Getting your first dog? Congratulations! You’d better brace yourself for a major learning curve! As you figure things out for the first time, you’ll probably need to do just as much learning as your dog does. That’s one reason why many novice pet owners opt for a dog who’s easy to train.
Most dog experts believe that there aren’t any bad dogs or dog breeds, just bad training. In other words, any dog can become a well-behaved pet with the right training and socialization. However, many experts discourage first-time dog owners from choosing a particularly challenging breed. After all, it’s tough to provide confident leadership and consistent training when you’re still trying to figure it all out for the first time.
Below, check out the dog breeds that experts say you might want to think twice about if you’re a first-time dog owner.
14. Airedale terrier
The countdown begins with the Airedale terrier, which made VetStreet’s list of the worst dog breeds for novices. The publication asked more than 200 veterinary professionals to name the breeds that first-time dog owners should think twice about. The Airedale terrier has an independent and intelligent nature that can challenge even an experienced owner. VetStreet characterizes the breed as a “notorious digger and counter-surfer.” Plus, these dogs need lots of exercise, both physical and mental, to control their energy and destructive tendencies.
Next on VetStreet’s list is the Bullmastiff. The veterinary professionals surveyed by the publication point out that “the Bullmastiff has a mind of his own — and considering that he weighs in at 100-130 pounds, he can easily overwhelm an owner who isn’t ready to stand up to him.” A Bullmastiff requires consistent, positive training, plus firm boundaries. That can get difficult for a novice owner to pull off, especially if you’re also busy trying to keep the breed’s strong prey drive in check. SheKnows also characterizes the Bullmastiff as a “poor choice for first-time dog owners” since the breed ” is challenging even with obedience training.”
Everybody loves a bulldog! However, VetStreet’s veterinary professionals recommend that you steer clear of the breed when you choose your first dog. The breed has a goofy and agreeable nature. However, as a brachycephalic breed — the technical term for that adorably shortened face — bulldogs can have a lot of health issues. VetStreet points out that these dogs are particularly sensitive to heat, exercise, and stress. They also can’t swim. And on top of that, they can be difficult to train.
11. Siberian husky
The Siberian husky has a happy nature that makes him sound like the ideal dog, especially if you live in a cold climate. However, VetStreet puts the breed next on its list of the worst dog breeds for first-time dog owners. The publication explains, “He was bred to pull sleds over long distances, and his liveliness reflects that — a short walk around the block won’t do for this breed.” Providing a safe outdoor space for a husky is also a challenge, and not just because they need big yards. Huskies have developed a reputation as capable escape artists. SheKnows adds that Siberian huskies “are prone to mischief if left to themselves and have a high prey drive, which first-time owners may have a hard time controlling, especially off leash.”
10. St. Bernard
VetStreet acknowledges that the term “gentle giant” definitely applies to the St. Bernard. However, the veterinary professionals the publication surveyed still recommend that novice dog owners choose a different breed. Despite this dog’s massive size, he actually prefers staying indoors. That’s partially because he’s prone to heatstroke but also because he loves hanging out with his family. In addition to dog-proofing your home for such a large animal, you should also expect to clean up buckets of drool — and to try to keep your St. Bernard from eating items like socks and dish towels. That’s not the easiest task for brand-new dog owners!
9. German shepherd
Most people have seen a German shepherd in action as a guide dog or with the military or police. However, the breed’s well-known intelligence doesn’t make the German shepherd an easy dog for novice pet owners. As VetStreet’s experts pointed out, “There’s little he can’t do with the right training, but that’s exactly why he’s not ideal for newbies — it takes quite a bit of training, exercise and dedication to stay ‘smarter’ than he is.” SheKnows adds that German shepherds “also require obedience training to prevent their protective natures from posing challenges to their owners.” You may also need to deal with the health issues — like hip dysplasia and neurological problems — to which the breed is predisposed.
8. Australian cattle dog
The Australian cattle dog also goes by the name “blue heeler” or “Australian heeler.” But whatever the breeder or the shelter calls him, he’s not the ideal fit for a brand-new dog owner. VetStreet puts it best when the publication explains, “he has a reputation for being stubborn and having energy to spare — not to mention a truly adventurous spirit and belief in his own invincibility that will leave you wondering how he’ll injure himself next.” Additionally, PawCulture reports that Australian cattle dog owners “must establish themselves as the pack leader to promote a harmonious household.”
