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Chihuahua tongue

The essentials

  • Tiny breeds have big personalities — Just because you get a tiny dog doesn’t mean your dog will be short on spunk. Many tiny breed dogs are active, loving, and energetic companions.
  • Small dogs don’t mean less work — It’s important for pet owners to know that small dogs also need plenty of exercise and playtime, just like larger breeds do.
  • Know the difference between a toy and a teacup dog — Dogs in the toy group are specific breeds under 15 pounds, while teacup dogs are tiny dogs purposefully bred to be as small as possible. Veterinary experts generally discourage purchasing a teacup breed for the health problems they are more prone to having.

One of the many great things about dogs is that they come in all shapes and sizes. No matter your lifestyle, there’s a pup who can fit into your family. For some dog owners, having a tiny dog provides an added layer of convenience to the big responsibility that is pet ownership.

A tiny dog’s small size makes them easy to walk, carry, or take in a carrying bag in a busy urban environment. Jetsetting pet parents may enjoy being able to take their pups with them in a carry-on bag. And many small dogs are not small on energy, so those dog owners who love being active can still have a four-legged friend to keep up with them.

Prospective dog parents on the hunt for a tiny pup should always be very careful about where they get their dog. Some irresponsible breeders may overbreed dogs for their size or other desirable features, leading to major health problems in litters. Tiny dogs may be especially susceptible to health problems if they come from a less-than-reputable breeder.

Dog owners who want to get their pup from a breeder should make sure the breeder can provide them with a history of their dog’s lineage. This report can also highlight potential health issues that may run in the family line.

Much as the giant breeds have problems associated with their sizes, tiny breeds have inherited and congenital problems, and asking a veterinary professional for help is a good way to get as much info as possible. Research and physical examinations of the pet are a good place to start. Genetic testing can be performed now and helps monitor for potential abnormalities.

Dr. Bruce Armstrong

betterpet vet

This breed list has been cultivated for our readers through betterpet’s partnership with FidoTabby Alert.

16 tiny dog breeds


Chihuahua face close-up
Average height 6-9 inches
Average weight Male: 7-14 lbs, Female: 6-12 lbs
Description A pint-sized pup with a big attitude

Despite being one of the world’s smallest dog breeds, Chihuahuas have no shortage of personality. They are very loving and loyal, often specifically to one family member. Chihuahuas love being lap dogs and are content with a couple of short walks and a little play time each day.

Shih tzu

Low-energy dog breed, the shih tzu.
Average height 9-11 inches
Average weight Male: 11-18 lbs, Female: 10-15 lbs
Description A popular best friend with a long lifespan

Although these pups originally hail from China, they’re one of the most popular breeds in the United States today. Shih tzus are highly adaptable dogs and are great with kids and older folks. While they love to play, shih tzus don’t require a ton of exercise or long walks.

Yorkshire terrier

Yorkshire terrier
Average height 7-9 inches
Average weight Male 6-12 lbs, Female 5-10 lbs
Description These little dogs with luscious locks have a long lifespan

Another extremely popular dog breed, the Yorkshire terrier (or Yorkie) is a lovable and affectionate little breed. Because of their exceptionally small size, they’re best suited for adults or older children who can handle them gently. These are great apartment dogs, adaptable to any environment.


Dapple dachshund
Average height 5-6 inches
Average weight Male: 12-20 lbs, Female: 10-18 lbs
Description A lively, low-slung hot dog who will be your lifelong friend

Originating in Germany, dachshunds are fiercely loyal to their humans and make excellent watchdogs. Dachshunds pack a lot of personality into those long bodies. They’re also high-energy dogs and require lots of exercise and stimulation. Dachshunds are a great small dog breed for more active dog owners.


Average height 6-7 inches
Average weight Male: 8-15 lbs, Female: 7-13 lbs
Description Adorable fluff balls that can easily be carried around

These fuzzy little pocket pals are extremely loving and playful. They love to shower their humans with kisses and cuddles. Pomeranians even make excellent emotional support animals due to their affectionate nature. They do love to play and are moderately active, but are also very content to be lazy with you.

