A smaller dog means less maintenance, right? Well, guess again.
Though diminutive in size, small dogs have big characters. And big characters often come with many demands and challenges.
If you want to become a dog parent and looking for the right small breed dog, you are reading the right lines. This article will thoroughly describe the needs of small dog breeds. It will also review the top 20 best small dog breeds.
Luckily, there is a perfect fit for every prospective dog parent when it comes to small dogs. And we will help you find yours.
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Why & How To Choose A Small Dog Breed
Before looking into the best small dog breeds, you need to be clear about your reasons for wanting a small dog.
Is it because of its supposed lower maintenance needs? Do you live in a small apartment, and the space is limiting? Or, is it purely an esthetic choice – you prefer cute and cuddly small dog breeds.
With those questions answered, you need to determine which small dog can fit your lifestyle best.
Which Small Dog Breed
As much joy as a cute little fluffy pet can bring to your life, there're costs and factors to take into account.
For example, if you work 9 to 5, you cannot get a small dog prone to separation anxiety. If you are physically active, a lap dog or a purse dog is not a good fit for you.
Living in a quiet neighborhood, a piercingly squeaky barker will cause a rift between neighbours and you. If you have small kids, a snappy dog won't put up with childish shenanigans.
All in all, these are some of the considerations worth keeping in mind before you deciding which small dog breed you should go for.
Small dogs have specific dietary needs. They have faster metabolisms and require smaller but more frequent meals. They are also more likely to have finicky eater tendencies.
Dog parents often wander can small dogs eat large breed food. The answer is no. Let us put the different nutrition needs aside and state the obvious – a large kibble may not even fit inside a small dog’s mouth.
Many of the dogs that stay small are hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic means they produce less dander and shed minimally.
However, they are usually high maintenance in terms of brushing, bathing, and hairstyles.
Basically, they will not make you sneeze, but you will have you take them at the groomer’s saloon almost monthly, and that's an additional cost to account for.
Most small dogs prefer a slow-paced lifestyle – spending time on comfortable sofas, cozy laps, or inside fancy designer bags.
However, some types of small dogs have go-all-day stamina and can outrank you, both speed and endurance-wise.
The small dog syndrome
What small dogs lack in size, they compensate with attitude. Small dogs are prone to snapping, lunging, barking, and even attacking larger dogs.
Small dog syndrome is a serious behavioral issue. And will likely require extensive training and socialization.
TOP 20 BEST SMALL DOG BREEDS
If you're positive that a mini dog will bring that much needed joy to your life and you're happy with taking care of all their needs, it's time to decide which breed will fit best to your lifestyle:
1. French Bulldog
According to the AKC, the French bulldog ranks as 4th on its popularity list. It is a popular small dog breed choice among city dwellers. The breed’s hallmarks are the disproportionally large, bat-like ears.
Weight: less than 28 pounds
Height: 11-13 inches
Temperament: The French bulldog is described as an intelligent, playful, and highly adaptable dog. The quirky yet laid-back attitude makes him completely irresistible.
Grooming: The French bulldog is a low shedder with average grooming needs. However, members of this breed are prone to skin allergies.
Fun fact: The name is a conundrum as the breed’s roots are traced in England rather than France. Because of their bulky built, French bulldogs are very poor swimmers.
2. Boston terrier
The Boston terrier, aka the American Gentleman, started its canine career as a competitor in dog pit fights. Today, because of its squashed face, tuxedo-like coat, and impeccable manners, the Boston terrier is an overwhelmingly popular small dog breed choice.
Weight: 12-25 pounds
Height: 15-17 inches
Temperament: Some Boston Terriers are mellow and even-tempered, while others are sassy with a happy-go-lucky attitude. However, all Boston Terriers are friendly, amusing, and bright.
Grooming: The Boston terrier is a powerful and all-year-round shedding machine. Hence, his grooming needs are high.
Fun fact: Sometimes, it is easier to love a Boston terrier from afar. He's prone to slobbering, snoring, and releasing repulsive gasses. His name is a puzzle, too. The breed originated in Boston, but it doesn’t have a single terrier gene.
Hailing from Mexico, Chihuahuas were highly praised by the ancient Aztecs. Today, Chihuahuas are greatly misunderstood dogs with a particular fondness for barking.
Weight: less than 6 pounds
Height: 5-8 inches
Temperament: Don't be fooled by the size. The tiny Chihuahua has a gigantic personality. She is graceful, arrogant, and sassy. She is also a ticking bomb – it doesn't take much for a Chihuahua to snap and start biting.
Grooming: With minimal grooming needs, Chihuahuas are one of the “wash and wear” types of small dog breeds.
