If you are looking for the best small dog breeds which are suitable for living in an apartment or which you can easily take traveling with you, you should consider what type of dog you want, the energy levels of the different breeds as well as some specifics which are typical for each small dog breed.
This is essential before you commit to getting or adopting a dog – for you and the dog’s best interest.
Remember that not all small dogs are “lap dogs.” Some require quite a bit of walking and exercising. Others may be more suitable for families with younger children than others, and some small dog breeds make much better companions for older people.
Here are brief descriptions of the most common small dog breeds in alphabetical order, with all the basic features and highlights you need to know before welcoming your new furry friend into your home.
Small Dog Breeds:
This is a German breed that is full of energy and is as feisty as it is small. In German, the name Affenpinscher means “Monkey Dog,” which is particularly suitable for these playful little pups. The breed descended from the multitude of small terriers which were used back in the 17th and 18th century as rat and mice catchers in the shops and stables throughout Europe.
Another name for this cute hairy little breed is the “mustached little devils” as they are known in France. These dogs reach an adult height of 9 to 11 inches and a weight of 7 to 10 lbs. They are amazingly cute but need to be befriended rather than trained. The Affenpinschers are very loyal and entertaining dogs perfect for anybody looking for a small-sized companion.
The American Eskimo Dog can be standard, miniature, or toy-sized. The smallest ones will reach a mere 9 inches of height at the shoulder. They have a sparkling white fluffy coat with a lion-like ruff around the neck, and a Samoyed-like smiling face.
Their cute black nose and lips are in stark contrast with the white coat, but sometimes they come in biscuit cream color too. They are happy, social animals but can become problematic if not properly tended to or entertained. They are eager to please and one of the most trainable small breeds.
The tiny Bichon Frise will reach a height of just 9-11 inches at the shoulder when it is fully grown. These adorable fluffy white pups have a friendly disposition and are quite perky and happy animals. They are straightforward to train and are great for family pets.
They love to play and are very gentle and affectionate dogs. Their shiny black eyes and nose and their proud look will always bring a smile to your face. Plus, they don’t shed, which is excellent news for those of you who don’t want to deal with dog hair or for people with allergies. The only minus is that they don’t like to be left alone, so keep this in mind before getting an adorable Bichon Frise.
The Bolognese-dog is part of the Bichon family and is another white, fluffy little creature that is very intelligent and loyal and loves spending all of its time around people and children. You will be getting an excellent companion for just about any errand, walk or other activity you enjoy if you get a Bolognese.
They are little manipulators, though, so keep that in mind when you are housetraining your Bolognese dog and be consistent and patient if you want positive results.
Also known as the “little American gentleman,” the Boston terrier was originally bred to be a pit fighter.
Today, it is a loving little breed that will become your favorite four-legged friend as soon as it enters your house. Some of the males, like other terrier breeds, feel a bit defensive when other dogs enter their territories, but they are not aggressive or too boisterous.
This little buddy will reach a mere 10 inches of height by the shoulder when it is fully grown. With its human-like eyes and incredibly cute looks, it will steal your heart away as soon as you set eyes on it. The Griffon is a popular house pet that is cheerful, affectionate, and curious. They can be a bit moody and sensitive when they don’t get enough attention, so if you are ready to spend time petting and playing with your pup – the Brussels Griffon is perfect for you. A dog of this breed stole the show as “Verdell” in the Oscar-winning movie “As good as it gets.”
Remember the amazingly beautiful “Elizabeth Taylor” – Charlotte’s beloved dog in “Sex in the city”? Well, this is Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. It is a perfect combination between the toy breed gentleness and the athleticism and vigor of the spaniels.
The majestic outlook and grace of these beautiful animals, along with the large beautiful round eyes and the silky and richly colored coat, make this breed a trendy one. This breed gets along with other animals and with children very well. They are very adaptable, so no matter whether you are an active person or prefer spending time at home, your Cavalier dog will be your perfect companion.
Known as the world’s smallest dog breed, the Chihuahua also has one of the most prominent personalities when it comes to canines. A national symbol of Mexico, and a famous “purse dog,” the Chihuahua is a loyal, charming dog with a Napoleon syndrome, which makes it feel like a huge dog.