Toy poodle

Toy poodle sitting on a fluffy chair.
Average height Up to 10 inches
Average weight Male: 8-14 lbs, Female: 7-12 lbs
Description Whip-smart and very loyal family members

The smallest version of the three breeds of poodle, the toy poodle is considered just as intelligent as its larger counterparts. With early socialization, toy poodles can thrive in any family environment. Because they’re so smart, toy poodles need plenty of physical and mental stimulation. They thrive with dog owners who are highly active and committed to their training.


Papillon walking in grass.
Average height 8-11 inches
Average weight Male: 9-15 lbs, Female: 7-14 lbs
Description One of the oldest dog breeds, they also have a long lifespan

This French-originating breed is small in stature, but surprisingly energetic and agile. Papillons are confident and very sweet dogs who thrive on playtime and lots of exercise. These dogs make excellent companions for agility training and do great with active owners.


Teacup Maltese in the grass
Average height 7-9 inches
Average weight Male: 8-14 lbs, Female: 7-12 lbs
Description Mini athletes that can go anywhere with ease

The Maltese is a highly energetic and highly affectionate breed. They love being with their people and especially love lots of stimulation and exercise. These fast-paced pups do great with owners who have a fast-paced lifestyle.

Bichon frisé

Fluffy Bichon frise on walk
Average height 9.5-11.5 inches
Average weight Male: 12-20 lbs, Female: 10-17 lbs
Description An ultra-friendly and good-natured little breed

The bichon frisé is an exceptionally sweet-tempered pup. They get along well with other dogs, people, and even cats if socialized early. Bichons are adaptable to city or suburban life and only require moderate exercise every day. What the bichon loves most is being a cuddly lap dog.


Havanese puppy
Average height 8.5-11.5 inches
Average weight Male: 11-18 lbs, Female: 10-15 lbs
Description Sweet-tempered and playful little pups

The only dog native to Cuba, the Havanese is a gentle and loving little dog. They have a long lifespan averaging 14-16 years, so you’ll get plenty of good years with your pup. Havanese are extremely attached to their owners and love to be with them at all times. These dogs are a great option for people who love to carry their pups around in a dog-friendly carrier.


Pekingese dog laying in leaves
Average height 6-9 inches
Average weight Male: 12-19 lbs, Female: 10-15 lbs
Description A lap dog fit for a king

Originally bred in China to be the sidekick to emperors, these pups have a majestic lion’s mane framing their faces. Pekingese are very relaxed dogs who typically don’t need more than a couple of short walks per day. These pups do best in laid-back environments with older children or adults.

Chinese crested

Chinese crested dog in a blue and yellow coat
Average height 9-14 inches
Average weight Male: 10-16 lbs, Female: 8-14 lbs
Description A surprisingly active and highly intelligent little breed

These unique-looking little pups not only have beautiful, silky coats, and tufts of fur but also loving and highly trainable personalities. The Chinese crested loves mental stimulation, including puzzle toys and mazes. They’re a great pick for pet owners who want to get their dogs into agility training. Because of their small and slight nature, they’re high-energy sprinters, only needing about 30 minutes to an hour of play and exercise a day.

Jack Russell terrier

Happy Jack Russell terrier
Average height 10-15 inches
Average weight Male: 15-25 lbs, Female: 14-24 lbs
Description Extremely high-energy pups that will keep you busy

Jack Russell terriers are a popular and friendly little breed. These dogs are a good pick for experienced and highly active dog owners. They have tons of energy and require lots of training as well as mental and physical stimulation. They’re a great choice for dog owners who are into hunting or want to get their dogs into agility training.

Miniature schnauzer

Miniature schnauzer laying in grass.
Average height 13-14 inches
Average weight Male: 12-19 lbs, Female: 10-15 lbs
Description Sturdy and alert lifelong friends

The highly popular miniature schnauzer is an excellent little breed that makes a loving household companion. Their long lifespans, around 12-15 years, mean you’ll have plenty of memories with them. Mini schnauzers are very adaptable and only need moderate exercise, so they can accompany you on your adventures and be a couch potato.

Rat terrier

Rat terrier closeup outside.
Average height 10-18 inches
Average weight Male: 12-22 lbs, Female: 12-22 lbs
Description A spunky and social little pup

These highly energetic dogs are a great pick for humans with active lifestyles. Rat terriers are very social and like lots of attention. Frequent trips to the dog park or carting your dog around in a carrier would be a great option for rat terrier owners.

