Small dog breeds are all cute, adorable, easy to carry everywhere and irresistible. But they can be so different in their temperament, personalities, coat type and color. Our expert team of breeders, dog trainers and vets put together the most comprehensive guide to help you choose the best small dog breed for your needs.
Table of contents
- Best small dog breeds
- Top seven cute small dog breeds
- Small fluffy breeds
- Small dog breeds and owner personality – how to choose the breed best for you
- Where to buy small dog breeds
- Checklist of questions to ask from the breeders
- How to spot and avoid scammers
- Small dog prices
Best small dog breeds
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC) a small dog breed weighs less than 22 pounds and/or is shorter than 16 inches. There are 65 breeds that meet these requirements, which means that if you are looking to adopt a small dog breed, you’ll have a hard time to choose (and we haven’t even talked about selecting your puppy from that breed yet!).
Our expert team of breeders, dog trainers, vets and dog lovers have come together to create what we believe is the most comprehensive (and reliable!) guide to help you choose the breed that is the best fit for you.
We have been breeding French Bulldogs for 17 years, but we truly love all kinds of dogs (and animals). Our mission hasn’t changed from the beginning: we promote ethical breeding, and we want to find the most loving family for the puppies raised on our farms. We would never persuade anybody to buy a puppy from us if we’re not 100% convinced they are the best match.
In this article, you’ll find an unbiased and honest overview of the
- Top 7 cute small dog breeds (including the small fluffy breeds)
- How to choose the breed that fits your personality
- How to take care of small dog breeds
- Where to buy your preferred small dog breed (including prices)
Top seven cute small dog breeds
Below we focus on the seven most popular (and cutest) small dog breeds that most owners consider.
With its pointy ears and big round eyes, the chihuahua looks like a cartoon character came to life. The tiniest small dog breed (they weight under 10 pounds) has a huge personality, and a big heart. They are very loyal and can be feisty if they feel their pet parent is in danger.
They are friendly and like to go everywhere with their pet parents (and can be easily carried in a bag as Madonna, Paris Hilton and Britney Spears do). As they are very energetic, they need at least 30 minutes of exercise every day.
As they are close to the ground, and have longer hair, chihuahua pups need to be groomed carefully every week, and their eyes need special attention and cleaning.
Fun fact: compared to its size the chihuahua has the biggest brain.
2. Yorkshire terrier (or Yorkie for short)
Another very small dog breed that looks like a cute toy! It’s hard to imagine how its big heart fits into such a small body. A very lovable pup who needs to be taken seriously as a watchdog.
They make great companions and like to be around their pet parent. They love being around kids and playing with them. They don’t have an undercoat, so their coat doesn’t shed more than human hair does.
They not always get on well with other breeds, and they dislike being alone. Their coat is similar to human hair so it needs to be groomed every day (as you comb your hair every day, don’t you?:)
Fun fact: A Yorkie named Smokie was a war hero saving the lives of soldiers in World War II by dragging a communications cable through a drainage culvert.
The perfect family pup who is often described as a clown dog for its funny and lovable personality (and face). A Frenchie easily adopts to the circumstances of the family: they are great companions to elderly people who prefer to stay at home, while they are happy to play with kids all day. They are very intelligent and easy to train.
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Pros: French Bulldogs rarely bark, so the breed is an ideal choice for city dwellers living in apartments. They get along with other dogs and cats well (with proper socialisaton). As they have short, smooth hair, they require lower level of grooming, about once a week.
Cons: French Bulldogs have short muzzles which might result in breathing problems.
Fun fact: the breed was officially recognised in 1897 by the French Bulldog Club of America (the oldest club in the world dedicated to French Bulldogs) and a year later by the American Kennel Club.
Would you like to find out if a French Bulldog is the right dog breed for you? Take our quiz here!
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People often mistake the pug for the French Bulldog, but while the latter is a relatively new breed, pugs’ history dates back to ancient times (400 BC). They are lovable and great with kids and families. Both pugs and French bulldogs have flat, smooshy faces, but their ears, and tails and different. Pugs have a rounder body and are also lazier than Frenchies.
