To be honored with the title of “small dog,” all a pooch has to do is weigh in under 22 pounds. After meeting that common criteria, you will find that small dogs come in all sorts of personalities and shapes. There are small dogs for people who want a lap warmer, small dogs for people who want to banish mice from their house and small dogs for those who want to tote their wee pooch around town in a fancy purse.
Different breeds of small dogs have been popular at different times. In ancient Africa and Egypt, dogs were kept for their usefulness and small dogs similar to the Basenji were popular for their hunting skills. In Peking, from around 1644 – 1911, the popular small dog was one that was considered sacred and only owned for companionship by royalty – the Pekingese. During the 1800s, the various breeds of terriers became extremely popular in Britain and Ireland for their ratting skills. And today, we have come back around to choosing small dogs mainly for companionship instead of any specific work skill.
1. Pomeranian: The Pomeranian is a very small dog (3 to 7 pounds) that is known for its foxy appearance and curled tail. It is a popular small dog because it is very clean, intelligent, and easily trained. If not socialized with humans early on, the Pom may be wary of strangers and children. In fact many do best in adult-only homes. It is adaptable to city life and requires a minimal amount of exercise. See Pomeranian breed profile »
2. Chihuahua: At 2 to 5 pounds, the independent Chihuahua makes an excellent watchdog but it may carry its assertiveness too far. Not known for being patient with children, it is also wary of strangers. But, for some reason, many Chihuahuas have a bond with cats. It likes to see how long it can bark without interruption and can be nippy. But the Chihuahua is also a loyal and affectionate dog and owners of the breed say its “attitude” is simply a cover for being afraid it’s going to get stepped on. See Chihuahua breed profile »
3. Boston Terrier: The Boston Terrier towers over the Chihuahua at 15 to 22 pounds. It is a great family dog and, though it has some bully dog origins, is mellow and gets along with other animals. The Boston is a heavy chewer so keeping things put away and providing chew toys are essential. They require moderate exercise and love to play. See Boston Terrier breed profile »
4. Parson Russell Terrier: As opposed to the first two lapdog breeds mentioned, the Parson is an energetic go-getter. Be prepared to give it plenty of exercise and play because a Parson that is bored will get into lots of trouble. It is a medium-sized small dog, around 13 pounds, and used to be referred to as the Jack Russell Terrier, which is now a separate breed. See Parson Russell Terrier breed profile »
5. Maltese: The tiny Maltese, between 4 and 7 pounds, is well known for its loving and gentle nature. Its beautiful white coat does not shed much and it is quieter than many small dogs. It is generally good with children. Because it has always been a lapdog, it may have some separation anxiety. See Maltese breed profile »
6. Shih Tzu: When you think of a Shih Tzu, likely you picture a little dog with long silky fur and a bow holding its bangs out of its face. The Shih Tzu does not shed but it has to be groomed often. It’s a friendly, cheerful dog who gets along with all creatures, including children and cats. Because it was originally a lapdog for royalty, the Shih Tzu can be easily spoiled. See Shih Tzu breed profile »
7. Bichon Frise: Another lapdog, the Bichon, is also known for its coat – puffy, white fur that looks a bit like cotton balls. It is easy to see why they’re popular: they are friendly, adorable, affectionate and playful. At about 11 to 14 lbs., they are bigger than the tiny breeds but still a very manageable size and do well in both a small apartment or a big home. See Bichon Frise breed profile »
8. Miniature Dachshund: Though you’ll see people carrying this 10 to 12 lbs. breed around in cute sweaters and hats, they are really not a lapdog. Miniature Dachshunds are very active and, since their original purpose was to hunt vermin, they are always on the lookout for something to catch. They don’t do well with children unless they are socialized with them when pups and are very suspicious of strangers. They make an excellent watchdog and are good companions as long as you keep them well-exercised. See Miniature Dachshund breed profile »
9. Pekingese: One of the older breeds, the Pekingese began life as a royal lapdog. They were heavily spoiled because they were considered sacred and the dogs were made to end their lives when their owner did so that they could accompany him to the afterlife. Also called the “Lion Dog,” this breed is known for being somewhat ferocious despite its small size of 8 to 14 lbs. They make excellent companion dogs for those who are not very active but tend to distrust other animals and children. See Pekingese breed profile »
10. West Highland White Terrier: This breed has always been popular because of its gameness for sport activities and its willingness to be a lapdog. The Westie is cheerful, bold, assertive, courageous and has a lot of personality. Westies are so happy to see people that they usually win everyone’s heart over in an instant. They are good with children and other dogs but chase cats. They require a lot of long walks on the moors and have been known to play the bagpipes well. (We kid!) See West Highland White Terrier breed profile »