Pet Wellness Guides > Small Dog Breeds | Ultimate Guide to Small Dogs

Small Dog Breeds | Ultimate Guide to Small Dogs

Posted: 02/20/2023 | BY: Erin Cain | Categories: Dog , Pet care , Top Tips

Sometimes the best gifts come in small packages, and that certainly applies to small dog breeds. If you’re looking for a dog with a big personality but a shorter frame, there are plenty of smaller pups you can choose from to add to your family.

From the Boston Terrier to the French Bulldog, there is something for every pet parent when it comes to tinier canine companions.

Once you’ve decided to open your heart and home to a small dog, but which breed is the right one for you, your lifestyle, and your family? Are you looking for a cuddly lap companion? Do you want a “portable” puppy who can travel with you when you’re on the go? Is a small breed who is good with children your number one priority?

Our ultimate guide to small dog breeds can help guide you to the best canine match.

Bringing a Small Breed Dog Home

Bringing a small breed dog into your home is a very special occasion. And it’s one that deserves a lot of thought and preparation. 

The first thing you should do is look at your home from your very tiny dog’s point of view. To do this you will want to literally get down on your hands and knees and see your house from their height. 

Does the furniture loom overhead? Is the kitchen floor one huge slippery surface that seems to go on and on forever? This is how your new pup will view it and they may be overwhelmed and find getting around at first difficult, especially if they are a puppy.

Look at where their dog bed will be and how far away from the water bowl it is placed. Will this be a simple trot to get a drink or will it seem more like a marathon to get there? Make it easy for their little legs to get to important things and space.

If you allow your pets on the furniture, can they get up on their own or would they benefit from a step or two to get up and down?

The more you can view your space from your small dog’s point of view, the more you can make it feel safe and inviting to your new furry baby.

The upsides of owning a small dog

Aside from their adorable faces and cute antics, there are other benefits to owning a little dog. Here are some positives to small dog ownership:

Small dogs can be cost-effective

Unlike larger breeds, small dogs tend to cost less overall, which means you can have the love and loyalty of a dog but at a cheaper cost. On food alone, a small dog will save your money; the larger the dog breed, the more you’ll end up spending on food. These are other areas where owning a small dog breed will save you some money:

  • Veterinary care, including vaccinations, medications, medical procedures and surgeries
  • Supplies, including crates, kennels, and beds
  • Toys

Owning any dog is a costly venture; however, items for smaller dogs tend to cost less.

Small dogs generally don’t need much exercise

While there are some exceptions, such as the high-energy Jack Russell Terrier, Boston Terrier, and the Toy and Miniature Poodle, most small dog breeds don’t require extensive amounts of exercise. Where owning large breed dogs tends to involve an hour or more of exercising or walking per day, small breed dogs usually require a short amount of playtime in the backyard or perhaps a walk around the block.

Many small breed pups are low-maintenance, making them the perfect canine companion if you live in an apartment or condo or area without a lot of green space. Usually, a good thirty minutes of indoor play or a brisk walk down the street is enough to keep most smaller dogs happy and healthy.

Small breed dogs don’t take up much space

If you want a dog in your life, but your living space is on the smaller side, a little dog will fit right in. Apartments, condos, and small homes are perfect for tiny canines. A large fenced backyard isn’t necessary for smaller dogs, so if you don’t have one or don’t have access to a patio or common area, don’t despair. To a smaller-sized dog, an apartment is a mansion, and some time on the front lawn or a short walk around the block is typically more than enough space for them to explore.

Five Popular Small Dog Breeds

There are 75 official small breed dogs, and that’s not taking into account the number of miniature and crossbreeds that exist. Where do you begin to look for your perfect small breed dog? We’ll help you start your search with some information on five popular small breeds:

Bichon Frise

Sturdy, tiny, and outright adorable, the Bichon Frise is well-known for his curly white coat and his lively, funny, and loyal temperament. The Bichon does have lots of energy, but only in short bursts. A daily walk is necessary for the Bichon, but they prefer the company of their pet parents and love to cuddle on the couch.

The Bichon’s personality is one of his winning traits. This small dog breed loves everyone: children, other dogs and pets, and visitors. Don’t expect the Bichon to be a guard dog; this dog is charming, gentle, and rarely barks.

The Bichon Frise does require regular grooming. He needs to be brushed at least twice weekly and bathed regularly. Professional grooming is a must with this breed.