Pros: Pugs are adorable pets, and while they have nothing against walks and play they are ideal for owners who can’t do a lot of physical activities.
Cons: they can have breathing problems and are prone to snoring. Their short coat is low maintenance but they shed a lot.
Fun fact: Pugs were purposefully bred by the Chinese to have wrinkles. The pattern on their forehead were meant to resemble the Chinese character for the word ‘prince’.
It’s not by chance that Boston Terriers look very similar to French Bulldogs, as the breeds share a common ancestor, the English Bulldog. If you look a bit closer, you’ll see that Boston Terriers are a bit taller and have longer legs, while Frenchies are stockier.
Pros: they are very friendly and quick learners, less stubborn than French Bulldogs. They like exercising and being around kids and families.
Cons: they are more vocal than French Bulldogs, so they might not be the best fit for families living in small apartments.
Fun fact: the Boston Terrier is the first official dog breed in the US. They are nicknamed ‘American gentleman’ because of their tuxedo-like coat.
Small fluffy breeds
6. Bichon Friese
They were bred to be stars in circuses and shows, and still today, they are quite the performers. They are friendly, cute and would do anything for attention.
Pros: their beautiful white coat makes them look like a snowflake, they are absolutely adorable.
Cons: the wonderfully white curls need daily brushing and regular visits to a professional groomer which increases the time and money spent on their grooming.
Don’t be misled by the elegant appearance of puddles, they love all kinds of fun and are considered to be the most intelligent breed.
Pros: They are very friendly, and easy-going, a perfect family dog. They come in three sizes (standard, miniature and toy), so you can pick the size best for your needs.
Cons: They can be very protective and wary of strangers, which results in loud barking. They also need to be entertained and exercised, otherwise they easily get bored.
French Bulldog is known for having a short coat, so you might be surprised to hear that there’s a rare variation of the breed called Fluffy French Bulldog. It’s a purebred Frenchie who gets it’s fluffy fur from the fibroblast growth factor 5 (FGF5) gene.
They have all the personality traits of French Bulldogs with a wonderfully furry, irresistible look.
Pro: If you love the little clowns but would prefer more hair on them, a Fluffy Frenchie is the perfect choice.
Con: they are very rare and in high demand so the price of this breed is higher than others.
Small dog breeds and owner personality – how to choose the breed best for you
Rather than picking a breed that is cute and trendy, choose one that matches your personality and lifestyle.
All small dog breeds are adorable, but they are very different in terms of temperament, exercise needs, grooming, socializing. There are various personalities even within breeds (and a lot depends on training too), but breeds have certain personality traits that you should take into account.
To help you narrow down your choices, answer the following questions:
- Is this your first dog?
If yes, any breed that is easy to train are the best choice for you.
If you already have experience with dogs, you’ll have no problem with getting on with more stubborn pups.
- Do you live in a house or in an apartman?
If you live in a block of flats, (or you dislike noise) you might want to choose a dog of a breed who doesn’t bark very often, while this won’t be a problem in areas where the neighbors are at a distance.
- Do you live an active life?
Some small breeds require a lot of play, walking and activities, while others are happy to sleep all day.
- Are there kids under 10 in the family?
Some breeds get on well with young kids (and are less fragile), while with others you need to be more cautious when the kids are around, and make sure they leave the puppy alone when he or she feels uncomfortable.
- How much time do you have for grooming?
Long haired breeds need grooming more often than short coated ones, also depending on the weather. The level of shedding also varies.
- How much time do you spend at home? Can you take a pup with you wherever you go?
If you regularly need to leave home for hours, (and can’t take the pup with you), avoid a breed which can have separation anxiety if left alone.
- What is your personality? Do you often have friends coming over to your place? Or do you prefer a quiet life?
to Adopting a Frenchie
Various breeds have various personalities and temperament, and choosing a dog matching your personality is one of the most important factors.
After you have answered the above questions, you’ll be able to have a shortlist of your preferred breeds (or you might find the perfect choice). Contact expert breeders, tell them your requirements and ask them for advice.