Fun fact: In 2014, a pack of feral Chihuahuas hold the small Arizona city Maryvale under a siege. It took over 6000 Animal Control calls for the authorities to free the townsfolk of the terrorizing and freely defecating Chihuahuas.
4. Maltese dog
This ancient dog originated more than 2800 years ago, on the island of Malta. Set in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, Malta was a crossroad between different civilizations. As a result, the Maltese dog was a frequent accessory to the laps of ancient Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians.
Weight: under 7 pounds
Height: 7-9 inches
Temperament: The Maltese dog has it all, a show-stopping appearance and a giant-hearted affection. Members of this breed are described as charming, playful, gentle, and spunky.
Fun fact: The Maltese dog doesn’t understand the concept of gravity. Given the opportunity, he will jump from anywhere, no matter the height.
The Dachshund, aka the sausage dog, is an enormously-hearted friend trapped in an oddly elongated body. However, the disproportion only adds to his cuteness. Prone to several health issues, Dachshunds are the type of patient every vet dreams of.
Weight: less than 11 pounds
Height: 5-9 inches
Temperament: Dachshunds are curious and spunky, yet friendly and affectionate. Their overall personality is often described as vibrant, bold, and determined.
Grooming: Dachshunds are a “wash and wear” type of dog. They have minimal grooming requirements and are practically odorless.
Fun fact: What came first, the meat deli or the dog? A German butcher invented the famous hot dog. He wanted to create a meat delicacy that would resemble his favorite dog’s shape. So, the dog came before the deli.
6. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is an “all bark and no bite” spunky dog with a bold attitude and impressive, walrus-like mustaches. Tolerant and patient, the Miniature Schnauzer is one of the best small family dogs.
Weight: 10-20 pounds
Height: 12-14 inches
Temperament: The Miniature Schnauzer is a lively, playful, and outgoing dog that adores spending quality time with its family. It loves outdoor activities and chasing smaller pets.
Grooming: Brushing, bathing, hand-stripping, and clipping are all parts of the Miniature Schnauzer’s grooming routine. On the bright side, he is hypoallergenic and will not make you sneeze.
Fun fact: The first Miniature Schnauzer was a black female named Findel. She was born in Germany in October 1888.
Beagles are incredibly skilled scent hounds who specialize in hunting rabbits and hares. The breed’s hallmarks are the oversized ears and high-carried, flag-like tails. The ears are not just an esthetic accessory – they help pick up scents from the ground.
Weight: under 20 pounds
Height: less than 13 inches
Temperament: Beagles are curious, merry, joyful, and a bit goofy little dogs. However, on the field, they are focused and skilled hunters. Beagles are vocal dogs (the French term “bee-gueule” translates to “loud mouth”).
Grooming: Beagles are profuse shedders during shedding seasons and have high grooming needs. The Beagle’s basic grooming kit must include a high-quality de-shedding tool.
Fun fact: The 36th American President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was a big fancier of the breed. He had three Beagles, named Her, Him, and Edgar.
8. Brussels Griffon
The unusually self-important Brussels Griffon enjoys the benefits that come with elite dog status. Namely, the Queen of the Belgians, Henrietta Maria, was the breed’s most important admirer and protector. No wonder Brussels Griffons always look like they are judging us.
Weight: 8-10 pounds
Height: 7-10 inches
Temperament: The toy-like appearance can be misleading. The Brussels Griffon has a rather complex character – described as alert, loyal, and curious. This dog is the ultimate stalker of the canine world. Forget about alone time, you will be followed everywhere (bathroom included).
Grooming: Brussels Griffons are average shedders that need two to three brushings per week. However, their nails are quick-growing and require regular trimming.
Fun fact: The “resting bitch face” was practically invented by the Brussels Griffon human-like facial expression.
What the Pomeranian lacks in weight and height, he compensates with his big-dog demeanor. Maybe this is because his ancestors were some of Iceland and Lapland’s mighty sled dogs.
Weight: 3-7 pounds
Height: 6-7 inches
Temperament: True to its sled dog heritage, the Pomeranian thrives on pack activities. The miniature size is a good mask for what they hide – an aggressive nature and piercingly loud and persistent barking tendency.
Grooming: Pomeranians enjoy their fair share of pampering. Their grooming needs are average, but their pampering is definitely their turf.
Fun fact: Pomeranians make excellent muses. Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel with his Pomeranian by his side. Mozart dedicated an entire aria to his Pomeranian. Martin Luther frequently mentioned his Pomeranian in his reformation speeches.
10. Toy Poodle
Contrary to popular belief, the Poodle originated in Germany not France. Contrary to another popular belief, Poodles were not bred for their fancy looks. They were bred to work – retrieve ducks.
Weight: 4-6 pounds
Height: less than 10 inches
Temperament: The Poodle is an exceptionally bright and intelligent dog. Her overall character is described as proud, agile, and self-confident.
