breeds that are relatively low-key, and not likely to trip them up doing “zoomies.” A few mild-mannered options include Cocker Spaniels, Pomeranians, Mini Schnauzers, and Mini or Toy Poodles.
For seniors who are still active enough for a dog with a little more pep in their step, Dachshunds and Pembroke Welsh Corgis are energetic and affectionate dogs that love learning tricks and playing games. Be aware that as a herding breed, Corgis can be highly driven and enjoy having a “job” to do — so training a Corgi could be an excellent “project” for an active senior!
Feisty and loyal with charming personalities, small terriers are also some of the most popular dog breeds for seniors. Scottish Terriers, West Highland Terriers, Border Terriers and Yorkshire Terriers are all good choices for senior pet parents.
Finally, you may be surprised to hear that Chihuahuas make excellent pets for seniors. Despite their “yappy” reputation, Chihuahuas can be trained to bark appropriately. In fact, these clever scamps love learning new things, and can be taught a variety of fun tricks! They’re also low-maintenance with regards to grooming and appreciate having a lap to lie in.
The Best Dog Breeds for Apartments
You don’t have to own your own home to enjoy the love of a canine companion!
If you’d like a wagging tail to share your apartment, you’ll want to look for a dog who is relatively quiet, non-destructive or “chewy” and minimizes shedding as much as possible. You’ll also want a dog who only needs a moderate-to-low amount of exercise, as you don’t have a backyard to let them loose in. Finally, you’ll be looking for a small- to medium-sized breed if your apartment has a size limit on canine residents.
Some of the best dog breeds for apartments include the trio of “flat-faced” jokesters: the Pug, French Bulldog and Boston Terrier. These little charmers are full of goofy personality, unlikely to chew or bark too much, and are perfectly content with a brisk walk or two each day (and snoring on the couch the rest of the time).
Other small dogs that make excellent apartment buddies include the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Japanese Chin. Both are long-haired, calm and mild-mannered breeds. If you’re looking for a fluffier companion, the Bichon Frise, Maltese and Affenpinscher are full of personality and as adorable as teddy bears!
One medium-sized dog breed for apartments you may not have thought of is the Basenji, known as the “barkless” dog. Instead of the usual dog bark, the Basenji “yodels.” It’s a unique and comical sound, and less likely to wake your neighbors than a more “barky” breed.
Other unexpected apartment dogs include Greyhounds, Silken Windhounds and Whippets. They were bred as quick-footed racing dogs, but just because these breeds can run doesn’t mean that’s what they want to do all day! In fact, because these breeds are sprinters and not endurance runners, they’re a “one run and done” kind of dog: a quick run around the block each morning, and they’re set for the day! They’re also quiet, mild-mannered and affectionate.
Finally, if your apartment complex does not have a size restriction, there are a few large breeds that make for surprisingly good apartment dogs. The Great Dane and Irish Wolfhound are two of the biggest dog breeds in the world, but they’re very laid-back and low-energy dogs. They enjoy a daily walk followed by several daily naps. Essentially, you won’t have to worry about these gentle giants getting the “zoomies” and tearing around your small apartment like a maniac (here’s looking at you, herding breeds!).
The Best Dog Breeds for Hiking and Adventurous People
If you’re the adventurous type, there’s definitely a pup out there who would love to explore the great outdoors with you — whether you’re heading for the mountains, the woods or the water! The best dog breeds for hiking or other adventures are hardy, have good stamina, and are sure-footed enough to handle whatever you throw at them.
Herding dogs make great adventure companions, since they’re hard-working dogs bred to roam over hill and dale with the herds all day long. Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Australian Cattle Dogs are all high-energy, intelligent and love having a “job” to do. In all honesty, these are the breeds that might eat your couch out of boredom if you don’t give them enough physical and mental stimulation — so those invigorating hikes, full of interesting sights and sounds, are exactly what they need!
