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5 Best Lap Dog Breeds: Pictures, Info & Traits

Written by: Lynn M. Hayner, JD

Last Updated on April 4, 2024 by Nicole Cosgrove

Maltese on bed.

5 Best Lap Dog Breeds: Pictures, Info & Traits

A Vizsla once curled so tightly she managed to fit on my knees. Similarly, my daughter’s affectionate Australian Shepherd, albeit way too large for success, pursues lap-dog status. Size does matter, but some small dogs are too busy or independent to burrow into your lap. Let’s hear from five breeds who aspire to be the best lap dogs. 

The 5 Breeds That Are Great Lap Dogs

1. Rat Terrier

Rat terrier.
Rat Terriers are a surprising lap dog breed. Photography courtesy Deb Stevenson.

Surprised to see a Terrier headlining an article on the best lap dogs? It’s true I was developed in the United States, initially for work. I helped keep barns and homes free of rodents. I excelled at ratting and vermin control, but I also helped my humans hunt for small game, and I kept watch over the farm. Let me clarify that my working ability, however, doesn’t impede my snuggling aptitude. While I thrive on activity, I’ll also sit on your lap and smother you with kisses. Heck, I may even wrap my paws around your neck! I’m an especially affectionate Terrier.

2. Chihuahua

A chihuahua in a bathtub getting shampooed.
A Chihuahua is a tiny dog breed that often comes to mind when people think of lap dogs. Photography by Shutterstock.

I’m in the toy dog group, where you’d expect to find many a lap dog. Because I weigh less than 6 pounds, I fit extraordinarily well in your arms. But perhaps due to my lordly heritage (my forefathers had noteworthy spiritual powers!), I offer significant sass along with sugary snuggles. We originated in Mexico as descendants of ancient Techichi dogs; I was highly popular with the Aztecs. Montezuma II apparently cozied up with hundreds of us. And now, I’ll respond to the allegation that we have a “love-one-person-only” personality. Yes, some of us prefer nuzzling with one special someone, not people at large. Sounds perfectly reasonable to me…

3. Maltese

Maltese dogs are also among the best lap dogs. Photography courtesy Jill Harrison.

Another member of the toy dog group, I’m a charming, cheerful and easily-held companion. Because I weigh less than 7 pounds, I’ll fit in a lap of any dimension. Called the ancient breed of Malta, my forefathers were highly popular trading items. Considered the jewels of women, we were carried by European royalty in their dresses, baskets or sleeves. These days, you’ll see me acing jumps on the agility course, dancing in canine freestyle or following happily along on walks. My biddable nature makes me an ideal companion, both on and off your lap.

4. Miniature American Shepherd

miniature american shepherd
Image Credit: OlgaOvcharenko, Shutterstock

I’m a relatively new breed in the herding group, developed from Australian Shepherd lines in the late 20th century. I share my bigger cousin’s ranch-working legacy, but not his size. My cousin the Aussie is large-ish, but I weigh about 25 pounds. I’m athletic, obedient and capable of excelling in many sports. But if I’m well exercised, you’ll find I’m also a cuddly companion at home. I can snuggle effortlessly on your lap for hours, then head out for herding, ball chasing, agility or a long hike. Talk about a multi-purpose breed!

5. Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound.
Italian Greyhound. Photography via user Madaise under Creative Commons License. Some modifications have been made to fit the specifications of the site.

I’m an extremely demonstrative member of the toy dog group, weighing in at about 10 pounds. I trace my roots to ancient origins. We were exceptionally popular with Italian nobility and royalty. Our fame extended beyond Italy: British royalty treasured us, and Catherine the Great of Russia had a cherished Italian Greyhound named Zemira that she buried in Peterhof Park. Under the large tomb, Catherine commissioned this etching: “Beloved dog of the Great Queen.” Ah, we love such respect! These days, we thrive on fun but also on physical closeness. With our agile and supple bodies, we can curl into an astonishingly small ball in your lap.

Tell us: Do you know any lap dogs? What dogs are the best lap dogs, in your experience?

Why read breed profiles?
Dog breed profiles help everyone, whether you have a mixed breed or purebred dog, to better understand and improve the quality of your dog’s life. If you have a mixed breed dog, read up on all of the breed profiles that make up your dog. Not sure what breed your dog is? There are a number of easy DNA tests out there to help your find out.

Read more about dog breeds on

Featured Image Credit: Alona Kovalevska, Shutterstock.

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