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The essentials

  • Small dogs may be prone to certain health conditions — Heart problems and obesity, for example, can be common among several small dog breeds.
  • These zippy pups love to play and exercise — Small doesn’t mean lazy! These small dog breeds are all ready and willing to join you on your next excursion.
  • Small dog breeds need extra care in extreme temperatures — While all dogs can be susceptible to weather and temperatures, small dog breeds may need extra care and planning in extreme heat or cold.

Small dog breeds carry a special pocket-sized place in our hearts. Spunky, adorable, and ready for adventure, these breed members are the perfect choice if you’re looking for a furry friend who won’t mind living in a more conservatively-sized space.

Our list of the best small dog breeds is brought to you by betterpet’s FidoTabby Alert partnership.

1. French bulldog

French bulldog puppy
Average Height 11 to 13 inches
Average Weight 20 to 30 pounds
Description Gentle, playful, independent

The sweet-natured French bulldog hails from Europe, and is thought by many to be the product of crossbreeding between toy French and English breeds. They are known for their gentle and fun-loving personalities and are always ready to join you on your next adventure.

Many appreciate the fact that these small furry friends don’t need as much exercise as their fellow breed “neighbors,” making these little dogs a great choice for people with busy lifestyles.

French bulldogs are perfectly content with a daily walk around the block and hanging out at home, playing with toys or their fellow puppy companions. This flat-faced or brachycephalic breed can be susceptible to conditions like hip dysplasia, brachycephalic syndrome, hiatal hernias , megaesophagus , and eye troubles (like conjunctivitis) — but you can work with your veterinarian to determine preventative and acute care plans if and when your pet becomes affected.

2. Pug

A pug sitting outside.
Average Height 10 to 14 inches
Average Weight 19 to 24 pounds
Description Social, affectionate, calm

Don’t let their small size fool you, these little dogs have a lot of love to give. Pugs are known for their sweet disposition, making them a great choice for families with kids or other dogs. Pugs are “people-dogs” and love being social, either with their pet parents or fellow animals.

Many experts believe that this breed comes from a long line of Chinese Mastiff breeding, which could have contributed to their hallmark curly tail, wrinkles, and short face.

Pugs can be susceptible to allergies, luxations (when the joints slip out of the sockets) in certain areas, and dysplasia of the hip—which can cause pain and irritation. Pugs are also prone to some of the same breathing issues as the aforementioned Frenchie. If you’re considering getting a pug, connect with your vet to make sure that you have the best care plan in place should your furry friend need it.

3. Miniature poodle

Miniature poodle in a field
Average Height 10 to 15 inches
Average Weight 10 to 14 pounds
Description Intelligent, independent, friendly

Small breeds often come with big personalities — and the mini poodle is no different. More compact than the standard poodle variant, but larger than the toy poodle, the mini is a happy medium for many owners. They are one of the most popular small dog breeds and are known for their love of people, fierce independence, and friendly temperament. They come from Germany and were known as toy poodles (or toy dog breeds) through the early 1900s, at which point breeders began to develop an even smaller version. This would eventually lead to what we know as the mini poodle today. Today, the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 3 unique varieties of poodle.

Mini poodles are extremely energetic, which can lead to anxiety if it isn’t properly released. They do best in homes and environments with plenty of opportunities to play and exercise, either inside or outside.  Beyond anxiety, they may also be vulnerable to developing progressive retinal atrophy , epilepsy, thyroid issues, and dental disease. Your vet can work with you to create preventative and acute care plans that can help.

4. Boston terrier

Boston terrier in park
Average Height 15 to 17 inches
Average Weight 15 to 25 pounds
Description Affectionate, social, inquisitive

If you’re looking for a pet that won’t mind small spaces and that has a manageable, moderate activity level, consider going with a friendly Boston terrier. While they aren’t a toy breed, they don’t take up much space — and these cute dogs have a personality that can’t be beat. They bring the personality and fun of larger breeds into the body of a tiny dog, making them one of the most popular dog breeds currently in America,  per the AKC.

Boston terriers originated in England, and have made quite a splash since their global debut. Like many other breed neighbors, these pocket-sized pups are predisposed to certain medical conditions. These include diagnoses like epilepsy, cancer in the form of mast cell tumors, and obesity, to name a few. Your vet can help with tailored diets, medication (if needed), or alternative methods of care.

5. Shiba inu

A shiba inu wearing a collar standing in a garden
Average Height 13 to 17 inches
Average Weight 19 to 30 pounds
Description Affectionate, fearless, strong-willed

These little dogs might have a small stature, but they’ve got loads of energy and some serious intelligence and ability. The shiba inu breed originated in Japan and holds a special place in Japanese culture, in which they are honored as skilled hunting dogs and incredibly loyal companions.

