GENERAL BREED INFO

Miniature Dog Breeds: They’re Small & Cute, But Are They for You?

Miniature dogs
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Many people get confused between small, toy and miniature dogs and this is not surprising in the least. Surely miniature dog breeds should be smaller than a small dog and toy dogs even smaller than that!

This however is not the case, the title miniature does not necessarily equate to the dog being ‘smaller’ but rather smaller than others in the same breed. Breeds include (and we’ll cover):

  • Miniature Mexican hairless
  • Miniature American Eskimo dog
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Miniature Daschund

Things to consider before getting a miniature breed

There are many things to consider before adding a miniature dog to your family and these include:

Size

Generally a small dog is considered to be under 22lb OR shorter than 16 inches. This equates to quite a mix of breeds being in this category (miniatures included) and can make it a little misleading. For example:

BreedWeight (lb)Height (inch)
Chihuahua     6-86-10
Staffordshire Bull Terrier24-3614-16

As you can see the size difference between these two breeds is phenomenal and yet they both fall into the same size category. Before choosing a miniature dog ensure you know what size he or she is likely to grow to.

Trainability

Every dog breed can be trained but some are easier to train than others. Do not be fooled into thinking, miniature dog, minimal training!

Miniature dog trainability

Research the breed you are interested in and find out how trainable they are.

Shedding

Some miniature dogs shed virtually no hair making them ideal for people who are looking for minimum maintenance. There will always be some vacuuming and grooming to do with any dog but pick the right miniature and this will only be occasional.

Children

Most small dogs are great with kids as long as they are brought up with them from being a puppy. However no dog, small or large is going to like having their hair pulled, being poked in the eye or having their ears tugged. This kind of behavior from children can result in a bite and just because you have a miniature dog, it doesn’t mean it isn’t going to hurt.

Watchdog

Virtually all small dogs make good watchdogs as they will growl and bark when a stranger is on your territory.

Miniature watchdog

They may even chase people off, after all who could forget the YouTube clip of the little Yorkshire terrier chasing off a big burly burglar?

Allergies

Despite popular belief it is not dog hair that causes allergies to dogs, it is dog dander. This is dead skin flakes that every dog has, but choosing a miniature dog that is low shedding should lower the risk of allergy.

Health concerns

Miniature dogs expend less energy than larger dogs resulting in muscles, bones and internal organs usually staying healthier longer. This means that small dogs also tend to live longer than large dogs. Whilst this all sounds like good news there are some health concerns that can affect smaller dogs more than larger ones.

Patellar Luxation is the dislocation of the knee joint that can cause pain and limping in dogs of all sizes. Smaller dogs however can tolerate the discomfort longer and hide the symptoms far better than larger dogs; this is because of their lighter bodies. Left untreated this can become a serious problem. Smaller dogs also have more fragile bones which can lead to breaks when they are dropped or jump away from their owners when being carried.

Patellar Luxation

Brachiocephalic Problems can be caused by the squashed faces of smaller dogs such as the pug, Pekingese, Shih Tzu and others may be cute but can cause serious breathing problems like wheezing, snorting and heavy panting. Dogs that live in higher climates are at higher risk of being affected.

Puppy births can also be problematic for smaller dogs as they have narrow pelvic openings. Caesarean sections are very common.

And finally temperature extremes are a serious threat to smaller dogs which can lead to sudden death. Their smaller body area means they do not adjust to excessive heat or cold as well as larger dogs

Miniature dog stereotypes

There are many stereotypes made about smaller dogs which can lead people either to avoid them or pick them.

Miniature dog food and care

This can lead potentially to people having to rehome their dog when they do not fit the standards they expected, or people simply not choosing them because they don’t think they’re a good fit. In the interests of neither of these happening, lets bust some myths:

  • Small dog, small space – this is not necessarily true for a couple of reasons, one of which we have already covered; a small dog does not necessarily equate to a ‘small’ dog. Plus many small dogs are far too high energy to be kept in small spaces.
  • Yappy and snappy – yes a good number of small dogs yap rather than bark but this does not automatically mean they are yappy. Some breeds are more prone to bark than others, but the same can be said about any dog breed or size. Regarding snappy again a small dog is no more likely to snap than a large dog.
  • Little legs, little exercise – this is certainly true of some of the smaller breeds but again not all. Quite a few smaller breed dogs are high energy and need higher levels of exercise.
  • Cuddly lapdog, cutesy handbag dog – whilst some dogs like to be on their owners knee enjoying cuddles, others don’t. Having a small dog is no guarantee that they will enjoy or tolerate this kind of affection. Not all dogs like to be carried around either, especially not in carry cases or handbags. Dogs have legs for a reason and you should let them use them as much as possible.
  • Small dog syndrome – this does indeed exist and is not a myth at all. It is however not the dogs fault if they suffer from this, it is their owners. For some reason most people treat small dogs differently than they would large and allow them to get away with behaviors such as jumping, growling and sitting on your lap when lap when eating under the guise it’s cute. Small or large these behaviors are not cute and should not be allowed.

