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By Jessica Joy

Five dog breeds for first-time pet owners

Dogs are supposed to be man's best friend, but some people simply do not know the first thing about owning a dog. They walk into a shelter to find a puppy, but they are unaware of the amount of work that goes into training a dog. What a lot of potential dog owners don't know is that some breeds are much easier to train and handle than others. Here's a quick list of the five best dog breeds for those just entering the world of dog ownership.

5. Beagle

The bloodcurdling bay of the Beagle is well-known to hunters near and far. A beagle's sense of smell is second to none, and their tracking abilities are reminiscent of their wild ancestors. This breed's small size aids in leash training and cuddles. Its sleek, short hair makes the once-daily grooming relatively easy for new dog owners. The beagle is very eager to please, making it very trainable from a young age. The older it gets, though, the more stubborn it can become. Luckily, this breed is very motivated by food, so with plenty of treats, the beagle is sure to do whatever it is instructed.

4. West Highland Terrier

The West Highland Terrier, affectionately dubbed the "Westie," is a small, light-haired dog with an eternally inquisitive look on its face. Westies are also small in stature, making them less threatening to first-time dog owners. While these dogs are highly trainable, they also exhibit many traits specific to terriers, such as digging, barking and chasing vermin. They have a double-layered coat, which helps insulate against hot or cold weather. Grooming is relatively easy, with minor seasonal shedding. When trained and disciplined from puppyhood, these dogs can develop into great companions.

3. Chihuahua

Chihuahuas get a pretty bad rap as yappy little dogs that do not know when to stop barking. While this may be true for many chihuahuas, many of them also make great house pets. They are one of the smallest breeds in the world, and contrary to popular belief, are quite trainable. While they do have a big dog personality, it is only because of their innate desire to protect and defend their pack. Because of their small size, grooming is a breeze, even with shedding season.

2. Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers have been portrayed in many classic films, from Air Bud to Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey. They are known for their intense loyalty and desire to protect their owners. This reputation is spot on. These dogs are one of the most trainable breeds in the world, which makes them perfect for beginning dog owners. They are willing to do anything to please their owners, and are very intelligent. The only concern is that with a longer coat comes a higher maintenance regimen. However, the golden retriever's calm demeanor makes grooming much easier than with a more spastic dog breed. These dogs, however, do have a lot of energy and require daily exercise. A daily walk or run will help bring their energy level down.

1. Labrador Retriever

Labradors are well known as America's most popular breed of dogs. Like the golden retriever, these dogs are eager to please their owners and take to training fairly quickly. While they are bigger dogs, their trainability makes them desirable for first-time dog owners. They have shorter hair than golden retrievers, but its thickness requires a little more grooming attention, especially during the shedding seasons. Also like the golden retriever, these dogs require rigorous daily exercise. Especially at young ages, Labradors need ways to release all their pent-up energy. With proper exercise and training, these dogs will become the best friend anyone could ask for.

While this list provides facts about each breed, there are other factors to consider when adopting a dog, including: lifestyle, the size of your home and access to an open area. Golden retrievers would not do well in an apartment due to their size and energy level, whereas a chihuahua could thrive in an apartment complex. While running around an open yard may not be enough exercise for a labrador, it might be just enough for the smaller Westie.

If you are thinking of adopting a puppy but are unsure of your ability to train it, think about adopting an older dog. There are thousands of dogs in local shelters that have already been trained and are just waiting for their forever home. Once you are sure you have found a dog that matches your lifestyle and is a good fit for your home, welcome to the greatest joy and adventure ever!

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