The 20 Best Small Dog Breeds for You

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15 min read
15 min read

Updated - Mar 16th, 2023

Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and more – sometimes smaller dogs have the biggest personalities. And if you’re searching for the perfect canine companion by looking into the best small dog breeds, you have a wide variety of dogs to choose from.

In fact, according to the American Kennel Club, “small dogs” (generally dogs 25 pounds and under) are part of many AKC groups – and there’s a small-statured dog for every personality, activity level, and even coat type. 

Want some help in your search? Read on and explore our list of 20 of the best small dog breeds to get a sense of what these dogs are about – and find out which one might be right for your family.

The best small dog breeds

Whether you’re looking for a little dog because you live in an apartment or simply want one small enough to fit in your lap, we have no doubt there’s a small dog breed out there for you.

Let’s dig in…

1. Affenpinscher


Personality: Affenpinschers are curious, loyal, and fun. 

Size: These are toy-sized dogs – they typically don’t get bigger than 10 pounds.

Fun fact: Due to their appearance, Affenpinschers are sometimes referred to lovingly as “monkey dogs.” They’re also likened to ewoks from Star Wars.

Great for: Affenpinschers are great apartment dogs and a great hypoallergenic dog breed. Although they can get along with other dogs, they do not always do well with smaller animals like hamsters, ferrets, or other rodent-type pets.

2. Bichon Frise


Personality: Bichons are happy, playful, and adaptable. These small dogs are known as popular companion dogs, but also can be excellent watchdogs.

Size: Similar to the Affenpinscher, Bichons are also a toy breed. These dogs, however, usually weigh under 20 pounds.

Fun fact: The Bichon Frise has been a companion dog to French, Spanish, and Italian royalty throughout history.

Great for: Bichons are one of the most diverse small dog breeds. These are great city dogs, great apartment dogs, and a great hypoallergenic breed. In general, Bichons are excellent companions and can get along well with children and other dogs.

3. Boston Terrier


Personality: Boston Terriers are friendly, lively, and sporty. Akin to the city they were named for, Boston Terriers have an equal balance of fun, curiosity, and alertness.

Size: Boston Terriers are one of the bigger small dog breeds, weighing up to 25 pounds. 

Fun fact: As a result of their “tuxedo” coat and polite personality, Boston Terriers have earned the nickname “the American Gentleman.”

Great for: Boston Terriers are excellent city dogs – and therefore, have no problem living in an apartment. They also make great companions and great family dogs, but won’t necessarily be happy sitting around on the couch all day.

4. Brussels Griffon


Personality: Perhaps not as well-known as some of the dogs on our list, but the Brussels Griffon is one of the smallest dogs with the biggest personalities. These dogs are energetic, human-like, and even a little sassy.

Size: Brussels Griffon are one of the toy breeds; they typically weigh under 10 pounds.

Fun fact: There are two types of Brussels Griffon – those with smooth coats and those with rough coats. Rough-coated griffons do not shed, but generally, these dogs do have their hair clipped regularly by their owner or by a groomer.

Great for: If you’re looking for a constant companion, the Brussels Griffon is an excellent choice. This small dog breed can live practically anywhere, but their sensitivity isn’t always compatible with families with young children.

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


Personality: As their eyes indicate, Cavaliers are sweet, affectionate, and loving. This small dog is a mix of a classic toy breed and a traditional spaniel – they’re active and fun, but also can be perfectly content lap dogs.

Size: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can range a little in size, but generally fall into the 15 to 20 pounds range.

Fun fact: The Cavalier is named after King Charles I of Britain – this small dog breed was one of his favorites.

Great for: As long as you’re not looking for a hypoallergenic small dog, the Cavalier is one of the most versatile small breeds. These dogs are excellent companion dogs, great for families, great in cities, in apartments, and in a wide variety of situations.

6. Chihuahua 


Personality: One of the smallest of the small dog breeds, Chihuahuas are not short of personality. These dogs are sassy, confident, and full of fun.

Size: Of all the dogs on our list, a Chihuahua might be the one you could call a tiny dog. This toy dog breed usually falls around six pounds.

