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30 Best Small Dog Breeds

Dog Breeds

30 Best Small Dog Breeds

For many prospective new pet owners, the choice of a small dog breed comes with many benefits. The size of the pet is more convenient than larger dogs, which means they're easier to keep and maintain in homes with limited space. So you don't need a standalone home with a backyard if you want to have a dog - an apartment will be just fine.

Much like any dog breed, there are certain pros and cons to owning smaller dogs. On the plus side, many of these dogs produce less dander and don't shed as much as larger breeds. Smaller dogs also tend to eat less than their larger counterparts, and these breeds offer greater portability should you decide to travel with your best friend in tow. As for drawbacks, some small dog breeds have health issues due to their breeding backgrounds and could pose serious medical challenges as they mature.

If you are thinking about adopting a small dog, it’s good to do your research. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of thirty breeds you should consider. They each present a good case as to what makes that breed advantageous, but it's really up to you and your lifestyle to decide on the breed that is the best fit.

Related: 11 Tips For A First Time Dog Owner 

 

Basenji

Basenji

You may not be as familiar with the Basenji as other options on our list, but this is a breed that is best-known for its lack of bark (it sounds more like yodeling.) However, don’t be confused into thinking this is a quiet animal. As the Basenji comes from the hound family, you can expect this pup to make itself heard through whimpering and whining. This is a unique type of dog in that it can often behave in ways that are more akin to felines. Basenjis groom themselves in the same manner as cats do.

Life Expectancy: 13-14 years.
Temperament: Smart and independent.
Weight/Height: 22 lbs. 16-17 inches in height.
Grooming: They do most of it themselves.
Exercise Needs: Plenty to keep the dog positively engaged. Otherwise, your Basenji will make a whole lot of mischief.

 

Basset Hound

Basset Hound

While they are often thought of as a breed that lays around and exhibits a lazy demeanor, Basset Hounds were originally bred as hunters to chase down rabbits and various small woodland prey. Instantly recognizable by their long ears that drag as they walk, these dogs continue to remain eager hunters. In fact, their ears are one of the main tools for finding prey as they help to track the scent. But despite their pedigree as hunters, most Basset Hounds don't want to be left outdoors by themselves for a long period of time. They are very social dogs who want only to be by your side.

Life Expectancy: 12-13 years.
Temperament: Patient and real chill.
Weight/Height: 50-65 lbs. 14 inches in height.
Grooming: Brush your Basset Hound daily as they shed profusely.
Exercise Needs: Bassets need moderate exercise. Due to their build, they can have trouble climbing stairs as they get older.

 

Beagle

Beagle

There are two things that Beagles are known for: sniffing and eating. They are expert at both. Since the Beagle is another member from the hound family on our list, these dogs are terrific hunting animals. The nose of this dog is so finely-tuned for sniffing that it has become a popular animal used at airports for detecting the presence of contraband on travelers. Beagles are also pack animals so they are an ideal pet for families. Their diminutive stature makes them well-suited for children to care for and love.

Life Expectancy: 10-15 years.
Temperament: Friendly and social.
Weight/Height: 20-35 lbs. Anywhere from 13 to 15 inches in height.
Grooming: Minimal grooming requirements. Comb once or twice a week due to shedding and a bath won't be necessary more than three or four times a year.
Exercise Needs: A Beagle needs a good long walk regularly.

 

Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

Instantly recognizable by their white fluffy fur that makes them resemble a walking teddy bear, the Bichon Frise will soon take his or her place as the center of attention in any home. This is a spry and lovable breed full of energy and more than just a little pertinence. But these pets exhibit wonderful personalities, which isn't surprising given they were raised to perform in front of large audiences as part of traveling circuses. They fit in well with families with older children as these dogs can grow impatient or even temperamental with younger and more rowdy girls and boys.

Life Expectancy: 14-15 years.
Temperament: Curious and affectionate.
Weight/Height: Up to 18 lbs. 9.5 to 12 inches in height.
Grooming: Due to the nature of the coat, the Bichon Frise does require daily grooming. These dogs don't shed but their coats must be properly maintained.
Exercise Needs: Your pup will need more cuddling than exercise. A short walk around the block should suffice.

 

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier

This dog breed might be small in stature but they’re big in affection and even bigger in confidence. The Cairn Terrier was brought up to have almost no fear, preying on foxes and similar sized prey. They are explorers by nature and are all too happy to dig around in your backyard along with other areas of your property you may not want them to be digging, such as your landscaping. The Cairn Terrier is a loving and loyal pup but they're also curious wanderers, so you can expect to share some of their attention with the environment around them.