Many people love the distinctive looks of the Dalmatian (especially after the breed starred in a blockbuster movie). However, veterinarians recommend that first-time dog owners choose a different breed. According to VetStreet, the traits that make the Dalmatian a great working dog “can make him a challenge in the home. He has an endless capacity for exercise and can be destructive when bored.” Another minor issue? Dalmatians are notoriously heavy shedders who will keep you busy with the vacuum cleaner.
VetStreet’s veterinary experts characterize the Weimaraner as another highly intelligent dog who isn’t the right fit for everybody. (Especially not for novice dog owners still getting their bearings!) VetStreet explains, “He’s extremely energetic with no ‘off’ switch, and he’s not happy being left alone — separation anxiety can be a real issue with this breed.” The Weimaraner can also be a difficult breed to housebreak. Not to mention, he often poses a hazard to cats and other small pets.
The Rottweiler gets labeled with a lot of unfair stereotypes. But that’s not why veterinary professionals recommend that first-time dog owners choose a different breed. Emphasizing the fact that there are no bad dogs, just bad owners, the publication explains that “although he can be a gentle giant, the wrong Rottweiler with the wrong owner can truly be a scary dog.” The breed needs somebody to be the boss. So if you don’t assume that role confidently and effectively, your dog will. SheKnows adds that these dogs “are goofy with family and wary with strangers.” That makes them a better choice for more experienced dog owners.
4. Alaskan malamute
Another often-stereotyped breed, the Alaskan malamute makes a great pet. However, he can be a lot to handle for a first-time dog owner. VetStreet explains that in addition to pulling forcefully on the leash with his 65 to 100 pounds, the Alaskan malamute will also demonstrate his considerable skills as an escape artist. As veterinarians tell VetStreet, “This breed is made to travel far on his own four feet and he needs a family committed to a lot of exercise when it’s best for him. That thick fur coat also leaves him vulnerable to heat injury.”
3. Shar pei
The shar pei also requires a lot of attention, which can get overwhelming for a novice dog owner. VetStreet explains that the shar pei “requires an assertive, experienced owner to train him and keep him from getting bored.” Even experienced dog owners will need to carefully train and socialize their dogs, since shar peis are often territorial and tend to bond strongly with one person. As such, they can get distrustful of people (and dogs) they don’t know. According to SheKnows, “While they can be amazing family pets in the right hands, their tendency to skip the ‘warning growl’ can lead to potentially dangerous situations for novice owners.”
2. Chow chow
Most people know that the chow chow doesn’t exactly act like a teddy bear, despite his adorable face. Veterinary professionals tell VetStreet, “He’s intelligent but stubborn, and may require a lot of training before you get the results you’re looking for. This breed is wary of strangers and may be aggressive toward dogs he doesn’t know.” SheKnows reports that chow chows, like cats, “often have problems with authority. Unlike cats, the large size of a chow chow makes them potentially dangerous and frustrating in inexperienced hands.”
The number one breed that vets would advise first-time dog owners to avoid? The Akita. As VetStreet reports, “He’s a beautiful dog, but sheds heavily and can be a challenge to train, making him best suited to experienced dog owners.” These dogs are large and powerful — big enough to overpower even athletic dog owners. An Akita requires a walk of at least 20 to 30 minutes each day. And he’ll need to stay on the leash that entire time due to his strong prey drive.
According to PawCulture, “the Akita likes to be the leader of the pack and requires a strong hand in training. The breed’s temperament can range from calm to bouncy and aggressive, so it should always be supervised around small children and other animals.”
How to choose the right dog as a first-time dog owner
Now that you know which breeds veterinarians recommend first-time dog owners skip, you’re ready to make your own decisions about the kind of dog you want. Whether you want a purebred dog or prefer a mixed breed, your next step forward is to do research, research, and more research. Even if you choose a dog breed that veterinarians specifically cite as a good choice for novice dog owners, you still need to educate yourself on what it takes to properly care for, train, and socialize a dog. You may not be able to prepare for everything. But there’s no such thing as being “over-prepared” when you’re going to be responsible for a dog’s physical health and emotional well-being!