These energetic pups are always ready to play, and won’t necessarily do well in places with limited space. They’ll want plenty of room to run and romp throughout the days and may require frequent walks to keep their pent-up energy at bay.

Like others in their size class, the shiba inu can be predisposed to conditions like hip dysplasia, or allergies. Lastly, they can be known for a stubborn streak, so it’s important to begin training and socialization early on in life. Be sure to connect with your vet to have a care plan in place if you’re considering welcoming a shiba into your home.

6. Pembroke Welsh corgi

Pembroke welsh corgi sat outside
Average Height 10 to 12 inches
Average Weight 22 to 35 pounds
Description Playful, loyal, affectionate

The Pembroke Welsh corgi is one of the most popular small dog breeds on the list — and they’ve been long-beloved throughout England and Europe well before Queen Elizabeth brought the breed into modern-mainstream popularity. Their ancestors surprisingly comprised a mix of all sizes of dogs, such as the Samoyed and the Pomeranian.

While they can be lap dogs some of the time, these tiny pups with a herding heritage love a good run around. They live a playful, happy life, and are a good match for owners with an active, flexible lifestyle that accommodates their energy needs.

Pembroke Welsh corgis can be susceptible to conditions like epilepsy, tooth decay, and kidney problems . They can also experience pretty severe back problems, especially as they age. Your vet can help you if any issues arise.

7. Cardigan Welsh corgi

Welsh corgi cardigan exercise
Average Height 10 to 13 inches
Average Weight 22 to 37 pounds
Description Intelligent, loyal, protective

Slightly bigger and slightly less energetic than their Pembroke counterparts, Cardigan Welsh corgis are loving and loyal to their pet parents. They have a rich history and are believed to have come from migrant Celtic groups in Wales over 3,000 years ago. Today, they are loved all over the world — acting as a slightly calmer counterpart to the high-energy Pembroke Welsh corgi.

These dogs are a good choice for families with special needs, older children, or other pets, as they are intelligent, protective, and incredibly social. Despite their tiny size, they have a big personality that shines through with every interaction; whether it’s with other small mammals or their pet parents.

Cardigan Welsh corgis are fairly healthy compared to the other smaller dog options on this list. However, parents should keep an eye out for symptoms of hip dysplasia, back issues, or vision problems, as they can be common to the breed.

8. Miniature Australian shepherd

Miniature Australian shepherd
Average Height 14 to 18 inches
Average Weight 20 to 35 pounds
Description Friendly, youthful, easygoing

These little guys are perpetually in “puppy mode” and love to have a good time. Falling in the middle of toy dogs and larger pups, their compact size makes them excellent travel companions.

Mini Australian shepherds can come with different personalities and preferences, but one fact stays true across all dogs in the breed category – they are all wary of strangers and are fiercely defensive of the ones that they love. Many find that they are among the best small dogs for pawrents who want a high-energy breed, without the size that normally accompanies traditional high-energy breeds. For a dog with similar traits, owners can also consider a breed descended from the Aussie – the miniature American shepherd.

While Australian shepherds are generally pretty healthy, they can experience conditions like hip dysplasia, epilepsy, and eye problems. If you notice any symptoms, your vet can help you manage them.

9. Cocker spaniel

Cocker spaniel with floppy ears
Average Height 13 to 16 inches
Average Weight 20 to 29 pounds
Description Gentle, friendly, introverted

Cocker spaniels are sweet, quiet, and kind — making them great choices for pet parents who are looking for calmer companions or who have children that are new to dog ownership. They are beautiful as well and are often shown in conformation shows, being recognized and awarded for their fluffy, shiny coat and unique appearance.

Spaniel dogs hail from England, and are historically renowned for their skills in both hunting and companionship. They enjoy activities that are relatively low-impact and that engage their intelligence, catering to their need for physical and mental stimulation.

While fairly healthy, breed members may still be predisposed to obesity, heart problems of all types, allergy-bourne skin and ear issues, and epilepsy. Preventative care is key to keeping your pet healthy and happy.

10. Border terrier

Border terrier
Average Height 11 to 16 inches
Average Weight 15 to 30 pounds
Description Intelligent, obedient, kind

Border terriers are a great breed for new pet owners and seasoned parents alike. They are incredibly patient, intelligent, trainable, and kind, and they have lower energy needs than many other breed entries on this list, as well as other terriers in their breed group. They have a centuries-long Scottish origin and are thought to come from Bedlington terriers, Dandie Dinmont terriers, and other group members.

Like many others on this list, border terriers can be predisposed to certain conditions due to size and genetics. These include conditions like hip dysplasia, luxations of the knees, and coagulopathies — or blood clotting issues . Keeping up with preventative care is essential for your pet’s health.

