10 Top Small Dog Breeds. The Most Popular Small Dogs.

Small and toy dog breeds may be the perfect fit for everyone who lives in apartments or homes with limited space.

Usually, they weigh in at 7 to 35 pounds. However, their size may be one of the very few traits they have in common – there are small breeds with bold and sassy attitudes as well as those with laidback, gentle-mannered, and calm personalities. 

Puppy-sized dogs will provide years of fun and affection towards their pet parents, however, they are too dainty for any rough play – most of them do well in homes without small children. If you are thinking of adopting a furry friend but you do not have a ton of space for a large pet – here are the 10 top small dog breeds to keep as pets.

Maltese

They are usually one of the first breeds that come to mind when discussing small or toy breeds. Praised for centuries as perfect lap dogs, they can also make lively and cheerful companions.

Breed hallmarks

Long, silky white hair

Dark, alert eyes

Smooth, jaunty gait

Temperament

Maltese dogs are gentle-mannered and playful toy dog companions. As they were kept as lap dogs throughout history, they require a lot of human attention and sometimes can suffer from separation anxiety.

Size and weight

Height: 7-9 inches

Weight: 3-7 pounds

Grooming

From head to toes they are covered with thick, silky white hair. To keep their looks so wonderful and eye-catching, you should groom them on a daily basis. They require careful combing to the skin and gentle brushing to avoid tangles and matting.

Exercise & Training

Despite their ancient and aristocratic origins, they are full of energy and can learn quickly if trained properly. Sometimes they can be stubborn and determined – it is best to treat them with positive training methods

Life expectancy

12-15 years

Fun fact

Maltese dogs were cherished by the ancient Greeks and Romans as perfect lapdogs! They are present in Roman literature as “Canes Melitei”, while their images can be found on Greek amphorae along with the word “Melitaie”. Even Aristotle mentioned a Maltese in his writings as “perfectly proportioned”.

Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are a perfect example of small dogs with big attitudes and giant personalities. Despite their tiny bodies, they will rule your hearts and homes with confidence and charm.

Breed hallmarks

Rounded apple head 

Erect ears

Big, luminous eyes

Temperament

They are known for an alert expression and a terrier-like demeanor. These energetic dogs are protective of their pet parents, loyal, and extremely affectionate.

Size and weight

Height: 5-8 inches

Weight: 4-6 pounds

Grooming

Depending on the coat variety, chihuahuas’ grooming needs slightly differ. The longhaired pups should have their coat brushed twice a week, while the short-coat ones only need occasional brushing and regular bathing. Keep in mind that chihuahuas hate cold and windy weather, which is why they often need wrapping up in extra layers during the winter months.

Exercise & Training

Due to their sassy attitude, they do require sufficient training. Without it, they will become tiny Napoleons and take over the entire household. Short walks on a leash will provide this breed enough exercise (as long as it isn’t freezing cold outside!).

Life expectancy

14-16 years

Fun fact

Chihuahuas took their name after the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where many specimens of the breed were found. They are the descendants of the Techichi dogs, which were an integral part of the Aztec culture.

Pomeranian

This majestic but tiny breed will amaze you with its profuse coat and lion-like presence. 

Breed hallmarks

Lion-like, double coat

Smiling, foxy face

Cobby, rounded body

Temperament

Pomeranians tend to be really inquisitive and lively dogs, providing lots of joy and laughter to their human companions. 

Size and weight 

Height: 6-7 inches

Weight: 3-7 pounds

Grooming

Pomeranians’ double coat is one of their most distinguishing features deriving from their hardy sled dog ancestors. To maintain the perfect fluffiness of their hair, Poms require daily brushing, preferably with a pin brush or slicker brush. Regular visits to a grooming salon are highly required every 4 to 6 weeks.

Exercise & Training

Like many toy dog breeds, Pomeranians combine diminutive bodies with a commanding, bold demeanor. These independent dogs need consistent and patient training to keep their bossiness in check. Poms are highly intelligent and respond really well to positive training methods. They enjoy being lapdogs, however, they are also an active breed. Short walks and some indoor play should be sufficient to keep them well and healthy.

Life expectancy

12-16 years

Fun fact

Pomeranians are the smallest members of the spitz dog family. Their popularity as household companions increased after Queen Victoria brought one to England in 1888.

Japanese Chin

Charming, lively, and aristocratic, the Japanese Chin makes an extremely cuddly and sweet lap dog.

