Small dogs, weighing less than 25 pounds, often make wonderful companions, particularly for those living in apartments or other environments with limited space. While breeds such as Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers regularly make the lists of the most popular dogs, there are several lesser-known breeds. Some small dogs are calm lapdogs, while others, particularly those with Terrier blood, have a bit more get up and go. Keep reading to learn more about 19 rare small-breed dogs.
The 19 Rare Small Dog Breeds
Affenpinschers have a distinctive look thanks to their thick shaggy fur. Their name translated from German means monkey dog! They were initially used as ratters in the 1600s but soon became companion animals. They’re loving, devoted, and often described as exceptionally human-like.
While Affenpinschers can be gentle lapdogs, they retain their ancestral tenacity; there’s even a story that one chased off a grizzly bear! An Affenpinscher named Banana Joe was named Westminster Kennel Club’s Best in Show in 2013.
2. Bedlington Terrier
Bedlington Terriers are tiny dogs that resemble lambs, thanks to their curved lines, curly fur, and floppy ears. They were valued in the 1800s for dogfighting skills, but today’s Bedlington Terriers are known as sweet, intelligent, and loyal dogs.
They’re often people-oriented, and most enjoy spending time with their favorite people. Due to their heritage, they usually have high prey drives, making them inclined to chase squirrels and other small animals.
3. Biewer Terrier
Biewer Terriers have gorgeous, long, tri-colored coats and charming personalities. They’re closely related to Yorkshire Terriers, the dogs from which the breed stems. They have a recessive piebald gene that’s not typically seen in Yorkshire Terriers that’s responsible for their stunning fur.
The first tri-color Yorkshire Terrier variant, Schneeflocken von Friedheck, was born in 1984 in Germany. While originally popular due to their rarity, the breed had fallen out of favor by 2000. Biewer Terriers were introduced to North America in 2003, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) acknowledged the breed in 2021.
Bolognese dogs are little fluffy, white powerhouses that make loving, devoted companions. They’re playful yet reasonably calm, and most are happiest when hanging out with their favorite people. Bolognese have compact, solid builds, but most weigh less than 10 pounds!
It’s quite an ancient breed, and evidence suggests they existed back in the 11th and 12th centuries and were quite popular among European aristocrats during the Early Modern Period. They can even be seen in 17th-century Flemish tapestries.
5. Cesky Terrier
Cesky Terriers are small dogs with stunning long fur that comes in several shades of gray. They’re smart, outgoing, and usually great with kids, but some can be reserved around unknown people.
Frantisek Horak, a Czech breeder, developed the breed to create dogs able to catch vermin, hunt in packs, and behave gently towards family members. They’re often a bit more laid back than other Terriers. Cesky Terriers are the national dogs of the Czech Republic.
6. Cirneco dell’Etna
Cirneco dell’Etnas are elegant hunting hounds with muscular yet lean bodies, short, smooth coats, and distinctive upright ears. They’re native to the island of Sicily, where they were originally used for hunting rabbits and birds.
They likely arrived in Sicily on Phonecian ships more than 3,000 years ago. Dogs resembling the Cirneco dell’Etnas can be seen on Sicilian coins from 500 B.C.E. The breed was largely extinct by the 1930s. Cirneco dell’Etnas were recognized by the AKC in 2015.
7. Dandie Dinmont Terrier
Dandie Dinmont Terriers have large heads, long, fine white fur, adorable floppy ears, and short legs. They come in two colors (pepper and mustard), but there’s lots of variation within those color groups. Originally from the area between Scotland and England, they were used to control vermin such as otters and badgers. The dogs are named for a character in Sir Walter Scott’s book Guy Mannering in which a farmer named Dandie Dinmont owns a pack of the dogs.
8. Danish-Swedish Farmdog
Danish-Swedish Farmdogs are also known as Danish Punchers. They were initially valued for their skills as all-around farmhands with ratting, herding, and hunting skills that could fit in with family life.
While their exact ancestry remains a mystery, Danish-Swedish Farmdogs most likely have Pinscher and Fox Terrier heritage. The breed was once common in rural Denmark and Sweden but declined in popularity due to lifestyle changes. Swedish and Danish kennel clubs created the first breed standard in 1987.
9. Dutch Smoushond
Dutch Smoushounds are loving and intelligent dogs bred to work as ratters, primarily in stables and around farms. While they’ve been around for centuries, the precise history of the breed is not terribly clear, but it’s possible to find descriptions of similar dogs in 19th-century sources.
Dutch Smoushounds declined in popularity along with the move away from using horses to move goods. The breed almost went extinct after the Second World War but was revived starting in 1973 as breeding programs emerged and began working with mixed dogs to recreate these famous farm dogs.
Jagdterriers, also known as Deutscher Jagterriers or German Hunt Terriers, are energetic, loving working dogs from Germany. They’re usually black or dark brown with tan markings on their muzzles and legs.