11. American Eskimo dog

American Eskimo dog on a leash with its owner.
Average Height 9 to 19 inches
Average Weight 19 to 29 pounds
Description Protective, loyal, intelligent

This pup is whip-smart, loyal, and incredibly sweet — what more could a pet owner ask for? If you’re looking for all of this personality in a compact package, look no further than the American Eskimo dog.

This special pet, despite its name, descends from Germany-based breeds and is directly related to the German spitz. Pet parents around the globe love the breed for its kind nature and capacity for intelligence, traits which were likely refined over ancestors’ shared decades on German farms and viking ships.

The main health issues to watch for in American Eskimo dogs include progressive retinal atrophy and hip dysplasia. Beyond these conditions, they are fairly healthy and can live a long time.

12. Standard schnauzer

Standard schnauzer outside in the grass
Average Height 19 to 20 inches
Average Weight 15 to 30 pounds
Description Vocal, social, independent

Standard schnauzers are known for their strong will, friendliness, and frequent vocalization. These unique qualities make them a great choice for pet parents with lots of time and room to spare to help them burn energy, train, and live well — accommodating any extra effort that may come with their unique temperament and personality.

These dogs have a German lineage and are thought to have been bred around the 14th to the 16th centuries. They are currently a family favorite around the world, packing a serious “punch” of personality in a cute, compact package. For an even smaller-sized option, consider the compact miniature schnauzer as well.

Standard schnauzers can experience conditions like obesity, diabetes, hip dysplasia, and tooth issues. If in doubt, always connect with your vet for care and advice. They can help you before, during, and after you bring your pet home.

Benefits of having a small dog

There are many benefits pet owners can enjoy by owning a smaller dog. You may be looking for a pup that’s travel-friendly, or you may be looking for a furry friend that fits your lifestyle and living situation now.

No matter what the reasoning, we want to assure you that you’re completely justified in your decision. We also want to remind you that there are plenty of sweet, fun-loving breeds to choose from, no matter what your needs are.

Other benefits people can enjoy from having a small dog include:

  • Lessened risk of allergy issues. While no breed is truly hypoallergenic, plenty of small dogs (i.e., the toy or mini poodle) are low-shedding, making them ideal for those who live with pet allergies.
  • Possibly longer lifespans. We all want our pets to live forever. Investing in a pet that has a better chance at a longer life can be ideal for many.
  • Easier travel experiences. If you’re traveling frequently on a plane or other forms of public transport, smaller dogs are often easier to bring along.

Health factors to consider with small dogs

Many small dog breeds don’t begin to fully mature and enter senior dog years until age 10 (or older!)  However, no breed is perfect — and many share the same genetic risks of developing some of the canine conditions listed below.


Small dogs can be prone to obesity, which is why creating a tailored and healthy diet is so important. If you’re not sure where to start, we recommend speaking with your vet. They can provide you with personalized insights about how much you should be feeding your dog and how to best meet their nutritional needs.

Heart disease

Small dog breeds can be genetically predisposed to canine heart disease. While many cases of heart disease are congenital and can’t be completely avoided, pet owners can focus on feeding their dogs taurine and Omega-rich diets that can lower the pet’s overall risk of developing the condition.

Dental disease

While tooth decay and oral issues overall can be a risk to small dogs, pet parents can get ahead of this with frequent tooth brushing at home. Here’s how.

Thyroid issues

Thyroid issues can look different for every pet, from the production of too little secretions of the thyroid, known as hypothyroidism , to producing too many secretions, called hyperthyroidism (although the latter is very rare in dogs and more common in cats).. Vets often treat this with medication or lifestyle changes as needed.

Frequently asked questions

What is the happiest small dog?

This is totally subjective — as any well-taken-care-of dog is happy! However, many feel that breeds like the Boston terrier and Pembroke Welsh corgi have an especially happy personality — making them great for pet parents who are looking for an easygoing dog. Cavalier King Charles spaniels are also great choices, as they were originally bred for companionship and support.

What’s a good dog breed for a small house?

Cardigan Welsh corgis, Boston terriers, American Eskimo dogs, and shiba inus are all great choices if you’re looking for small house dog breeds with incredible personalities.

What is the most laid-back small dog?

Cavalier King Charles spaniels take the cake if you’re looking for small dog breeds that are incredibly sweet and smart.

Are there any calm small dogs?

Contrary to popular belief, not all small dogs are rambunctious. Many, like the Cocker spaniel or the Shetland sheepdog, are very calm-spirited and sweet.

What is the easiest dog breed to live with?

There’s not a singular answer to this question. The easiest dog breed to live with is the one that aligns with your needs the best. If you’re not sure where to begin on your search, you can reach out to your local shelter or source for pets and ask their formal opinion. You can also ask your trusted family or friends, perhaps some of whom already own a dog.

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