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15 Awesome Small Dog Breeds for First Time Owners (With Pictures)

Written by: Cassidy Sutton

Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Dogster Team

owner carrying his pet dachshund at the park

15 Awesome Small Dog Breeds for First Time Owners (With Pictures)

Some canines are challenging to train and are better for experienced dog owners, but several breeds are ideal for first-time owners. Small dogs are usually easier to handle, but some, like the Chihuahua, are frequently surrendered to shelters because their owners are unprepared to properly train and care for them. If you’re searching for a small dog and haven’t owned one, you can examine our list of the best small breeds for first-time owners.

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What Makes a Dog Breed “Easy?”

Owning a dog is a big responsibility, so we use the term “easy” cautiously. All dogs require work on your part, from training and feeding to exercise and grooming. You can’t get past the work if you want them to live full and happy lives.

Even so, some breeds require less work in specific areas. For instance, some dogs require more exercise, and others need frequent trips to the groomer. Some are great for families with small children, and others are best for families with older children.

In this list, we’re covering the basics of what we feel characterizes an “easy” breed:

  • Eager to please
  • Good around children
  • Good around other dogs
  • Mild to moderate grooming
  • Openness to strangers
  • Adaptable
  • Low to moderate energy

Your new pup doesn’t need to check all of these boxes. They will have a unique personality and quirks, and until they’re trained and socialized, they’ll probably get into trouble and frustrate you.


The 15 Small Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners

1. Miniature Schnauzer

miniature schnauzer at the park
Image By: Roman Zaiets, Shutterstock

As members of the Terrier group, Miniature Schnauzers are excellent farm workers and vermin catchers. These lovable dogs are good with small children and tolerate other animals. However, some supervision with other dogs is recommended. One of their best characteristics is their adaptability. Mini Schnauzers will happily lounge on the couch with you or go on a long jog. They like to bark, so apartment life may not be practical, but they make great guard dogs.

Pros
  • Easy to train
  • Good with children and animals
  • Happy to lounge, but also likes exercise
Cons
  • Likes to bark

2. Shih Tzu

shih tzu with teddy bear cut
Image By: chaoss, Shutterstock

Shih Tzus have always been fancy lap dogs, and they’re excellent for apartment dwellers. They do well with only 20 minutes of exercise daily and love children and other animals. Because of their small size, they can easily injure themselves, so be careful on outings.

You can easily fall prey to their puppy-dog eyes, so you must be careful not to give them too many treats. Although they’re relatively easy to handle, Shih Tzus have high-maintenance coats. They need monthly haircuts to keep their coats lush and luxurious. However, the Shih Tzu is an excellent family pet if you can maintain their shiny fur.

Pros
  • Highly affectionate
  • Laidback overall
  • Great for apartment life
Cons
  • Frequent grooming
  • Stubborn

3. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier standing on a wooden table
Image By: Mr. SUTTIPON YAKHAM, Shutterstock

Yorkshire Terriers are known for their spunky personalities and are one of the smallest Terriers. They may be small, but their feisty personalities make them perfect for people looking for a “tough cookie” to add to the family.

Those with children needn’t worry; Yorkies get along well with kids, but other dogs can be a problem unless they grow up with them. Yorkies hardly shed but need frequent grooming to keep the long, silky coat looking good (or you can trim the fur short).

Pros
  • Great with children
  • Affectionate
  • Hypoallergenic
Cons
  • Frequent grooming
  • May need supervision with other dogs
  • Likes to bark

4. Maltese

Young maltese dog in a meadow
Image By: Dora Zett, Shutterstock

If someone knocks on the door or rings the doorbell, a Maltese will run to the door while barking all the way there. These little dogs like to think they’re larger than they appear and aren’t afraid to express their opinions.

Regardless, the Maltese is highly affectionate and doesn’t require much exercise to keep them happy and healthy. They are playful and charming and will befriend anyone, including children. You can keep their fur long and luxurious or take them to the groomer for a trim.

