When it comes to small dog breeds, size may be one of the few characteristics they have in common! Some breeds tend to boast outgoing and bold personalities whereas others are laidback and enjoy independence. Coat types could range from short and straight hair to long, flowing locks or even tightly wound curls. You will meet little furry friends that can’t wait to curl up on your lap—while others are bursting with energy and always ready for the next game of fetch.
The right small dog for you depends on what you are looking for in personality, grooming commitment, and activity level. Here are ten of the best small dog breeds to consider.
With its soft and silky white coat, the Maltese is most likely one of the first breeds that comes to mind when thinking of small dogs.
Temperament: While this breed is a loyal lap dog, they also have lots of energy and enjoy playtime. Maltese dogs are absolutely fearless—a trait believed to be passed on from the breed’s days as rat hunters. They get along well with people of all ages, are easily trained, and love performing tricks.
Grooming: While a Maltese can sport a long elegant coat, most pet parents keep their dog’s coat clipped short so it is easier to maintain. Their eyes must be cleaned often because they are prone to tear stains.
Exercise: Occasional exercise—such as a daily walk or playtime in the backyard or indoors—is sufficient for the Maltese.
Fun Fact: Also called the “Roman Ladies’ Dog,” this breed was associated with prestige in the Roman Empire. Women aristocrats often carried a Maltese around in their sleeves or on their laps, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Learn more about the adorable Maltese.
#2: Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier is a traditional American dog known for its signature dark-colored and white coat complemented by large sparkling eyes.
Temperament: Boston Terriers present a nice blend of humorous charm and sophistication. They are a smart, alert, and high-energy breed but also enjoy hanging around the home with their family. This breed is loyal to one person although polite to all. Boston Terriers are prone to snoring because of their flat noses and narrow nostrils.
Grooming: The Boston Terrier’s shorthaired coat only needs occasional brushing. Many Boston Terriers have adorable nose wrinkles, which should be wiped frequently to keep dirt and dust away.
Exercise: Taking a walk around the block or playing inside with the family keeps this breed in shape.
Fun Fact: Named after their city of origin—Boston, Massachusetts—the Boston Terrier makes the ultimate city dog because their compact size is ideal for apartment living and they are always up for a quick stroll down the sidewalk!
Read on about the intelligent Boston Terrier.
The Dachshund is an unmistakable breed that comes in miniature and standard sizes and a multitude of colors. They are extremely good looking and amusing dogs.
Temperament: Dachshunds have unmatched self-confidence and courage, a reminder that they were bred to fight the fearsome badger. They have a passion for their pet parents, are loyal protectors of their family, and can be stubborn at times. This breed is partly hound and partly terrier, making them an independent and feisty dog.
Grooming: The smooth-coated Dachshund has a short coat that requires the least amount of grooming compared to the Dachshund varieties. Meanwhile, the longhaired variety needs more frequent grooming and sheds the most out of the three types (although it’s easy to find other breeds that shed more!). The wirehaired Dachshund must be brushed often and trimmed to maintain a neat coat.
Exercise: Several daily walks are ideal for this breed. The walks should not be overtiring because a Dachshund is not built for strenuous exercise.
Fun Fact: Often called “wiener dogs,” Dachshunds actually inspired the name of the hotdog rather than the other way around. The original name of the hotdog was the “Dachshund sausage,” according to hot-dog.org.
Discover more about the spunky Dachshund.
#4: Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu has a tiny face and bright eyes that have charmed people for generations—and continue to do so.
Temperament: Shih Tzus are jolly companions that twinkle with friendliness. They are one of the best for a family with younger kids. This breed’s ancestors spent most of their time lounging in royal Chinese palaces, so they naturally make a happy lapdog.
Grooming: If maintaining a long flowing coat for a Shih Tzu, it needs to be brushed daily and the hair in front of their face should be kept in a topknot (tied up neatly and away from their eyes). You can also keep the coat short—which does not require as much grooming or a topknot.
Exercise: A brief daily walk or short indoor playtime is perfect for this breed.
Fun Fact: Because Shih Tzus were exclusively pets of Chinese emperors, these dogs lived behind the walls of the royal kingdoms and were basically unknown to outside world until the 1930s.
Find more information about the graceful Shih Tzu.
The Pug is one of the most recognized dogs in the world, with its wrinkled brows, glimmering eyes, and curly tail.
Temperament: The Pug is affectionate, playful, and even-tempered. This lovable breed is courteous to other people and animals and gets along with both kids and adults—making them a universal favorite. Pugs enjoy sleeping, though they are prone to snoring and snorting due to their flat faces and small nostrils, which affect breathing.
Grooming: The Pug’s short coat does not require much maintenance, but it does shed. Pay attention to the face and eyes because those cute facial wrinkles may accumulate dust and dirt.
Exercise: This breed requires daily strolls or playtime in the yard.