Life Expectancy: 13-15 years.
Temperament: Smart yet stubborn.
Weight/Height: 13-14 lbs. and roughly 9-10 inches in height.
Grooming: Combing once a week should be more than sufficient for the style of coat.
Exercise Needs: These are rough and tumble dogs so they will have some energy to expend but they won't need overly lengthy walks or backyard time. 

 

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

Cardigan Welsh Corgi

These dogs are perhaps best known as the favorite dog of Queen Elizabeth. However, her pups are not true Cardigan Welsh Corgis - they are the Pembroke version of corgi. The two styles of this dog can be distinguished by their tail, as the Cardigans have them and their cousins, the Pembrokes, do not. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is full of energy and must always be doing something. As a result, this breed makes an excellent watchdog that does well in homes with children and larger families.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Busy and inquisitive.
Weight/Height: 25-40 lbs. and up to 12.5 inches in height.
Grooming: Weekly combing and grooming is necessary to preserve the look and condition of the coat.
Exercise Needs: Cardigan Welsh Corgis need to harness and expend their energy in positive ways. These are lively and athletic dogs, so it's up to you to make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise.

 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

While this breed has been around for about a hundred years, this dog really grew in popularity when it was featured on HBO's Sex and the City TV series. That wider attention on the breed put an emphasis on its attributes as a combination of a toy breed and a sporting breed in one. They need to be around loved ones all the time or they can become very lonely. Their ideal home is that with at least one person in it at just about all times.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Loving and gentle.
Weight/Height: 13-18 lbs. and 12-13 inches in height.
Grooming: Regular brushing is needed to maintain the coat properly.
Exercise Needs: They don't need too much exercise, just enough to promote activity.

 

Chihuahua

Chihuahua

The Chihuahua needs no introduction. One of the smallest breeds out there, this dog is best known for being a yappy breed with a big attitude. They can be thought of as bossy or domineering, but this is usually the result of poor training. When brought up properly, the Chihuahua can be a charming and lovable pet.

Life Expectancy: 14-16 years.
Temperament: Personable and sassy.
Weight/Height: 6 lbs. and about 5 inches in height.
Grooming: Based on the coat type of your dog, you may need to brush once or more a week.
Exercise Needs: They have little to no exercise requirements outside of the usual walk to go to the bathroom.

 

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniel

One of the best loved and most popular breeds of dog, just about everyone loves the Cocker Spaniel. These are smart and sociable animals that are easy to train, whether you're housebreaking the dog or trying to teach them a trick or two. They enjoy obedience training as it helps to stimulate them both mentally and physically. They also thrive well in homes with families and other dogs or even cats.

Life Expectancy: 10-14 years.
Temperament: Smart and gentle.
Weight/Height: 20-30 lbs. and roughly 15 inches in height.
Grooming: These dogs shed moderately so they need to get brushed multiple times a week.
Exercise Needs: The Cocker Spaniel has a lot of energy and enjoys playtime. They can run around for hours if given the opportunity.

 

Dachshund

Dachshund

The “Hot Dog” pup is another hound on our list, typified by its long, low body and short legs. When it comes to small dogs, this is among the most even-tempered, friendly, and smart breeds out there. If you're thinking of adopting one, you have two different sizes with three various coats from which to choose. Much like other small breeds on our list, your Dachshund won't do well being left all alone. Too much solo time can lead to incessant barking that can start to annoy everyone around you.

Life Expectancy: 12-16 years.
Temperament: Spunky and loyal.
Weight/Height: 11 to 32 lbs. depending on the size, 8 or 9 inches high.
Grooming: Depending on the coat, weekly brushing to professional grooming may be needed.
Exercise Needs: These are energetic dogs that need the opportunity to run and play.

 

French Bulldog

French Bulldog

This is a breed that has only grown more popular in recent years, perhaps due to their personality characteristics and their adaptability for life in the city. Environments like the smaller residences of apartments and condominiums are common homes for this pup. French Bulldogs (or “Frenchies”) are low-key, laid back and easy to own for couples and families alike.

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years.
Temperament: Playful and intelligent.
Weight/Height: Around 28 lbs. and no more than 11-12 inches in height.
Grooming: Easy to groom - brush weekly and be ready for them to drop their undercoat twice a year.
Exercise Needs: They get the urge to zoom around the house so a nice long walk can help to expend that energy.