Grooming: Interested in a Poodle? Find yourself a reputable groomer. After all, you will spend tons of hours in his salon. This is because of shedding and that the Poodle’s fur grows continuously. On the bright side, you can forget all about dog allergies.
Fun fact: In 1988, an all-Poodle sled team competed in the Iditarod Dog Sled Race. The devastating outcome birthed a new rule – only northern breeds are allowed to compete.
11. Yorkshire terrier
The Yorkshire terrier is often associated with Victorian nobility. However, its early job was not glamorous at all. Namely, the Yorkshire terrier started its career as a ratter in mills and mines.
Weight: 7 pounds
Height: 7-8 inches
Temperament: The dainty coat may be luxurious and extravagant, but there is a true terrier character beneath it. The Yorkshire terrier is tomboyish, enthusiastic, and affectionate.
Grooming: Shedding is not an issue with the Yorkshire terrier. Nonetheless, the silky and long-coated Yorkies adore pampering sessions. Plus, their topknots need daily brushing.
Fun fact: Yorkshire terriers have broken many smallest dog records. Based on statistics, the most undersized Yorkshire terrier was named Sylvia. She was 2.5 inches tall and 3.5 inches long.
12. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise’s history begins on the largest Canary island Tenerife, sometime during the 13th century. Bichon Frises are genuinely pure and friendly dogs. They don’t believe there is such a thing as strangers – only prospective friends.
Weight: 12-18 pounds
Height: 9.5-11.5 inches
Temperament: Described as comedians, Bichon Frises love being center of attention. They would do anything to keep you entertained, from complex tricks to foolish shenanigans.
Grooming: Specifically bred to be hypoallergenic, the Bichon Frise sheds minimally. However, keeping the hairstyle voluminous and in shape requires frequent professional grooming.
Fun fact: Bichon Frises used to accompany Spanish sailors on their sea quests. Not just accompany, they were valuable items of barter.
13. Jack Russell terrier
The Jack Russell terrier was bred to be the ultimate earth terrier. He is the perfect balance between size, construction, and instinct. Today, he is an intimidating competitor in many dog sports, including fly ball, agility, endurance, and earth-dog trials.
Weight: 9-15 pounds
Height: 10-12 inches
Temperament: Eager and tireless, alert and curious, the Jack Russell terrier is the perfect depiction of a terrier-like personality. He is a creative digger and skilled escape artist.
Grooming: Bred for function over appearance, the Jack Russell terrier is a low-maintenance dog.
Fun fact: Jack Russell terriers can jump as much as five times their height. In translation, the average 10-inch-tall Jack Russell terrier can jump almost five feet.
14. Miniature Rat terrier
The Miniature Rat terrier is a multi-talented dog with blended ancestry. The Rat terrier’s days as a rat exterminator and pit fighter are long behind him. Today, the Rat terrier is a remarkable companion and, despite its size, an excellent guardian.
Weight: less than 18 pounds
Height: 10-13 inches
Temperament: This tenacious and brave guardian is a faithful Terrier. He has a propensity for rather destructive habits – barking, escaping, digging, and chasing everything that moves.
Grooming: Rat terriers have average grooming needs. They shed twice per year and are classified as low-maintenance dogs.
Fun fact: Once, a Rat terrier named Billy cleared his owner’s barn in Suffolk, England, from a rodent infestation by killing 2501 rats. It took him seven hours to complete the task.
15. Shih Tzu
Originating in Tibet, Shih Tzus are a vital part of the Buddhist religion and Chinese mythology. In ancient times, people believed that Shih Tzus could transform themselves into lions. Today, Shih Tzus are among the most popular small dog breeds because of their exotic charm and adorable look.
Weight: 9-16 pounds
Height: 9-10.5 inches
Temperament: A name that translates to “lion dog” gives an impression of arrogance and grace. Shih Tzus are not true to their mighty name – they are mischievous and clownish.
Grooming: Five brushing sessions per week and daily mustache and topknot brushing are mandatory when parenting a Shih Tzu.
Fun fact: Because of its facial color pattern, the Shih Tzu is popularly known as the “chrysanthemum-faced" dog.
First depicted in family portraits in 15th century Italy, today, the Papillon is a popular companion and exquisite therapy dog. The hallmarks of the breed are the butterfly-like and extra-feathery ears.
Weight: 5-10 pounds
Height: 8-11 inches
Temperament: Don’t be fooled by the elegant charm. The Papillon is an athletic dog with a hardy constitution and a athletic spirit. The breed’s overall personality can be described as alert, friendly, and loyal.
Grooming: Once again, appearances can be misleading. Don’t mind the silky, long hair – Papillons need surprisingly little grooming.
