Small dogs are popular pets for many reasons – they are cute, portable, and fit well into small homes or apartments. But with so many breeds to choose from, how do you pick the right small dog? Here is an overview of the 10 most popular small dog breeds in the USA along with their key traits to help you find the perfect furry companion.
The Chihuahua is the smallest breed recognized by the AKC. These pint-sized pups are sassy, energetic, and loyal companions.
|Short, smooth coat
|Any color or marking
|Charming, graceful, sassy
Chihuahuas do well in any home, including small apartments. They don’t require much exercise. Short walks or indoor play is sufficient. Their small size makes them easy to carry around. Chihuahuas do have a tendency to bark a lot so early training is recommended.
2. Yorkshire Terrier
The Yorkshire Terrier, or Yorkie, is a popular companion dog known for its long, silky coat. Though small, Yorkies have big personalities.
|7 lbs or less
|Long, fine, and silky
|Steel blue, black, tan, grey
|Sprightly, tomboyish, affectionate
Yorkies adapt well to apartment living. They enjoy short walks and play time. Their long coat requires daily brushing and regular trimming. Yorkies can be a bit yappy but respond well to training.
3. Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus are sweet, affectionate dogs known for their long, flowing coats. They make loyal companion pets.
|Long, dense, double coat
|Various colors and markings
|Outgoing, affectionate, playful
Shih Tzus are well suited to apartment living. They only need moderate exercise. The long coat requires daily brushing and frequent bathing. Shih Tzus can be slightly stubborn but are intelligent and train well.
Pomeranians are petite but lively dogs with thick, fluffy coats. They love being around their people.
|Long, dense, stand-off outer coat
|All colors, patterns, and variations
|Friendly, bold, lively
Pomeranians thrive in apartments or small dwellings. Despite their small size, they have plenty of energy and need some daily exercise. Their thick coat requires frequent brushing. Pomeranians can be somewhat vocal but respond well to training.
The Maltese is an ancient breed known for its glamorous white coat. Maltese are affectionate companion dogs.
|Long, silky, single layer coat
|Gentle, playful, charming
The Maltese is well-suited to apartment living. Short walks and indoor play provide sufficient exercise. The long coat requires daily brushing to prevent matting. Maltese can be difficult to housebreak but are intelligent and respond well to training.
The Pug is known for its wrinkly, expressive face and outgoing personality. Pugs make excellent companion dogs.
|Fine, smooth, short coat
|Fawn, black, silver, apricot
|Charming, mischievous, loving
Pugs are couch potatoes that thrive in small dwellings. Short walks meet their exercise needs. Their short coat requires only occasional brushing. Pugs can be a bit stubborn but are eager to please. They get along well with everyone.
Despite their dainty appearance, Papillons are energetic, athletic dogs. They are very devoted to their owners.
|Long, fine, silky single coat
|White with patches of any color
|Energetic, friendly, elegant
Papillons are active indoor dogs that excel at dog sports. Expect to provide vigorous daily exercise. The long coat requires brushing several times per week. Papillons are highly intelligent and respond beautifully to training.
8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has an elegant appearance paired with a sweet, gentle temperament.
|Silky, moderate length
|Rich variety of colors
|Affectionate, gentle, playful
Cavaliers thrive in apartments and smaller homes. Moderate daily walks keep them fit and happy. Regular brushing keeps their coat neat. Cavaliers are highly trainable and get along well with everyone.
The Havanese is an outgoing, affectionate companion dog with a springy gait. They make ideal family pets.
|Long, abundant coat in curl or wave patterns
|White, cream, silver, brown, black, parti, or tri-color
|Happy, outgoing, adaptable
The Havanese needs daily exercise but also enjoys lounging around the house. The long coat requires brushing several times per week and regular trimming. Havanese are intelligent and easily trained. They get along with everyone.
10. Miniature Schnauzer
Bold and sturdy, the Miniature Schnauzer maintains many of the traits of its larger Schnauzer cousins in a compact package. Miniature Schnauzers are spunky but very loyal companions.
|Wiry, dense medium length coat
|Black, salt & pepper, black & silver
|Spirited, alert, friendly
Miniature Schnauzers adapt well to apartment life with moderate exercise. Their wiry coat needs combing once or twice a week and trimming every couple months. They are protective dogs but highly trainable. Miniature Schnauzers get along well with considerate children.
Comparisons Between the Top 10 Small Dog Breeds
Now that we’ve covered the most popular small dog breeds individually, let’s compare them across some key factors to help you further narrow down your choice.
Small dogs with long, silky coats generally require the most grooming. Daily brushing is ideal to prevent mats and tangles. Frequent bathing is also needed to keep the coat clean. Breeds like Maltese, Yorkies, Havanese, and Shih Tzus fall in the high grooming category.