Miniature pinscher

Miniature pinscher running in the grass
Average height 10-12.5 inches
Average weight Male: 10-19 lbs, Female: 9-17 lbs
Description A high-energy and constantly playful breed

The min pin is a dog who loves to go go go, and they need to be a part of a family that’s just as energetic as they are. Miniature pinschers are great watchdogs and fiercely loyal to their humans, though they’re also very sociable dogs

The difference between toy and teacup dogs

There are so many different names and terms for dogs, it can be hard for pet parents to know where to start with their research. For prospective owners looking for a tiny dog, some of the research has already been narrowed down. One thing that’s important to know is the difference between a toy and a teacup dog. Sometimes these terms get confused with each other, but they’re not the same thing.

A toy dog breed refers specifically to dogs that are under 15 pounds. Chihuahuas fall into this group, as do Pomeranians and toy poodles. The American Kennel Club recognizes toy dogs as an official breed group. A teacup dog, however, is a dog that is specifically bred to be even smaller than a toy breed. When a breeder wants a teacup Chihuahua, for example, they purposefully breed the smallest dogs of their litter to try and get especially small puppies.

Benefits of the world’s smallest dog breeds

Aside from being able to bring your best friend almost everywhere you go, there are plenty of pros to life with a tiny dog.

  • Hiking with small dogs. It’s a misnomer that little dogs aren’t down for big adventures. Many small breeds love to exercise and play and are happy to join their humans on hikes and other outdoor adventures. A tiny pup is also much easier to carry or stow in a dog-friendly carrier when they get tired from those long hikes.
  • Longer lifespans. While some larger breeds sadly only live around 10-12 years and sometimes even less, smaller breeds have longer lifespans. Some breeds can even be part of your lives for upwards of twenty years. Having a smaller breed generally means you’ll have more time to love them and have them a part of your family.
  • Not as prone to certain health issues. Because of their larger sizes, many large dog breeds are prone to medical issues like hip dysplasia, bloat, and/or heart and joint conditions. These aren’t typically health concerns we see with smaller breed dogs.
  • Smaller dogs mean smaller everything. When you’ve got a tiny dog, you won’t have to worry about buying as much dog food. Tiny pups also take up less space while cuddling with you on the couch. Not to mention small dogs also mean smaller poops to have to pick up!

Health factors to consider with tiny dogs

As with any dog, it’s important for new pet parents to consider a pup’s potential health risks and their impact on your family’s life. Teacup dogs especially have some level of controversy around them, and some people strongly oppose breeding teacup pups. When teacup dogs are bred, the smallest pups (or the runts) of the litter are chosen for breeding.

These dogs are already predisposed to health conditions, so breeding two of them together to make a new litter often means they pass on health issues to their puppies. Even if they don’t inherit any genetic abnormalities, teacup dogs are especially fragile because of their size. They’re more prone to broken bones and other injuries.

While a teacup dog isn’t recommended, small dog lovers can still have an adorable purse puppy in a regular toy breed. Our list includes pups that comfortably fit in small dog carriers. These pups are happy to join their humans on adventures and don’t have the same health risks that a teacup dog poses.

Little dogs come in all kinds of energy levels and personality types. No matter what you’re looking for, pet parents looking to add a small dog to their family can find a little breed to suit their lifestyle. Little dogs provide just as much fun, play, and love as their larger breed counterparts, and likewise require just as much care and attention.

Frequently asked questions

What is the smallest teacup dog?

Teacup Chihuahuas are considered the smallest teacup dogs, typically weighing in at under 6 lbs.

How do you properly care for a tiny dog?

Like all dogs, a tiny dog needs a balanced and nutritious diet, plenty of exercise, and lots of love and affection. Dog owners may need to take care that especially small dogs aren’t able to be injured jumping off of furniture.

What is the average lifespan for a tiny dog?

The lifespan of a tiny dog depends on its breed, but smaller dogs typically live longer than larger breeds. Smaller breed dogs on average live anywhere from 12-16 years.

How do you train and socialize your tiny dog properly?

Tiny dogs can be trained and socialized in the same way any breed can. However, because of their small size pet owners may need to be extra careful that their pups don’t get hurt when playing with larger dogs.