Pet owners

What are the best small dog breeds?

Sarah Smith
January 24, 2023

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    A small dog can be a good choice for singles, couples, and families. They don't take up much space, can sit on your lap for a cuddle, and typically eat less than a larger breed.

    Did you know that 70% of households in the US have a pet, and 69 million of those homes have dogs? Even if you're renting, your dream of adopting a furry companion is a possibility — especially if you choose a small breed.

    There is a range of little dog breeds to choose from, and the perfect fit will depend on your lifestyle.

    To help you make the right decision, here’s a rundown of the best small dog breeds:

    What are the benefits of having a small dog?

    Dogs make excellent companions. But if you live in a city apartment or another compact dwelling, you likely don't have the space for a large breed. 

    A small pooch gives you the benefits of having a pet without the need for a big rental property. They're easy to transport and often more manageable during walk time.

    Plus, families with children may feel more comfortable with a smaller dog than a larger one. Particularly if your kids have never had a pet before, a gentle, miniature breed will help boost their confidence around animals.

    Another benefit of a small dog is they usually eat much less, which can save you money over time. Keep in mind, however, that some small breeds, such as pugs, can have ongoing health issues that can lead to high vet bills.

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    And keep in mind, no matter how big your dog is, it’ll still need training. Even traditionally calm breeds can become aggressive if they’re not taught how to behave.

    PetScreening can help you secure the right property for you and your dog. Learn more about our service.

    What are the best small dog breeds?

    Thinking about getting a small dog but not sure which breed is right for you? 

    Here are the best small breed types for any living situation. Don't forget, however, that a purebred is only one option. There are also mixed breeds and pups in rescue centers waiting to be adopted.

    Best mini dog breeds

    Let’s start with mini, or “toy,” dogs. Here are five popular toy breeds to consider:

    1. Maltese

    The Maltese has straight, medium-length white hair. Even though this breed is a light shedder, its coat type means it requires daily brushing and regular baths.

    Malteses are known to be affectionate, fun-loving, and intelligent. As long as they get socialized young, they make good family pets.

    They're a mini breed that’s happy living in an apartment or small home. If you don't have a backyard, be prepared to take your canine companion for short daily walks.

    Malteses can be yappy and destructive if left alone for too long. With consistent training, you can prevent these bad habits from forming.

    How big do Malteses get?

    The average height of a Maltese is between 8 and 10 inches. This breed’s weight ranges between 4 and 7 pounds.

    2. Chihuahua

    Chihuahuas are one of the most popular small dog breeds. They're intelligent and loyal pets with quirky personalities.

    Chihuahuas can have a smooth or long coat. They require gentle brushing and should be wiped regularly with a damp cloth. An occasional bath will keep their fur fresh.

    Without attention, care, and training from an early age, these plucky pals tend to be yappy and aggressive with strangers.

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    Chihuahuas are affectionate with their owners and don't mind being carried. Short walks will help them burn excess energy, and they'll enjoy exploring the neighborhood.

    These dogs are suitable for small apartment living. If you have a backyard, it should have a secure fence.

    How big do Chihuahuas get?

    The average height of a Chihuahua is between 6 and 9 inches. They weigh between 3 and 6 pounds.

    3. Papillon

    If you have time to dedicate to a Papillon, they'll be a playful and cuddly lap dog. They're small enough to carry and are popular in doggie competitions.

    Papillons have oversized ears and long, straight hair. This is a toy breed with a silky coat, and when the seasons change, they shed. During these periods, you'll need to brush your dog daily. However, Papillons are a clean breed and won't need regular baths.

    Because of their coat, these companion dogs prefer warmer climates. They're intelligent and easy to train but may be aggressive to strangers. If socialized early, they'll be happy living with both children and other pets.

    Papillons like being outside, so if you're living in an apartment, you'll need to schedule outdoor time and daily exercise. This breed doesn't like being left alone for too long, so if you work remotely, this could be the perfect breed for you.

    How big do Papillons get?

    The average height for a Papillon is between 8 and 11 inches. The average weight is 7 to 10 pounds.

    4. Yorkshire Terrier

    Yorkshire Terriers are energetic, affectionate, small dogs. 

    These canines have long, fine, straight hair that requires an above-average amount of grooming. You should commit to brushing your Yorkshire Terrier every day.

    The Yorkie is an active toy breed that needs to be walked daily. They're intelligent, and care should be taken to ensure they're trained properly. Without boundaries, Yorkies can become yappy or nippy.  

    This classic small breed makes a good watchdog — consistently letting you know if someone is at the door. They suit singles, couples, and families with older children. 

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    Yorkshire Terriers are happy to live indoors in anything from a small apartment to a large house and yard. However, they'll need regular exercise, and their barking may annoy your neighbors. 

    How big can a Yorkshire Terrier get?

    The average height for a Yorkie is between 8 and 9 inches. They weigh between 5 and 7 pounds.

    5. Pomeranian

    Pomeranians are another top toy dog breed. They have a fluffy double coat with medium-length, straight hair.

    Because of the Pomeranians’ double coat, you'll need to brush your dog at least twice a week to remove the underlayer. They're generally clean animals and only need the occasional bath.

    Pomeranians are intelligent and sociable, and with the right upbringing, they’re good with both kids and other pets.

