Your college years are certainly an exciting time.
You’ll meet tons of new people, figure out how to bounce a quarter into cups of various sizes (and in varying states of sobriety), and, hopefully, you’ll even learn a thing or two on those rare occasions you actually make it to your 7:45 chemistry class.
But your college years are about more than mingling, drinking games, and early morning classes – it is the time you’ll start figuring out what kind of person you are. You’ll figure out your politics, you’ll figure out what you want to do for a living, and – most importantly – you’ll figure out whether or not you are a dog person (assuming you don’t already know).
Even if you grew up in a home full of pets, you’ll finally have the chance to get your own dog. This means you’ll get to pick out the kind of dog you want, but you’ll also be saddled with the responsibility of caring for your new pet.
Accordingly, it is imperative that you think carefully about your choice and pick a dog that’ll work well with your lifestyle. Otherwise, your first foray into adult life could end up being more difficult than necessary.
We’ll try to help you make a good choice by listing some of the best dogs for college students, but first, we’re going to discuss the things the average college student may want in a dog.
Traits College Students Should Look for When Picking a Dog
Different dog breeds exhibit different traits, aptitudes, and personalities. While some breeds are well-suited for college life, others will simply not enjoy this type of living arrangement. Before getting into specific breed recommendations, let’s look at some of the traits that will make a dog well-suited for this time in your life.
Gregarious Dogs Will Enjoy College More
Some dogs are party animals who love hanging out with big groups of people, soliciting scritches (and delicious morsels of junk food) and sitting on people’s laps. But others won’t like all of the commotion, and they’ll be more inclined to stick by your leg or crawl under the bed and hide.
Clearly, you’ll want a dog who is in the former, rather than the latter, category. You want a people-oriented dog who loves to hang out with your friends.
Avoid Breeds That Are Infamously Difficult to Housetrain
The housetraining process is never very fun, but some breeds typically make it more difficult than others. Many dogs will pick up the rules about pooping and peeing quickly enough, but some will struggle to even understand this concept, no matter how long you try to train them.
Accordingly, you’ll want to avoid the breeds who often struggle with housetraining. Otherwise, you’re headed for years of cleaning up gross messes, living in a stinky home, and losing security deposits.
Pick a Breed That’s Usually Easy to Train
Most dogs need basic obedience training so that they’ll become well-behaved members of society. Because you’re likely relatively new to dogs, it’s a good idea to solicit the help of a certified dog trainer. That said, you can also train your dog yourself.
No matter which way you choose to proceed, you’ll find that things go more smoothly if you pick a breed that is easy to train. This means picking a breed that is not only smart, but one that has a strong urge to please you too. Avoid hyper-independent breeds who march to the beat of their own drum (we’re looking at you Shibas).
Low-Energy Breeds Are Best
Because you’ll spend a great deal of time going to classes, working a crappy part-time job, and flirting with hotties, you’ll probably struggle to get your pooch to the park as often as you’d like.
This isn’t only bad for your pup (many dogs will become depressed if deprived of sufficient exercise), it’ll be bad for you too, as destructive behaviors (such as chewing up your belongings and peeing in inappropriate places) often manifest in under-exercised and under-stimulated dogs.
One way to work around this is by picking a dog breed that normally has a relatively low energy level. Low-energy dogs still need to go to the park or walk around campus regularly, but they won’t cause as many problems as high-energy dogs will if they have to wait a day or two between outings.
The Nine Best Breeds for College Students
Given the criteria discussed above, we’ve put together a list of ten of the best dog breeds for college students. You’ll still need to put some thought into the issue to ensure you select a breed that suits your personality and lifestyle, but most of these should work pretty well.
We tried to include dogs of varying sizes; smaller breeds are typically better suited for college life, but there’s no reason to avoid big dogs if you have the space to accommodate them.
1. Golden Retriever
Golden retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the U.S., and it is easy to see why – they’re so loving they’ll melt your heart, and they’re quite playful and entertaining too. They are also quite intelligent and love to please their owners, so they’re one of the easiest breeds to train in the world.