They are ideal for city pets, but keep in mind that they are so tiny that they are not suitable for rough games and treatment from children. Also, they need to be dressed and cared for, particularly in the cold season, so if you want a perfect miniature dog that has its miniature wardrobe – go for a Chihuahua.
If you want a dog that will stand out from any other pup and a great conversation starter – the Chinese Crested is the perfect dog for you. It looks like no other dog, with its spotted pink skin and the crested hairdo, the feathery tail plume, and the furry socks. These dogs are very affectionate, alert, and lively tiny dogs. The height they reach is up to 13 inches, and they can be either coated or hairless. Both are elegant, playful, and very loyal to their families. They obviously don’t shed as much hair as other dog breeds and are perfect companions for young and old.
One of the most beloved breeds, the Cocker Spaniel, is loyal, intelligent, affectionate, and full of a desire to please. This makes training a Cocker quite easy.
The sweet expression and the large dark eyes and the long, lush ears make it impossible not to want to pet and love the Cocker Spaniel. The coat comes in a wide variety of colors, and the sturdy and solid body and smooth and easy gait of this small dog make it stand out from the other breeds.
Cockers are great with children and are easy to train as companions as well as for competitions. They are portable and yet sporty. Yes, that fur does require some extra grooming, but if you take care of your pet’s beautiful coat – it will surely be the prettiest dog in the neighborhood!
The Coton-de-Tulear or just Coton is a sweet-natured and smart dog that wants to spend all of its time with its person. These adorable dogs have a cotton-like coat, which is not real fur. The special hair doesn’t shed and has low dander levels, which means that if you have a dog allergy – the Coton can be the perfect pet for you. It does need daily grooming and brushing, but this breed is known to lack the common dog smell or any other odor which some people tend to find bothersome. This cotton ball-like doggie comes in white, black, or tricolor colors. It is an excellent companion if you are prepared to have your dog follow you around just about anywhere inside and outside of the house!
Dachshunds are legendary dogs. They are also known as “Wiener” dogs, and their long-backed body paired with the short legs, and drooping ears cannot be mistaken for any other canine breed around. The dachshund can be regular sized or miniature. The miniatures are less than 11 lbs. and can have long hair, smooth hair, or wired hair. The coloring differs
The dachshund was originally bred for catching badgers and has a vivacious and ever-alert personality. You can expect a tireless, vigilant, and smart little pet with a big bark if you decide to add a dachshund to your family. It is loyal, brave, and stubborn, and of course, it is a lot of fun to be around.
The Frenchie requires minimal exercise and has an incredibly big personality. French Bulldogs are prevalent urban dogs. They are playful, adaptable, alert, and irresistible, especially with those bat-shaped ears, the short nose, and the heavy wrinkles around it.
The smooth coat of the Frenchie is a joy to touch and pet. The breed is a perfect dog for families, singles, young or old people. Frenchies are very good with people, other dogs and do not require hours of walking and exercising in order to feel well.
These pups may look luck fluffy little foxes, but the fact is that they are excellent watchdogs. They are resilient to weather, very robust, and have a long life expectancy, which makes them the perfect pets.
The Spitz lacks a hunting instinct and is very easy to train. It is loyal to its family but tends to be distrustful of strangers.
The coats of these small dogs are gorgeous, especially the mane-like collars around the neck and the bushy tails. Their faces look like cute foxes with pointed small and closely set years and alert eyes, which give these dogs a rather cheeky appearance and expression.
The coloring can vary from white, black, gold, cream, chocolate brown, sable, and black and tan. They need to be properly trained because they do tend to have an independent spirit, but with proper attention and socializing, they can become the perfect and fully devote pet for any household.
As the name of the breed suggests, these dogs have descended from Havana, Cuba. In fact, these are the only native Cuban dogs. They have an exceptionally affectionate personality, which makes them perfect companions, as they will get along with their own family with all children, with other dogs, cats, and with strangers as well.
They do tend to stick by their owners, so be prepared to have a little companion around you every time you go to the bathroom or walk around the house. This can be problematic if you are often absent from home, as these dogs can become anxious if left alone for long periods of time.
