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The Best Small Dog Breeds for Every Type of Owner

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The best small dogs
Adult Long-Haired Chihuahua

Admit it: you coo over itty-bitty dogs in purses. There’s just something about the perpetual-puppy face that tugs at our heartstrings. Small dogs are popular with many people for a variety of reasons – portability is just one of them. If you’ve come looking for the best small dogs, you’re in the right place.

These tiny canines are happy in any size space – apartment, family home, or country estate. Their exercise needs range from an occasional walk around the block to frequent games of fetch. They have personalities that span the spectrum, appealing to anyone and everyone. True, some are better for households with small children than others. Best of all, they have longer lifespans: where larger breeds live 8-10 years, small breeds can live for up to 20 years! So while these diminutive dogs might fit in a box, you can’t confine them to one.

This list is by no means extensive, but hopefully it’ll provide a glimpse into the best small breed dogs have to offer.

En Garde!

While the average weight of a small breed dog is less than 22 pounds, don’t think your new canine companion isn’t capable of defending your home. Many little dogs come with Napoleon complexes, and they aren’t afraid to establish their territories. Though they are tiny, they are fierce!

Best Small Dogs - Pomeranian Puppy
Brown and White Pomeranian
  • Pomeranian: Pomeranians have a double coat which creates that incredibly fluffy appearance. They stand 6-7 inches tall and only weigh between 3-7 pounds (hard to believe, right?). As the smallest members of the Spitz family, they’re naturally protective of their family members. A daily walk satisfies their exercise needs.
  • French Bulldog: Who doesn’t love a Frenchie’s recognizable bat ears? They’re a brachycephalic breed (their faces and airways are shortened) so watch them in high temperatures. However, they love children and make friends easily – provided you aren’t trying to break into their house.
  • West Highland White Terrier: Everyone is familiar with the iconic Westie image. They’ve been family dogs for the last 300 years! They’re very courageous, and they have a pronounced independent streak. Once a Westie bonds with their family, they’ll guard and defend them.

Small Dog Working Class

Though small, many of these tiny dogs had jobs in the past: herding, hunting, and pest control. Even if they don’t work those jobs now, they retain the original characteristics and traits in their personalities.

Two Dachshunds
  • Dachshund: Dachshund means “badger dog” in German. They were bred to hunt and track small game. No higher than 9 inches at the shoulder, these little dogs have big personalities – and big barks! They notice EVERYTHING around them. Due to their short legs, they aren’t very demanding in the physical activity department.
  • Jack Russell Terrier: JRTs were bred as ratters, and their boundless energy and need to hunt persists to this day. If you’re looking for a jogging companion, the JRT is the perfect small breed for you. In fact, they need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation to keep themselves out of trouble.
  • Beagle: The Beagle is a common hunting dog today. However, they’ve also made the transition to family companions. Friendly, playful, with hearts as big as their ears, they aren’t big barkers. They may let loose with a howl if the conditions are right, though.

Kings and Queens

Due to their size, small breed dogs were often companions of royalty: as beloved pets, stylish hand-warmers, or even foot-warmers (royal is royal, right?). Like cats, these royals haven’t forgotten their regal pedigree and expect to be doted upon (only the best will do!).

Best Small Dogs - Japanese Chin
Japanese Chin
  • Yorkshire Terrier: Yorkies straddled the line: they were both royalty and ratters. Fanciers agree they have a sophisticated appearance that demands attention. Feisty and brave, this small breed rarely gets above 7 pounds – hardly enough to contain their enormous personalities!
  • Japanese Chin: With a thick mane and plumed tail, no one questions the Chin’s royal lineage. These dogs are quiet and graceful with an affinity for cuddling. Their personalities reflect those of their owners; if you have a calm nature, expect the same from your Chin.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: The Cavalier is so royal, even the name sounds regal! These dogs are calm and relaxed, adopting the aristocratic nature of their history. Don’t let the pedigree fool you, though! Cavaliers are friendly and affectionate, and they love spending time with their owners.

Small Dog Performers

Small breed dogs pack a lot of personality into their compact little bodies. For some, that excess spills over into a need to entertain and perform for the crowd. Many breeds feature in popular films as they are easy to train – and eager to please.

Bichon Frise
Bichon Frise
  • Havanese: The Havanese originated in Cuba, coming over from Spain in the 18th century. They don’t get more than 11.5 inches tall, and they have a weather-proof hair coat that requires daily grooming. Natural “hams,” these dogs provide hours of entertainment, and they are easy to train. They’ll even learn how to swim if you’re up to the task!
  • Bichon Frise: The Bichon was a regular performer, entertaining royals and circus-goers alike. When they’re not putting on a show, they have a quiet demeanor. If you have allergies, their fluffy white coat doesn’t shed (pretty cool if you don’t have allergies!).
  • Boston Terrier: Ever seen a Boston’s naturally big grin? This small breed has a clown’s personality. They love to make you laugh. As sweet as Boston cream pie, be prepared to withstand the gassy nature that comes with this dog’s brachycephalic face.

A Little Something for Everyone

Looking for a regal Pekingese to lounge on your couch?

A Chihuahua to dress in couture?

How about a Miniature Pinscher to patrol the fence of your yard?

No matter your dream, there is are small dogs out there waiting for you. With a little research, a tiny bit of picture perusing, and a small amount of planning, you can easily find the best furry friend for your lifestyle.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn’t a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals.

After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study.

Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania’s small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum’s vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn’s vet students.

With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make.

New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine
Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn’t disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions.

And a few memories stood out and remained to this day:

  • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY
  • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill
  • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life

Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine
Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining “real life” experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital.

However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered – staff, clients, and patients alike – left a lasting impression.

Additional standout moments included:

  • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program
  • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit
  • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge)

Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician
Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician – first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT).

Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient’s stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape.

With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations.

Cardiology Veterinary Technician
With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted.

She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern.

And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

Check out Andria’s LinkedIn here

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