 

German Spitz

German Spitz

The German Spitz is often confused with the Pomeranian due to its size and shape and appearance of its white fluffy coat. But this breed can get much bigger than an average Pomeranian depending on whether you get a klein (small) or mittel (medium) size Spitz. The most appealing characteristic of this breed is their loyal nature, ready to defend family and home from strangers or anything else the dog perceives as a threat to the homestead. They also do very well in just about any type of climate, so you can live with a German Spitz in Florida or New Hampshire and the breed will feel right at home.

Life Expectancy: 14-16 years.
Temperament: Fiercely loyal and independent.
Weight/Height: 8-26 lbs. and 9-15 inches in height, dependent on the size of Spitz you own.
Grooming: They need regular consistent combing and brushing due to the extent of their shedding.
Exercise Needs: Another breed that likes to go racing around the house at a moment's notice, the German Spitz needs a brisk walk and hearty playtime on a daily basis.

 

Havanese

Havanese

Meet the National Dog of Cuba, the Havanese. As a distant cousin to the Bichon Frise and Maltese, this pup has an affectionate side that allows them to live and play well with other dogs in the same home. This breed makes for a loyal and devoted pet who only wants to play and make you happy in the bargain. These dogs are also sensitive creatures so training them takes a soft touch and a calm disposition.

Life Expectancy: 14-16 years.
Temperament: Funny and intelligent.
Weight/Height: 7-13 lbs. and up to 11 inches in height.
Grooming: Their long coats need daily brushing and regular professional grooming.
Exercise Needs: This is a lively breed that needs plenty of engagement and playtime with loved ones.

 

Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apso

With a name that translates quite literally as “bark lion sentinel dog”, it's no surprise the Lhasa Apso is a devoted watchdog. Not only a devoted watchdog and protector of house and home, this breed is also cautious and calculating. They are suspicious of strangers until the individual proves him or herself to the animal. Small children are not tolerated by the breed, they do much better with older children and adults.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Mischievous and confident.
Weight/Height: 12-18 lbs. and up to 11 inches in height.
Grooming: The breed has a long coat that needs almost constant grooming for proper maintenance.
Exercise Needs: They get bored easily so don't put them through too much training and exercise or they will lose interest.

 

Maltese

Maltese

Dogs don't come much friendlier and pleasant than the Maltese, one of the most social and overall happy breeds to exist. Part of the toy family, the Maltese seems to preserve its youthful presence and demeanor through much of its life span. For those of you who wish you had a dog that could never grow up from the puppy stage, you might want to consider getting a Maltese. If you are allergic to dogs, the Maltese may also be your best bet as this breed hardly sheds.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Charming and pleasant.
Weight/Height: 4-7 lbs. and 8-10 inches in height.
Grooming: Daily combing and brushing, regular bathing. The coat of the Maltese is what you'd call high-maintenance in every sense of the word.
Exercise Needs: The Maltese has very minimal exercise needs. A walk on occasion should be plenty.

 

Miniature Pinscher

Miniature Pinscher

The true origins of the “Mini Pin” may not be accurately known, though some speculate the breed came about from crossing an Italian Greyhound and a Dachshund. This is a diminutive yet highly spirited breed with the confidence and spunk of another dog five times its size. The dog is affectionate and loyal to loved ones and has a relentless sense of curiosity.

Life Expectancy: 12-16 years.
Temperament: Fearless and proud.
Weight/Height: 8-11 lbs. and 10-13 inches in height.
Grooming: Extremely easy to groom.
Exercise Needs: This dog doesn't need much in the way of exercise, but a daily walk should suffice.

 

Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer

If you want an active, lively companion that will be your shadow for much of the day, every day, then your best friend could easily be a Miniature Schnauzer. Recognizable by their bushy brows and long beard, this breed wants only to be involved in everything you're doing. This pup can do it all, multi-tasking along many pursuits from following your every move to keeping one eye on the front door in case someone rings the doorbell. That makes the breed a very devoted watchdog and loyal buddy.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Active with a big personality.
Weight/Height: 11-20 lbs., 12-14 inches in height.
Grooming: Their grooming requirements can get complicated and lengthy, from clipping to trimming to stripping the coat.
Exercise Needs: A long walk or some playtime in the backyard – or both – can do your Miniature Schnauzer a world of good.

 

Papillon

Papillon

The French word for “butterfly”, Papillon describes the visual appearance of this breed as the dog's ears
resemble a set of butterfly wings. A member of the toy group, the Papillon has a similar level of confidence as some of the other dogs on our list and proves that it's not about the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog. The Papillon is a rough customer, ready to adventure.