Otherwise, they are incredibly cute, with gorgeous silk coats in various color types, they are very devoted and are perfect for apartment dwelling. These born clowns are extroverts by nature and are absolutely brilliant for urban living.
Jack Russel is an amazing dog. No wonder it has become a hit through some of the most popular movies such as The Artist, my Dog Skip, and The Mask.
It is a small dog, but don’t be fooled by its size. It is very energetic, quick, determined, and with an inborn desire to hunt.
This breed requires a lot of serious training as well as sufficient exercise on a daily basis.it simply needs to be entertained in order to stay out of trouble. Keep in mind that its energy may overwhelm toddlers and smaller kids.
The Jack Russel is a loving a devoted dog that is perfect as a jogging or cycling companion.
So, if you are ready to spend hours throwing balls, teaching tricks, and playing fetch, you will thoroughly enjoy the company of this wonderful small-sized terrier.
The small but strong and hardworking breed has been used for various types of hunting activities in Germany and around the world for years. It is small but with great proportions. The coat can either be soft or rough and coarse. The coloring of these doggies is black and tan, but there are some dark brown and greyish black ones as well.
Being a hunting breed, these dogs do need quite a bit of exercise and will enjoy chasing balls, running, and playing for hours, so if you are an active person who loves spending time doing different outdoor activities, the Jagdterrier can make a perfect companion.
The Japanese Chin acts very much like a cat. It loves jumping on top of furniture, on laps and on other high places, plus it washes itself quite thoroughly just like a cat would.
The Chin can climb on quite high surfaces with just one jump, which is quite surprising given its compact size.
This breed has a distinctive aristocratic posture and a thick and silky coat, which is a joy to the eye and to the hands.
The Japanese Chin is a quiet, graceful, and amusing pet, which will sometimes act more like a cat than like a canine, but that is just part of its incredible charm! It is the perfect lap doors and is suitable for people who prefer spending time at home, lounging on the couch or staying indoors.
This famous and beloved small breed has an ancient history and is known for its impressive floor-length coat and its playful and charming demeanor. The large dark eyes and the cute black gumdrop nose of this breed can melt the heart of just about anybody – be it a dog-person or not. The Maltese is a very affectionate toy-sized dog which is very adaptable and respond well to reward-based training. These dogs can be stubborn sometimes, but they are otherwise quite charming pets that do not shed too much and live long, so you will be having a lovely companion for long if you get a dog from this breed.
Related: The Maltipoo has become increasingly popular in the last few years. It’s a hybrid between the Maltese and another adorable breed – the Miniature Poodle. Learn more in our Maltipoo breed article.
This is a designer breed that was originally bred as a completely non-shedding dog. The Maltese Shih Tzu is the perfect combination between a Maltese and a Shih Tzu. It is a sweet and adorable little dog which is great for people with allergies, and for those of you who want an affectionate lap dog.
They are great with kids and other pets too, so if you are looking to add yet another family member to your big family. They are great as therapy dogs and are a joy to train, so you won’t have any problems with a new Maltese Shih Tzu puppy ay home, as long as you train it and socialize it properly.
Although they are perfect for house and apartment pets, they do need the occasional walk and run outdoors, so if you have a backyard, your pup will be the happiest dog in the world.
This beautiful small dog has all the typical traits of a terrier. It is faithful, sporty, lively, and alerts small dog, which can become your best friend and will make a superb watchdog for your home.
It is a sleek toy dog that was originally bred in Manchester, England, with a ratting instinct and the graceful posture of a coursing hound. The toy Manchester Terrier does not exceed 12 lbs., while the standard ones can reach 22 lbs.
They sport mahogany and smooth tan coat and have tan spots above the eyes.
They are easily trained, but require quite a bit of exercise, just like their other terrier cousins. They are very devoted to their owners and will keep your home safe from intruders.
If you love Bull Terriers but have limited living space, the Miniature Bull Terrier is the perfect dog for you.
The Minis reach only 10 to 14 inches at shoulder height, but still, have the typically strong and muscular figure of the standard Pit Bulls.