The best breeders never convince you to buy their pups at all cost, but want to give you honest advice, and want the best for you and their puppies. They are also animal lovers and should be able to compare and contrast various breeds (it’s a good test of a reliable breeder!).
The personality of French Bulldogs
“We don’t recommend our puppies to those clients whose only reason to buy a French Bulldog is that it’s a trendy breed adored by celebrities like Chrissy Teigan, Reese Witherspoon or Hugh Jackman. Our goal is to find loving pet parents for our puppies who treat them as family members. French Bulldogs are easy to live with as they quickly adapt to families of various sizes and lifestyles. As they don’t bark much, we recommend the breed to owners who live in an apartment (or dislike loud barking). Their exercise needs depend on the owner’s lifestyle: they can sleep the whole day around an elderly person or someone who is less active, while they are happy to play with kids all day long. The breed is an ideal option as a first pet, as they are extremely friendly, smart and learn quickly. As they have a short coat, grooming takes shorter time.”
Tom Kiss BSc (Hons) Animal Breeding, Co-Founder of Tomkings Puppies
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Dos and Don’ts of selecting the breed
- Don’t pick a small breed just because a celebrity has a puppy of that breed, or because it looks cute and trendy.
- Don’t choose a small breed because the breeder persuades you (or because the breeder looks nice.)
- Don’t think you can change personality. You can train puppies, but personalities won’t change.
- Don’t think you will get used to the personality of the pup even if it’s very different from yours. The opposite will happen, and it will only annoy you more as time goes by.
- Don’t buy a puppy of a certain small breed as a gift to someone you don’t know well.
- Be honest to yourself about your lifestyle and personality.
- Do your research online (this article is aimed at giving you everything in this topic.)
- Look around in the area, friends, family to find out their experience with various breeds (but again be mindful about the various personality traits: a breed they love could be a pain for you.)
- Think of your future plans (growing the family, moving to another area/home, changing job or lifestyle etc.) A puppy is not for the moment.
- Narrow down your list to one or two breeds and research them more.
“I can’t say enough amazing things about TomKings Kennel. My whole experience was smooth, and once I got my puppy they made sure I had every resource to thrive as a dog parent. I’m so glad I was able to connect with them, even though we are from different countries they couldn’t have made the process easier for me and safer for my pup. And on top of that Nala is perfect!!!”
Ashley Sanchez with Nala
Where to buy small dog breeds
In this section, we’d like to give you all the tools to select the right breeder you can fully trust. Read about:
- the type of breeders and the differences between them
- a checklist of questions to help you choose the best one for you
- how to spot and avoid scammers
Simply put, a breeder is someone who mates two dogs, cares for the mother, assists at the whelping and raises the puppies.
The difference between the breeders include:
- the level of expertise in breeding,
- the bloodline of the puppy parents,
- the amount and quality of care and attention the mother and the puppies receive
- the quality of food and vitamins
- vaccines and vets involved
- the size and hygiene of the space for the puppies
All the above will have an impact on the genetics of your furry friend, their physical and mental health.
Puppy mills (or puppy farms)
These are large commercial operations breeding several puppies of various breeds in very poor conditions. Unfortunately, due to the minimal and poorly enforced standards of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for licensing dog breeders, many of these establishments are licensed and legal.
Their only goal is to maximize profit from breeding, by reducing the costs to minimum.
- Puppies are kept in cages and cramped boxes which are not cleaned. (USDA regulations require spaces only 6 inches bigger than the dog!)
- Puppies don’t get proper food, vitamins, or vaccination, not to mention attention, love and care.
- Inbreeding is frequent (when closely related dogs mate)
- The puppy mothers don’t get appropriate care, and are made breeding each time they come into season, leaving them no time to rest between pregnancies.
- The puppies are separated from the mother right after the birth.
There are about 10,000 puppy mills in the US, often selling their dogs via pet stores. So be careful, and do your research on where that cute puppy in the high-end shop is coming from (read on for our checklist).
Obviously, they also use websites to sell the puppies where they pretend to be ethical breeders raising the puppies in good conditions. (They are not the same as scammers who take your money but don’t have a puppy at all. Read on for our guide on how to spot puppy mills and scammers.)