But before you set your heart on a golden, you must understand that they present a number of challenges which you’ll need to sidestep to provide a good life for your dog and maintain your sanity.
For example, golden retrievers have really high energy levels, so they need a lot of space, and you’ll need to go to the park every day. They also suffer from separation anxiety, which means they’ll hate to see you go every morning. But, if you live in a big house (with a big yard), and you have several roommates, a golden retriever may be a great choice for you.
Poodles are likely one of the best breeds in the world for first-time owners.
They’re smart, loving, and affectionate. They love meeting new people, they’re always ready for adventure, and they are surprisingly athletic, despite their “fancy” appearance. Perhaps most importantly, they have a “hypoallergenic” coat, which probably won’t trigger allergies as much as other pooches.
In fact, poodles really only exhibit two drawbacks for college students: They have high energy levels and require regular grooming. However, these probably aren’t deal breakers. And for the record, you don’t have to have your poodle’s hair trimmed so that he looks like a living cartoon – there are a number of poodle haircuts that are somewhat “normal” looking.
Understand that poodles come in several different sizes – not all poodles are small dogs. In fact, standard poodles (the largest variety) may reach 70 pounds or so. This may be a bit big for the average college student, so you may be better off selecting a toy or miniature poodle instead.
3. Basset Hound
Basset hounds are “big little dogs.” They only stand about 12 to 14 inches high at the shoulder, but they pack 50 to 60 pounds of muscle, fur, and fat on their low-rider frames. Immediately recognizable, basset hounds are famous for their droopy expressions and long, dangling ears.
Comical appearance aside, basset hounds make great pets for college students. They are very outgoing and friendly dogs, and they are relatively smart too. They won’t lose their minds when you head off to class in the morning (they’ll likely just go back to sleep), and despite their rabbit-hunting history, they’re pretty low-energy pups.
The biggest drawback to basset hounds is their tendency to bark and howl whenever they feel the urge. This is a pretty common issue for hound dogs, so you should consider how important peace and quiet is to you and your roommates before picking up one of these adorable dogs.
4. Shih Tzu
By and large, small breeds are best for college students, and the Shih Tzu is clearly one of the most endearing small breeds around.
In fact, Shih Tzus are really good dogs for those living in the types of small apartments many college students live in. They have pretty modest energy levels, so daily walks will usually satisfy their exercise needs.
One of the other cool things about Shih Tzus is their ability to cope with a moderate amount of alone time. These proud little dogs will usually adapt to your schedule well, and they’ll take it upon themselves to look after your home while you’re gone.
Shih Tzus do need regular grooming, and you’ll need to watch your new pet’s weight, as these dogs often become portly with age, so be sure you (or your roommates) don’t spoil him with too many treats or give him too much people food. But this is a good idea for any breed you might choose, as people food can often upset a dog’s stomach – some people foods can even be dangerous.
Honestly, you probably aren’t even reading this anymore. Chances are, you looked at the photo above, fell in love, and you’ve already started looking at listings of reputable breeders nearby so you can get your own pug. It’s understandable – they are ridiculously cute pups.
Pugs are actually one of the best breeds for first-time owners. They’re affectionate, loving, playful, and friendly, and they usually get along with other people and pets well. They are a great breed for apartment dwellers, and although they aren’t always easy to housetrain, crate training can often help them learn the rules about bathroom time.
But there are a few things to think about before you get a pug. For example, that cute little face will actually cause him some problems. Pugs are called a brachycephalic breed, which is a fancy way of saying they have shortened faces.
This causes breathing difficulties you’ll have to keep an eye on for his entire life. Additionally, these shortened faces make it difficult for pugs to do some ordinary things, like swim or fly in a plane – in fact, many airlines don’t even allow snub-nosed breeds on airplanes due to the danger involved.