Fun Fact: The origin of the name “Pug” is a mystery. One theory suggests it comes from the Latin word “pugnus”—which means “fist”—because a fist resembles this adorable breed’s wrinkled face.
Learn more about the sweet Pug.
The Pomeranian is a classic small dog that sports a fluffy coat, fox-like appearance, and eager grin.
Temperament: This breed is social with other dogs, devoted to their owner, and an ideal lapdog. Pomeranians are cheerful and intelligent little furry friends, interested in everything that goes on around them. Plus, they make great watchdogs! When properly trained, they can master an abundance of charming tricks.
Grooming: Pomeranians are constant shedders who require regular, thorough brushing.
Exercise: Be sure to have plenty of dog play toys handy, because this breed thrives with regular exercise! They enjoy walking, running, playing, and sticking near their pet parents’ sides.
Fun Fact: Pomeranians became popular when Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom returned home from Italy with one. The breed soon gained worldwide fame!
Read on about the enchanting Pomeranian.
The Chihuahua is known for its tiny size but large personality—not to mention pointy ears and cute round eyes.
Temperament: Chihuahuas are extremely loyal, and their pet parents are, too! In fact, people who have a Chihuahua often have more than one in their lifetime. Smart, brave, and loving, this breed will earn—and demand—your respect. Chihuahuas are protective (or overprotective) of their pet parents. Most are good with other pets but dislike certain dogs’ personalities.
Grooming: Longhaired Chihuahuas require frequent brushing while the shorthaired variety only needs occasional brushing to stay well-groomed. Their eyes should be cleaned often; because these dogs are close to the ground, their eyes collect dirt and debris.
Exercise: Daily walks or following their family around the house is ideal for the Chihuahua.
Fun Fact: Relative to their size, Chihuahuas have the biggest brain of any dog breed, according to the Central California Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (CCSPCA).
Discover more about the confident Chihuahua.
#8: Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier, also known as the “Yorkie,” sports a distinct gray and tan silky coat and is a fashionable, popular small dog breed.
Temperament: Yorkies are true terriers—playful and fearless with an energetic spirit. They get along well with other pets and are intelligent dogs that are easy to train. Yorkies make superb watchdogs. However, they can be possessive of their pet parents and tend to follow them around because they dislike being alone.
Grooming: A long-coated Yorkie should be brushed daily and the hair in front of their face should be trimmed often or maintained in a topknot. Pet parents typically keep this breed’s hair cut short to simplify grooming, although their coat still requires regular brushing.
Exercise: Yorkies are active dogs that enjoy moderate exercise, such as accompanying their pet parents on walks, playing outside, or running errands.
Fun Fact: The first therapy dog was a Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky. She toured hospitals during World War II and offered comfort to injured soldiers, according to Psychology Today.
Find more information about the brave Yorkshire Terrier.
While the Poodle is often associated with dog shows, these curly-coated, muscular dogs are also great companions to welcome into your home. However, they are not exclusively in the small dog breed category; the small versions of this breed include Toy and Miniature Poodles.
Temperament: Toy and Miniature Poodles are clever, sophisticated dogs that can pull off the most elaborate, iconic haircuts. Both are highly intelligent, trainable dogs that excel in athletics. The Toy Poodle is slightly smaller in size, but the Miniature Poodle is more suitable for a family with younger children because the Toy Poodle prefers a calmer environment.
Grooming: Poodles are hypoallergenic and practically non-shedding, but their thick, curly hair requires daily brushing and upkeep.
Exercise: Poodles are extremely active dogs with high energy levels, so they enjoy long walks, runs, sports, and swimming!
Fun Fact: This breed’s fancy show coat originally had a practical function; hunters wanted Poodles to be able to move freely while also staying warm when retrieving ducks in cold water.
Learn more about the stylish Poodle.
#10: Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise has a white, fluffy coat and endearing smile that wins over hearts.
Temperament: This breed is friendly, affectionate, and cheerful. The Bichon loves to entertain their family and spend as much quality time as they can with their pet parents. They get along well with older children, adults, and other pets—and are even welcoming to strangers.
Grooming: Despite being a hypoallergenic dog breed that hardly sheds, the Bichon Frise’s coat requires careful attention with daily brushing. Their eyes should be regularly cleaned to prevent tear stains and skin irritation.
Exercise: These dogs experience bursts of energy, so daily walks and playtime are necessary.
Fun Fact: In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Bichon Frise was often used in street performances and circus acts, charming audiences with their cute appearance and impressive tricks.
Read on about the warm-hearted Bichon Frise.
Popular Small Dog Breeds for Every Home
Though each is unique, these pups all offer different personalities and features that make them among the best small dog breeds! However, it is important to find which is most compatible with what you are looking for in a furry friend.
Interested in learning about even more excellent small dog breed companions? Check out the French Bulldog, Jack Russell Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, Papillon, and Pekingese.