If you are thinking about bringing a small dog into your home, you’re probably wondering how to choose the best small dog breeds out there. The thing is, there is no proper way to answer this – every breed has different pros and cons of ownership and it really depends on what you are looking for in a dog. Are you looking for a heartwarming cuddly bundle of fur or are you looking for an active little bugger that can keep your kids busy for hours on end?
Again, all dogs are different and some will not even live up to breed standards (ones that are known for hardly ever barking will have one here and there that are very vocal, for example). But no matter what you are looking for in a dog there is a breed out there that is just right for you and your family. Here are our 10 picks for best small dog breeds and a brief overview of the breed to help you make your decision!
Welsh Corgi (Cardigan or Pembroke)
There are two different breeds of the Welsh Corgi and technically they are two entirely different dogs not sub-breeds of the same dog, but I have categorized them together for the sake of this list, since they have so much in common. Depending on how small of a small dog you are looking for, the corgi may not be the right dog for you as they can grow anywhere between 24-28lbs for the Pembroke’s and 30-38lbs for the Cardigans. On the other hand they are very low to the ground and only stand about 10-11 inches tall.
Corgis were originally bred for herding and those instincts are still very present in the modern day corgi. They have a nipping-your-heels tendency from the time they are very young and they are often found trying to “herd” the children of the family so this is a habit to watch out for when they are very young.
They also make great alert/watch dogs. They probably won’t go attacking the intruder but they sure will let you know someone is there! They might also let you know if things are out of place or just seeming out of the ordinary – they are very intelligent and they know when something just isn’t right.
For such a short-legged dog, they can run and play for many more hours than you would expect. They make great exercising partners if you like to go running or jogging and they need that exercise to stay at a healthy weight. (Corgi obesity is a problem to watch out for, so making sure they get the right amount of exercise is important!) They are very affectionate and loving and they love to please their humans and they are also great with kids, making them an all-around great dog. Why else would the Queen of England choose to have a pack of Cardigans?
The Dachshund is another breed that has a longer back and shorter, stubbier legs, but don’t let the wiener dog look fool you, these little guys are brave, smart and quick. They were originally bred to hunt badgers, rabbits and other small game. This breed is great for just about any living situation since they do very well both in apartment homes and homes with large yards to run in. As long as they get the proper amount of exercise (so they don’t literally become a sausage dog!) then you will have your dachshund around for many years of playful and happiness.
Dachshunds come in three different “types” including smooth, wirehair and longhair. The smooth (or short hair) dachshunds are the most popular breed in the US because they are easier to maintain. With the wirehair or longhair breeds you will need to be prepared not only for a little more shedding, but the responsibility of brushing their coats at least once a day to prevent matting. Other than making sure they get regular exercise and brushing these dogs are relatively low maintenance which is another reason for this small breeds’ popularity.
These dogs are happy to be with their families and love to make their humans happy in any way they can. Like most hounds, they are very intelligent and very proud and independent and that can make a dachshund difficult to train. You need to be prepared to spend time and money into proper obedience training – especially if you have never owned or trained a dog prior to owning a dachshund. Really though, the dachshund makes a brilliant addition to almost any family.
A Jack Russell Terrier is a very energetic, loving and playful breed of small dog. If you ever watched the 90’s TV show Wishbone, then you know exactly what a Jack Russell should look like! Don’t let the well-trained show dog fool you though, owning a Jack Russell is quite the challenge and is not the best option for inexperienced dog owners or families with very young children.
While the Jack Russell is great with older kids, their tendency to get overexcited can be a little too much for small children – on the other hand older kids will love to play and run around with one of these little guys for hours in the backyard!
Jacks were originally bred as hunting dogs in England, which means that those hunters’ instincts are still well alive in todays breed. These dogs are well known for getting themselves into trouble because of their bravery and instincts to hunts. They will chase after a cat, squirrel and any other small animal it thinks it can catch. Jack Russell’s are also known for being brave enough to challenge any large dog, which can get it into trouble if you aren’t paying attention say at your local dog park.