Life Expectancy: 14-16 years.
Temperament: Joyful and friendly.
Weight/Height: 5-10 lbs. and up to 11 inches in height.
Grooming: Nothing too complex, average level of brushing and combing even if the coat might suggest otherwise.
Exercise Needs: This breed has a lot of energy for such a small size and needs enough playtime and stimuli to keep the dog occupied.

 

Pekingese

Pekingese

Among the oldest breeds in the world, the Pekingese has its origins in China. The dog is referred to as “Lion Dog” because of its aesthetic similarity to the ancient Chinese guardian lion. Here is another small dog breed that believes itself to have a significantly larger paw print in the world. As a result, the dog behaves in a manner that makes it an outstanding watchdog. That does give the dog a level of aggression that may not be suitable for homes with small children and other pets.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Affectionate and confident.
Weight/Height: Under 14 lbs., no specified height for this breed.
Grooming: Due to having a thick undercoat and coarse overcoat, the Pekingese needs daily grooming.
Exercise Needs: Daily activity and exercise is necessary for this breed.

 

Pomeranian

Pomeranian

Calm, easy-going, and gentle by nature, the Pomeranian is extremely cute and vocal. These dogs have a lot to say and they're more than happy to get their point across at full volume. That can make the Pomeranian a challenge to keep in homes that have nearby neighbors. Of course, proper training can help to curb that behavior but even the most well-trained animal is still going to speak when need be. The Pomeranian has more than earned its reputation as being loquacious.

Life Expectancy: 11-13 years.
Temperament: Courageous and curious.
Weight/Height: 3-7 lbs. and 8-12 inches in height.
Grooming: These dogs shed a whole lot, so you can expect daily grooming and vacuuming.
Exercise Needs: Pomeranians love playing with kids so, if you have them, your pup will have plenty of stimulation to keep busy and entertained.

 

Poodle

Poodle

In recent years, the Poodle has gotten a bad rap as a shallow and petulant dog. But in reality, these dogs are some of the smartest animals you can have as a pet. The proof is in their ability to understand and repeat their training. This is an athletic breed that craves daily activity with family members and other dogs.

Life Expectancy: 10-18 years.
Temperament: Active and intelligent.
Weight/Height: Anywhere from 5 to 44 lbs. based on the type and size of Poodle. Up to 15 inches for standard and miniature versions, less than 10 inches for the toy versions.
Grooming: Poodles need regular clipping every 6-8 weeks. But if you allow the coat to grow, it becomes curly and long which can be preferable to some pet owners. Don't let the coats get too long or the pet's skin can get irritated.
Exercise Needs: Poodles crave exercise. Give it to your dog on a routine basis.

 

Pug

Pug

No one really knows where the name "Pug” has originated. There is a popular theory that it borrows from the Latin word "pugnus," which translates to “fist”. Think about how a pug looks and the way it might resemble a clenched fist and you may start to buy into that theory. As for the rest of the dog, this is a loyal people pleaser of a pet and many people own a pug for its larger than life outgoing personality.

Life Expectancy: 10-12 years.
Temperament: Smart and independent.
Weight/Height: 14-18 lbs. with no specified standard height.
Grooming: Pugs shed a lot, so a weekly brushing can get all of that dead hair.
Exercise Needs: Not many as this isn't a dog eager to go running with you. But your Pug will be more than happy to spend some time at the dog park.

 

Russell Terrier

Russell Terrier

Simply put - if you don’t have the time and energy to devote to keeping your Russell Terrier busy and occupied, then you should look elsewhere for a dog in your home. Russell Terriers were bred to be workers and they certainly love to dig and explore. This breed needs a job or a purpose, at all times. Otherwise, you may find your new best friend is a destructive enemy.

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years.
Temperament: Alert and clever.
Weight/Height:12-15 lbs. and up to 12 inches in height.
Grooming: There are two different coats with this breed, but neither one needs a lot of grooming. A brush once or twice a week should be good.
Exercise Needs: As a reminder, Russell Terriers need constant activity and engagement. Long walks, extra time at the dog park, anything your pup can do to stay busy.

 

Schipperke

Schipperke

It's possible you've never heard of this breed before, but this is a dog you shouldn’t ignore. Full of spunk and curiosity, the Schipperke is a great watchdog, a curious companion, and a loving friend who loves to get into mischief. This little dog that looks more like a black fox which only adds to the breed's mystique.