6. Boston Terrier
Often known by the nickname “The American Gentleman,” the Boston terrier is a fantastic breed for college students. They’re tiny, friendly, and smart, and they usually won’t go crazy when you leave them home alone. They also adapt to apartment life quite readily, and they’re easy to train.
For that matter, Boston terriers are pretty tidy dogs. They don’t drool very much, they don’t shed a lot, and they aren’t as difficult to housetrain as some other small breeds. There just isn’t much about Boston terriers you could complain about.
The biggest challenge Boston terriers are likely to present college students stems from their high energy levels – these dogs need an unusual amount of exercise for a small breed. But, while you’ll need to take your new Boston terrier on daily walks or play fetch in the backyard when you get home from classes every day, he’ll tire relatively quickly, thanks to his little legs.
7. English Bulldog
The English bulldog (typically just called a bulldog these days) is a fantastic option for some college students. Another example of a “big little dog,” bulldogs weigh up to 50 pounds or so, but they rarely stand more than 12 to 14 inches tall at the shoulder. They don’t have a lot of energy, so it’s easy to keep them well-exercised, and they’re extremely affectionate with their people.
One of the best things about bulldogs is their ability to cope with alone time. Your bulldog won’t pitch a fit or become destructive when you leave for class in the morning – he’s going to take a lap around the house, investigate his food bowl, and then go find somewhere cozy to snooze until you get back.
That said, bulldogs do exhibit a few challenges. They drool constantly, and they shed pretty heavily too. They are also subject to a number of health concerns thanks to their shortened faces.
You’ll need to make sure your bulldog doesn’t overheat in the summer, and be very careful whenever taking him around water, as they aren’t very skilled swimmers.
8. Lhasa Apso
The Lhasa Apso is a Tibetan breed originally developed as a guard dog for the royal family.
Obviously, these tiny little terrors aren’t going to be able to fight off a bear or intruder, but they’ll surely let you know when trouble is afoot, and they’ll do their best to frighten away the threat by barking incessantly.
In the modern world, most Lhasa Apsos live more relaxed lives. They’re rarely tasked with doing anything besides being a pet, and this is a job at which they excel. Lhasa Apsos are very loving dogs, although they can be a bit shy around strangers. Despite their tendency to shadow their owners, Lhasa Apsos actually handle alone time pretty well.
You will have to have your Lhasa Apso groomed regularly, so be sure to account for this expense before you add one of these pups to your home. Generally speaking, they are pretty apartment-friendly dogs, although they can be a bit difficult to housetrain, so you’ll definitely want to pick up a good crate for training purposes.
9. Chinese Crested
In many ways, the Chinese crested is an excellent dog for college students. They’re pretty small, they’re very sweet and affectionate, and they have pretty modest exercise requirements. They’re also really unique-looking dogs who will turn heads and elicit tons of “awwwws” from your friends. They’re also smart dogs who are relatively easy to train.
The biggest drawback to Chinese crested dogs is their clingy nature – they do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. This shouldn’t be a big problem if you live with several roommates, as the dog won’t be truly alone very often. However, you may want to think twice about getting a Chinese crested if you live alone.
Pre-Canine Caution: Be Sure You’re Ready to Be a Dog Owner
Now that you’ve figured out the best breed for you, you’re ready to go pick up your new dog, right? Wrong.
First, you need to really think through the ramifications of adding a dog to your life. Your new dog will be a living, feeling creature, and you need to make sure you are ready and able to give him the type of life he deserves. So, read through the challenges listed below, and make sure that you are prepared to meet them all before adding a dog to your life.
Dogs Are Expensive
Yeah, yeah, yeah – dogs are expensive. Everybody knows that.
Except that it’s hard to get a grip on exactly how much a dog’s going to cost you, and this can be especially challenging for college students who rarely have a great deal of discretionary income. You probably don’t need the kind of out-of-the-blue financial stress a dog can create.
Think about how you’ll feel when dealing with the following issues:
Dog has fleas and won’t stop itching? He’ll need a good topical flea med. Time to pull up your Amazon account and buy the best flea treatment you can afford.