They’re mixes of Fox Terriers, Old English Wirehaired Terriers, and Welsh Terriers and were bred specifically for hunting skills and agreeable personality traits. The breed was accepted into the AKCs Foundation Stock Service in 2014, which is the organization’s first step towards full recognition.
Kromfohrlanders are sweet, smart, devoted dogs with white coats featuring tan or brown highlights. They come in wire-haired and smooth-haired variants. Most are anywhere from 15 to 18 inches at the shoulders and can weigh 20-35 pounds, and Kromfohrlanders are best described as small-medium dogs. But they’re certainly quite rare—they’re currently mostly found in Europe and can be difficult to come by in other parts of the world. The AKC’s Foundation Stock Service began accepting Kromfohrlander registrations in 2012.
Löwchens are tiny dogs with long, silky hair and plenty of courage, hence the breed’s name, which means “little lion” in German. They’ve been popular companion animals in Europe for centuries, including France, Russia, and Spain.
They’re most likely related to Bichon Frise and Maltese dogs. Dogs resembling Löwchens can be seen in European art from as far back as the Early Modern Era. They usually sport distinctive “lion clip” haircuts that are long in front and short in the back.
Xolos are strong, elegant dogs with alert yet calm personalities. Some have smooth, short coats, and others are hairless. Both types come in several colors, including black, red, slate, and bronze. These incredibly ancient dogs are native to Mexico and have been around for over 3,000 years.
European explorers describe seeing strange hairless dogs during their early North American travels. Xolos come in toy, miniature, and standard variants, and they’re very rare.
14. Peruvian Inca Orchid
These sighthounds are energetic, alert, and fast. They’re also known as Peruvian Hairless Dogs. They come in three sizes: small, medium, and large. Small Peruvian Inca Orchids are generally no larger than 15.75 inches at the withers, and most weigh less than 17.5 pounds. T
They come in both coated and hairless varieties, but hairless varieties are the most popular. The breed is native to Peru, and the dogs appear on Moche Chimu, Chancay, and Incan pottery. The dogs were initially small companion animals, but the breed was mixed with European dogs to create the three sizes seen today.
Pumis are smart, courageous, expressive dogs with gorgeous curly coats. They come in several colors: fawn, white, black, gray, and brown. They’re native to Hungary and related to Pulis, the oldest native Hungarian sheepdogs.
The breed has most likely been around for around 300 to 400 years, but it was only acknowledged by the AKC in 2016. Pumis enjoy activities that tap into their working and herding heritage, such as agility and obedience training.
16. Russian Toy
Russian Toys are elegant, sweet dogs that usually enjoy spending time around their loved ones. Some are energetic and playful, and others prefer to hang out and be mellow. Some Russian Toys have short coats, and others have relatively long fur. Dogs with long coats often have Terrier-like personalities. The breed is related to English Toy Terriers brought to Russia in the 18th century.
17. Russian Tsvetnaya Bolonka
Russkaya Tsvetnaya Bolonkas or Bolonkas are sweet, curious dogs that love to frolic and play. The name means “Russian-colored lapdog,” which makes sense as these cuddly pets were bred as gentle, loving companion animals.
They do well in apartments and are usually great family pets; they’re often gentle with children and easygoing around other pets. They’re considered good choices for those allergic to dogs, and many enjoy obedience and agility work.
18. Swedish Vallhund
Swedish Vallhunds are friendly dogs with lots of energy. The smart and athletic pups were originally used to herd cattle in Sweden. The exact time and manner of the breed’s development are unclear. Some suggest they’re mixes of Scandinavian Spitz dogs and Welsh Corgis.
Others argue that Vallhunds are an ancient breed not developed from other types of dogs. They’re also known as Swedish Cattle Dogs and Vastgotaspets. The AKC acknowledged the breed in 2007.
19. Teddy Roosevelt Terrier
These tiny dogs with adorable short legs are most likely mixes of several Terrier breeds that came to North America with European sailors and settlers, including Manchester Tarriers, Beagles, Italian Greyhounds, and Whippets.
They were originally considered a Rat Terrier variant, but breeders began treating these short-legged Rat Terriers as a distinct breed in the 1990s. The AKC started allowing the breed access to the organization’s Foundation Stock Service in 2016. Teddy Roosevelt Terriers were recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1999.
The world’s tiny canines provide us with love and entertainment, and there are several to choose from. It’s possible to find short-haired and long-haired variants, dogs that prefer to cuddle, and those that love to frolic outdoors. Most don’t require much space or hours of exercise and make excellent apartment dogs. Many of the dogs on our list make fantastic companion animals as they were bred to be even-tempered lapdogs. While sweet and loving, others have independent streaks, particularly those with Terrier heritage.