Which Toy or Small Dog Breed Is Right For You?

 

There’s a perfect breed for everyone. If you’re looking for a diminutive furry friend, here’s a list of small dogs that may be what you’re looking for. We have included dogs from the toy, terrier, and non-sporting categories (as defined by the American Kennel Club).

 

What Dog Breed is Right For Me?

 

Small dogs (less than about 15 lbs) aren’t just celebrity purse dogs or lap dogs. Some are highly energetic working dogs, some are couch potatoes, and each breed has its unique and wonderful characteristics and temperaments that make the breed either a perfect match – or a perfect storm – for your specific situation.


In general, toy dogs don’t require as much exercise as larger breeds, making them perfect for small-space living. If you have small children, consider not getting a toy or mini breed. Toy breeds can be delicate, and smaller dogs can be anxious (and bitey) around children.

 

The Match Game

 

Instead of the usual alphabetical list of small dog breeds, we categorize breeds by activity level and temperament, since those are the first things many people look for when choosing a dog.

 

Type A: Active. Let’s play! There’s work to do!

 

  • Affenpinscher: “monkey terrier” in German (pretty much says it all, and not just because of their adorable face), the Affenpinscher is 7-10 lb. of turbo-charged moderately vocal energy.

 

 

  • (Toy) American Eskimo Dog: super-insulated double coat typical of its Nordic heritage, the American Eskimo Dog (toy version, 6-10 lbs; mini version, 10-20 lbs) is a stellar agility performer who needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation.

 

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  • Border Terrier: 11-16 lb. of boundless enthusiasm and work ethic, these leggy and athletic little guys need lots of time to explore or work.  

 

 

 

  • Cairn Terrier: aka “Toto” from The Wizard of Oz. Cairns are alert, cheerful, and independent. These tough little (14 lb) terriers excel at agility and appreciate long walks outside even in gloomy Scottish weather.

 

 

 

  • Chihuahua: “Chis” are a quintessential tiny (less than 8 lbs) American breed. These high-energy, intelligent and sometimes bossy dogs require good training but once trained, they are loyal and sometimes very talkative companions.

 

Chihuahua

 

 

  • Miniature Pinscher: “Min Pins” are not miniature Doberman Pinschers but their own breed. They are fearless, boisterous, active… and do not believe they are miniature at all even if they weigh only 8-10 lbs.

 

 

 

  • Norwich Terrier: Spirited, tireless, and hard-working, the stocky little Norwich has a wiry, weather-beating coat perfectly suited for hours of exploring the great outdoors.

 

 

 

  • Norfolk Terrier: loyal, alert, fearless, hardy, fun-loving, and sociable, the 11 pound Norfolk Terrier loves brisk walks in terrible weather, thanks to its weather resistant coat.

 

 

 

  • Parson Russell Terrier: ​playful, affectionate, alert, athletic, and fun-loving but “on the hunt… all the time.”  Need lots of attention and exercise. A much bigger personality than their 12 pounds.

 

 

  • Portuguese Podengo Pequeno: a 9-13 lb hunting dog, the Podengo Pequeno is athletic, quick, playful, well-mannered, and comes in a smooth short coat or a wire coat. Favorite activity: You run, I chase.

 

 

  • Rat Terrier: these sturdy, athletic, friendly and fearless bundles of energy love to be busy. At 10-25 pounds, they often think big and are eager to please. There is also the “Toy” Rat Terrier, that weighs in at around 5 pounds.

 

 

Toy Rat Terrier

 

 

  • Russell Terrier:  full of life, hardy, friendly, fearless, confident, intense, tireless and eager. 9-15 lbs. Russells are prone to mischief when they don’t get enough exercise.  

 

Jack Russell Terrier

 

 

  • Schipperke: Schips are small (10-16 lbs) but hardworking. Bred to hunt rats, Schips are intense hunters. They’re confident, alert, curious, vocal, and very, very busy little dogs.

 

 

 

  • Tibetan Spaniel: the 9-15 lb. “Tibbies” sport a regal lion’s mane and a plumed tail, but don’t lounge around like one. They’re frisky, active, playful, curious, and loving.

 

 

 

Has an on-switch, but the off-switch works too

 

  • American Hairless Terrier (12-16 lbs): playful and affectionate, this not-quite-hairless but practically non-shedding dog is great for allergy sufferers. But, it’s a terrier, so expect a feisty yet fun-loving watchdog.

 

 

  • Bichon Frise: aka adorable hypoallergenic puff-balls, these 10-20 lb dogs are cheerful, charismatic and curious but also big-time snuggle bugs. They even tolerate dress-up.

 

 

 

  • Boston Terrier: friendly, adaptable, sweet-faced, quiet, and moderately active, these little (10-25 lbs) guys excel in an urban or small-space environment.

 

Boston Terrier

 

 

  • Brussels Griffon: 8-10 pounds of perky, curiosity, and somewhat self-important personality originally bred in Belgium.

 

 

 

  • Chinese Crested Dog: No other dog can outdo the Crested’s ‘do. These exotic 8-12 lb dogs are unusual not only for their 80s hair metal style but because they sweat (unlike other dogs who pant to cool down).

 

 

 

  • English Toy Spaniels: who can resist those chipmunk cheeks and sweet disposition? These gentle companions may have a quiet and regal demeanor but they have a goofy side, too!

 

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  • Havanese: the national dog of Cuba is very much at home in the USA. At 7-13 pounds, these bouncy (but not hyper) and sweet dogs have a great disposition and make great companions.

 

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  • Miniature Dachshund: spunky and intelligent (easily bored), the mini Dachs weighs less than 11 pounds but makes up for it in personality. Generally not great with kids.