Fun fact: Chihuahuas are one of the oldest dog breeds in the Americas – their ancestors dating back to the Toltecs in Mexico around 1,000 years ago.

Great for: These small dogs with a big dog personality are well-regarded as top companion dogs, experienced apartment dwellers, and can excel in the city or countryside. They may need special care in colder weather climates, but generally will be happy as long as they’re an integral part of your family life. 

7. Chinese Crested


Personality: Chinese Crested are affectionate, playful, and loving companions. They are happy family dogs with an unmistakable appearance.

Size: As far as small dogs go, the Chinese Crested falls in the middle range. These dogs can weigh anywhere from about eight to 12 pounds.

Fun fact: The Chinese Crested can be hairless or can have hair – the dogs with hair are called “powderpuff.”

Great for: Chinese Crested are one of the great small dog breeds for allergy sufferers – or if you’re just looking to minimize grooming. You will, however, have to pay special attention to skin care with this dog breed. In addition, Chinese Crested are generally excellent companion dogs – whether for families, couples, or individuals.

8. Dachshund


Personality: Perhaps better known as “hot dogs” or “weiner dogs,” Dachshunds are small dogs with big dog personalities. These dogs are smart, bold, and independent.

Size: Dachshunds can come in both a standard and a miniature variety – meaning they grow into a range of sizes, from around 10 pounds and under to about 15 to 30 pounds.

Fun fact: The word Dachshund is German – meaning “badger dog” – and refers to their historical purpose  to hunt badgers.

Great for: As lively hound dogs, Dachshund make great watchdogs, as well as sporting companions and sometimes even hunting dogs. They also are generally excellent companions and family dogs — well-suited to live in a variety of environments.

9. French Bulldog


Personality: The playful and adaptable French Bulldog has exploded in popularity in recent years. These dogs are extremely popular in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco due to their friendly personalities and the fact that they don’t require too much exercise.

Size: Of all the dogs on our list of the best small dog breeds, the Frenchie is perhaps one of the biggest. These dogs can reach almost 30 pounds – meaning they’re certainly on the line between small dogs and medium dogs.

Fun fact: According to American Kennel Club statistics, the French Bulldog is now the most popular dog breed in the United States! This is the first time since 1991 that the Labrador Retriever has been usurped by another breed.

Great for: As we mentioned, Frenchies are one of the best dogs for city dwellers as they don’t require a lot of exercise and are also great apartment dogs. These dogs are excellent companions, happy with all family members, and they can also make surprisingly good watchdogs.

10. Havanese 


Personality: Smart, easily trainable, and adaptable, the Havanese are well-known for their good nature and ability to get along well in social environments.

Size: Weighing about seven to 13 pounds, Havanese are a nice compromise for those looking for neither too small of a dog nor too big.

Fun fact: The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba and the only dog native to the country. These dogs were bred as lapdog companions for Cuban aristocrats.

Great for: With their size and social skills, Havanese are perfect city dogs, although they can adapt to any type of living environment. These dogs are generally good watchdogs and desire lots of attention.

11. Lhasa Apso


Personality: Lhasa Apsos are smart, confident, and elegant. These dogs can be fun and easygoing with their families, but more reserved with strangers.

Size: Lhasas are in the middle range of small dog breeds. They typically weigh anywhere from 12 to 18 pounds.

Fun fact: Lhasa Apsos historically served as sentinel dogs guarding palaces and monasteries in the Himalayan mountains.

Great for: Lhasas can make great watchdogs and great apartment dogs, and although they can be stubborn at times, they’re generally willing to work with you. 

12. Maltese


Personality: Like many of the other toy dog breeds on our list, the Maltese is affectionate, happy, and charming – but can also be quite stubborn. 

Size: Maltese are definitely one of the smaller dog breeds, usually weighing under 10 pounds.

Fun fact: The Maltese has been a member of aristocratic families dating back 28 centuries — with ancient Greeks even erecting tombs to their Maltese dogs.

Great for: The Maltese are well-known lap dogs, making them great companions for all sorts of family members. Despite their toy size, they can also be excellent watchdogs and excel in a variety of environments.

