Skip to content

Small Dog Breeds That Make the Best Teeny Tiny Companions

If you can't handle a big dog just yet, be sure to read up on the short dog breeds below.

Dogs are good for your health. That's not just our opinion, it's science. Of course, we understand the resources it requires. Over 80 percent of U.S. Americans live in urban areas. That means limited living and lawn space—two big strikes for owning a dog. But workarounds do exist. There are plenty of low-maintenance, small dog breeds around that will fit snugly into a tiny apartment. Below, we'll run through the list of miniature pooches available, including important details surrounding their personalities, so that you and your family can make the most informed decision.

READ THIS NEXT: The 7 Best Dog Breeds If You Don't Have a Yard

What Qualifies as a Small Dog Breed, Anyways?

It may seem relatively straightforward, but small dog breeds are incredibly varied. While most people refer to what the American Kennel Club calls toy dog breeds when discussing these little guys, they actually cover a lot more territory.

For instance, dachshunds, though small in stature, actually belong to the organization's Hound classification. Meanwhile, Boston Terriers belong to the Terrier Group; the Cocker Spaniel belongs to the club's Sporting Group; the list goes on and on.

What we can say about small dogs—in general—is that most weigh no more than 30 pounds. They may stand anywhere from 10-20 inches at the shoulders. There are even a few personality quirks that seem to span across the category as well.

Researchers from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna collected over 1,270 surveys from dog owners around the city. As compared to medium-to-large dogs, owners with small dog breeds at home regularly reported the following:

  • Small dogs seemed more excitable and were more likely to bark or growl at strangers, visitors, or other dogs.
  • Small dogs were less obedient and not as reliable in responding to common commands like "sit," "down," and "come."
  • Small dogs were more anxious and easily spooked in strange situations or when exposed to loud noises.

While these findings fall in line with common stereotypes surrounding small dogs, the researchers noted that they may not have anything to do with genetic factors associated with the breeds. Instead, they suggest these behaviors may actually be encouraged by how small dogs are treated compared to their more sizable counterparts.

17 Popular Small Dog Breeds

Check out our list of the best small dog breeds below. We've included the most important information about each type so that you can determine which tiny dog is right for you. Please note that all information pertaining to height, weight, and life expectancy is taken from the American Kennel Club, a recognized and trusted expert in breed, health and training information for dogs.

Boston Terrier

boston terrier standing on a mound of hay
Shutterstock / Hollysdogs

Height: 15-17 inches

Weight: 12-25 pounds

Life Expectancy: 11-13 years

This dog is so well-mannered, he's been nicknamed "The American Gentleman." The Boston Terrier is best recognized by his tuxedo coat, square head, and short muzzle. Portable and people-oriented, these little guys are great companions for folks living in a big city. Plus, they only need occasional brushing, which makes them one of the more low-maintenance dogs on this list.

Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie)

yorkshire terrier sitting on the windowsill
Shutterstock / Valerie Nik

Height: 7-8 inches

Weight: 7 pounds

Life Expectancy: 11-15 years

Unlike the Boston Terrier, the Yorkshire Terrier is considered a toy breed. Packed with personality, these dogs are known to be both brave and bossy. They are also true terriers—playful, energetic, and easy to train. Another selling point? Yorkies are hypoallergenic (their coat is actually more like human hair than animal fur), making them a great option for anyone with these kinds of sensitivities.

READ THIS NEXT: 165 Popular Boy Dog Names for Your Furry New Best Friend

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

king charles spaniel puppy on couch
Shutterstock / Fotyma

Height: 12-13 inches

Weight: 13-18 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

These adorable dogs aren't just celebrated for their silky, colorful coats, they're also incredibly even-tempered, making them super to train. Graceful yet athletic, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel provides the best of both worlds: sporting spaniel one minute, cuddly couch potato the next.