Their mischievous triangular eyes will always make you smile with affection. The coat of these dogs can be all white, or white with different colored markings.
Being tiny Bull Terriers, they do need training like their bigger cousins, but they are loyal and obedient dogs, which are a lot of fun to be around at all times.
This tiny, elegant dog is all muscles and attitude! Miniature Pinschers are known as the Kind of Toys and are a fun-loving, fearless and proud breed, even though their weight will not exceed 8 to 11 lbs. and their height by the shoulder will not exceed 12.5 inches.
Their coat is smooth and shiny and can be solid red, black, and rust or chocolate and rust.
Their distinctive high stepping gait, often referred to as a “hackney,” makes them look like tiny trotting horses.
They adapt perfectly to apartment living and are very playful and affectionate to the family.
The fact that they were originally bred to hunt rats makes them very brave, sturdy, and strong. They are very curious and do tend to run off whenever left unattended, so you should be careful about letting them off the leash or leaving your front door open.
If socialized properly, they will live in perfect harmony with other pets.
These cute small dogs are everything but lap dogs. Being the smallest working terrier, the Norfolk Terriers may be only up to 10 inches high but are sturdy, feisty and confident little dogs.
They look very similar to Norwich Terrier, but unlike them have folded ears.
They are notoriously great and loving companions that bond closely to their people and love playing games, digging, and outdoor activities. They travel well and are very outgoing, which means that you will hardly have problems with other dogs if you socialize your Norfolk properly. They are easy and fun to train, so they are great for novice dog owners with no previous experience. Unfortunately, they are relatively rare in the US, so you may need to wait for a while before you can get one of these adorable pups.
These are close cousins of the Norfolks, and the easiest way to tell the two breeds apart is the shape of the ears. While the Norfolks have folded ears, the Norwich terriers have pointed cute ones.
They, too, are bred as rat and rodent catchers, so don’t expect them to act like couch potatoes and lay on silk cushions all day long. This breed is perfect for people who are active and love spending time outdoors.
The Norwich terrier will quickly bond with you and your children and will become the perfect companion for fun and games.
The toy size of this breed, their incredible cuteness, loyalty, and jolly character are what make these dogs perfect for pets.
This is another member of the terrier family, which is incredibly clever and bold. It was bred to run along horses and hunt for foxes by digging in the foxholes.
These small dogs are rather tough, fast, and fearless little fellows. Like most of the other terriers, they are suitable for people who are familiar with dog training and who can be leaders, because if you fail to teach this dog that you are the dominant one, there is a good chance that it will end up leading you instead.
If properly trained, the PRT is a perfect, loyal, loveable, and joyful pet.
Papillon means butterfly in French, and when you look at those adorable wing-shaped ears, it becomes quite clear why this breed was named like that. These elegant little dogs used to be referred to as dwarf spaniels and were companions of many kings and queens in the past.
This toy dog is a beautiful, athletic, and friendly pet with wonderful butterfly-shaped ears and long and silk-soft hair.
It may seem tiny and fragile, but the Papillon is much more robust than it looks. They do very well at agility training and competitions and are more suitable pets for people who live in warmer climates.
You can teach your Papillon pet all kinds of fun tricks, and you will both have fun while at it!
Corgis are the small and amazingly cute dogs which always surround the Queen of England, and are among the most agreeable house dogs of all.
They are pretty short (10 to 12 inches at the shoulder) but well built (20 to 30 lbs.) with cute short and powerful legs and muscular thighs. They are one of the most popular herding breeds in the world. They are very agile and quick. They come in different colors including sable, red, fawn, black, and tan or with markings.
The Pembroke Welsh corgi is a very sensitive and loving dog that responds very well to training. It is independent and fearless and will become the perfect watchdog for your home. It does need a lot of activity and together time, so if you are ready to spend more time with your dog – get a wonderful Corgi, and you will end up with a cute, loyal and loving pet.
The fact that the Pekingese was held at great esteem at the Chinese Imperial court seems to have passed down to today’s members of this breed. The Pekingese is a small, dignified, and proud dog that demands respect and will always let you know that it is the most important member of your family.
This compact dog has sweet soft brown eyes and long straight hair with a distinctive lion-like mane colored in all shades of red.
