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10 Smallest Dog Breeds: Vet-Verified Pictures, Facts & History

Written by: Codee Chessher

Last Updated on July 3, 2024 by Dogster Team

close up portrait of teacup pomeranian puppy

10 Smallest Dog Breeds: Vet-Verified Pictures, Facts & History


Dr. Luqman Javed Photo


Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Small dogs are becoming more popular than ever thanks to their compact size, longer average lifespan, and the fact that they need less food and make less mess than large dogs. Whether you’re looking for the perfect small dog breed to welcome into your home or just love teensy, tiny pups, you landed on the right article. Down below, we’ll dig into the most popular and lesser known of the smallest dog breeds out there. Keep reading for the doggy details.

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Classification of Small Dogs

There is no official agreed upon consensus or standard for what a small dog is. Many people consider small dogs as dogs weighing under 30 pounds (<13.6 kg), but some definitions are more narrow at about 20 pounds (<9 kg). 

Studies involving dog breeds often define their weight limits for a small dog in their methodology; this definition often categorizes small dogs as those that weigh under 15 kg (around 33 pounds)1,2. However, this categorization isn’t universal.  

One thing small dogs have in common is that they have, on average, longer lifespans than large breeds.3 Small breeds typically live at least 10 years, for example, while giant breeds like the Great Dane rarely live longer than that same age. However, as mentioned earlier, there are no hard rules for small dog classification, and every kennel club has slightly varying figures on what they deem small.

The 10 Smallest Dog Breeds

1. Pomeranian

portrait of pomeranian dog standing
Image Credit: SubertT, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany & Poland
Lifespan: 12-16 years
Height: 6–7 inches

Pomeranians are lively and loving members of the Spitz family, which makes them relatives of the Chow Chow, Alaskan Malamute, and Akita. Diminutive divas at heart, Poms love to be the center of attention and will gladly do anything, as long as it’s with their favorite people. These perky little pups are smart enough to be trained as watchdogs, but watch out for their occasional bursts of mischief! They’re feisty by nature and will find any and all ways to get your attention.

2. Chihuahua

Image Credit: Studio217, Shutterstock
Origin: Mexico
Lifespan: 14–16 years
Height: 5–8 inches

Chihuahuas are an ancient breed, with their ancestors being owned by the Aztecs. Classified as among the smallest recognized breeds by the AKC, Chis come in short-haired and long-haired varieties, as well as a variety of colors.

Chihuahuas have a bad rap as yappy dogs, but they’re really just too fearless and confident for their own good. They have no idea they’re so tiny, so take it easy on them. Known as a yappy breed, Chihuahuas are happy to be your watchdog and keep intruders deterred.

3. Toy Poodle

small chocolate poodle on the grass
Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Lifespan: 10–18 years
Height: ≤10 inches

Often associated with French culture, the Toy Poodle and its full-sized counterparts actually hail from ancient Germany, where they’re thought to have descended from the Barbet. Toy Poodles are a highly intelligent breed who excel at problem-solving and obedience training, the latter of which will be a cinch for you. Their wicked sharp sense of humor means they’ll give you a run for your money around the house, too! If you’re in the market for a tiny canine clown, Toy Poodles are a prime candidate.

4. Papillon

Image Credit: Fayzulin-Serg, Shutterstock
Origin: France (probably)
Lifespan: 14–16 years
Height: 8-11 inches

Famed for their fringed butterfly ears, the Papillon comes from the Continental Toy Spaniels and the art of the breed goes back to the 15th century. Once lap dogs for European nobility, most famously Marie Antoinette, the Papillon never lost their confidence or charm.

For such a dignified dog, you might be surprised to learn that they were originally bred to be ratters. It’s hard to tell if they’ve moved up or down in the world, considering their pedigree. While most believe they’re from France, they may also come from Spanish stock.

5. Affenpinscher

Image Credit: Sbolotova, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 9–11.5 inches

With a name meaning “monkey-like terrier,” the Affenpinscher is a brave, scrappy pinscher breed developed in 19th-century Germany as a mouser. There even used to be a larger variety, but sadly, they went extinct.

Affenpinschers are tenacious but lovable at heart, with a huge palette of colorations that makes every furry specimen charmingly unique.

Fun fact: they’re thought to be related to Pugs, of all the breeds out there.

6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Image Credit: cavacorns, Shutterstock
Origin: United Kingdom
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 12–13 inches

Named after King Charles, who loved the breed dearly, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a spunky, regal dog with a sensitive heart. They love spending time with their family more than anything else, making them excellent therapy or emotional support dogs.

Historically a lap dog, this spirited and sociable spaniel also loves to romp around with kids or other dogs at any given opportunity. Lastly, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known to be very indoorsy dogs that like to be pampered and spoiled!

7. Yorkshire Terrier

YORKSHIRETERRIER (Image Credit: Svenska Mässan, Wikimedia Commons CC 4.0 International)
Origin: Yorkshire
Lifespan: 11–15 years
Height: 7–8 inches

Yorkshire Terriers were first bred in 18th-century England to chase down vermin that plagued textile mills, but today, they’re mostly family dogs. Among the smallest of any terrier breed, the beloved Yorkie is an animated and affectionate breed with a bit of a bossy streak. Their spunky persona is irresistible even when they’re barking up a storm, and you can’t forget that glossy to-die-for coat! Sadly, the Yorkie is prone to a host of health problems that make regular vet visits imperative.

8. Maltese

close up of white maltese puppy
Image Credit: Pezibear, Unsplash
Origin: Not clearly established, presumably emerged during the Victorian era
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 7–9 inches

Maltese are an ancient breed thought to come from the Mediterranean region, though their exact origins are elusive. The main things we know and love about them today, though, are their jaw-droppingly showy white coats and adorably winning personalities. They have a mild temperament perfectly suited for families and a coat that’s nearly hypoallergenic, but they’re known to be clingy Velcro dogs that need lots of quality time to stay happy.

9. Brussels Griffon

brussels griffon dog standin on grass
Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock
Origin: Belgium
Lifespan: 12–15 years
Height: 7–10 inches

If this furry bearlike breed looks familiar, it might be because their trademark appearance inspired the Ewoks in Star Wars. Brussels Griffons love to play but have a bit of a temper, so you should watch them around young kids. In general, though, they’re an easygoing breed with an amusingly high sense of self-importance.

Griffons are one of those breeds that don’t know their own size, so expect them to try and take on dogs much larger than themselves with zero regard for their own safety. They really do think they’ll win!

10. Biewer Terrier

Image Credit: Dominique Bradette, Shutterstock
Origin: Germany
Lifespan: 16 years
Height: 7–11 inches

Biewers are a sprightly, fun-loving breed that is famous for its long coat and loving nature. They’re also known for carrying toys around on the off chance you want to play. This is a very recent breed first bred in 1984 from Yorkie parents, so we suppose they’re really Yorkies in all but name. While Yorkies are almost always bicolor, Biewers are distinguished by their striking tricolor coat. Yorkie by nature, Biewer by fashionable style.

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Small dogs are age-old favorites whether you’re partial to the foxy Pomeranian or the scrappy Chihuahua, and today, we have more small breeds than ever before. Want a lap dog? Try the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Is your family missing a superstar? A Toy Poodle might be the perfect fit. No matter your taste in dogs, you’re sure to find a favorite or two among the breeds listed above.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: otsphoto, Shutterstock

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