68 of the Best Small Dog Breeds
From the hulking Bull Mastiff to the tiny Chihuahua, there’s a hound to suit every home. Dog lovers looking for pups on the smaller side have their pick of the litter. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes dozens of small-breed dogs across its eight breed classes. Some make trusty guard dogs, others add energy to any household, and many act as companions for afternoons spent on the couch.
Not sure which pint-sized pup is right for you? Read on to learn more about the appearances, histories, and personalities of the smallest AKC-recognized breeds.
A Small Dog from the Sporting Group
Fun-loving and frolicsome, the Cocker Spaniel spent years as the nation’s favorite dog. One look at the breed’s big, expressive eyes and it’s no wonder why.
22 Small Dogs from the Toy Group
Nicknamed diablotin moustachu (the “mustached little devil”) in France, the Affenpinscher has also impressed Star Wars fans for looking an awful lot like a certain furry co-pilot.
The elegant and tri-colored Biewer Terrier is one of the AKC’s newest members, joining in January of 2021. By the way, it’s pronounced “beaver.”
Another breed that’s been compared to Chewbacca, the Brussels Griffon packs a big and bold personality into a 12-pound frame. Check out PetPlace’s conversation with Brussels Sprout, an Instagram-famous Brussels Griffon.
With a regal disposition befitting their name, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is just as comfortable relaxing on the throne as they are chasing squirrels in the backyard.
A tiny dog with a titanic attitude, the Chihuahua is one of the smallest and oldest breeds in the Americas. The breed’s precise origin is unknown, but their ancestors were a favorite pet of the Toltec people thousands of years ago.
It’s just about impossible to mistake a Chinese Crested for any other breed. The dog’s mostly-hairless body and unruly coif make them a true one-of-a-kind pup.
Like their relative the Cavalier King Charles, the English Toy Spaniel was a fixture in the courts of Charles I and II. They also possess the same graceful air and occasionally willful personality.
The one and only dog to originate in Cuba, the Havanese is the national dog of their native land. Their adaptable and sociable personality makes them an ideal choice for city-dwelling dog owners.
The lean Italian Greyhound may look dainty, but the AKC notes that the breed is surprisingly hardy. Though they’ve evolved into keen lap dogs, they retained their speed and alertness.
Among the most “cat-like” of dogs, the Japanese Chin is quiet, graceful, and more than a little fussy. The breed’s fans contend that their eyes have an amusing, bewildered look.
The elegant, floor-length coat of the Maltese is among the most recognizable in the canine world. Since before the rise of ancient Greece, the breed has occupied the lap of luxury.
Sometimes called “the King of Toys,” the Miniature Pinscher (or “Min Pin”) is a fun-loving and fearless dog. Don’t let their small stature fool you, the breed is often a remarkably effective watchdog.
The Papillon is named after the French word for butterfly, owing to the breed’s distinctive, wing-shaped ears. As athletic as they are elegant, they are a perennial star in agility competitions.
Famous for their lion’s mane of hair and compact size, the Pekingese was first bred as a companion to ancient Chinese royalty. They haven’t lost their regal bearing over the centuries.
Though they are much smaller than their sled dog ancestors, Pomeranians have kept their thick double coats and smiling expressions.
The Pug’s familiar wrinkled face is capable of communicating a range of human-like expressions. That’s part of why they’ve been a popular breed for two millennia.
Few dogs are as fetching as a Shih Tzu fresh from the groomer. The “lion dog” also wins hearts with their affectionate, charming personality.
A cousin of the Yorkshire Terrier, this slightly-larger (but still compact) pooch hails from down under in Sydney, Australia.
With the spunk of a terrier and the sweetness of a lapdog, the Toy Fox Terrier’s unique character provides endless amusement.
This Mancunian hound was bred to hunt small game like rabbits and rats. Today, they’re still experts in many canine sports thanks to their athletic lineage.
The smallest version of France’s national dog is one of America’s ten favorites. Despite their reputation as the dandies of the dog world, Toy Poodles are surprisingly strong and athletic.
Yorkies are yet another eye-catching breed whose beautiful coat sometimes obscures their tenacious and feisty attitude. It may also surprise you to learn that that famous coat is light on potential allergens.
5 Small Dog Breeds from the Herding Group
Initially bred to nip at the heels of sheep and cattle, both the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and their close relative the Pembroke Welsh Corgi have recently found new lives as beloved family companions.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
As recognizable from the rear as from the front, Pembroke Welsh Corgis have become a social media superstar thanks to their little legs, big ears, and adorable butts.
The whimsical, energetic Pumi is a herding dog from Hungary with boundless enthusiasm for both work and play.
While the Shetland Sheepdog is much smaller than their cousin the Collie, the two breeds otherwise look nearly identical. They’re similarly intelligent and obedient too.
When Vikings arrived in the British Isles from Scandinavia centuries ago, they brought Spitz dogs with them. Experts believe these dogs bred with Corgis, resulting in the equally long and low Swedish Vallhund.
6 Small-Breed Dogs from the Hound Group
Beautiful and temperamental, the Basenji is perhaps best known for their unique yodeling call. The “barkless dog” originated in Africa and may be the AKC’s single oldest breed.
A favorite of everyone from Charlie Brown to President Lyndon B. Johnson, the Beagle is undoubtedly one of America’s most familiar and beloved dogs. The breed doesn’t drool and only sheds minimally. These qualities — plus a happy-go-lucky temperament — have likely contributed to their popularity.
Slender and speedy, the Cirneco dell’Etna resembles a shrunken Pharaoh Hound. As companions, they’re considered affectionate and low maintenance.
The unmistakable Dachshund was carefully bred to burrow underground, hunting game like badgers. In fact, their name literally means “badger dog.”