The right miniature breed for you

Once you have considered all the above information about miniature breeds and decided that they are definitely for you, it is time to find the specific breed that fits you best.

Quick guide

BreedTrainingSheddingEnergyWatchdogChildrenPopularity
Mexican Hairless7/109/107/108/1010/10N/A
American Eskimo7/100/108/109/1010/104/10
Bull Terrier2/104/108/109/1010/103/10
Pinscher7/106/109/106/1010/109/10
Schnauzer9/109/108/1010/1010/1010/10
Poodle10/109/1010/1010/1010/1010/10
Daschund (smooth)5/105/108/1010/1010/1010/10

The above should only be taken as a rough guide to each dog in the miniature breed standard. Every breed has other traits and behaviours which should be taken into account, so you need to research them further before making your decision. Following is a short bio of each dog to give you further information.

Miniature Mexican hairless

AKA – xoliotzcuintli, tepeizeuintli, xoloitzcuintle and xolo

Height – 9 to 14 inches

Weight – 5 to 15lbs

Appearance – The Mexican Hairless can have a short tuft of hair either on its head or tail. Its skin will be soft and smooth in black, slate grey, bronze, brindle, red, fawn and may be solid colour or spotted. Some Mexican Hairless are also born with a coat which is soft, sleek and clean looking. On average a litter of five will have one coated dog. They are easily recognised by their large bat like ears and as they mature their coat / skin may change color.

Miniature Mexican hairless

Traits – These dogs are known to be intelligent, loyal, alert, athletic and loving. They can if allowed bond with just one member of the family, so ensure everyone interacts equally with this breed to avoid this. Mexican Hairless can be protective and tend to be aloof with strangers. They are easy to house train and learn quickly. It has been found recently they make excellent therapy and agility dogs.

Be aware that they will not tolerate abuse and do not settle well in an unstable environment. They also do not bark so you really should listen when they do. As they are hairless there is no shedding, no dander and definitely no fleas making them an excellent choice for those with allergies.

History – There has been records of the Mexican Hairless for more than 3000 years dating right back to the Mexican Mayans. Unfortunately though they nearly became extinct in the 1950’s despite being a Mexican national treasure.

Miniature American Eskimo

Height – 12 to 15 inches

Weight – 10 to 17lbs

Appearance – The American Eskimo has a medium length, thick, double coat in either white or biscuit cream, which it naturally sheds…… everywhere!

Miniature American Eskimo

Traits – Intelligent, alert, friendly and eager to please describes the American Eskimo to a tee. This dog loves company and does not do well without love and affection. A lack of these things will result in bad behavior such as digging, chewing and barking. They are easy to train and great at learning tricks which is a good way to use some of their high energy. They are very protective and can take time to warm to strangers but generally good with children. They also make excellent watch dogs who will bark to alert you.

History – The American Eskimo is a member of the Spitz family first noticed in 19th century America. They are however believed to be of European descent and became popular due to use as a trick dog in circuses. The American Kennel Club recognized this breed in 1995.

Miniature Bull Terrier

Height – 10 to 14 inches

Weight – 20 to 35lbs

Appearance – The Bull Terrier has a short glossy coat either in white, black, brindle, tan, red or white and fawn.

Miniature Bull Terrier

Traits – The Bull Terrier is strong willed, playful, fun, rough and tumble, high energy and loving. They get hugely attached to their owners and will want to play a big part in their lives. They should not be left alone for too long as they will dig and chew from boredom. Bull Terriers make excellent watch dogs but do not get on too well with other dogs and pets.

They also have no fear and will think nothing of standing up to dogs far larger than themselves. Homes with small children are probably not ideal for this dog as they can be a little bit too rowdy. Bull Terriers need plenty of exercise.

History – The Bull Terrier is actually a cross breed from the 19th century, mixing a Bull dog with a now extinct White English Terrier. These were bred to hunt rats, herd and guard and exhibited for the first time in 1914. The kennel club did not recognize this breed until 1991.

Miniature Pinscher

Height – 10 to 12 inches

Weight – 8 to 12lbs

Appearance – The pinscher has a smooth, short coat and is always two color. The mix of colors can be black / red, black / tan, brown / tan, blue / tan / red or fawn / tan /red.