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years.
Temperament: Energetic and clever.
Weight/Height: 16 lbs. and 12-13 inches in height.
Grooming: Minimal requirements for grooming. This is a very easy breed to maintain.
Exercise Needs: This dog loves to exhibit its athleticism and speed whenever it has the opportunity. So giving the dog ample time in the backyard or a local park can make all the difference.

 

Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier (or “Scottie” for short) is a breed that is willing and able to be trained but that you will need to dedicate plenty of time and patience to training. Don't get discouraged as the independence and strong will inherent in these dogs can get in the way. They are also easily distracted because all they want to do is play.

Life Expectancy: 12-13 years.
Temperament: Smart and confident.
Weight/Height: 18-22 lbs. and 10 inches in height.
Grooming: Scotties must get brushed three times a week or more.
Exercise Needs: They have a lot of energy, so long walks and playtime is a must.

 

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog

Like the Mini Pinscher is often confused as a tiny Doberman, the Shetland Sheepdog or “Sheltie” is typically thought of as a small Collie. It's not hard to make that mistake since the two dogs share a similar ancestry. The Sheltie always has a smile on its face making it a warm and friendly pet, except to strangers. This makes the Sheltie a terrific watchdog as they are immediately suspicious of strangers.

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years.
Temperament: Loyal and funny.
Weight/Height: About 25-28 lbs. and 13-16 inches in height.
Grooming: Brushing and combing is required to keep the Sheltie's coat in good health.
Exercise Needs: Agile and athletic, the Sheltie does well on a long walk.

 

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu

Hailing from Japan, the Shiba Inu is a very intelligent dog of small stature. Although the breed is smart and alert, it can be a tough challenge to properly train this dog to do just about anything. That's mostly due to their free-wheeling and independent nature. It is highly recommended you begin to train the dog from a very young age so you can avoid the distractions that often interfere, as the Shiba Inu has a big personality.

Life Expectancy: 13-16 years.
Temperament: Active and alert.
Weight/Height:17-23 lbs. and up to 16.5 inches in height.
Grooming: Very minimal grooming requirements. Weekly brushing and combing will suffice.
Exercise Needs: Shiba Inu dogs love to be active so take yours to the park a couple times a week.

 

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

The Shih Tzu has a royal pedigree, originally bred for Chinese nobility. These are highly affectionate dogs who want only to spend quality time with family. They do need to be physically and mentally challenged through training and obedience sessions because they can get bored quickly. But as always, positive reinforcement through treats and food is the best way to get the job done. Since the Shih Tzu is bred as an in-home companion, they are ideal for homes where at least one member of the family is home all the time.

Life Expectancy: 10-18 years.
Temperament: Proud and loyal.
Weight/Height: 9-16 lbs. and up to 11 inches in height.
Grooming: Very high maintenance, these dogs need to be combed daily.
Exercise Needs: They were bred as lap dogs, so the Shih Tzu has no real pressing exercise necessities.

 

Whippet

Whippet

This breed looks a whole lot like a Italian Greyhound, whether standing in place or running at full speed. The Whippet can go fast, up to 30 miles an hour when given the chance. This makes it the fastest small dog breed out there, so if you need a running buddy the Whippet can keep pace. These dogs are incredibly friendly, loyal to their loved ones, and easy to train.

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years.
Temperament: Elegant and athletic.
Weight/Height: 25-35 lbs. and up to 22 inches in height.
Grooming: The Whippet doesn't shed very much and has a short coat. Basic grooming is all they need.
Exercise Needs: These are strong, muscular dogs bred from greyhounds and terriers. You can bet this dog is going to need plenty of exercise.

 

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier

The Yorkie is awfully cute and just as spry. This is a dog that loves to play and wants to spend time with other dogs, even cats. But that's about it as they don't get along particularly well with children as the dog can get injured easily with young kids who are hyperactive. The Yorkie is tough and may show aggression in these kinds of stressful environments, not as a way of attacking a child but for protecting itself in a situation that feels unsafe or dangerous. For this reason, Yorkies don’t make the best pets for families with young children.

Life Expectancy: 11-15 years.
Temperament: Spunky and tenacious.
Weight/Height: 4-7 lbs. and 8-9 inches in height.
Grooming: This is another high-maintenance dog when it comes to grooming. Just know that going in, you will be doing a lot of work to keep your Yorkie looking good.
Exercise Needs: Yorkies love running. They want to go fast and be in the center of the action.

Want to learn more about different types of dog breeds? Check out the Two Tails blog!


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