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The Best Small Dogs for Every Type of Owner

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The best small dogs
Adult Long-Haired Sable Chihuahua

Admit it: you coo over itty-bitty dogs in purses. There’s just something about the perpetual-puppy face that tugs at our heartstrings. Small dogs are popular with a lot of people, for a variety of reasons – portability is just one of them. If you’ve come looking for the best small dogs, you’re in the right place.

These tiny canines are happy in any size space – apartment, family home, or country estate. Their exercise needs range from an occasional walk around the block to frequent games of fetch. They have personalities that span the spectrum, appealing to anyone and everyone. True, some are better for households with small children than others. Best of all, they have longer lifespans: where larger breeds live 8-10 years, small breeds can live for up to 20 years! So while these diminutive dogs might fit in a box, you can’t confine them to one.

This list is by no means extensive, but hopefully it’ll provide a glimpse into the best small breed dogs have to offer.

En Garde!

Best Small Dogs - Pomeranian Puppy
Brown and White Pomeranian Puppy

While the average weight of a small breed dog is less than 22 pounds, don’t think your new canine companion isn’t capable of defending your home. Many little dogs come with Napoleon complexes, and they aren’t afraid to establish their territories. Though they are tiny, they are fierce!

  • Pomeranian: Pomeranians have a double coat which creates that incredibly fluffy appearance. They stand 6-7 inches tall and only weigh between 3-7 pounds (hard to believe, right?). As the smallest members of the Spitz family, they’re naturally protective of their family members. A daily walk satisfies their exercise needs.
  • French Bulldog: Who doesn’t love a Frenchie’s recognizable bat ears? They’re a brachycephalic breed (their faces and airways are shortened) so watch them in high temperatures. However, they love children and make friends easily – provided you aren’t trying to break into their house.
  • West Highland White Terrier: Everyone is familiar with the iconic Westie image. They’ve been family dogs for the last 300 years! They’re very courageous, and they have a pronounced independent streak. Once a Westie bonds with their family, they’ll guard and defend them.

Small Breed Working Class

Best Small Dogs - Dachshund
Two Dachshund Siting on a Stair

Though small, many of these tiny dogs had jobs in the past: herding, hunting, and pest control. Even if they don’t work those jobs now, they retain the original characteristics and traits in their personalities.

  • Dachshund: Dachshund means “badger dog” in German. They were bred to hunt and track small game. No higher than 9 inches at the shoulder, these little dogs have big personalities – and big barks! They notice EVERYTHING around them. Due to their short legs, they aren’t very demanding in the physical activity department.
  • Jack Russell Terrier: JRTs were bred as ratters, and their boundless energy and need to hunt persists to this day. If you’re looking for a jogging companion, the JRT is the perfect small breed for you. In fact, they need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them out of trouble.
  • Beagle: The Beagle is a common hunting dog today. However, they’ve also made the transition to family companion. Friendly, playful, with hearts as big as their ears, they aren’t big barkers. They may let loose with a howl if the conditions are right, though.

Kings and Queens

Best Small Dogs - Japanese Chin
Japanese Chin with Its Tongue Out

Due to their size, small breed dogs were often companions of royalty: as beloved pets, stylish hand-warmers, or even foot-warmers (royal is royal, right?). Like cats, these royals haven’t forgotten their regal pedigree and expect to be doted upon (only the best will do!).

  • Yorkshire Terrier: Yorkies straddled the line: they were both royalty and ratters. Fanciers agree they have a sophisticated appearance that demands attention. Feisty and brave, this small breed rarely gets above 7 pounds – hardly enough to contain their enormous personalities!
  • Japanese Chin: With a thick mane and plumed tail, no one questions the Chin’s royal lineage. These dogs are quiet and graceful with an affinity for cuddling. Their personalities reflect those of their owners; if you have a calm nature, expect the same from your Chin.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: The Cavalier is so royal, even the name sounds regal! These dogs are calm and relaxed, adopting the aristocratic nature of their history. Don’t let the pedigree fool you, though! Cavaliers are friendly and affectionate, and they love spending time with their owners.

Small Breed Performers

Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise Running Through the Grass

Small breed dogs pack a lot of personality into their compact little bodies. For some, that excess spills over into a need to entertain and perform for the crowd. Many breeds feature in popular films as they are easy to train – and eager to please.

  • Havanese: The Havanese originated in Cuba, coming over from Spain in the 18th century. They don’t get more than 11.5 inches tall, and they have a weather-proof hair coat that requires daily grooming. Natural “hams,” these dogs provide hours of entertainment. They’ll even learn how to swim if you’re up to the task!
  • Bichon Frise: The Bichon was a regular performer, entertaining royals and circus-goers alike. When they’re not putting on a show, they have a quiet demeanor. If you have allergies, their fluffy white coat doesn’t shed (pretty cool if you don’t have allergies!).
  • Boston Terrier: Ever seen a Boston’s naturally big grin? This small breed has a clown’s personality. They love to make you laugh. As sweet as Boston cream pie, be prepared to withstand the gassy nature that comes with this dog’s brachycephalic face.

A Little Something for Everyone

Looking for a regal Pekingese to lounge on your couch?

A Chihuahua to dress in couture?

How about a Miniature Pinscher to patrol the fence of your yard?

No matter your dream, there is a small breed dog out there waiting for you. With a little research, a tiny bit of picture perusing, and a small amount of planning, you can easily find the best furry friend for your lifestyle.

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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 husband, 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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