Pros
  • Great small guard dog
  • Affectionate
  • Some exercise but not much
Cons
  • Likes to bark
  • Frequent grooming
  • Stubborn

5. Dachshund

miniature dachshund
Image By: JeebyJeeby, Pixabay

The famous sausage dog is curious, loving, and stubborn. Dachshunds are excellent guard dogs, don’t require much grooming, and love having fun. If you have a backyard, your Dachshund will likely dig holes to satisfy their hunting instinct.

Unlike other dogs, Dachshunds aren’t built for excessive exercise, so don’t expect to take them for a run or long-distance hike. They also don’t get along with small children if mishandled. However, in the right home, these quirks can be worked around.

Pros
  • Playful and affectionate
  • Low grooming maintenance
  • Great watchdog
Cons
  • Weary of children
  • Likes to bark
  • Likes to dig
  • Stubborn

6. Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier
Image By: everydoghasastory, Shutterstock

The famous Wizard of Oz dog is playful, cheerful, and full of life. Cairn Terriers love people, children, and other animals and enjoy showing off when the time is right. Smaller animals like rabbits and hamsters will trigger their instinct to chase and dig, so be careful if you have other small pets.

Cairn Terriers may be small, but they’re not fragile like other tiny canines. They adapt quickly to change and don’t shed much. However, Carins are prone to skin allergies and need a high-quality diet to avoid irritation.

Pros
  • Playful and cheerful
  • Small but not fragile
  • Hypoallergenic
Cons
  • Prone to skin allergies
  • Sometimes stubborn
  • Prone to digging and chasing

7. Boston Terrier

Boston terrier
Image By: Eve Photography, Shutterstock

The Boston Terrier’s quirky personality sparks giggles and laughs. They are entertaining and prove that they can be the life of the party anytime, anywhere. They also love everyone and everything, making them great family pets.

Boston Terriers aren’t excessive barkers, and they’re excellent for apartment life. Still, they’re not couch potatoes. They love to run and play. Unfortunately, their flat noses cause breathing problems, and they shouldn’t be walked in hot, humid weather.

Pros
  • Spunky, quirky personalities
  • Entertaining and playful
  • Loves everyone
  • Don’t bark much
Cons
  • More active than other small breeds
  • Prone to breathing issues

8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

female cavalier charles king spaniel
Image By: BJkenel, Shutterstock

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have flat heads and longer noses. They’re known as the “old-style breed” and have a kind, loving demeanor. They’re easy to train, sweet around children, and generally good around other pets. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are larger than other small breeds, and they can handle rigorous activities like running and climbing. Expect to exercise your Cavalier for at least an hour a day.

Your vet should monitor your Cavalier’s heart, eyes, and hips throughout their lifetime since they’re prone to various health conditions. Their long, floppy ears should also be inspected often for infections.

Pros
  • Loves everyone
  • Easy to train
  • Mild-mannered
  • Highly adaptable
  • Great family dog
Cons
  • Prone to heart, eye, and hip issues
  • Ears can become infected
  • Needs more exercise than other small breeds

9. Havanese

havanese dog
Image By: Ralf Bitzer, Pixabay

The Havanese is a Cuban breed and makes an excellent family pet. They are well-known for their friendly demeanor and sociable behaviors. Their cheerful personalities and high energy make them entertaining for people of all ages.

Havanese do very well with training and dog sports and make excellent therapy dogs. Barking is a hobby for the Havanese, so expect some chit-chat when on a brisk walk. Ultimately, Havanese dislike being away from their owners, and they do best in homes when the owner is always present.

Pros
  • Cheerful and sociable
  • Small but sturdy
  • Great watchdog
Cons
  • Highly energetic
  • Likes to bark

10. Toy or Miniature Poodle

toy poodle lying on sofa at home
Image By: NDAB Creativity, Shutterstock

Although associated with France, Poodles are a German breed. They are energetic and require plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. They do very well in active families with small children, are loving, and are highly intelligent. They respond well to training, from puppy classes to service training.