These dogs are also clever as can be, making them a wonderful escape artist. An electric fence will not stop their urge to hunt down the neighbor’s cat, so beware, all outside time should be supervised! Even if you have a tall fence that goes deep into the ground (wood is better than chain-link, which they are known to climb if needed) you will want to keep a close eye on him while he is outside.
This breed is rather small, ranging from 11-19lbs in most cases, which makes him a popular breed of family dog – but many of them end up in shelters because the owners were not aware of the challenge involved in raising a Jack Russell Terrier. This dog isn’t for everyone, but if you have the time and patience to train him properly, he will be your best friend until the end.
The Pomeranian is mostly known for being an adorable little poof-ball with lots of energy and that description really is quite accurate. These dogs are a part of the Spitz family of which they are the smallest (other dogs in this family include the Alaskan Malamute, American Eskimo Dog and the Shiba Inu as well as many others).
The Pomeranian generally only weighs between 3 and 7lbs regardless of how big their fur may make them appear. Though their fur may make them seem like a high maintenance breed, the truth is that a thorough brushing once a day should do the trick to keep them looking good!
A Pomeranian will make an excellent watch-dog as he will surely make sure you know when somebody has arrived – but you should work early on to train your Pomeranian to stop barking on command as they will go on and on otherwise.
Also, this breed is better suited to older couples and families who have older children and this is for the safety of the dog and the children. A young child who doesn’t know any better could easily become a bite victim after tugging the dogs tail or moving their food away from them while they are eating and a Pom can easily be victim to the rough play of a child because of their small bodies.
Early socialization of your Pomeranian will help to ensure proper manners around people of all ages and animals of all sorts. Without early socialization any dog (but Pom’s especially) can become aggressive with other dogs, especially those of the same gender as them.
A Pomeranian is not terribly hard-headed and they learn a lot in a very short period of time, but you should always keep training sessions sort and start as early as possible for the best behaved pup you can have. They are a little stubborn when it comes to potty-training though, so you need to have patience if you plan to get a Pomeranian pup.
The Maltese is a unique little guy, one of the smallest of all the small dogs, weighing in at 7lbs at most. They are known for their gorgeous white coat, which is relatively easy to maintain with daily brushing and regular trips to the groomers. These dogs are also known to be “hypoallergenic” or as much so as any dog can be, since they do not shed very much at all. Their small size makes them easily suited for apartment living and since size restrictions are in place in most apartments or condos, this makes the Maltese a great option for many people.
On the other hand, you should be aware of the fact that the Maltese, (as well as any toy breed) is a rather fragile dog and it can easily be hurt if stepped on, tripped over, or accidentally sat on because he was curled up in your blankets. A smaller dog that is more sturdy (such as a corgi or beagle) is generally more suited to a family that has small children – after all, children don’t mean to be clumsy or to not pay attention, they simply haven’t learned enough yet to have the caution needed when owning a small dog breed.
A Maltese is a relatively easy to train dog, since most of them simply want to please their humans. With positive and respect training you can do wonders for training this breed, they are extremely intelligent. Although, they are more stubborn than most breeds are when it comes to house training, so be prepared to be patient!
Some people recommend a doggy door that leads to an enclosed area in your yard for the dog to “do his business”. (Some people suggest litter boxes or puppy pads, but any Maltese can be taught where to use the bathroom, it just might take a while.) These dogs are great companions and they will love you whole heart, but they also are susceptible to separation anxiety if left alone for too long.
The Boston Terrier is a loving, caring dog that surprisingly developed after originally being bred as a fighting dog. This did not last long as these dogs really are lovers, not fighters by any means. They enjoy running around the yard and going on walks with their owners. Some Boston Terriers end up bonding more to one person rather than the whole family, but this is not always the case. They make great family pets, especially since they are rather muscular for their small size (weighing around 10-25lbs) and can more easily stand up to small children’s rough play.
Training the Boston Terrier is generally very easy and they respond extremely well to positive training techniques. They make great watch dogs and will alert you to anyone approaching your home (possibly people passing by as well), but they are by no means a guard dog. They are not likely to get aggressive with anyone, especially when properly socialized from a young age. The Boston Terrier does have a tendency to be a little hyperactive and even stubborn from time to time, but this is not unusual for any breed.