13. Miniature Pinscher


Personality: The Miniature Pinscher is definitely a small dog breed with a big personality. Akin to Dachshund, Min Pins are fearless, fun-loving, and very smart.

Size: Despite the physical and nomenclature similarities to Doberman Pinschers, Miniature Pinschers are not a smaller version of the Dobie. That said, Min Pins weigh much less than the Dobie – they typically fall between eight and 10 pounds, whereas Dobies can reach up to 100 pounds.

Fun fact: In-line with their personalities, Min Pins are often known as the “King of the Toys.”

Great for: Min Pins can make great watchdogs and are willing to adapt to different living and family scenarios. These dogs will definitely want some exercise, though, and with their independent streak, you’ll want to make sure you have time for training.

14. Papillon


Personality: It’s hard to miss a Papillon when you see one with those elegant butterfly ears! Papillons are friendly, athletic, and happy – one of the small dog breeds known for their ability to learn tricks and new skills.

Size: Although their ears might be deceiving, the Papillon is on the smaller side. These dogs usually weigh under 10 pounds.

Fun fact: Papillon is french for butterfly — and it’s where this small dog breed’s name comes from.

Great for: The Papillon is certainly a versatile dog. These dogs can excel in any location, are great with families, and will be happy as long as they’re with their humans as much as possible. Papillons are great companions, love to please, and will be the perfect dog for various activities – from dog shows to walks in the park and everything in between.

15. Pekingese


Personality: Similar to the Maltese and Lhasa Apso, Pekingese are affectionate, loyal, and confident dogs with a history of royal companionship. 

Size: As far as our small dog breeds go, Pekingese fall in the middle, weighing around 15 pounds. These dogs are also known for their thick double coat and long-haired “lion’s mane” (where their coat grows longest at the neck and shoulders) which can make them look bigger than some of the smaller dogs.

Fun fact: The dog of ancient Chinese royalty, one legend says Pekingese were created by The Buddha, who shrunk a lion down to dog size.

Great for: Pekingese are small but mighty, making them great watchdogs and excellent companions, bonding well with family members. Although they can make good family dogs, they may not be as easygoing as some of the other small dog breeds on our list. That said, the Pekingese can really live anywhere, as they don’t require too much exercise and will be happy wherever their family is.

16. Pomeranian


Personality: Active, fun, and alert, Pomeranians are among one the most popular small dog breeds, as well as one of the most popular toy dog breeds. These foxy faces are adored by dog owners around the U.S. (and the world) and despite their size, they do give off a big dog presence.

Size: Weighing as little as three pounds in some cases, but up to seven pounds, the Pomeranian is one of the smallest dog breeds.

Fun fact: The Pomeranian descends from sled dogs of Iceland and Lapland – very likely making it a distant cousin of breeds like the Icelandic Sheepdog and Finnish Lapphund.

Great for: There’s no doubt that Pomeranians are ideal companions for individuals and families. Poms are great city dogs, but can also do well in the countryside. Plus, with their alert attitude and trainability, they can even make good watchdogs.

17. Poodle (Miniature or Toy)


Personality: Active, smart, and proud – the Poodle consistently ranks as one of the most popular breeds in the United States. These dogs are loved by many, and both the Miniature and the Toy varieties can fit the small dog breed definition.

Size: Miniature Poodles usually weigh 10 to 15 pounds and stand 15 inches or under. Toy Poodles, on the other hand, typically weigh four to six pounds and stand no more than 10 inches tall.

Fun fact: Although there is no dog breed called the “French Poodle,” the Poodle is the national dog of France. In France, Poodles are simply known as the Caniche, or “duck dog.”

Great for: Poodles are great family dogs. They can live in the city, suburbs, or countryside, and are generally excellent companions. These are very smart dogs who love activities – so despite their size, they might not be the best lap dog. Plus, Poodles are relatively non-shedding, which makes them a worthwhile option for someone seeking a hypoallergenic dog.

18. Pug


Personality: With an expressive face and recognizable coloring, the appearance of the Pug matches their personalities. These dogs are fun-loving, curious, and even a little mischievous. There’s certainly a lot of personality involved with the Pug.

