A tricolour short coat Chihuahua standing on the grass. He is holding one front leg up

7 Small Dog Breeds for Tiny Canine Lovers

Do you love small dogs? Perhaps you live in an apartment, or don’t have a big car or you just really like the idea of a canine companion that you can tuck under your arm. There are many different small dog breeds. If you are looking for a fluffy friend to snuggle up beside you, or one with bags of energy who is always up for playing, then there are plenty to choose from.

We have listed 7 of the best small dog breeds. Each has their own traits and characters, but all of them are petite, easy to transport, don’t cost a fortune to feed and make great companions.

1.  Chihuahua 

If you think of a small dog, you are likely to imagine a Chihuahua as, of course; they are the smallest of not just the toy dog breeds but the smallest of all the breeds. These little dogs originate from Mexico, come in various coat colours, and can be short or long-haired. Their height ranges from 15-20cm, and they weigh a tiny 1.5-2.5kg. Although made famous as a handbag accessory by Paris Hilton, they are not all delicate and have a desire to be carried. Some will love this way of life.

A tricolour short coat Chihuahua standing on the grass. He is holding one front leg up.

However, if you treat your little Chihuahua like a big dog, train her and encourage her to walk, then she can be just as up for fun and long walks as any other breed.
The Chihuahua is the the smallest of the toy dog breeds.

2.  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The regal Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an elegant dog from Northern Europe. Originally bred to keep laps warm and flush birds on a shoot, early versions of these dogs are depicted in paintings from as far back as the 16th century. Their name comes from their association with King Charles II, a breeder of toy spaniels, who was constantly surrounded by his little dogs at state meetings, on walks and even on his deathbed. Cavaliers have a wonderful temperament and are affectionate companion dogs who love to snuggle with their owners but having descended from working spaniels, they still need a nice amount of walking and mental stimulation.   

The average weight for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is 5.5kg-8kg, they have a luscious, silky coat which comes in 4 colours (Blenheim, black and tan, tricolour and ruby) making them one of the cutest small dog breeds.

A Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lying on a bed, chewing a rawhide stick that she is holding with her paws.

Sadly these lovable little dogs are predisposed to heart disease; however, with regular vet checks and early diagnosis, this can be managed with medication.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were bred as lap dogs for the aristocracy.

3. Yorkshire Terrier

Although a Yorkshire Terrier is in the toy dog breed class, as its name states, he is all terrier. They are assertive and playful and will benefit from lots of mental stimulation and exercise. As a terrier, they can be stubborn, but with good training, can be friendly and sociable dogs. 

A blue and tan short coat Yorkshire Terrier is standing up on his back legs, peering through a plant.

Originally used for chasing rats from mills, they have been seen more as fashionable dogs in recent years and have been bred smaller to fit current trends.
Their weight ranges from around 2.5kg to 4.5kg. Their coats come in varying shades of browns, blues and blacks.
Commonly they are seen with a short coat, but a long coat is displayed on the show Yorkshire Terriers. Pet Yorkshire Terriers usually sport a short coat.

4. Toy Poodles

Toy Poodles are the smallest of all the Poodles weighing no more than 4.5kg. The Standard Poodle is the largest, followed by the miniature then the toy variety.  The Standard Poodle is a working dog that was used for water retrieving. They became the dog of choice for the French nobility and are ranked the second most intelligent dog behind the Border Collie. The smaller versions of the Poodle were bred for those who admired their personalities, but wanted a smaller dog, therefore the Toy Poodle matches the Standard Poodles intelligence, enthusiasm and loyalty. They are great city dogs, will alert their owners of visitors and can be easy to train.

An apricot Toy Poodle is standing up in a wicker basket, in a minimalist apartment room.

They can grow quite attached to their owners, so separation anxiety can sometimes be an issue. Poodles are thought to be hypoallergenic due to the fact that their coats shed much less than other breeds, so they are often the small dog breed of choice for those who are allergic to dogs.

5. Papillon

With a name meaning “butterfly”, Papillons are instantly recognisable by their elegant erect ears with flowing fur that resembles butterfly wings. Another breed that was favoured by royalty, the Papillon is a happy, friendly and alert dog. Despite their pretty and delicate appearance, they are hardy and robust dogs who love joining their families on adventures. They do well in agility events due to their speed and intelligence. Their long coats do not need quite as much grooming as you might think, largely down to the lack of an undercoat. 

A white and tan Papillon is standing on a park footpath. Her mouth is open and her tongue is hanging out gently.

Brushing every other day will help reduce the frequency of visits to the groomer and prevent knots in their coat, especially behind their ears. These beautiful little dogs who weigh around 4kg, love a cuddle as much as they do a gentle walk in the park. The Papillon is one of the most unique looking of the toy dog breeds.

6. Miniature Pinscher

Known as the “King of Toys” or referred to as a Min Pin, the Miniature Pinscher is an ancestor of the dachshund and Italian Greyhound, not the Doberman (despite his appearance). He has a short, smooth coat that requires little grooming. 

A black and tan Miniature Pinscher is standing on a beach, looking off to his left. He is wearing a faded blue collar.

Miniature Pinschers have a tendency to dig, bark and chase cats and wildlife, and can be more challenging than other breeds to train, but their enthusiasm, energy and desire to play mean these dogs are full of fun! 
A unique trait of the Min Pin is their walk. They trot with high knees in a fashion referred to as a “Hackney gait” after the Hackney horse, which is an elegant show horse. Often thought of as a small Doberman, the Miniature Pinscher is an elegant looking small dog breed.

7. Border Terrier

If you are looking for a sturdy small terrier breed, with bags of personality then a Border Terrier should be on your list to consider. What these little brown dogs lack in size they make up for in personality. Known for their otter shaped heads, they belong to the terrier group and were used for driving foxes out of dens for the hunt. This instinct is still strong in the Border Terrier, they will chase almost anything that moves, so care has to be taken on off the lead walks. 

Although bred as country dogs, these small dogs do well in towns and cities as long as they are exercised adequately. 

A male, grizzle Border Terrier with a hand-stripped coat is standing alert on a grassy field.

They respond well to chasing balls and frisbees, just don’t expect them to bring it back to you, instead they encourage you to chase them for it! Stubborn but affectionate and always trying to please, a Border Terrier is a fabulous small dog breed. Border Terriers are small but hardy like a big dog.
Disclaimer: writer is a little biassed as has been a proud Border Terrier owner for 10 years. 

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Author: Gillian Davidson,  RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse), Scotland.

Gillian began working in a veterinary practice in 2007 and qualified as a Veterinary Nurse in 2011. Gillian has worked in various animal practices in the West of Scotland, and is particularly interested in behaviour medicine and weight management. Gillian has also been a clinical coach for student veterinary nurses for 10 years. 

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