Toy Poodle

toy poddle with tongue out
Shutterstock / Lim Tiaw Leong

Height: 10 inches

Weight: 4-6 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10-18 years

Weighing in at no more than six pounds, these guys are some of the smallest dogs on our list—but don't let their tiny stature fool you. Toy poodles pack a big personality. They are also incredibly athletic, with muscular little bodies hidden beneath their curly coats. Highly intelligent, these guys can be trained with incredible success.


maltese dog wrapped in a blanket
Shutterstock / Kimrawicz

Height: 7-9 inches

Weight: Under 7 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Weighing in at under seven pounds, Maltese dogs are great for apartment living. This little lap dog is highly affectionate and even makes for a decent watchdog when needed. Though their long, straight, silky coats look like a lot of maintenance, they are relatively low-shedding, giving you and your allergies a major break.


daschound sitting on grass
Shutterstock / Fernanda T. Bittencourt

Height: 7-9 inches

Weight: 7 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Also known as "wiener dogs," dachshunds were originally bred as hunters used to crawl into rabbit or badger holes—and that legacy has managed to stick around. These guys are known for being brave to a fault, so it is best to keep a close eye on them. While incredibly energetic, their little legs are not built to distance running, leaping, or serious swimming, even though they may try to join in on the action.


basenji dog sitting on rug
Shutterstock / Cup Of Spring

Height: 16-17 inches

Weight: 22-24 pounds

Life Expectancy: 13-14 years

The Basenji, "Africa's barkless dog," are almost cat-like in their self-grooming tendencies and aversion to traditional training. And yes, it is true that they don't bark but they will make themselves heard in other ways, namely with what experts describe as something somewhere between a "chortle and yodel."

These hunting dogs need lots of daily exercise, so they'll do best in a home that can keep up with these requirements. And while these dogs do well with other pets, they can be fiercely protective of their owners, making them somewhat argumentative with other dogs outside of their pack.

Cocker Spaniel

cocker spaniel - one of world's the most popular small dog breeds
Shutterstock / otsphoto

Height: 13.5-15.5 inches

Weight: 20-30 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10-14 years

Between the silky coat, big dark eyes, and long, lush ears, these guys have become one of the world's most loved breeds. These affectionate pups are easily trained and make great companions for kids, so anyone planning for kids might want to lean in here. That said, their coats do require constant maintenance, so you'll need to be prepared to put in the work.

Shih Tzu

shih tzu waiting for a treat
Shutterstock / Yarnawee Nipatarangkoon

Height: 9-10.5 inches

Weight: 9-16 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10-18 years

Another dog with a beautiful coat, another dog that requires the effort needed to maintain it—though it seems to be well worth the work. Shih Tzus have been around for over 1,000 years, celebrated for their affectionate demeanor, especially among kids. They also do great inside small spaces. While other pets thrive running around the yard, these oh-so-sophisticated dogs are just as happy inside and on your lap.

READ THIS NEXT: The 8 Most Beautiful Dog Breeds.


chihuahua sitting in dog bed
Olena Tselykh / Shutterstock

Height: 5-8 inches

Weight: 6 pounds

Life Expectancy: 14-16 years

Weighing in at less than six pounds, this might be the smallest dog breed on the list. These Mexican superstars actually account for one of the oldest dog breeds in the Americas, having trotted around the ancient kingdoms of pre-Columbian times.

Somewhat terrier-like in their demeanor, the Chihuahua is both loyal and charming, with a little bit of that big-dog attitude. Though thanks to their size, there is not much danger of them roughing around with the kids. The only thing you really need to watch out for is keeping their little bodies warm when the cold weather hits.

American Eskimo Dog

american eskimo dog on purple chair
Shutterstock / Pavel Trebukhin

Height: 9-12 inches

Weight: 6-10 pounds

Life Expectancy: 13-15 years

This little dog is known for both brains and beauty. Available in three sizes, American Eskimo dogs are often celebrated for their sparkling white coat and a lion-like ruff around their chests. These guys are highly sociable and easy to train, but be sure to begin the process sooner rather than later. They can run into behavioral problems without proper reinforcement.

Border Terrier

border terrier sitting on the ouch
Shutterstock / Pavel Trebukhin

Height: 12-15 inches

Weight: 13-15.5 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

These little dogs do well in city environments, so long as they get enough exercise. Border Terriers are also known for their affectionate and friendly demeanor, making them a great option for families with small kids. They are also easy to distinguish from other small dog breeds out there, with their long legs and unique head shape. They tend to get along well with other dogs, too. But other small critters? Watch out. That's when those hunting instincts kick in.