 

Miniature Dachshund

 

 

 

  • Miniature Schnauzer: that beard! Those eyebrows! These friendly, robust, smart, lively and vocal dogs enjoy long walks… and perhaps a philosophical discussion afterward. Bonus: they’re hypoallergenic! 11-20 lbs.

 

 

 

  • Silky Terrier: this tough, energetic and tenacious Aussie breed is used for hunting snakes and excels at earthdog trials. This is a real working dog, not a lapdog.

 

 

  • Toy Fox Terrier: happiest when they’re in the middle of the action, or in the middle of the cuddling. These little guys pack a ton of personality into their 3.5-7 lb size.

 

Toy Fox Terrier

 

 

  • Toy Poodle: one of America’s favorite dogs, the 4-6 lb toy poodle is a versatile dog (well known for its circus performances). They shed very little and have almost no dander, making them ideal for allergy sufferers.

 

Toy Poodle

 

 

  • Yorkshire Terrier: the world’s 2nd-favorite dog, the diminutive (4-15 lbs) Yorki needs lots and lots… and lots of brushing to keep their silky coats looking good. Friendly and inquisitive, Yorkis also have a lot to say.

 

Teacup Yorkshire Terrier

 

  • Xoloitzcuintli:  Xolos are a rare breed that can be called “the first dog of the Americas” (they traveled with man across the Bering Strait). Toy Xolos (10-15 lbs) enjoy active play but definitely have an off switch at home.

 

 

Chill: Lounge, cuddle, sunbathe, supervise

 

 

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: lapdog to royalty, this 13-18 lb calm and friendly love muffin loves to hang out and be your constant companion.

 

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  • Coton de Tulear: The Coton is a French breed and yes, “coton” in French means cotton! At 8-15 pounds of fluffy sweetness, these bright, happy and lovey pups live to be with their favorite human.

 

 

 

  • Italian Greyhound: not Italian (they originated in Greece and Turkey) but beloved by Italian aristocracy, these 7-14 lb. sweeties prefer to be on your lap. But let them loose and they’ll easily outrun most other dogs! They are not cold-hardy, but can be trained to use litter boxes, which is great if you live where the winter air hurts your face.

 

 

 

  • Japanese Chin: for centuries, this dignified breed was companion to Chinese royalty and “adopted” by the Japanese. 7-11 pounds. Just wait until you see the famous “Chin spin” when they stand on their back legs and twirl!

 

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  • Maltese: thought to be the oldest lapdog breed, Maltese are enthusiastic and sweet, and make great travel companions.

 

 

 

  • Papillon: Marie Antoinette dubbed her dwarf spaniel “let petit papillon” (little butterfly) and the name stuck. This is an ancient breed known for silky long hair and for being wonderful lapdogs. 4-9 pounds.

 

 

 

  • Pekingese: originally the dog of Chinese royalty, Pekingese carry themselves like royalty and rarely, if ever, bark. This ancient breed is still a top choice for constant companionship.

 

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  • Pomeranian: 3-7 pounds of personality and poof. Poms have been favored lapdogs for centuries… but they prefer to walk rather than be carried in a purse.

 

Pomeranian

 

 

  • Pug: 14-18 pounds of wrinkly goodness. Did you know that the face wrinkles are bred by design, to give the dogs the appearance of the Chinese character for “Prince”? Today, Pugs are among the most popular dogs in the US.

 

 

 

  • Shih Tzu: this ancient Tibetan breed graced the laps of Chinese aristocracy for centuries. Cuddly and sweet, these 9-16 pound “lion dogs” make amazing lap dogs.

 

 

 

Lots More to Consider…

 

Once you’ve decided how much energy and “personality” (independence and mischief) you can handle, look deeper into the breeds that fall into that general category. Of course, individual dogs may not fit their breed’s stereotype but this is a good starting point when looking for a new small-statured best friend!

 

Which Toy Breed dog

 

So Which Toy or Small Dog Breed Is Right For You? Please share your best match or pick with us.

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  1. Hi there

    So I love your site a lot. And whats funny is when I picked out my dog it was a hyper dong. But I have learned that when picking out a puppy, that I should look for the one who is low key energy and not even paying attention to me but doing its own thing. I wish I would have known that before hand. But either way, she is a sweet heart. Her name is Meisha, and hyper than ever. (I’m high energy as well lol, she feeds off mine lol). Great post, thanks for sharing

    • Hello AJ, I understand about the hyper dogs. My terriers are crazy hyper, but also know when it’s time to settle down. They’re actually very entertaining! I’m sure you love your Meisha regardless!

  2. I have to wonder just how many Cairn Terriers in the world have been named Toto 🙂 What an awesome comprehensive guide to toy and small dog breeds, so important for people to understand how delicate these dogs are and how not all are good with children, and how different breeds have different needs for stimulation and exercise!

    • Thanks Penelope. There are lots of dogs named Toto for sure, love that movie! My terriers are pretty tough, but I do have to educate my grandson on how to be gentle with them and not be too rough because I worry about their little legs getting hurt. He has BIG dogs and hangs all over them.

  3. This is such a useful article about different breeds of dogs, I haven’t read so many types at one platform. Superb work you have done as you also have discussed about nature and habits on each one. I am really glad to read this article and will shar it for sure.

    • Thank you, Sarah. There are so many breeds out there. And now they have “designer” dogs that are all mixed up. It’s hard to keep up on all of them.

  4. You give a lot of great information about each dog, which is helpful when making the decision about which one would be best for our lives. I have to say that I still like the small Yorkies but not the toy breed. Yes, there are trips to the groomers to keep the hair trimmed and the pup smelling good, but they are quite personable, inquisitive, and very loving. Many interesting tidbits here about smaller dogs. Great info!

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