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Best Tiny Dog Breeds: Smallest of the Small

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When it comes to small dog breeds, some people feel the tinier, the better. Tiny dog breeds present a lot of advantages: no counter-surfing (they’ll never reach the counter on their own), little legs make escapes more difficult, and you can keep them pretty much anywhere. So if you dream of owning the smallest dogs out there, these are the breeds for you.

Defining the Toy Group

Small dog breeds come from several different Groups. So long as they weigh less than 22 pounds, people consider a breed “small.” The line for defining “tiny” isn’t as clear. Instead, most people lump tiny dog breeds into the Toy Group.

Toy breeds resemble their larger counterparts, but on a tiny scale. They came from a lot of the other Groups and were gradually bred to smaller and smaller sizes over time. While a spaniel or terrier may not have originated as a lapdog, most toys now hold pride-of-place as companions.

Tiny Dog Breeds, BIG Problems

Tiny dog breeds are cute. No one questions that. Unhappily, the inbreeding required to create the minuscule sizes of many toy breeds generated health problems.

  • Collapsing trachea: Tiny dog breeds should NEVER wear collars. Weak cartilage in the trachea and fragile necks predispose these bitty canines to trouble. A harness prevents the condition from worsening.
  • Dental issues: The persistent teeth (baby teeth) often don’t fall out in tiny dog breeds. This creates havoc in the mouth, even if you follow proper dental care. Your veterinarian can remove the teeth and allow the permanent teeth to grow in properly.

Extra Tiny Dog Breed Concerns

Toting your new puppy around in your dog carrier bag may be a dream come true. And when you have your eyes on that little handful, it’s okay. But tiny dog breeds often cause problems for their owners.

  • Hypoglycemia: Tiny bodies still need proper fuel. Failure to feed your mini dog properly can result in a drop in their blood sugar. This means a rush to the vet for emergency treatment.
  • Accidents: Tiny dog breeds suffer one of the highest instances of trauma. Owners forget to look out for their mini canines, and accidents result. NEVER let your tiny dog out of your sight!

Best Brachycephalic Tiny Dog Breeds

best tiny dog breeds - brussels griffon
Brussels Griffon

There’s something about a flat-faced dog that tugs on people’s heartstrings. You still need to take special care with these tiny dog breeds in the heat to prevent heatstroke. But how can you resist such sweet faces? If you have a soft spot for a squished face, these are the little canines for you.

  • Affenpinscher: While not that common, Affenpinschers are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Their name translates to “monkey terrier” in German, and people comment on the primate resemblance of their sweet faces. They’re spunky, independent tiny dog breeds with big personalities. While not overly affectionate (you can interpret that as “not clingy”), they adore their owners. Best of all, they WON’T get yappy the way most small dogs do!
  • Brussels Griffon: People recognize Griffons from the movie As Good as it Gets. Griffons come in two coat varieties (smooth and rough), as well as four color varieties. While they don’t reach more than 12 pounds, make no mistake: they run the household. They’re also the opposite of the Affenpinscher and require near-constant attention.
  • English Toy Spaniel: Arriving from England (I know, shocker), English Toy Spaniels carry the regal appearance of their homeland. Those chipmunk cheeks hint at the true playful nature inherent to this tiny breed. They may look dignified, but they’re known for goofball antics. Don’t worry about excessive barking, though – they have a calm demeanor overall.

Best Tiny Dog Breed Companions

best tiny dog breeds - Bolognese
Bolognese

Tiny dog breeds entered the scene to provide companionship. Most of the larger hunting and terrier groups they originated from don’t always care to climb into a lap and doze for the afternoon. These mini canines, however, live for the task. If you’re looking for a dog to snooze away beside you while you work, these tiny dog breeds excel at the job.

  • American Toy Fox Terrier: Unlike most tiny dog breeds, the Toy Fox Terrier started small. These little powerhouses found employment routing out rats aboard ships. Nowadays, they prefer a life of luxury as lapdogs. Not weighing more than 7 pounds at full-size, they take the term “toy” literally! However, they don’t like sharing the spotlight. So avoid bringing them into a household with other animals. (And maybe skip keeping them around kids)
  • Bolognese: During the Renaissance in Italy, the Bolognese found favor among noble families. Not much has changed, and waiting lists for this popular tiny dog breed can get extensive. The long, white coats are easy to care for and don’t shed much. These little dogs love accompanying their owners EVERYWHERE. Good thing they’re easy to train. So easy, they know NOT to bark inside, but that it’s okay outside!
  • Chihuahua: Who doesn’t recognize the iconic Chihuahua? They hold the honor as the official dog of Mexico. These tiny dog breeds have one of the longest lifespans of any dog, though it comes with some health issues. Most Chis rarely get above six pounds, which means owners MUST stay on alert.

Best Sporty Tiny Dog Breeds

Italian greyhound
Italian Greyhound

Sharing your life with a tiny dog breed doesn’t mean giving up an active lifestyle. These little dogs don’t need acres of room to roam the way giant dog breeds do. However, many still appreciate the chance to romp and play. Even if you can only offer a small patch of grass or a walk down to the park, these active breeds keep you on your toes.

  • Italian Greyhound: If you adore Greyhounds (who doesn’t?), but lack the space to care for one, an Italian Greyhound is the perfect compromise. Iggies stand 15 inches high, and they top out around 14 pounds. You’ll need to provide a chance for exercise, but on a smaller scale. And when your Iggy finishes, they’ll flop down on the blankets for a snooze. Just make sure you have a TALL fence – Iggies have fantastic jumping abilities and are known to escape yards.
  • Miniature Pinscher: Descended from the Doberman, Min Pins resemble their larger cousins. While they think they look intimidating, they rarely stand higher than 10 inches. When they aren’t prancing (a treat to watch), they love nothing more than racing around and playing fetch. If you have trouble hearing, they’ll step in for you. However, their prey drive is HIGH. Don’t bring Min Pins into a house with cats or other small animals.
  • Papillion: Papillions come in two versions: the standard “butterfly” ear and the Phalene, which has “drooped” ears. Most people reflect on this tiny dog breed’s regal history (Marie Antoinette was a fan). But these little beauties have boundless energy. They’re also extremely intelligent, making it easy to channel that activity into learning new tricks. They don’t like getting left on their own, though, so keep a pet-sitter on stand-by.

No Little Personalities Here

Tiny dog breeds might fit in the palm of your hand, but nothing can contain their personalities. Put them in a room with a giant dog, and the giant dog will bow down first. These mini canines have all of the punch and pizzazz of their larger counterparts.

Whether you’re looking for a tiny travel companion, or just a mini lap warmer, there’s a tiny dog breed for you.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy worked as a Licensed Veterinary Technician for 10 years, focusing on Emergency/ICU and later Cardiology, as well as volunteering at both the Philadelphia Zoo and Virginia Living Museum for over six years. She's now a freelance writer, but she gravitates toward writing projects with a focus on animals (once an animal-lover, always an animal-lover). She lives in Virginia with her fiance', three cats (one "works" as her personal assistant), and a Greyhound who thinks she's a big cat — all of them rescues.

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