Breeds with shorter coats, like Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Miniature Schnauzers have minimal grooming requirements, needing only weekly brushing and the occasional bath.
Pomeranians and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels fall somewhere in the middle, needing 2-3 brushings per week. Papillons need thorough brushing 2-3 times per week to keep their long coat neat.
Some small breeds like Chihuahuas and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are true companion dogs, satisfied with short daily walks and active play.
More energetic breeds like Papillons, Pomeranians, and Miniature Schnauzers need vigorous exercise for at least 30 minutes daily to expend their energy. Interactive play or engaging dog sports are ideal activities for these breeds.
Moderate exercisers like Havanese, Maltese, and Shih Tzus are happy with daily walks plus playtime. Yorkies and Pugs fall into the moderate exercise category as well.
In terms of intelligence and trainability, breeds like Papillon and Miniature Schnauzer are at the top. They are responsive, eager to please, and excel at obedience training and dog sports.
Yorkies, Havanese, Maltese, and Pomeranians are also highly intelligent and trainable, although they may be slightly more stubborn. With positive reinforcement training, these breeds pick up on commands quickly.
Pugs and Shih Tzus can be more difficult to train, as they tend to be somewhat willful. However, both breeds respond well to rewards-based training with plenty of patience. Early socialization is key for these breeds.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is responsive to training but can be easily distracted. Chihuahuas may be more difficult to train given their strong-willed personality.
Suitable Living Spaces
One of the appeals of small dog breeds is their ability to thrive in smaller dwellings like apartments. All the breeds covered do well in apartments or condos, provided their exercise needs are met with daily walks and active play.
Of course, a small fenced yard is a bonus for any dog, giving them room to run around. But it’s not a necessity for these breeds to live their happiest life.
Some small dogs do better with certain types of households. For example, Chihuahuas and Papillons do best in calm, stable environments. Pugs and Cavaliers are well suited to families with respectful children. Yorkies can thrive with all ages in any type of home.
Health Issues to Watch For
Like all purebred dogs, these small breeds come with some inherited health conditions to be aware of. For example:
- Chihuahuas – dental problems, collapsing trachea
- Yorkies – dental problems, collapsed trachea, patellar luxation
- Shih Tzus – brachycephalic syndrome, dental problems, hip dysplasia
- Pomeranians – dental problems, collapsing trachea, hip dysplasia
- Maltese – collapsing trachea, dental problems, hypoglycemia
- Pugs – stenotic nares, dental problems, hip dysplasia
- Papillons – dental problems, collapsing trachea, progressive retinal atrophy
- Cavaliers – mitral valve disease, syringomyelia, hip dysplasia
- Havanese – patellar luxation, cataracts, deafness
- Mini Schnauzers – pancreatitis, bladder stones, diabetes
Reputable breeders screen breeding dogs for these conditions to minimize risk. Knowing the potential health issues allows you to provide preventative care and early treatment.
Bringing Home Your Small Dog
Once you’ve weighed your options and selected the right breed for your family, it’s time to welcome your small dog home! Here are some tips for a smooth transition:
Puppy-Proof Your Home
Remove any dangerous objects or substances that inquisitive puppy paws might get into. Keep household chemicals and medications locked up and out of reach. Place any exposed wires behind furniture or appliances.
Create a Safe and Comfortable Space
Designate a confinement area like a crate or small room to use when you can’t directly supervise your pup. Include a soft bed, a water bowl, and chew toys. This space will become your puppy’s cozy retreat.
Stock Up On Supplies
Be sure to have on hand everything your puppy will need – high quality puppy food, bowls, collar and leash, brush for grooming, chew toys, enzyme cleaner for accidents, and more. Shop for supplies before bringing your puppy home.
Set a Schedule
Structure and routine will help your puppy learn good behaviors quickly. Set feeding times, potty breaks, training/play sessions, nap times, and bedtime into a consistent daily schedule. This schedule provides comfort and predictability.
Socialize Early and Often
Safe exposure to new places, people, dogs, sights and sounds should start as soon as you bring your puppy home. Positive early experiences help prevent fear and anxiety later on. Sign up for puppy kindergarten for important socialization.
Start Training Right Away
Use positive reinforcement techniques to begin teaching important commands like sit, stay, come, down, leave it, and house training. Short, engaging sessions will form a strong foundation. Professional training classes accelerate the process.
Give Lots of Love!
Shower your small pup with affection, care, and attention. A strong bond with you and family members provides important security. Be patient – your investment will lead to years of companionship and joy.
Small dogs can make wonderful pets for all types of households. When selecting a small dog breed, be sure to consider activity level, grooming needs, trainability, and overall temperament. Also research potential health issues so you can provide proactive care. If possible, meet adults of any breed you are considering.
By understanding the unique traits of these popular small dog breeds, you are sure to find the perfect fit for your family. Your new pint-sized companion will shower you with a lifetime of devotion.