If you can handle the potential health risks these dogs suffer because of their short snouted or “pushed in” looking faces, then this breed makes a great pet for first time dog owners. The biggest concerns is making sure that your Boston terrier does not overheat during walks – so if you live in a more tropical climate, then you should take your walks early in the morning and later in the evening.
The rest of their maintenance is relatively simple since they have a sleek coat that requires little care outside of regular brushing and bathing and they do not need an abundance of exercise to stay happy and healthy.
The French Bulldog is an extremely loving, affectionate and family oriented dog breed. They are one of the most loving small breeds around and they have pretty much always been a house pet, rather than a working dog. Just like the Boston terrier, these dogs are known to have health problems that are in line with them having a rather short snout, which makes it difficult to cool the air they breathe in – so living in a cooler area or taking walks during the coolest times of day is the best way to avoid overheating your little Frenchie.
While they are happy to be docile, couch potatoes (especially in old age) they are very playful and will play fetch for hours on end if you would let them. The younger they are the more hyperactive a French bulldog can be – though they do not require the same amount of exercise as say a corgi needs in order to stay healthy and happy. They make great watchdogs and will gladly alert you to guests arriving, but otherwise, they are generally quiet dogs and don’t bark often.
A French bulldog can be somewhat stubborn when it comes to making a decision – on the other hand this is not to say they are difficult to train. As long as you use proper positive training techniques, these dogs are quick to pick up on what you are teaching them. House training can be difficult but nowhere near impossible. These dogs are intelligent and they will love on you and give you affection as long as that is what they see they get in return. They will be happy to sleep at your feet and follow you around the house all day, really they just want to be a part of the family.
The Yorkshire Terrier is an adorable and proud looking little dog that weighs no more than 7 or 8lbs at most. These little guys are a great example of small dog syndrome – they often want to think they are much bigger than they are and will bark at any larger dog or intruder they think is going to get between them and their owner. A Yorkie is a very loyal companion, but beware some of them bond quickly to a single family member, especially if only one family member does the majority of the care taking such as feeding, brushing and playing.
These small dogs are extremely fragile, which can be dangerous around young children, but older children who are knowledgeable in how to handle a small dog will love to play for hours in the living room or back yard. Yorkie’s don’t need a ton of exercise to keep their lightweight bodies in great shape, a couple walks and a little bit of playtime during the day is more than enough to keep these little guys happy and healthy. Their compact size and lack of need for excessive exercise makes the Yorkshire terrier a great dog for many apartment or condo families.
A couple of things you need to look out for in a Yorkshire terrier besides his small and fragile build, is the fact that they can be difficult to housebreak and can severely suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods of time.
Housebreaking small breeds is always a little more difficult than with larger breeds it seems, but a little patience and persistence will always pay off in the end. As far as separation anxiety goes, if you are often away from your house for most of the day, a Yorkie may not be the best dog breed for you as your neighbors will not appreciate the barking and crying until you return.
The small dog breeds on this list are some of the most popular and loyal dogs around. They are all lovers rather than fighters and they just want to be a part of your family. If you are not prepared to be around most of the day, then certain breeds may not be well suited to your lifestyle.
Always make sure you do your research and know as much as possible about the breed you are wanting to bring home. This is the best way for you to get an idea of what you will be working with before you realize you were not prepared for the responsibilities that the breed requires.
If you do not think you will have time for house breaking your dog (especially if you are looking at one of the breeds that has difficulties with this) then you may want to consider getting an adult from a rescue or shelter. Many dogs left to these shelters are purebreds that people gave up when they decided they could not handle the dogs’ personality or needs. They are often trained, housebroken and fixed before you ever get the dog, which can save you time and frustration as well as money.
This list is meant to be a guide, to give you a sneak peek into what it is like owning each of these popular small dog breeds. If you read about any of these little guys and looked at the pictures and thought, I really want one of them, don’t let your research end there! Learn all you can, talk to breeders and ask questions! This cannot be emphasized enough – all breeders should be happy to answer your questions honestly and with proof in the case of health questions – if you are thinking about getting a particular breed, no one will be more helpful than a reputable breeder!