Whether you're looking for a running partner, a couch potato, or champion competitor—little dogs can do it all and looking adorable to boot. While all dogs are tied for first place in our hearts, here’s a list of 10 tiny pups who are great family additions for a variety of reasons.
Keep in mind that there are small dogs in virtually every AKC breed group, but dogs who make up the toy group have one thing in common. While many small dogs were bred with hunting or working as a foremost consideration, toy dogs were primarily bred for companionship and make great pets for a variety of lifestyles.
As a general rule, smaller dogs have longer lifespans than larger breeds. So no matter what toy breed you go with, finding a friend for the next 10-15 years shouldn’t be a hard task. In fact, attentive owners will routinely report examples of toy breeds living for 18-20 years with few issues. While the Lhasa Apso has an average lifespan of right around 15 years, much longer-lived examples are not difficult to find. In fact, the oldest Lhasa Apso on record passed away in 1939 at a whopping 29 years old!
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Some people just don’t want to deal with the trimming and grooming that comes with a pup who has a ton of hair. Sometimes you just want to find a dog who makes himself as low-maintenance as possible, and few do that as effectively as the Chinese crested. Sure, they look a little bit like a Pekinese with that infamous “2007 Britney”-style look. But they’re tiny, agile, and clever—not to mention their deep desire to please their humans. The Chinese crested will still need regular baths to keep their skin free of dirt and collected oils, but that can be a lot less hassle than weekly brushing or monthly trips to the groomers.
It was hard to choose just one pooch for this category, and one could still argue for the Pekingese or the Pomeranian. But to see a shock-white, long-coated, freshly brushed Maltese is to finally understand what luxury truly is. These little dogs are happy to run and play and get dirty with the best of them, but once you’ve had one regally sit on your lap and make you feel like a lavish celeb from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, you’ll never want them to do anything else.
One of the 10 most popular breeds in the US regardless of size, the Yorkshire terrier is far and away the People’s Choice among the toy breeds. Like all of the toy breeds, the Yorkie has long been a favored breed for aristocracy and nobility. But under that long, silky hair beats the heart of a working class terrier. The Yorkie was a ratter and vermin chaser long before she was a royal lap dog, giving the breed a universal appeal for centuries.
I mean, come on. It’s a list of small dogs, so you knew this one was coming, right? The gold standard for “tiny dog,” the Chihuahua breed standard lists their size as simply “not more than 6 lbs.” Blessed with personalities that far outstrip their diminutive size, Chihuahuas have developed a reputation for being dogs with...prickly dispositions. But with a patient trainer, these littlest of the little dogs can be the best friend you could ask for.
Bred specifically to be companion dogs for Chinese royalty, the Shih Tzu is a dog that thrives on human contact. They do well in households with children of all ages (though no dog should ever be left unsupervised with a small child), and their laid back dispositions make them highly attuned to apartment and urban living. Their exercise needs are easy to meet in smaller spaces, and they don’t have any serious aversions to heat or cold, making them nearly ideal companions, regardless of where you live!
That being said, there are several breeds that can cut down on those allergens significantly and one of the most popular examples of that is the toy poodle. Doing everything full-sized poodles can, toy poodles can make surprisingly effective little ratters around a rural setting, but at their heart, these intelligent little dogs love to please people and couch surf with their people. And their thick, tight curls hang on to almost all of the loose hair and dander they produce, keeping them virtually shed-free. Occasional brushings will keep their coats looking great and can eliminate all that loose hair in a way that doesn’t let it land all over your house.
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel doesn’t have owners or fans—the breed has devotees. One of the 20 most popular breeds in the US, this little spaniel combines almost all of the things that people love about dogs into one, compact package. They are intelligent, very friendly dogs with long lifespans and gentle dispositions, but with all of the athleticism of a sporting dog. Their intelligent bearing and long, silky coats have made them a favorite of royalty for decades (as their royal namesake will attest).
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A companion dog through and through, the papillion was bred to tag along with their humans, no matter the activity. This has resulted in a little dog with an extremely keen mind, a hardy, compact body and a good amount of energy. Put all of that together, and you get a dog that takes to instruction quickly and can excel in agility, obedience, and flyball competitions, showing genuine excitement after learning a new trick or finishing a new course.
There might not be a more Instagram-ready dog than the Pomeranian. With hair that can be teased and shaped into an endless array of styles, these soft, loving little dogs are just begging to be cuddled and photographed for your friends to coo over. Put a Pom in a room with even the most ardent small dog critic, and dare them not to touch one of these little puffballs of joy. It’s just not possible!
There’s the expression “a face only a mother could love,” and then there’s the pug, who has been blessed with a face everyone loves. With their trademark wrinkles, snub noses, bug eyes, and permagrins, it’s hard not to snuggle up to one of these little guys and tell them exactly how cute they are. One of the most recognizable mugs in the entire dog world, the pug has been a favorite of Chinese emperors since the 1500’s and a favorite of virtually everyone else for almost as long!
Affenpinscher is German for “monkey dog” and it's easy to see why this moniker applies here. These inquisitive, curious little dogs are eager explorers, intelligent companions, and often devious jokers. Despite typically standing at just 9-12 inches tall and 7 to 8 pounds, these tiny tots are full of personality.
With a name like “silky terrier,” you know pretty much exactly what you’re going to get. Looking very much like his cousin the Yorkshire terrier, the Australia-born silky terrier is slightly larger, coming in at just under a foot, and right around 10 lbs. Much rarer than the Yorkie, silkies share the Yorkie’s terrier bloodlines and love to hunt, run, and compete.
Still not sure which dog breed is for you? Check out the full list of toy dog breeds for more little dogs to love.