From Yorkshire terriers and spaniels to Italian greyhounds and chihuahuas, the smallest dog breeds in the world might be miniature-sized, but they don’t lack in diversity!
Small dog breeds are perfect for small households or young families, but while some are low maintenance, others need a surprising amount of looking after (and grooming) despite their small stature. Tiny dogs are for life (just like their larger companions in the dog world!), so it’s really important to get your choice of dog absolutely right.
To help you decide which of the fluffy, friendly types of small dogs could be your new family companion, here are the smallest dog breeds in the world!
Top smallest dog breeds
#1 Japanese chin
Let’s start the smallest dog breeds list with a small dog classic, the Japanese chin (also known as the Japanese spaniel).
Averaging 11 pounds in weight and 11 inches in height, the Japanese chin is a silky haired pet that was originally bred for the royal courts of Japan.
Centuries of regal living ensure that the Japanese chin has been bred to be docile and calm, making it the perfect tiny dog companion.
#2 Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a tiny dog that traces its origins to China, where they were bred for their marvelously long, shiny coats. Shi Tzu means ‘Lion Dog’, but don’t worry, the name comes from their long manes rather than ferocious nature.
In fact, a Shih Tzu is actually rather calm and timid but wonderfully friendly. They require lots of grooming (that mane doesn’t look after itself) but will repay you in silky, soft kindness!
#3 Chinese crested dog
The Chinese crested dog is a wonderfully unique small dog breed, because this breed is almost entirely hairless. Whereas many small dogs are bred for their flowing locks, the Chinese crested dog was bred for its smooth skin.
Strangely, some Chinese crested dogs are born into the same ‘hairless dog’ litter with fluffy, thick coats of hair (confusing, yes). These Chinese crested dogs are known as Powder Puff dogs!
#4 Yorkshire terrier
The Yorkshire terrier is not just one of the smallest terrier dog breeds, but it’s also one of the most common little dogs in the world. Known as Yorkies, these miniature terriers have all the loyalty and offer all the companionship that you’d expect of a dog.
Yorkshire terriers are full of energy and excitement, but they also have a unique, shiny coat that can grow down to their feet. Yorkshire terriers take some grooming to stay so shiny, and they often get lonely when left to their own devices, but they are definitely one to keep as a small family dog.
Chihuahuas are tiny dogs that stay small but remain super-energized no matter the situation. Known for their colorful coats (they can be either short or long-haired), Chihuahuas exude energy and agility.
They are well-suited for small apartments but be warned; they will take over. They might be small in stature, but their personalities are absolutely enormous!
#6 Italian greyhound
Of all the different breeds of dogs that stay small, it’s the Italian greyhound that also stays fast. This dog was not only bred for its small size (it’s great for small apartments), but for its ability to run.
Just like their more traditional greyhound companions that live their life on the track, this is a dog that’s well-suited for agility or speed competitions (in miniature, of course)!
#7 Toy fox terrier
Unlike many other small dog breeds which were bred for royal courts or for their shiny coats, the toy fox terrier was bred by farmers to serve a job. These tiny terriers were bred to be deliberately small, so they could fit down rabbit holes and hunt down rats on farms.
Today, many still continue this job, but many more have found comfortable lives in family homes, where they remain fiercely loyal to their owners (a classic terrier trait).
#8 Toy poodle
The toy poodle is the smallest breeds of poodle, and just like its larger cousins, toy poodles have that distinctive curly poodle coat.
Toy poodles are more than their coats, though, as these small dogs are also amazingly intelligent, and when looked after and well-trained, will fit into any family home.
#9 Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Spaniels were originally bred on English country estates to take part in hunts, and they are notoriously energized but when trained are remarkably loyal and responsive.
The Cavalier King Charles spaniel is a smaller version of the spaniel but still complete with all the traditional traits of a spaniel. This tiny spaniel is wonderful for small homes where you don’t have the space to cope with a fully-fledged spaniel!
#10 Boston terrier
The Boston bull terrier is a cross between an English terrier and a bulldog, taking on distinctive qualities from both of these traditional breeds.
The Boston terrier is quite unique, with a pug nose, but terrier-like agility and loyalty that sets it apart from many more small breeds of dog.