Fun fact: The Papillon’s admiring crowd includes royals and noblemen such as Marie Antoinette, Louis XIV, and Madame de Pompadour. As proof of loyalty, Marie Antoinette’s Papillon Thisbe waited outside the prison while his mistress awaited her death sentence.
The Havanese is native to Cuba, but his popularity has no borders. With fanciers like Charles Dickens and Ernest Hemingway, it is not surprising how this breed embarked on the road to worldwide popularity.
Weight: 7-13 pounds
Height: 8.5-11.5 inches
Temperament: The Havanese is a friendly, fun-loving, and outgoing dog. He thrives on human companionship and interactions. His favorite activity is being the center of attention. It may be surprising, but the Havanese is one of the best small dogs for kids.
Grooming: The Havanese’s coat is low-shedding and hypoallergenic. However, its grooming needs are skyrocketing high.
Fun fact: Throughout his history, Havanese dogs were considered exotic and rare. They couldn’t be bought, only gifted. Consequently, following Castro’s Revolution, there were only 11 Havanese dogs left.
18. Shiba Inu
The smallest Spitz-type dog, the Japanese Shiba Inu, is an ancient dog breed. She is like a miniature version of the Japanese Akita. Perhaps the striking resemblance combined with the diminutive size is the reason for this breed’s current popularity.
Weight: 17-23 pounds
Height: 13.5-16.5 inches
Temperament: The foxy-looking Shiba Inu is an alert, confident, and extra courageous little dog. She is good-natured and extremely friendly with everyone. Shiba Inus thrive on human companionship and are prone to separation anxiety.
Grooming: The Shiba Inu is a moderate shedder with average grooming needs.
Fun fact: Because of its sensitive nature and ability to cry, the Shiba Inu is popularly labeled as the drama-queen of the canine world.
The Basenji, aka the “barkless” dog, is an ancient African breed. Because of his unusual appearance and hunting skills, he was praised among Pharaohs and African tribesmen.
Weight: less than 24 pounds
Height: 16-17 inches
Temperament: Basenjis are very loyal and affectionate with their human families. They are immensely energetic and brilliant, which triggers them to do some morally questionable (read destructive) actions.
Grooming: Basenjis are extremely low-maintenance dogs. Lacking the usual dog smell, Basenjis are fastidious and odorless.
Fun fact: Basenjis are a galloping breed. When running, they follow a specific moving pattern that allows them to move impressively fast.
20. Italian Greyhound
Genetically wired to run and race, the Italian Greyhound, can achieve speeds of up to 43 miles per hour. Today, we see them as decorative couch dogs, but underneath the slender elegance, there is a flash-and-dash hound.
Weight: 7-14 pounds
Height: 13-15 inches
Temperament: The Italian Greyhound is sensitive, playful, and alert. She is well-aware of its elegant look and dashing personality. Therefore, Italian Greyhounds settle for nothing less than being the center of attention.
Grooming: The Italian Greyhound does not need special coat care. However, it does require daily teeth brushing. She also needs a sweater – the short coat is not warming enough.
Fun fact: The Italian Greyhound is a susceptible and empathetic dog. She can recognize human emotions based on voice tones.
As mentioned, the combination of diminutive size and huge personality make the small dog parenting experience exciting and challenging.
Contrary to popular belief, raising a small breed dog is often more demanding than raising a large or even a giant dog. Small dogs have specific needs and usually crave constant human companionship.
On the other hand, they are affectionate little fur balls. Even their occasional snappy outbursts are cute. Simply put, raising a small breed dog is an unmatched experience. And, the love you will receive is enough to make the challenges completely worthy.
So, get yourself one and embark on an unforgettable journey. Alternatively, if up to a real challenge – get yourself two small dogs. Parenting two small dogs means twice the responsibility but also twice the fun.
The small dog breed category includes dogs whose body weight is within the 2 to 22 pounds range and are less than 18 inches tall at the withers.
The small dog breeds list includes French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Maltese, Beagles, Italian Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, Poodles, Basenjis, Jack Russell Terriers, Brussels Griffons, and many more.
Yes, generally speaking, they are more likely to live longer. Their lifespans are often in the +15 years category.
Most small breed dogs reach their adult size when 10 to 12 months old.
Basenjis, Italian Greyhounds, and French Bulldogs are frequently listed among the top 10 quietest small dog breeds.
When it comes to IQ, Poodles outrank most dog breeds, not just in the small dog category but in general.
Bichon Frises, Boston Terriers, Poodles, Brussels Griffons, and Papillons are every trainer’s dream as they are intelligent and eager to please. Training these breeds is a piece of cake.
So, what's your favourite?
Wow, you made it! If you already have a favourite small dog, let us know why in the comment section below.
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