Dogs are the most popular pets in the United States, with nearly half of households having at least one dog1. They make wonderful companions, help keep us safe, and you can find them in all shapes and sizes. While some people prefer large dogs for their imposing appearance, others prefer small dogs because they are less expensive in the long run, and are better suited to apartments and small homes.
If you are looking for a small dog and would like to know what’s available, keep reading for a detailed list of the most popular small dog breeds.
How Are Small Dog Breeds Classified?
The most straightforward classification for small dog breeds is their size. Typically, small dog breeds weigh less than 20 pounds and stand about 16 inches or shorter at the shoulder.
The 15 Small Dog Breeds
The Chihuahua is one of the smallest dog breeds in the world. They have large eyes and an apple- or deer-shaped head and can have a short or long coat in various colors. Despite their small size, Chihuahuas have big personalities, and many owners describe them as confident, bold, and protective, sometimes acting as if they were much larger than they are.
The Pomeranian is a small, fluffy dog. They have a plume-like tail that arches over their back and a thick double coat available in various colors. Their distinctive foxy face and bright eyes give them an alert and playful expression. They are descendants of large sled-pulling dogs from the Arctic region, but over time, breeders kept making them smaller until they became the tiny dogs that we know today.
The Pekingese has a dignified appearance. They are small with a stocky build and a distinctive lion-like fur mane around their neck. Their eyes are dark and expressive, and they have a broad, flat face. Pekingese coats can come in various colors and often have a luxurious, flowing texture. These dogs have a rich history dating back to ancient China, where Chinese emperors would keep them in their court. They were considered sacred and were even part of Chinese legends.
4. Yorkshire Terrier
Yorkshire Terriers, or Yorkies, are small dogs with a glamorous appearance. They have silky, straight coats in blue and tan colors, with a top knot of hair on their heads. They originated in the 19th century in Yorkshire, England, where breeders used them to catch rats in clothing mills. However, they soon became beloved companions for Victorian-era ladies, and their popularity grew from there.
Dachshunds, often affectionately called wiener or sausage dogs, have elongated bodies and short legs. They come in three coat varieties: smooth, longhaired, and wirehaired. They also have expressive eyes and floppy ears. Dachshunds originated in Germany in the 16th century, and breeders initially used them for hunting rabbits and badgers because their long bodies enabled them to enter burrows in pursuit.
Maltese are small dogs with long, flowing white coats. This breed has a compact, slightly rounded skull, a black button nose, and expressive, dark eyes. Their ears are long and hang down gracefully. They are one of the oldest toy dog breeds, with a history dating back over 2,000 years. They were cherished by ancient royalty, including the Greeks and Romans.
7. Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus are small dogs with long, flowing, double-layered coats available in various colors. They have round, dark eyes and often have flat, pushed-in faces with short, upturned noses. The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed with royal origins in China during the Tang Dynasty. Their name translates to “lion dog” in Mandarin.
8. French Bulldog
The French Bulldog, or Frenchie, is a small and muscular dog with a compact build, bat-like ears, and a short, smooth coat in various colors, including fawn, brindle, and pied. They have a wrinkled face and a flattened nose. They originated in the 1800s due to crossing small Bulldog breeds with local ratters in France. Breeders made them as companions for lace workers in the Nottingham region of England, but they later became popular among Parisian society, where they earned the name, “Bouledogue Français.”
9. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are small dogs with well-balanced bodies, silky coats available in various colors, and large, dark, round eyes. Their long, feathered ears frame their faces beautifully, and they have gently wagging tails. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels got their name from King Charles II of England, who was fond of these dogs in the 17th century.
10. Miniature Schnauzer
The Miniature Schnauzer is a small, square-shaped dog with a wiry, double coat available in various colors, including salt and pepper, black and silver, and solid black. Their eyebrows and beard give them a distinctive, expressive appearance, and they have a sturdy build, erect ears, and a docked tail. They are the smallest of the three Schnauzer breeds, which include the Standard and Giant Schnauzer, and were originally bred in Germany in the late 19th century to be efficient rat catchers on farms.
11. Boston Terrier
Boston Terriers are small, sturdy dogs with a tuxedo-like black-and-white coat pattern. They have square-shaped heads, expressive round eyes, and ears that stand erect. The Boston Terrier has a compact, muscular build with a short, sleek coat. Many owners refer to them as “The American Gentleman” because of their well-mannered disposition, and they are one of the few dog breeds developed in the United States, specifically in Boston, Massachusetts, in the late 19th century.
12. Shiba Inu
The Shiba Inu is a small to medium-sized dog with a foxlike appearance. They have a well-balanced, compact build with a curled tail that rests over their back. Their double coat is available in various colors, including red, sesame, black and tan, and cream. They are one of the oldest and smallest native dog breeds from Japan, dating back centuries. Breeders created them to hunt small game in Japan’s mountainous terrain, which accounts for their agility and hunting instincts.
Pugs are small, charming dogs with muscular bodies, short, wrinkled faces, and tails curled tightly over their backsides. This breed has a smooth, short coat that you can find in various colors, with a black mask-like marking on their face. They have large, expressive eyes and a sweet, wrinkled expression. They originated in China over 2,000 years ago, and many owners describe them as clowns due to their goofy behavior.
14. Cocker Spaniel
The Cocker Spaniel is a medium-sized dog with a well-proportioned body and a silky, wavy or curly coat that you can find in various colors. Their expressive eyes are large and dark, and their ears are long and hang gracefully. They have a gentle and alert expression. They are part of the larger Spaniel family, with their name derived from their historical role as bird flushers for hunting woodcocks.
15. Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terriers are small, spirited dogs with sturdy and compact bodies covered in shaggy, weather-resistant double coats that you can find in various colors, including wheaten, red, brindle, and gray. This breed has a broad head, a bushy beard, and expressive, dark eyes. Their ears stand erect, and they have a natural, foxy expression. They originated in Scotland, and breeders created them for hunting small game, such as rats and foxes, in the rugged Scottish Highlands, where they were perfect for squeezing into rocky crevices to pursue their prey.
There are plenty of small breeds to choose from, and your options grow exponentially when you start to consider mixed breeds and toy versions of regular-sized dogs. Our favorites on this list include the French Bulldog and the Pug because both have cute wrinkly faces and make wonderful companions in any sized home. We hope that you have found your dream pet!