Scottish Terrier

scottish terrier on a dock
Shutterstock / Anna Tkach

Height: 10 inches

Weight: 18-22 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12 years

These bearded companions are confident, high-spirited, and fiercely independent. While that makes for a great watchdog, it can spell trouble for households with other pets already in the mix. They are also known for precision and aloofness, which is why they've been nicknamed "The Diehard." But don't let that dissuade you. All these guys really need to stay happy are plenty of walks and play.

READ THIS NEXT: The Fluffiest Dog Breeds, According to Experts.

Miniature Poodle

miniature poodle
Shutterstock / Jagodka

Height: 10-15 inches

Weight: 10-15 pounds

Life Expectancy: 10-18 years

Miniature Poodles maintain many of the same characteristics as toy versions of the breed. These muscular dogs are eager, athletic, and wildly smart, which makes for easy-to-train and loyal companions. Their curly coat is also hypoallergenic, making them a great pick for anyone who may be sensitive to fur.


pomeranian smiling at the camera
Roman Zaiets/Shutterstock

Height: 6-7 inches

Weight: 3-7 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-16 years

These high-energy dogs account for one of the most popular toy breeds. Plus, when properly trained, they can perform some impressive tricks. They also make great watchdogs, and while they are good with kids, they do best around little ones old enough to know not to get too rough. Because they are so tiny, you don't need to do much to wear them now. A short walk around your city block should be just fine.

Bichon Frise

bichon frise dog walking in the park
Shutterstock / OlgaOvcharenko

Height: 9.5-11.5 inches

Weight: 12-18 pounds

Life Expectancy: 14-15 years

The Bichon Frise breed is known as one of the world's greatest "personality dogs." These guys are charming, intelligent, and eager to please. Known for getting along well with other dogs and children, Bichons aren't necessarily the best watchdogs—though they are alert enough to let you know when someone is about to approach. Their beautiful white furry coats are also hypoallergenic, making them a good alternative who don't do well with fur.

Russell Terrier

russell terrier snuggling on the bed
Shutterstock / evrymmnt

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: 9-15 pounds

Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

Russell Terriers were originally bred by England's "Sporting Parson" for fox hunts, which makes sense, given that these lively little guys are highly intelligent and easy to train. Don't be surprised to discover a stubborn streak, however. These terriers can appear a little overly confident at times. But don't worry, their friendly personalities make up for any hiccups you may experience along the way.

Challenges Associated With Small Dog Breeds

While the perks far outweigh the challenges of owning a little dog, there are a few concerns worth addressing.

Small dogs are prone to certain health conditions such as patellar luxation, or tracheal collapse. Their small bodies are also more delicate, making them vulnerable to injuries, especially if dropped, played with too roughly, or if they fall or jump off furniture that's too high for them. This is also why they may not make good pets for families with very small children.

Though delicate, they are not always docile. In fact, a 2009 study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science listed small dogs like dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Jack Russell Terriers among the most aggressive dog breeds out there.

There's also the maintenance to consider. According to PetMD, small and toy breeds have a much faster metabolism than larger dogs, meaning they actually require more calories per pound per day.

That doesn't mean they eat more than large dogs (they don't). It just means the food they consume needs to be more calorie-rich than other options. And these kinds of requirements can get expensive fast.


What is the friendliest small dog breed?

Known as one of the world's best "personality dogs," The Bichon Frise makes for an incredibly friendly pet. Other points revolve around the fact that they are both hypoallergenic and easy to train. Malteses, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Cocker Spaniels are also up there on the list of the most loving small dog breeds.

Which small dog breeds are hypoallergenic?

The Poodle, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Yorkshire Terrier are the best small dog picks for people with allergies. Their coats are hypoallergenic, meaning they don't collect as many allergens. If and when they do shed, you can expect far less dander to be dispersed through the air.

What is the easiest small dog breed to own?

Pomeranians are one of the easiest small dog breeds to own. They're also known for being highly trainable, with many eventually learning to do tricks for their humans. Their small stature also means they don't require excessive exercise or trips to the dog park.

Wrapping Up

That's it for our list of small dog breeds. Be sure to check back with us soon for even more animal coverage. You can also sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss out!


Carrie Weisman
Carrie Weisman oversees all SEO efforts at Best Life. She specializes in content optimization and editorial marketing. Read more
Filed Under