Needless to say that even if these establishments might be licensed and legal, it’s unethical breeding which causes physical and mental harms to the animals. Responsible breeders like TomKings Puppies not only have strict rules to avoid these practices but also make serious efforts to fight against unethical breeding.
Backyard breeders (or hobby breeders)
There’s a group of breeders who occasionally breed dogs either as a hobby, or to earn extra money. They usually love dogs, and they take care of the puppies as family members.
On the other hand, as they have only 1-2 litters a year, they don’t have a lot of experience and knowledge on animal breeding. As they have a steady job, they leave the puppies and the mom at home during the day soon after the delivery, which is not good practice.
These breeders often advertise puppies on Craigslist, Ebay, social media, or through their network of friends.
They might look like a good source as they raise the puppies at their homes, and might even sell them at cheaper prices. But as they are inexperienced and their breeding process is ad hoc, it’s a pure matter of luck if you get a healthy and happy pup, and there’s no warranty if not.
Responsible professional breeders
They are licensed businesses who have the expertise, experience and knowledge to breed physically and mentally healthy puppies. They have trained staff, and they carefully select the breeding dogs from the best bloodlines and keep a well-documented history of the family line.
Even if they are a business, they love the puppies and treat them as family members. Responsible breeders give the best quality food, and vitamins to the puppy mum and the babies. The puppies have spacious space to run and play. Some of the breeders use kennels. We, at TomKings Puppies don’t use kennels, but let the puppies run outside and be with their nannies in the house as family members.
Responsible breeders are very selective whom they sell a puppy to, as they want to make sure the puppy gets a lot of love and attention from the puppy parent. They also offer health guarantees and lifelong support.
Needless to say that TomKings Puppies belong to this latter category, our mission is to fight unethical breeders, and as part of this we put a lot of effort into educating future puppy parents and help them find responsible breeders and the best puppy for their needs.
Checklist of questions to ask from the breeders
After you have done your preliminary research of the various small breeds and have a shortlist of 1-3 breeds, reach out to a few breeders. (You can start with those who shared useful information on their website to help you.)
While a frequently quoted tip is to visit a few farms, don’t rule out breeders you can’t visit. First of all, they might not be located in your area, and even if they are, for health and safety reasons not all farms accept visitors who would like to look around. It doesn’t mean they are not responsible, on the contrary! You wouldn’t want a frequent flow of visitors around your newborn puppy to run the risk of infections.
But responsible breeders should be available to give detailed and specific answers to your questions, and show you around online (via Skype, FaceTime etc) on their farm.
The below questions could be a good start. It’s a red flag if a breeder is annoyed by the number of questions you have or gives you very general answers (something like ‘we follow high standards and give the best care to our puppies’).
Who do you recommend this breed to?
A responsible breeder will not only tell you all about the breed (temperament, grooming, training etc), but will be open about who they recommend their puppies to, and who they don’t. (Because it’s also their interest to find a loving, caring family for their babies.)
You can share your lifestyle and requirements with the breeder and see how they react. Their expertise and passion should come across.
For how long have you been breeding dogs? Why did you start it? What are your qualifications?
Long years of experience means that they must have seen many cases, and they are not experimenting on you and on your puppy. The passion and way they talk about puppies and their mission will tell you a lot about how responsible they are.
Who are the puppy parents?
The breeder should be able to tell you how they find the parents, if they test them, and how they make sure the puppies are coming from a premium bloodline.
Where do you keep the puppies? Are they health checked? Do they get vaccination?
The best is if the puppies can run and play freely, and if they are raised from the beginning as family members.
What kind of training do the puppies get?
As the babies spend their first three months with the breeder, their training should start on the farm as it will be easier for you to train them. Find out what they do to raise well-behaved dogs.
What is the process of buying a puppy from you?
It’s a crucial question as if the breeder has a well-thought-out process you can be sure that they are doing their best to make both their clients and their puppies happy.
Do you have any health guarantees?