This French pup’s long name informs curious dog lovers that the breed is small, low, rough-coated, and native to the Vendee region. They’re also rugged hunters and affectionate family pets.
The smallest hunting dog in the world, the Portuguese Podengo Pequeno is well-behaved as a housemate and bursting with energy as a playmate.
19 Small Terrier Breeds
A great choice for dog lovers with allergies, the American Hairless Terrier is curious and intelligent, as well as hypoallergenic.
Alert, brave, and intelligent, Australian Terriers haven’t lost any of their hunter’s instincts. The breed still loves to dig and chase critters whenever they can.
The Bedlington Terrier’s soft, sheep-like coat makes them a couch companion like no other. They’re also impressive athletes and watchdogs.
Tireless at work and play alike, the upbeat Border Terrier has an easygoing attitude and easily maintained wire-haired coat.
Even among terriers, the Cairn stands out as uniquely active and alert. They’re always on the lookout for new places to explore.
The national dog of their native Czech Republic, the Cesky Terrier has a laid-back, unfussy attitude that makes them a great choice for seniors or anyone in search of a relatively low-maintenance pup.
Bred in a far-flung region of Ireland, the Glen of Imaal Terrier is built for hard work and harsh elements. That doesn’t mean they won’t relish some rest and relaxation indoors.
A sturdy dog with a strong constitution, the Lakeland Terrier is named after England’s Lake District. There, the breed helped farmers do battle with trespassing foxes.
Possessing the grace of a hound and the alertness of a terrier, the Manchester Terrier has slightly different ears than the smaller toy variety.
What the Miniature Bull Terrier lacks in size, they more than make up for in tenacity. They’re as mischievous and feisty as larger “Bullies.”
The Miniature Schnauzer’s bushy “beard” and “eyebrows” give the breed an amusing appearance, and their charming personality makes them an appealing family pet.
As happy as watchdogs as they are as lap dogs, the Norfolk Terrier is among the smallest breeds in their group. They’re more social than other terriers, but still have much of the group’s adventure-seeking energy.
Though they’re as small as many Toy Group dogs, Norwich Terriers generally aren’t content to live as mere companions. They’re full of energy and eager for hours of fetch and other games.
These terriers may resemble a stuffed animal come to life, but they’re as tough as they are cute. An independent spirit and fearless outlook make them expert fox hunters and entertaining pets.
Legend has it that President Teddy Roosevelt named this lovable American breed. The Rat Terrier’s sleek and sturdy build have made them a natural born hunter, and they’re still plenty athletic today.
The Russell Terrier’s compact body belies their huge personality and seemingly endless reserves of energy and enthusiasm.
With a businesslike and confident manner, Scotties make a spirited addition to any household. Keep in mind, however, that their strong hunting instinct means they don’t always make fast friends.
Considered a gentlemanly dog, the Smooth Fox Terrier was developed to take part in fox hunts across the British countryside.
A fellow fox hunter, the Wire Fox Terrier is just as alert and active as their smooth-haired relative. With their hunting days mostly behind them, the breed now makes for a confident, intelligent housemate.
10 Small Dogs from the Non-Sporting Group
Despite their name, this strong and friendly breed is actually descended from all-purpose farming dogs imported by German immigrants. When World War I brought anti-German sentiment to the states, the dog formerly known as the German Spitz got a new moniker.
The Bichon Frise’s recognizable white coat is pleasant to the touch and easy on allergy sufferers. Enthusiasts can attest that the breed’s personality is as distinct (and delightful) as their appearance.
True to their name, the compact and intelligent Boston Terrier makes a perfect pet for urban dog owners.
Affectionate with family members and aloof toward strangers, the Lhasa Apso is best known for their billowing, floor-length coat.
The Löwchen (“little lion” in German) earned their name thanks to boldness and bravery. Fortunately for pet parents with allergies, the breed’s “mane” is hypoallergenic.
Lots of dogs were bred to hunt rabbits, rats, foxes, and ducks, but only the Norwegian Lundehund was developed to aid in puffin hunting. While their initial job is now illegal, the breed has found a new calling as a loyal pet.
Proud as a peacock, the Miniature Poodle is among the canine kingdom’s most aristocratic breeds. The easily-trained dog is also known as a champion athlete.
Powerfully-built Schipperkes hunt their prey stealthily like cats. That combined with their unique foxy face and all-black coat makes them both an unusual and unforgettable breed.
Originating in Japan, the Shiba Inu only arrived on America’s shores in the mid-20th century. Their adaptability and good nature has quickly made them a popular pet.
No, Tibetan Terriers aren’t really terriers. They got their name after coming to the west and have been stuck with it ever since. Originally bred to watch over Tibetan monasteries, the breed is still an able guardian.
5 Small Dogs of the Miscellaneous Class
The energetic Lancashire Heeler is quick to pick up new tricks and nearly always in the mood for a stroll or game of fetch.
Accustomed to unforgiving terrain and climate, the Norrbottenspets is notable for their fearlessness and sinewy build. They’re sometimes called Nobs for short.
Both the hairless and coated varieties of the Peruvian Inca Orchid are adept hunters with considerable speed and skills on the agility course.
Resembling a slightly-larger Chihuahua, the Russian Toy is a loyal and intelligent pooch that’s always eager to please. They were historically a companion to Russian aristocracy, but today they can brighten any home.
Like their namesake president, the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier is a skilled hunter with a strong thirst for adventure. Though they’re bold, the breed can typically get along with children and other pets.
Learn More About Your Favorite Breeds
Want to learn more about mid-sized and large breeds too? Read up on what makes every AKC-recognized breed so special and find the perfect pup for you with PetPlace’s comprehensive Breed Guides.