    These affectionate companions are alert and will bark if they hear any strange noises. They enjoy long daily walks as long as the weather isn't too hot.

    Pomeranians are content in any living environment, including an apartment, condo, or large home. If they're trained, you can leave them alone while you're at work without having to worry about destructive behavior.

    How big do Pomeranians get?

    The average height of a Pomeranian is between 8 and 11 inches. The average weight is between 3 and 7 pounds. 

    Best small dog breeds

    If you want a slightly bigger pooch than a mini, here are five of the best small dog breeds.

    1. French Bulldog

    French Bulldogs are affectionately known as "Frenchies." They're one of the best small dog breeds for families due to their patient and friendly nature. They’re also a good choice for singles and couples.

    French Bulldogs need training and socialization from an early age. They prefer to be inside dogs and can live comfortably in a city apartment. However, they are prone to overheating, so air conditioning in warm climates is recommended.

    These devoted companions have short hair and may lightly shed. They’ll need some brushing, and you'll need to regularly wash their wrinkles.

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    Be prepared to build a relationship with your vet, as there are a number of health problems this breed is particularly prone to.

    How big do French Bulldogs get?

    The average height of a French Bulldog is between 11 and 12 inches. Their weight can range between 16 and 28 pounds.

    2. Jack Russell Terrier

    Jack Russell Terriers, despite their small size, are known for their huge personalities. These curious, athletic dogs have a dense coat with straight hair.

    Grooming is low-maintenance, with a quick brush necessary every few days and the occasional bath. 

    These dogs are affectionate and playful, and they have lots of energy to burn. As such, they need space to run and require exercise every day. Jack Russell Terriers often like games such as fetch, and they may enjoy swimming as well.

    The best living environment for a Jack Russell Terrier is a house or farm with a fenced yard. These dogs need training from a young age and are prone to digging and barking. Active families with kids can be a good fit for this breed.

    How big do Jack Russells get?

    The average height of a Jack Russell is 9 to 15 inches. The average weight is 14 to 18 inches.

    3. Bichon Frise

    The Bichon Frise is typically a happy breed with a playful attitude. They're friendly, affectionate, and a good fit for any family with children. 

    Bichons have a fluffy, curly, white coat that can get knotted easily. You'll need to brush this double coat multiple times per week and give your dog regular baths. 

    This breed’s coat is hypoallergenic, making it perfect for anyone with allergies — as long as you're prepared for the maintenance it requires. 

    Bichon Frises aren’t known for barking unless they're frightened. These dogs are happy living in an apartment, and, depending on your home, they may even get enough exercise indoors.

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    If you have a yard, make sure it has a secure fence. Bichon Frises don't like being left alone for too long, so a family with people regularly home is best.

    How big does a Bichon Frise get?

    The average height of a Bichon Frise is 9 to 11 inches. The average weight is 10 to 16 pounds.

    4. Pug

    Pugs are easily recognizable due to their flat muzzles and curly tails. 

    They’re generally a calm, intelligent breed that is suitable for kids of all ages. Pugs have a smooth coat with short hair, and they do tend to shed. However, with weekly brushing and regular baths, you can keep their shedding under control.

    Pugs are happy being indoors and can adapt to an apartment lifestyle. 

    Despite their affectionate personality, pugs can be cheeky and like to run around. They enjoy daily walks as long as the weather isn't too hot.

    Pugs can be stubborn and may chew furniture when bored. This is more common during the puppy stage, and proper training can help to settle them. They're not known to bark excessively.

    Pugs can experience health problems due to their flat noses.

    How big do pugs get?

    The average height for a pug is between 10 and 14 inches. They weigh between 13 and 20 pounds.

    5. Silky Terrier

    The Silky Terrier is a long-haired breed with a mane many humans would be envious of. They need regular baths and brushing multiple times per week.

    This is an active breed, and you should be committed to walking your Silky Terrier every day. These dogs often enjoy playing and digging. They are suited to singles, couples, and families with older children. 

    Training can be a challenge, and these dogs tend to bark excessively. While they're affectionate to their owners, Silky Terriers can be cautious around strangers.

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    These pooches need a secure yard and aren't usually suited to apartment living. Their bold personality means they can get up to mischief if left alone for too long.

    How big do Silky Terriers get?

    The average height of a Silky Terrier is 9 to 10 inches. The average weight is 8 to 11 pounds.

    Choosing a small dog breed 

    Want a compact dog that can sit comfortably on your lap? We've got you covered. 

    The right small dog will depend on how much time you have, their energy level, and your living situation. Remember, even though they have a small body size, these breeds need high-quality training. Even the tiniest teacup pup can have behavioral issues if not trained and socialized properly.

    If you're considering adopting a mini dog, some of our top picks include the Maltese, Chihuahua, Papillon, Yorkshire Terrier, and Pomeranian.

    Prefer a slightly bigger breed? Think about a French Bulldog, Jack Russell Terrier, Bichon Frise, Pug, or Silky Terrier.

    Whether you’re living in a city apartment, a beach condo, or a suburban block, there’s a small dog breed that will suit you. And if you’re renting, you can use our service to share your pet information with the property manager. 

    Learn more about PetScreening for pet owners.