Height: 9 – 12 inches

Weight: 7 – 12 pounds

Life expectancy: 14 – 15 years

Boston Terrier

This original American breed from Boston, Massachusetts, is one of the most popular dogs in the United States. Spunky, intelligent, and well-mannered, the Boston Terrier is incredibly loyal to her family. This breed makes for an excellent family dog, and although energetic, the Boston is prone to overheating and thus requires short amounts of exercise. Generally, the Boston Terrier prefers to snuggle in her pet parent’s lap than be outside running around.

The Boston Terrier is smart, and therefore, easy to train. She also makes for an excellent watchdog as this breed tends only to bark at suspicious noises or when excited. This breed can become stubborn if not actively trained, so pet parents need to be engaged when training their Boston and developing a relationship with her.

Due to genetics, the Boston Terrier has a shorter snout and can develop breathing problems as it gets older. As such, this breed is prone to snoring regularly.

Height: 15 – 17 inches

Weight: 12 – 25 pounds

Life Expectancy: 13 years


Known for his curly tail and wrinkly face, the Pug is one of the most recognizable and popular small breed dogs. This ancient breed originated around 400 BC in China and has developed into a happy, loving, family-oriented dog. The Pug is friendly and playful with children and adults, and as he was bred to be a lap dog, he excels at snuggling and cuddling with the people he loves.

Square and compact with a glossy, short coat, the Pug is relatively low-maintenance, requiring little exercise and grooming; however, they are prone to heavy shedding twice a year. Pugs’ facial creases do require regular cleaning to prevent dry skin and infections.

The Pug can be prone to genetic conditions, such as breathing problems, due to his short, pushed-in snout. Pugs often snore due to this condition. While they do need a short walk daily, Pugs cannot tolerate heat or extreme cold. Therefore, they do need an indoor environment that stays at a comfortable temperature year-round.

Height: 10 – 11 inches

Weight: 14- 18 pounds 

Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years

Miniature Schnauzer

Energetic, upbeat, and friendly, the Miniature Schnauzer is a loving and adaptable small breed dog. While this breed is more vocal than some others, that quality makes the Miniature Schnauzer an excellent watchdog and loyal companion. Recognizable due to his signature bearded haircut, this small canine has a big personality and energy to match.

The Miniature Schnauzer does require daily walks or play sessions to burn off that energy. This hardy dog is intelligent and obedient, and his quickness in learning and devotion to his pet parents make him a delight to have in the family. This adaptable breed can live happily in an apartment or a farm, but this dog does need to be a part of his family’s daily life.

Some small dog breeds shed, but the Miniature Schnauzer is hypoallergenic, meaning he sheds minimally if at all. The dog still needs regular brushing, but he is a perfect breed for people with allergies.

Height: 13 – 15 inches

Weight: 12 – 20 pounds

Life Expectancy: 13 – 15 years

Toy Poodle

Elegant with a curly and wavy coat, the Toy Poodle is a tiny version of the Standard Poodle breed. Ranked as the second smallest breed by the American Kennel Club, the Toy Poodle is an ideal dog for small spaces and places.

Sensitive yet graceful and highly intelligent, the Toy Poodle requires gentle training and a good amount of physical and mental exercise. As such, you will need to factor in daily walks and mental stimulation, such as dog toys and puzzles, to keep your pup entertained. The trade-off is a cheerful pup who does well with children and adults and who is devoted to her pet parents.

All varieties of the Poodle breed are curly-coated, and grooming is a necessity. Poodles need to be bathed and clipped every couple of months. This breed is hypoallergenic, and as such, sheds minimally. For people with allergies who want to own a dog, the Toy Poodle is a way to have a dog in your life without suffering from physical discomfort.

Height: Up to 10 inches

Weight: 4 – 10 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12 – 15 years

Ready to Choose Your Small Dog Breed?

While there are many other small breed dogs to look at, you can start with these popular selections and see if any of them match your needs and lifestyle. Small dog breeds are often flexible, adaptable, and loyal companions. If you are looking for a dog to add to your family, consider a small breed who may be small in stature but has a big heart ready to love you.

If you think large breeds of dogs are more for you, read our ultimate guide on large dog breeds here.


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The information contained on this blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. It is not a substitute for professional veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian before making any changes to your pet's health care or treatment plan.

The authors of this blog are not veterinarians and do not claim to be experts in pet health. The information provided here is based on our own experiences and research, as well as information from reputable sources. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or completeness of this information.

We encourage you to do your own research and consult with your veterinarian before making any decisions about your pet's health.

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