The typical characteristics of this breed include the effortless rolling gait and the short-muzzled envelope-shaped head.
They are confident and rather charming companions which will develop a very tight bond with their favorite human. They are great watchdogs, but keep in mind that they will not tolerate any roughhousing by children.
The Pomeranian is a perky, alert, and intelligent little toy dogs which, like many of the other small breeds, tend to believe that they are larger than they are. This is a feature that can lead to some problems with other dogs.
They are curious creatures that will love exploring the settings and spending time with all family members.
The Pom is unbelievably adorable and fluffy, so you need to explain to your small kids that it is not a toy if you want your pet to be happy and loving.
The Pomeranian rarely reaches 7 lbs, which is why it is one of the most popular toy dog breeds. It has a fluffy double coat with an added frill on the shoulders and chest, and a foxlike smiling face which makes it irresistible. This breed can come in more than 20 different colors and color combinations, but the most popular ones are red or orange.
The Pomeranian is easy to train and needs some activity, but they are suitable for apartments because they can be exercised at home and will require only short walks. They can quickly master various games and tricks, so be prepared to have a very enjoyable companion if you get a Pomeranian.
Originally bred to be water retrievers for hunting, the Poodle is an elegant athletic dog with an aristocratic demeanor. It has a hypoallergenic coat, which makes it an excellent choice for households with people with dog allergies.
The Toy Poodle reaches up to 10 inches in height at the shoulder and has the same proportions and structure as the Standard and King sized Poodles.
The Poodle requires regular grooming, and there are some Poodle-specific clips that help accent on the elegant build of the dog.
Poodles are amazingly smart, athletic, and eager dogs are known for their versatility and for their character, so prepare to treat your Toy Poodle like a person if you want your pet to be joyful and to love you back accordingly.
It is very hard not to smile when you look at a Pug. The cute wrinkly round and flat face and big round eyes make this dog an absolutely adorable small pet. Pugs were companions to Chinese Emperors and later became mascots of the House of Orange in the Netherlands.
Today, they have fans around the world who love them, which is great because Pugs seem to be made for loving and being loved back.
They come in three different colors – silver, black, or apricot with a black mask on the face. The most notable feature of this breed is the human-like face and the various facial expressions which it can display. This has made the Pug popular character in movies and TV shows.
A Pug will feel great whether it lives in the city or in the country. It can get along with children, seniors as well as with other pets pretty well.
They are prone to overeating and weight gain, so you will need to control their diet closely. If you take proper care of your pet, it will shower you with love and affection.
The Pug is the perfect small pet suitable for just about anyone.
These wonderful little dogs are often mistaken for Jack Russel or Fox Terriers, but the fact is that they are unique dogs.
They are very elegant and compactly build. The Rat Terriers come in standard, toy, and miniature sizes. They are excellent watchdogs and are great for farms and for homes with backyards.
They are very well built with smooth muscles and an elegant posture and can move very quickly to chase rodents.
Even so, these terriers are great for apartments as well, as long as you take the time to train them, and have the time and energy to take them on long walks or play with them.
You may know the typical Scottie posture and contour from the famous Black and White Scottish whiskey label featuring a black Scottish terrier and a White West Highland terrier.
The Scottish terriers are compact dogs with quite a self-assured and independent nature. They can be quite stubborn when it comes to training and keep in mind that they are one-person dogs.
The Scottie has high spirits and is known for its diehard persistence. It has short legs, a distinguishable beard an hairy legs and lower body, and a wiry topcoat. The erect ears and bright eyes show a keen alertness, which is typical for the British terriers.
They tend to be aloof of strangers which makes them perfect watchdogs. Bear in mind that they have strong hunting instincts, so be careful if you live in a neighborhood with a lot of cats and dogs.
They love playing and brisk dogs and can become wonderful companions.
Shelties look a lot like Collies but will reach a height at the shoulder of only about 13 to 16 inches.
They are eager to please dogs, which are naturally good-natured and very easy to train.