Pugs are the most distinctive small dogs out there, as they are easily recognizable by their ‘pug’ or squished fasces.
The pug can experience health problems through life (difficulty breathing), but they are easy to love, loyal to their owners, and when well-groomed, have a shiny, shiny coat.
#12 Brussels griffon
The Brussels griffon is a small dog that originated in the Belgian capital, Brussels. Griffs are tiny, but their lovely long ‘beards’ give them an air of intelligence that’s almost human-like.
A Brussels griffon makes an excellent long-term companion and will soon become the most important part of the family!
#13 Bichon Frise
At 11 inches and 11 pounds, the bichon frise is one of the tiniest little dogs you could adopt, but you’ll be quickly surprised at how playful and caring they become in their new homes.
The bichon frise is remarkably curly, so you’ll need a good comb to hand, but as they were specifically bred to be lap dogs, they’re easy to care for.
# 14 Maltese
The Maltese is a small toy dog that doesn’t actually come from Malta. Don’t worry about the name, though, because the Maltese is best known for its long, white coat and friendly demeanor.
If you’re looking for a dog that needs grooming and loves the attention, then the Maltese is for you!
Papillon means butterfly in French, but it’s actually a breed of small spaniel. The name papillon comes from the supposedly butterfly-like tufts of hair that grow on the head, but some say it’s more moth-like!
Like all spaniels, papillons are smart and intelligent, and they love learning new commands and showing off.
#16 Miniature pinscher
The miniature pinscher is like a tiny dachshund, with pointy ears and a distinctive black and brown coat.
Miniature pinschers are easy to groom with their short coats, but they have a fiercely independent nature, making them a challenge (although a worthy challenge!) for dog owners.
How to take care of small dogs
Small dog breeds might look all cute and fluffy, but they are still dogs that need the right care and attention to be happy in their homes and to be part of the family.
Some dogs, such as terrier breeds, are fairly low maintenance. They just want a good meal and lots of exercise. Others, such as the toy poodle or the Shih Tzu, need a lot of grooming to look their best.
But while each dog has its own character and personality, there are a few universal tips you can follow as you learn how to take care of a dog!
While yes, little dog breeds are great because they don’t need nearly as much exercise as large dog breeds, they still need regular walks or the opportunity to run around outside.
You can keep dogs that stay small in apartments or small homes, but you need to give them a walk at least twice a day if there’s no outdoor space for them.
Tiny dog breeds need training, too, especially if they don’t have as much space to live in. Tiny dogs should be trained from when they’re puppies, including toilet training and basic commands, such as ‘sit’.
You can train your dog to become part of the family and part of the household. Active small dogs might enjoy playing fetch, while if you have large furniture, you could even train your pet to walk up a dog ramp for beds.
Just because these are types of dogs that stay small doesn’t mean they aren’t types of dogs that want to stay hungry!
You’d be surprised at how much even the smallest toy dog breeds are going to eat, and you need to ensure that you’re providing your pets with regular meals. Some dogs have specific dietary requirements you need to watch out for; pugs, for instance, can easily put on weight if overfed.
Small toy dog breeds often need lots of grooming (they are called ‘toy’ dogs, after all!), and prospective owners have to be ready to clean and groom if they want a cute and fluffy pet.
Depending on the breed, you’ll need time and space for regular cleaning and grooming, or you’ll need to pay for a professional service every few months.
Small dog breeds need regular health check-ups with your local vet to keep them in good health. They need a good diet and lots of exercise, but they can often have their own unique health conditions that result from years of selective breeding.
For instance, pugs often have breathing difficulties or weight problems, while terriers and chihuahuas regularly experience chronic knee issues.
Smallest dog breeds: what’s your favorite tiny dog?
From small fluffy dogs to the smallest cutest dog breeds, there’s a huge amount of diversity to be found in the unique world of small dogs.
Perfect for small homes and families, it’s important to remember that small dog breeds aren’t just for show; your terrier or chihuahua will quickly become part of the family.
Why not bookmark our guide to the smallest dog breeds for when you’re deciding on the best breed for your tiny family dog?