Size: One of the bigger toy breeds, the Pug weighs anywhere from 14 to 18 pounds and has a much more muscular build in comparison to some of the other small dog breeds on our list.

Fun fact: A group of Pugs is not referred to as a pack, but a grumble – a grumble of Pugs!

Great for: A small dog with a big dog personality, Pugs are excellent house companions. These dogs can excel in an apartment or a house, city or country, with children or a young couple; they’re truly an adaptable breed.

19. Shih Tzu


Personality: Another dog with a history of royal companionship, the Shih Tzu is loving, affectionate, and playful – known for their dark eyes and sweet expression.

Size: Shih Tzus can range anywhere from nine to 16 pounds. 

Fun fact: The name Shih Tzu means “lion dog” or “little lion.”

Great for: An excellent lapdog for any family, individual, or couple, the Shih Tzu is an ideal house companion and known to be great with children. That said, Shih Tzus are also perfectly happy to live in an apartment – as they’re much more inclined toward indoor playtime and occasional walks as opposed to more strenuous physical activity. 

20. Yorkshire Terrier


Personality: This breed may be small in size, but they have a big attitude. The Yorkie has a lot of personality, known for the characteristics that make up a classic terrier – brave, feisty, determined, and yet still affectionate. 

Size: Yorkies are still a toy breed; these dogs weigh around seven pounds.

Fun fact: One of the most famous Yorkshire Terriers is Smoky, a dog who served with U.S. soldiers in World War II.

Great for: With a terrier personality and compact size, the Yorkie is an ideal city dog and is often one of the most popular dogs in some of the biggest cities across the U.S. In addition, Yorkies are great watchdogs, excellent house companions, and (with a coat similar to human hair) generally friendly for allergy sufferers.

How to choose the best small dog breed for you

With so many amazing small dog breeds to choose from, how do you find the one for you?

Here are some things to consider:

  • Consider the breed’s personality, grooming needs, and activity levels – do they match up with your lifestyle?
  • Examine the long- and short-term financial commitment necessary to keep your dog healthy, safe, and happy.
  • Think about your physical, emotional, and mental readiness to have a dog, especially if you’ve never owned one.
  • Ensure you have enough indoor and outdoor space and other basic requirements for the dog breed of your choice.
  • Consider your and your family’s health end ensure they can accommodate the breed type.
  • Remember, a dog can live up to 15 years old! Are you ready to commit to this pup now, but also in the future?

Whichever breed you choose, learn how Pumpkin Dog Insurance plans can help protect your dog’s health.

Best small dog breeds FAQs

What are the best small dog breeds for kids?

Not all small dog breeds are great companions for kids. However, some of the best dog breeds for kids include

  • Pugs
  • French bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Shih Tzu
  • Maltese
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Pomeranian

These breeds are suitable for children because of their trainability, temperament, size, and patience. But don’t forget – it works both ways. Teaching your children how to handle dogs respectfully and with care is vital!

What small dog breeds are the calmest?

Calm small dog breeds are great companions, especially for a family with kids. Some of the calmest small dog breeds you will find include:

  • Pugs
  • Havanese
  • Bichon Frise
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • French bulldogs
  • Boston Terriers
  • Shih Tzu, Maltese
  • Lhasa Apso
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Pomeranian

These calm dogs love human company, adapt easily, and are easily trainable.

What is the easiest small dog breed to take care of?

Owning a dog requires a lot of devotion and effort to ensure they live a good and healthy life, and these breeds are no exception! However, smaller dogs are generally thought to be easier to care for. Little dog = less mess!

Here are a few in no particular order:

  • Chihuahua
  • French Bull Dogs
  • Maltese
  • Boston Terrier
  • Pug
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If you’re looking for a small dog breed, this list is a great place to start. As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when picking the right dog for your family, so if you’re not sure that you’ve found your match, that’s perfectly fine! You might continue exploring small dog breeds or maybe surprise yourself and transition your search to large dog breeds.

Randa Kriss

Randa Kriss

Writer, Proud Dog & Cat Mom
Randa is a writer & former assoc. digital content editor at the American Kennel Club. She's also mom to 1 Corgi & 2 orange cats.
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