Types of Small Dogs: Which Breed is Right for You?

types of small dogsIf you’re thinking about inviting a new furry friend into your life, one of the biggest considerations to take into account is size. While big dogs do have their advantages, many people find that smaller dogs are the better option, since they are less expensive to feed, tend to have lower vet bills, are easier to control since you can pick them up, and can travel more easily with you. In addition, if you’re a renter, a small dog might be the best option, since they’re permitted in more rental units than larger dogs. (This article can help you choose if you’re looking for a dog for a small apartment.)

Keep in mind that two dog breeds can vary greatly, even if both breeds are small. Not every breed will be right for every family. Let’s go over the types of small dogs out there so you can choose the best pet for you.

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Toy Group

Most of the small dogs that initially come to mind when you say the phrase “small dog” belong to the “toy” classification of dog. The toy breed group includes:

  • Affenpinscher
  • Brussels Griffon
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Chihuahua
  • Chinese Crested
  • Havanese
  • Italian Greyhound
  • Japanese Chin
  • English Toy Spaniel
  • Maltese
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Pinscher
  • Papillon
  • Pekingese
  • Pomeranian
  • Pug
  • Shih-Tzu
  • Silky Terrier
  • Yorkshire Terrier

Dog breeds in this group are, on average, the smallest types of dogs, with the Chihuahua being the smallest of the small. These dogs were bred originally for one sole purpose: to provide companionship. That’s why they are often called “lap dogs.” They tend to be very loyal and protective over their owners, and need training and socialization as puppies. Most of the dogs in this group are under 20 pounds.

Check out this Dog Training 101 course for advice on clicker training your new puppy.

Herding Group

Herding dogs tend to be larger, as they were bred to be responsible for controlling livestock. However, if you’re looking for a small herding dog, you have two options:

  • Cardigan Welsh Corgi
  • Pembrook Welsh Corgi

Corgis originated in Wales, as the two breed names suggest, and tend to be about 25-30 pounds on average. Because they were bred to work on farms, corgis are extremely active and have a ton of energy, so be prepared for long walks if you choose one of these breeds. Corgis tend to be very good with children, but not as good with other dogs, so you’ll need to socialize early and often if you want your corgi to feel comfortable around other animals.

Hound Group

You aint nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time. Hound dogs are able to product a unique sound called “baying” instead of the typical bark, which is why they were originally bred as hunting dogs in most cases. If you’re looking for small hound dog, you have a few options:

  • Dachshund
  • Whippet

Dachshunds are one of the most well-known small dog breeds. They were originally bred to hunt burrowing animals like badgers and rabbits. Dachshunds are typically more stubborn than other breeds, which makes them harder to train, and they are statistically more aggressive than other types of small dogs (and even other types of large dogs).

A polite puppy course like this one can help you train your dachshund to be less aggressive and to listen to commands.

Whippets are similar to greyhounds. The breed originated when greyhounds began to be cast aside because they were deemed too small for hunting. Today, they are the most common dog used for racing, as they can run up to 35 miles per hour. You will get your exercise if you have a whippet! They tend to be extremely intelligent dogs and despite needing plenty of time and space to run, they also sleep much of the day.

Terrier Group

Terriers were originally bred to hunt rats, mice, foxes, and other agricultural vermin, so they tend to be on the smaller size. Here are some of the breed options if you’re looking for a small terrier:

  • Border Terrier
  • Cairn Terrier
  • Dandie Dinmont Terrier
  • Glen of Imaal Terrier
  • Lakeland Terrier
  • Manchester Terrier
  • Miniature Bull Terrier
  • Miniature Schnauzer
  • Norfolk Terrier
  • Norwich Terrier
  • Parson Russell Terrier
  • Scottish Terrier
  • Sealyham Terrier
  • Skye Terrier
  • Welsh Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

Terriers tend to be extremely friendly, so they make great pets. They are generally extremely loyal, but can be hard to train, so be prepared to spend a lot of time with your new puppy to teach him or her basic commands and to housebreak.

Non-Sporting Groups

The non-sporting group is a kind of “catch all” group for dog breeds that don’t fit into other groups. Here are some examples of types of small dogs found in the non-sporting group, along with what you can expect from each breed:

  • Bichon Frisé

This breed of dog tends to be 10-20 pounds and they have a ton of fur that needs constant grooming. They are known for being affectionate and intelligent, and tend to do well with both kids and other dogs. They have a ton of energy and demand a lot of attention, so make sure you can make the time commitment required to own a Bichon Frisé.

  • Boston Terrier

Boston terriers can weigh as little as 10 pounds or as much as 25 pounds, though most are in the 15-20 pound range. They were originally bred to hunt rats in factories int he 1800s, but were later bred mainly as companion dogs, much like dogs in the toy group. They tend to be extremely friendly with people and other dogs, and they usually don’t bark as much as other types of small dogs, making them perfect for anyone living in an apartment or other close quarters.

  • French Bulldog

If you’re looking for a bulldog, but need to restrict your selection to a smaller size, check out French bulldogs. These dogs tend to be extremely affectionate, though be warned that they are often harder to train than other breeds, so you will need a lot of time and patience with your new puppy.

  • Lhasa Apso

Lhasa Apsos were bred originally in Tibet as monastery sentinel dog, so their bark is very loud for a log their size and they make great guard dogs, despite only being 12 – 20 pounds. They’re fearless and loyal dogs who make great companions, but they tend to be wary of strangers.

  • Löwchen

Löwchen  literally means “little lion,” and these dogs are called this because of the lion cut that is typically given to them. They are one of the rarest dog breeds in the world, but make great pets, as they tend to be extremely friendly, playful, and intelligent. They tend to bark less than other small breeds.

Sporting and Working Groups

Two groups that we did not cover in this article – sporting and working – are not known for their small dog breeds. In these breed groups, most dogs weigh at least 40 pounds when full grown, and some can weigh well over 100 pounds. These groups are home to breeds such as Saint Bernards, Labrador Retriever, and Cocker Spaniels – all great pets, but not right for a family looking for a small dog.

“Teacup” Dogs

Along with the official breeds listed here, you can also find “teacup” versions of several toy dog breeds. Teacups are the runts of the litter and tend to be less than five pounds in size. Some breeders specialize in these smaller dogs. However, be warned that dogs in the “teacup” size range typically have more health problems than their toy counterparts. They may look cute, but they usually have short life spans. Many reputable breeders refuse to purposely breed teacup dogs, due to their health problems.

No matter what type of small dog you ultimately decide to get, you can train your new puppy to not only follow simple commands like sit and stay, but also to perform tricks. Check out this level one course to train your new dog to perform tricks like spinning, bowing, crawling, and rolling over. You can also check out this course on dog tricks and training, which has over 25 different tricks, including more advanced tricks such as jumping through a hoop and counting.  Aptitude for tricks doesn’t just depend on breed; it also depends on the specific personality of your dog, the time you can devote to training, and how early you start training your dog.