Miniature Pinscher

Traits – Also known as the min pin this dog can be bold, proud, confident, fearless, highly curious and playful. They have endless non-stop energy and love to chase, play and chew. They are loving and lively but quite often bond with just one person. The min pin is easily trained and a very quick learner but can be independent and defensive. They may nip at adults and children if roughly handled or trained. They mainly get on with other pets in the house as long as they are well socialize as a puppy.

Min pins’ can be difficult to house train. This breed makes an excellent watch dog that will bark and challenge anything that is not right. They are not very friendly with people outside of the family. In winter they need to be protected from the cold with blankets, jumpers and coats, and they should be watched carefully in the garden as they are the Houdini’s of the dog world. Min pins will also need their diet watching carefully as they are prone to putting on weight.

History – Miniature pinschers came from Germany in the 19th Century and were used as farm dogs to keep rats at bay. They were recognized by the kennel club in 1925.

Miniature Schnauzer

Height – 11 to 14 inches

Weight – 10 to 18lbs

Appearance – The miniature Schnauzer has a double coat that is medium in length and comes in salt and pepper, black and silver and solid black.

Miniature Schnauzer

Traits – Active, happy, energetic and affectionate all describe the miniature Schnauzer. They will bond with all the family they are brought into but also have a favorite. They will need a daily walk to release energy or they will go wild and get into trouble and mischief. They are easy to train and obedient but can be stubborn and feisty. They make good watch dogs and have a deep resonant bark that would suit a much larger dog. They may not get on well with smaller dogs and cats but love children.

History – Found in Germany from the 15th century these dogs were used to chase down rats and vermin. They were recognized by the kennel club in 1926.

Miniature Poodle

Height – 11 to 15 inches

Weight – 15 to 17lbs

Appearance – Poodles have long, soft curly hair that comes in solid white, black, apricot and grey. They will require clipping every few months.

Miniature Poodle

Traits – Poodles are lively, sensitive, playful, loyal, energetic, happy and loving. They will attach themselves to the whole family and do not like being left alone. Doing this will result in them being mischievous and destructive.

Poodles are easy to train and love games and agility which is good as it uses some of their high energy which requires lot of exercise. A lack of exercise can make them nervous and high strung. Poodles can be demanding and jealous but make outstanding watch dogs whose only flaw may be excessive barking. They should always be supervised with young children as they can be nippy and nervous around them.

History – The poodle’s origins are uncertain but they are thought to have come from France or Germany. It is more likely that it would be France as it is their national dog and the breed was a favorite of King Louis XVI.

Miniature Dachshund

Height – 8 to 9 inches

Weight – 9 to 11lbs

Appearance – The dachshund has a short, shiny, smooth coat which can be black, tan, cream, red, brown or a combination of these colors.

Miniature Dachshund puppies

Traits – Bold, tenacious, devoted, loving and protective are all traits of the dachshund. They have lots of energy and loves to be a part of everything their owner does. They can however be jealous due to the fact they build close bonds with people. Dachshunds also make dependable watch dogs that are relentless barkers with huge barks. They will need moderate daily exercise but should not be left in yards or gardens.

They are fine with other dogs but may snap and bite at them and humans when excited. Due to this and their possessiveness of people and toys, they are not really suitable for families with young children. Dachshunds need patient training as they can be stubborn and are only really interested I learning what suits them.

History – Dachshunds originate from 17th century Germany where they were used as fearless badger hunters. They became popular in America in the early 1900’s but this popularity waned during world war one.

There may only be a few breeds of miniature dogs out there but whether you want loyal, energetic, playful, protective, mischievous, agile or even stubborn; there is a miniature out there for you.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Anne Hunter

    Though I have a great bias, poodles are highly recommended. They have lively personalities and even though they aren’t as smart as the media/internet portrays them they are nonetheless clever dogs. The one advise I can share regarding miniature poodles is to absolutely avoid weight gain. Avoid it like the plague. Minis are also more prone to bloat (though not if you monitor their food intake) so keep that in mind as well. In any case, good luck on a wonderful journey of miniature pooches!

    • Poodles are great mini breed because they are smart and got that pleasing personality to add up to the charm. They are, like any Poodle size, quite prone to bloat, so the pet parent should watch out on feeding schedule and frequency.

  • KittyDaniels

    I don’t know if I’m right, but I’ve noticed that small dogs are almost always the instigators in a fight. Has anyone noticed that, too? I see some small dog coming up to a big dog and they start acting ferocious. Small dog syndrome or inadequate socialization? What do you all think?

    • Small dogs can be very, very snappy and will not mind being aggressive towards a dog twice their size.

  • judy watson

    I didn’t even know that small dogs are sooo active! They always want to play with you, run somewhere and swim. These friends require a lot of attention and time for sure :)

  • Not only they can have a big personality, they also have lots of energy in such a small frame. Most mini breeds will try to get your attention, and they aim to please.

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