Breed hallmarks

Silky, abundant coat

Square-proportioned, aristocratic body

Stylish, lively gait

Temperament

If well socialized, the Chins are friends to all, including other dogs and strange people. They are gentle and loving companions, sensitive to their owners’ emotions. Often described as a feline-like breed, the Chins can be a bit fastidious and generally quiet.

Size and weight 

Height: 8-11inches

Weight: 4-7 pounds

Grooming

Long, silky coat of Japanese Chins should be brushed or combed twice a week. Depending on their surroundings, they will require a bath once a month or so.

Exercise

The Japanese Chins are playful and lively and enjoy learning new tricks to charm their human audience. They enjoy exploring fenced backyards and going on slow walks on a leash with their human parents.

Life expectancy

10-12 years

Fun fact

The Japanese Chin, despite its name, is actually of ancient Chinese origin. The breed was a longtime companion of Chinese royalty, sometimes presented as a gift to foreign nobility.

Yorkshire Terrier

Famous for their fine, glossy hair and perky topknots, Yorkies are widely considered one of the most glamorous toy dog breeds.

Breed hallmarks

Dainty, floor-length coat of steel blue and golden tan

Sharp, intelligent expression

Lively, confident gait

Temperament

Yorkshire Terriers come with a lot of big-dog attitude. They tend to be fearless and tenacious, loudly announcing any unexpected movement around the house. 

Size and weight

Height: 7-8 inches

Weight: up to 7 pounds

Grooming

If Yorkie’s hair is kept long, it needs to be brushed or combed every day or two. The hair on the upper part of his head may cause eye irritation, so it should be pulled up into a topknot or trimmed short. To keep his coat tangle-free, your pup requires a bath every week or so.

Exercise & Training

Yorkshire Terriers will appreciate moderate exercise such as short walks on a leash or fenced yard exploration. They also enjoy canine activities such as agility or obedience. Training and socializing with strange people and other dogs and pets should begin at an early age. 

Life expectancy

11-15 years

Fun fact

The Yorkshire Terrier breed is said to be developed by Scottish weavers who migrated to northern England in the mid-1800s. The region was England’s mining and textile-making center, and many Yorkies were employed in coal mines.

Whippet

 

Sleek, kind-hearted, and gentle, the Whippets are elegant athletes capable of speeding up to 35 mph. 

Breed hallmarks

Low, free-moving gait

Sleek, curvaceous silhouette

Alert, keen expression

Temperament

Whippets are sweet and loving companions that enjoy curling up on a sofa or a warm bed. However, take them outdoors and give them something to chase, and they become lightning-quick, ultimate sprinters. 

Size and weight

Height: 18-22 inches

Weight: 20-40 pounds

Grooming

The Whippet’s grooming needs are minimal. His extremely short, smooth coat needs no more than weekly brushing and the occasional bath.

Exercise & Training

As Whippets are athletes by nature, they do best with intense, regular exercise. They enjoy regular long walks and daily running, as well as canine activities such as agility and lure-coursing. To ensure that they grow into gracious companions, early socialization and training classes are highly recommended.

Life expectancy

12-15 years

Fun fact

It is claimed that Whippets took their name from the word “whappet”, an archaic word that means “a small dog that yaps”. 

Miniature Pinscher

Alert, spirited, and athletic, the Miniature Pinscher is among the most energetic toy dog breeds.

Breed hallmarks

Short, lustrous coat

Wedge-shaped physique

High-stepping, “hackney” gait

Temperament

Always busy, fun-loving, and inquisitive, the Mini Pins are full of terrier-like demeanor. They are bold and fearless and sometimes may chase other small animals. As loyal mini watchdogs, they can be territorial and challenge any intruders with their insistent bark. They are the best match with a pet parent who will reign in their independent personalities.

Size and weight 

Height: 10-12.5 inches

Weight: 8-10 pounds

Grooming

The Mini Pinscher’s short, hard coat requires minimal maintenance. Occasional grooming with a brush or a hound glove will remove dead hair, while regular baths will keep him shining. 

Exercise & Training

The Mini Pinschers require a lot of activity to satisfy their physical and intellectual needs. Several indoor play sessions and daily walks with ample exercise will keep them athletic and healthy.