Ready to go out, but notice your dog is almost out of food? Looks like you’re watching Netflix tonight — you’re gonna need that twenty in your pocket to buy dog food.
Dog ate your roommates’ edibles? You’re heading to the vet. Grab your wallet on the way out the door.
Pup chewed up your date’s shoes while you were canoodling? Looks like you are going shoe shopping in the morning. Better check the bank account (and get mom to add some more money to it – shoes are expensive).
Dogs Can Cramp Your Style
I don’t mean dogs don’t make good wingmen/wingwomen – because they totally do. They won’t really cramp your style in that sense (in fact, dogs are chick/dude magnets). But, they’ll definitely put a damper on your happy-go-lucky, floating-in-the-breeze lifestyle.
Your dog will have daily needs that simply can’t be ignored. He’ll need to be fed a couple of times, let out for bathroom purposes three or four times a day, and provided with plenty of stimulation, love, and exercise. It won’t matter if you just spent six hours studying for finals – these responsibilities will greet you every day, for the rest of your pup’s life.
Your Roommates Must Be Onboard
Unless you want your dog to grow up in a tense and stressful home, your roommates must be comfortable adding a canine to the mix. You may shoulder all of the responsibility for a new pup, but your roommates will have to make adjustments too.
They may get to play with a pup “for free,” but they’ll also have to endure the various (and often smelly) indignities #puppylife can inflict upon a home.
What Happens After Graduation?
Crippling debt and unemployment. Ha, ha, I kid.
You really have to think about your future when deciding to add a dog to the mix. Are you headed for years of internships and living with mom and pop? Are you going to be traveling extensively? Will you be working inhuman hours while paying your dues? Are you interested in renting a glorified closet in-town apartment?
You have to factor these potential scenarios into the should-I-get-a-dog equation. Nobody knows exactly what your future holds, but it is wise to figure out the most realistic possibilities before adding a pup to your life.
Many college-aged people consider getting a dog with friends or roommates. This way, the thinking goes, you can spread out the responsibility of caring for the dog. You may walk the dog this morning, but your roommate will walk him this afternoon while you’re in class.
This approach rarely works out well long term. In fact, it’ll usually end with hurt feelings, resentment, and eventual relocation, as it is difficult to fairly split up these types of responsibilities. In fact, you’ll likely find the whole situation creates nothing but chaos, chaos that gets in the way of enjoying the dog and reaping the rewards of having a four-footed companion.
A few of the most obvious friction points may include:
- Who will take the dog after graduation?
- Who will walk, feed, and clean up after the dog?
- Who will pay the vet bills?
- Who will be responsible for clipping the dog’s nails?
- Whose job will it be to bathe the dog?
- Who gets to name the dog?
And on, and on, and on.
It’s hard enough for married couples and families to cope with these types of challenges, but you’ll likely find that it is nearly impossible to hash out these issues among several roommates or friends.
So, while you should certainly discuss the idea of getting a dog with your roommates, and you should encourage them to play with your new pet, it should be crystal clear that you are the dog’s owner, and you are responsible for his care and well-being.
I know we’ve talked a lot about the challenges involved in dog ownership, but I don’t mean to dissuade you from adding a dog to your life – there are few things in life that can match the love of a good dog.
But pet ownership is a two-way street – you get love, loyalty, and affection, and in return, your pup gets a safe, stable, and nurturing home. It is not something to be taken lightly.
It’s not a short-term commitment either. Even the shortest-lived breeds often reach 7 or 8 years of age. Most smaller breeds – including several of those listed above – often live for twice this long. Can you honestly be sure what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be living that far into the future?
Just be sure that you think things through carefully before getting a dog. Maybe you’ll determine that you can make the necessary commitment to get a dog; maybe you’ll decide that you should wait until next year to get your own pup. Maybe you’ll decide to go volunteer in a shelter for your puppy fix until you graduate and get a home.
As long as you do your best to act in the best interest of you and your future dog, you’ll do fine.