Their dense, spongy fur makes them ideal for allergy sufferers if their coats are groomed properly.

Pros
  • Excels in multiple training courses
  • Hypoallergenic
  • Affectionate and sociable
  • Great family dog
Cons
  • Frequent grooming
  • Highly energetic

11. Beagle

beagle with blue collar outside in the woods
Image By: AlbanyColley, Pixabay

The Beagle could be a good fit if you’re looking for a more challenging small pup. They have the energy of a toddler and can get easily distracted during training. Despite these hurdles, Beagles love people and are modest in their approach to affection. They have an optimistic attitude and adapt to changes well. Beagles are part of the Hound group, so expect them to use their nose and voice when necessary.

Pros
  • Agreeable
  • Loving but not clingy
Cons
  • Moderate shedding
  • Highly energetic
  • Difficult to train

12. Australian Terrier

Australian Silky Terrier
Image By: Radomir Rezny, Shutterstock

The Australian Terrier is one of the smallest of the Terrier group. They are cuddly, great with children, and don’t require much grooming. Australian Terriers are agreeable but can become demanding without early training.

Like other Terriers, the Aussie Terrier was bred to clear out vermin and small mammals. When their instinct kicks in, your Aussie will likely dig and chase other animals. They are energetic pups that must be monitored closely when around other dogs.

Pros
  • Great with children
  • Low grooming needs
Cons
  • Can be problematic around dogs
  • Likes to bark
  • High energy
  • Prone to digging and chasing

13. Bichon Frise

bichon frise on thee grass
Image By: Ieva Tvaronavicute, Shutterstock

Bichon Frises have a pep in their step that can’t be ignored. As a natural street performer, the adorable Bichon Frise loves everyone and enjoys being the center of attention. They make great city dogs and have a charm that will surely put a smile on your face.

Although they don’t shed, their fur requires intensive grooming. Bichon Frises can also be challenging to housebreak. If you’re patient and use positive reinforcement, this pup will catch on quickly.

Pros
  • Loves kids and other animals
  • No shedding
  • Even-tempered
  • Great city dogs
Cons
  • Daily grooming
  • Difficult to housebreak

14. Affenpinscher

an affenpinscher dog at the park
Image By: Didkovska Ilona, Shutterstock

The Affenpinscher is a lesser-known breed but makes an excellent pet for inexperienced owners. They are comical, friendly, and don’t bark as much as other small breeds. The famous German Monkey Dog can be stubborn but does well in training.

If you’re looking for an active breed, the Affenpinscher isn’t for you. They’re happy to lounge around the house, making them an excellent option for cat people and apartment dwellers. They shed often, but frequent brushing will take care of the excess fur.

Pros
  • Comical and friendly
  • Happy to lounge
  • Great for cat people
  • Easy to train
Cons
  • Not as active as other breeds
  • Sheds often

15. Bolognese

Bolognese dog in black background
Image By: Csanad Kiss, Shutterstock

The Bolognese is a member of the Bichon family but isn’t as peppy as the Bichon Frise. They are very laid back and prefer to relax on the couch most of the time. Families looking for a playful dog with Labrador-like energy will want to steer clear of this breed.

Despite their quiet, low-energy demeanor, the Bolognese is friendly and enjoys quality time with their owners. They are perfect for those who want a snuggly best friend who likes to hang out.

Pros
  • Easy-going
  • Excellent apartment pet
  • Happy to lounge
Cons
  • Big couch potato

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Conclusion

Did this list give you an idea of which dog you want to adopt? Although we’ve discussed some of the best dogs for first-time owners, each dog is different. Personality, experience, and training will factor into your experience with a dog. Take your time researching the right breed and start training early. Doing so will ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.

See also:


Featured Image Credit: Zarubina Viktoriia, Shutterstock

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