Life expectancy

12-16 years

Fun fact

The Mini Pins originate from Germany, where they were developed in the early 1800s. They are probably a cross of a Dachshund, Italian Greyhound, and a short-haired terrier (German Pinscher).

Boston Terrier

Friendly, bright, and well-mannered, the Boston Terriers are widely known as “the American Gentlemen”.

Breed hallmarks

Compact, square-proportioned body

Short, fine, “tuxedo” coat

Jaunty, rhythmic step

Temperament

The Bostons are devoted companions, affectionate towards their family members. They are very sensitive to their pet parents’ emotions and moods. Some of the Bostons bark a lot and may be reserved towards strange dogs.

Size and weight 

Height: 15-17 inches

Weight: 12-25 pounds

Grooming

Their short, sleek coat requires minimal care. An occasional, weekly brushing with a hound glove or a soft brush will remove the dead hair and promote new hair growth. 

Exercise & Training

Most of the Boston Terriers need a lot of interaction with their humans. While left alone for too long, they will get frustrated and bored. Their activity requirements vary a lot – for some, a short walk on a leash will be enough, while others require a lot of running and willingly participate in canine activities such as agility, flyball, and obedience.

Life expectancy

11-13 years

Fun fact

The Boston Terrier is the official mascot of Boston University and the official dog of Massachusetts.

Toy Fox Terrier

Friendly, whip-smart, and fun-loving, the Toy Fox Terriers are a perfect mixture of a lapdog and a terrier.

Breed hallmarks

Short, satin coat

Large, erect ears

Sturdy, compact body

Temperament

The Toy Fox Terriers are energetic and naturally inquisitive dogs that enjoy investigating every yard, room, or park alley. They make wonderful family companions that will entertain their humans for hours. Although they need the opportunity to exercise, they will also enjoy snuggling in a soft bed or on a warm lap.

Size and weight 

Height: 8.5-11.5 inches

Weight: 3.5-7 pounds

Grooming

The Toy Fox Terriers’ coat requires minimal grooming. An occasional bath and gentle brushing, preferably with a hound glove or a soft brush, should be enough to keep them shining.

Exercise & Training

The Toy Fox Terriers are highly intelligent creatures that are easy to train and do well in canine sports like obedience and agility. They love walking, romping, and running whenever they have the chance. If not given sufficient attention, they tend to show unwanted behavior such as excessive barking and digging.

Life expectancy

13-15 years

Fun fact

The breed resulted from a cross of Fox Terriers with the Italian Greyhound, Chihuahua, and the Miniature Pinscher.

Shih Tzu

Charming, affectionate, and outgoing, the Shih Tzus were bred in ancient China to be perfect house companions. 

Breed hallmarks

Double, luxurious coat

Smooth, stylish stride

Warm, wideeyed expression

Temperament

The Shih Tzu can be both a gentle, cute lap dog and a lively, spunky companion. They are known for being affectionate to their family and good with older children. The breed tends to be brave and vigorous, with an upbeat attitude.

Size and weight 

Height: 9-10.5 inches

Weight: 9-16 pounds

Grooming

The Shih Tzu’s soft, luxurious coat requires daily, gentle brushing to avoid any tangles. They need a bath every three weeks or so, to keep the coat clean and shiny. To protect the Shih Tzu’s eyes from irritation, their corners should be cleaned with a damp cloth, and the hair on the top of the head should be tied up into a topknot or trimmed short. They may need to visit a professional groomer on a regular basis.

Exercise & Training

As they were bred as house companions and lapdogs, Shih Tzus require minimal exercise. Their requirements can be met with short walks on a leash or vigorous play with people or toys. The breed tends to be surprisingly stubborn and tough, which is why early socialization and regular training classes are highly recommended.

Life expectancy

10-18 years

Fun fact

The Shih Tzu was described best by James Mumsford, an American composer and teacher: 

“Nobody knows how the ancient eunuchs managed to mix together: a dash of lion, several teaspoons of rabbit, a couple of ounces of domestic cat, one part court jester, a dash of ballerina, a pinch of old man, a bit of beggar, a tablespoon of monkey, one part baby seal, a dash of teddy bear, and, for the rest, dogs of Tibetan and Chinese origin.”

Cynthia L. Collins

Cynthia L. Collins

Devoted dog lover, a dog mom to her two rescued Shih Tzus Romeo and Elvis, and an Australian Shepherd, Bandit. When she isn’t working, she volunteers in a local shelter and various animal welfare organizations.

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