Many gundog breeds are good choices for hiking buddies as well, as they are athletic and hardy enough to be hunting companions in all kinds of terrain and weather. That includes setters and spaniels like Brittany Spaniels, English Springer Spaniels and English Setters, as well as many hound breeds like Beagles, American Foxhounds and Redbone Coonhounds.
You may be surprised to hear that this also includes the Standard Poodle! Despite their perfectly coiffed coats and elegant demeanor, poodles were originally bred as hunting dogs and haven’t forgotten it. A Standard Poodle would definitely be athletic and intelligent enough to be your fellow wilderness explorer
Finally, don’t underestimate the drive and energy of many small dogs. Some of the best pint-sized adventurers include Jack Russell Terriers and Shetland Sheepdogs, both of whom are sprightly enough to keep up (and small enough to carry if they can’t!).
Whether your adventure buddy is large or small, remember that many herding and hunting breeds have a strong prey drive — so it’s important to make sure their recall training is rock-solid before you hit the trail. You definitely don’t want Fido darting off into the woods after a rabbit and getting themselves lost!
The Best Dog Breed for Runners and Sporty/Active People
If you have an active lifestyle, we have great news: your dog can be your built-in exercise buddy!
The best dog breed for runners or other sporty people will be high-energy and high-endurance, so they can keep up with you and you won’t have to carry them home. You’ll also want a dog hardy enough to deal with a range of temperatures without getting overheated or chilled (within reason, of course). Finally, you’ll want to avoid flat-faced dogs, as these breeds can have trouble breathing after too much exertion.
When it comes to canine athletes, a few pups clearly stand out from the pack. Fast, strong and high-endurance, these breeds will keep going and going! They include the Vizsla, Weimaraner, German Shorthair Pointer, Dalmatian, Rhodesian Ridgeback and Doberman Pinscher. They also include what is arguably the most popular dog breed in the world: the Labrador Retriever. High-energy and devoted, your Lab will happily jog by your side wherever you go!
Other good running buddies, particularly if you are looking for an owner-focused and disciplined dog, include the German Shepherd and Belgian Malinois. (Be aware, however, that these are not beginner breeds). If you’re a dedicated soul who even runs in the winter, sledding dogs like Siberian Huskies and Alaskan Malamutes would love to join you! Just take care when the weather turns warmer that they don’t overheat.
Last but not least, we can’t forget the fastest dog breed in the world: the Greyhound. They’ve been known to reach a whopping 45 miles per hour! Just be aware that Greyhounds (and other sighthounds like Borzoi and Salukis) excel as sprinters, NOT marathon runners. They won’t want or be able to jog with you for hours. But, if you only want to go hard for a few miles and then call it a day, this is the running buddy for you!
One word of caution: always consult your trusted veterinarian before starting an active fitness program with your dog. Even if Fido is an athletic breed, you still need to train your dog up to your level slowly. Your loyal pup may do their very best to keep up with you even when they’re overexerting themselves, so it’s up to you to know when to stop for the sake of your best pal’s health.
On the other hand, if the idea of running a 5K makes you shudder, you’ll likely prefer a more low-activity dog. Basset Hounds and English Bulldogs are some of the chillest breeds around, and make great couch potato pals. Extra-large breeds like English Mastiffs, Newfoundlands and Great Danes would also be happy with a low-key lifestyle.
Picking out your new best pal is a big decision. For the most part, there are certain personality traits and physical abilities that you can anticipate based on a dog’s breed, and you definitely want to be aware of what they are before you decide which pup will be going home with you.
While choosing a breed is a good place to begin, it’s important to remember that an individual dog of ANY breed can be the perfect dog for you! What’s amazing about dogs is that every pup is a beautifully unique individual, who may or may not fit into the generalizations of their breed — which means that even a dog from a “high-energy” breed can turn out to be a total couch potato, or a dog from a “quiet” breed may have a bark to raise the dead!
Yet at the end of the day, as long as you’re willing to devote the time and energy to training, exercising, grooming and bonding with your new best furiend, you really can’t go wrong!