They are great with children, but may not be too thrilled to meet strangers. The Shetland Sheepdog is an intelligent, obedient and agile small dog, which has a harsh straight long coat and a dense undercoat. It can be black, sable, blue merle and has white markings and strongly resembles a miniature rough coated Collie.
The breed is a winner in many obedience, agility and herding competitions, but is also a perfect family dog which will easily get into the mood of your household. The sheltie is reserved to strangers and tends to bark, so it will loyally guard your house as well.
The Shiba Inu is an ancient Japanese breed, which the people from the country of the rising sun describe as good-natured, alert, and featuring spirited boldness.
It is a small but muscular dog which is still very popular in Japan but has recently become a favorite house dog and companion for people from around the world too.
The Shiba is intelligent and strong-willed and has a very specific fox-like stride and alert expression.
It is a sturdy dog with a confident and bold personality which will make the perfect companion for any loving owner.
The Shih Tzu is often referred to as “Lion dog” and is a favorite pet to a growing number of dog lovers around the world. It is an ancient Chinese breed which has a very sweet expression and a beautiful coat. The Shih Tzu is a natural charmer and it seems to know that. It is great with children and is very suitable for indoor living and living in small apartments. Given that the ancestors of this breed spend most of their lives in imperial palaces, the Shih Tzu will much more prefer to spend its days on your lap rather than roaming outdoors. So, if you love staying at home and want an affectionate lap dog – the Shih Tzu is the perfect dog for you.
Silkies resemble their cousins – the Yorkshire terriers but are larger than them. They reach a shoulder height of up to 10 inches and are very elegant dogs with long and silky coat colored in blue and tan.
Silky terriers come from Sydney, Australia and are known for their high spirits and natural curiosity. They are small, and yet are not fragile and are feisty but not loud and yappy.
They are people-oriented and will feel happy spending time on your lap as well as enjoying long fun walks with you. So, you will get all of the positives of having a small pet dog – the petting and cuddling at home and the joy and fun of long walks and outdoor fun if you choose to get a Silky.
This is one of the few truly all American breeds. The Toy Fox Terrier is a toy dog with a terrier character. It will enjoy running and hunting squirrels in the park and then spending leisure time curled up in your lap at home.
It is an intelligent, fun and loveable and affectionate dog which will be your perfect companion both at home and outdoors.
The Westie is the white dog pictured in the highly recognizable “Black and White” whiskey label. It is possibly the terrier with the sunniest disposition of the entire family. The Westie will easily adapt to your lifestyle, and unlike many of the other terriers will actually get along with other pets pretty well.
The Westie is a confident, adorable, and highly entertaining dog. It has a hard all-white double coat. Its small body, the wagging carrot-shaped tail, and dark eyes make it look absolutely irresistible.
It does look like a plush toy, but this dog breed is actually very brave, tough and strong. With some patience and persistence, you can easily train the West Highland White Terrier and it will repay your efforts with a lot of love and faithfulness.
Yorkies are one of the most popular small breeds and will attract everybody’s attention with their gorgeous silky fur, the perky topknots, and the various clothes, accessories and carry purses which people often use for their pets.
The Yorkshire terrier is a true terrier – feisty, brave, tenacious and even bossy.
Their floor-length long hair is more human-like, and they shed very little which makes them perfect hypoallergenic dogs. They are loving, fun and make incredible pets for all kinds of people and all type of homes.
So, did you find your perfect new dog from all of these amazing small dog breeds? Make sure that you are well prepared for what to expect by reading the details regarding the specific breed, the training required, and the specific things to look out for as well as whether the breed is suitable for your lifestyle before you take in a dog in your home.
Please, make sure you ask around your local shelters about possible dogs from the breed of your choice which are up to adoption before you go ahead and buy one. You can be saving a life, and making a new best friend at the same time. Check out the ASPCA, and the American Kennel Club Rescue Network which includes rescue organizations for all dog breeds for any small dogs which are up for adoption too.
If you do want to buy a small dog, make sure that you get it from an authorized breeder who is registered and a litter which is registered and certified by the AKC, because illegal puppy mills are known for the inhumane treatment of dogs, and we wouldn’t want to be supporting this practice right?
Good luck with your new furry family member, and have years filled with love, fun and happiness with your new small doggie!