Some of the best things come in small packages, and small-breed dogs are no exception. Small dogs, who are considered as such if they grow to an average weight of 25 pounds or under, can do just about everything that large dogs can. Real talk: they’re decidedly better lap-dogs too. Small dogs usually eat less food, are much easier to travel with, and often live longer than their larger counterparts.
Many small dogs are bred to be affectionate and docile companions, but even more energetic breeds still usually need less activity than a larger dog to stay stimulated. Mostly, though, all small dogs want is to be by your side. Here’s a list of some popular pint-sized pups.
Small Dog Breeds
The top contender for best small dog breed is also the smallest of all the dog breeds — and perhaps the most famous. This toy dog is named for the Mexican state of Chihuahua, from which they originate. Purebred Chihuahuas grow to be about six pounds at their biggest and can be all different colors. They can be fiercely loyal to their person and just straight-up fierce with strangers, making them good watchdogs. However, consistent training and regular exercise will enormously help a Chihuahua’s temperament, so don’t just relegate these tiny dogs to your lap. They can do so much more.
One of the best small dog breeds is also the oldest of the toy spaniels, the Papillon. The name comes from the French word for butterfly, referencing its large ears that fan out from its face with lots of silky tendrils. They only grow to be about 10 pounds, so while they’re good with kids, they should be supervised to prevent accidental injury. These small dogs are quite smart and easily trained, which makes them great for dog sports such as agility, rally, and canine freestyle.
Descended from the German Spitz, this tiny eight-pound dog has the face of a miniature bear on the body of a puffball. Like many small dogs, Poms can be quite vocal. They are also delicate, which means they don’t make great dogs for inexperienced kids, as they need a mature handler who can patiently work with them, especially on the barking thing.
4. Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu, which is believed to be the descendant of the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso, is a long-haired pup that can grow between eight and 16 pounds. These small dogs are very affectionate — they make great lap-dogs — and like to make friends with everyone they meet. Their long, flowing manes require pretty consistent grooming. Shih Tzus can also get pretty bad separation anxiety since they were bred to be close companions, so make sure you have the time and attention for these little lovebugs.
5. Mini Dachshund
Sometimes called the “wiener dog” because of its long tubular body, the Dachshund is a small hound breed with itty-bitty legs and a long snout. This smaller variety can weigh up to 11 pounds and comes in all types of colors and hair lengths. They aren’t built for lots of running and jumping but enjoy regular exercise and a weekly brush. Dachshunds are very friendly but can be stubborn and stand up for themselves if mistreated.
The Morkie is a cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Maltese, and typically weighs around 13 pounds. These pups are energetic, super cute, and open to making friends everywhere. This small dog breed can be quite vocal and excitable, but exercise and consistent training, as well as some quiet time to wind down, can help. They don’t shed much, have low dander, and don’t need as many haircuts as the average fluffy dog. One potential challenge is getting them housetrained, as the Maltese, doesn’t love peeing outside.
Coming in at 18 pounds, with a short stocky body, curled tail, and wrinkly folds on their sweet face, is the short-nosed Pug. These small dogs are perhaps best known for their flat faces, which can unfortunately be the source of a lot of health problems. They often need surgery in the first year of their life to enlarge their nostrils to help with breathing, and that’s just the beginning of the list of health issues a Pug faces. They need constant face grooming to keep their airways clear and their eyes cleaned, as they are susceptible to corneal ulcers. Affectionate and sweet companions, Pug-lovers might be better served by a mixed breed that helps with some of these issues, like a Puggle.
Native to Cuba, the Havanese resembles a Shih Tzu but is from the bichon family of dogs. Havenese reaches about 16 pounds when fully grown and makes a great lap dog. They can, however, get quite destructive and loud if left alone for too long. They need companionship and make great therapy dogs for that reason. It’s important to keep their silky fur groomed to prevent mats from forming.
9. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This small British spaniel breed has a very recognizable round face and long silky ears. Their coats come in different colors and grow longer along their belly in a wavy pattern, so they require some brushing. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are quite docile and quiet for an 18-pound dog, making them great companions, but they can get loud if they’re stressed out or bored. They’re quite patient and known for being good with kids.
The Beagle is a scent hound that strongly resembles a Foxhound but only grows to about 25 pounds. They’re affectionate and fairly low-maintenance dogs for a smaller home. They’re not easily trained, though, as they were bred to be high-energy hunting dogs. They also shed a whole lot during shedding season, so have a brush and vacuum on standby. They love being around people and will resort to destructive behavior if left on their own too long.
11. Boston Terrier
This 25-pound popular American dog breed is known for its tuxedo-style coat and tall, pointed ears. Like Pugs, these popular small dogs are bred for their short faces and domed heads, which can cause health issues such as breathing problems and eye disease. Boston Terriers are affectionate and energetic and can be good for families, though they should be supervised while getting to know new kids. They’re fine in smaller homes as long as they get regular exercise.
This 14-pound dog originated in China and was once popular in the Chinese imperial court. Pekingese have flat faces and long, luxurious coats that require careful maintenance. They’re wonderful house pets and love companionship, which means separation anxiety is an issue if they’re left alone too long. Like many old breeds of dogs, they are subject to some hereditary health issues, which can make them expensive pets to keep.
13. Miniature Toy Poodle
Poodles come in several sizes, but the Miniature Poodle is a small dog breed that comes in at about 17 pounds. These highly intelligent and active dogs make friendly companions. Their curly coats are considered hypoallergenic, making them a good choice for people with mild dog allergies. That coat does require grooming, which can be fun for some pet parents who enjoy styling their Miniature in the classic Poodle look. They can be quite sensitive, however, so they do best with a family that has a set routine.
Do small dog breeds need exercise?
All dogs need daily walks, small breed dogs included. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean they’ll be happy cooped up in the house all day. Many small breed dogs were originally bred as working dogs, which means they require at least two walks a day and could still have energy to spare. Even dogs bred to be companion dogs require daily exercise, play, and mental stimulation to keep them from getting bored and into mischief. “Without enough exercise, dogs can develop physical problems, such as muscular, cardiovascular or metabolic diseases, and behavioral problems that are manifestations of frustration and increased irritability,” says Paul McGreevy, Ph.D.
What dog breeds stay small?
Other dog breeds which stay small include Affenpinscher, Yorkie, Miniature Pinscher, Chinese Crested, Japanese Chin, Brussels Griffon, Norfolk Terrier, and Silky Terrier.
What is the smallest breed of dog?
With an adult weight of two to four pounds, Chihuahuas are the smallest dog breed. Pearl, the smallest Chihuahua in the world, weighs just one and a half pounds.
Where can I adopt a small breed dog?
The easiest way to adopt a small breed dog would be through a rescue that specializes in small dogs. Start your search on Adopt a Pet to find all available small-breed dogs in your area.
What health issues do small dog breeds have?
While small dog breeds are generally considered to be as healthy as their larger breed counterparts, there are some health conditions small dogs may be more susceptible to, including:
Small dogs can have unique health challenges, most notably issues regulating body temperature. You’ve probably noticed that many small-breed dogs tend to shake; one reason is that they’re cold. Small dog pet parents must be conscious of making sure their dog isn’t too hot or too cold. Which is maybe just a great excuse to buy adorable tiny clothes?
Small dogs can also be more prone to issues with ruptured or herniated disks in the spinal area, which can cause issues with walking. You can find ways to mitigate this according to how you set up your home for their jumping and climbing needs and stay on top of their physical condition with regular trips to the vet.
Small dog breeds with very short snouts and large eyes — such as Boston Terrier, the Pekinese, and the Shih Tzu — are more prone to eye injuries and corneal ulcers.