Responsible breeders always offer a lifelong health guarantee on all genetic disorders which cause death, and lifelong help if you have any questions after you adopted your pup.
Is it possible to talk to previous clients?
Rather than sharing some testimonials, good breeders will be able to connect you with several of their happy clients. Or even better, have a group of clients on Facebook or WhatsApp, who keep in touch.
How to spot and avoid scammers
You can find very reliable and responsible breeders online who might live in another city or country (or even continent). So don’t rule out internet when looking for your furbaby, just because this is also where scammers are. With the below tips you’ll be able to avoid them.
A scammer is not a breeder at all, but a fraud who misuses the desire of people to adopt a furbaby, takes their money and disappears. They are very sophisticated, and often plagiarize a real brand, with their logo, story, cute photos, videos and tesitmonials. (It happened to TomKings Puppies too, but we could fight them back.)
Look for the below red flags:
- They avoid answering the above listed questions and will push you to make a decision (as there is another customer who is interested).
- They promise to send you the lovely baby with the next flight which might sound attractive when other breeders want you to wait for weeks. In reality, it’s not possible to book a flight so quickly, and puppies need to have certain vaccinations before travelling.
- They offer cheaper prices and discounts. (It doesn’t mean that all breeders who charge higher prices are ethical.)
- They refuse to show you the farm or the puppies online, and only send photos and videos.
- They send you testimonials of happy clients but they won’t connect you with real clients.
- They often change the website as they are reported. Use Whois.com to look up domains and who owns them.
- Check Petscams.com for reported scams, but as scammers evolve very quickly, the fact they aren’t listed doesn’t mean you’re not dealing with a scammer.
If you are unsure about a breeder or feel uncomfortable, listen to your heart and turn to another breeder.
Small dog prices
How much does a puppy cost? Why is it so expensive? Where can I buy cheaper puppies? What does the price depend on? What’s the most and the least expensive breed?
Factors affecting the price category of a breed
- Rarity: the rarer the dog is, the higher the price of the breed is. It can be due to the difficulty of breeding them, or there can be only a few pups per litter, or the dog can be bred only in certain places of the world.
- Demand: popular breeds cost more as the demand is higher than the number of available dogs.
- Bloodline: breeds coming from a prestigious purebred bloodline are more expensive.
- Genetics: some breeds are less prone to illnesses and easier to get on with thanks to their genes. These breeds cost more than others.
French Bulldogs are more expensive than several other dogs, because they are extremely friendly, easy to train, so they are in high demand. They are also harder to breed. Because of their short legs and narrow hip, it’s harder for them to mate, so the mothers have to be artificially inseminated. Due to the big head of the babies, (and again, the narrow hip of the moms), the babies are born by C-section, which is another costly procedure.
Five factors affecting the price of a dog
You might be tempted to opt for a cheaper dog within your chosen breed, as they can look as cute and healthy as the more expensive ones.
If it’s a very low price, don’t risk of potentially falling victim of a scammer or a puppy mill (see above for more info).
If the puppy is cheaper than others on the market, you might have to pay later for the seemingly good deal, even if the breeder is genuine.
Consider the following factors that have an impact on the price:
- As stated above, the better the bloodline is, the genetically healthier the puppies will be (and the more it costs for the breeder to mate the parents.)
- Premium quality food, vitamins, and vaccination cost more money.
- A good breeder works with a team of experts (vets, nutritionists, trainers) to make sure the puppies get the highest level of professional care.
- The age, gender and coat of the puppy also influence the price: younger babies, females and unique colors are more expensive
- Ask what’s included in the price. The advertised price might be lower, but it might not include health certificates, transportation costs and many others.
“Think of the price of the puppy more of an investment than a cost. You adopt a new family member who will spend 12-14 years with you. You will have to spend much less money on vets and medicine if you buy a puppy who comes from an excellent bloodline and has been taken good care of in their first few months. A well-trained puppy is easier to get along with and you won’t have to worry about physical and mental health issues.”
Geri Kiss, Co-founder of TomKings Puppies
The price of a TomKings Puppy
Our prices start at 3,900 USD and increase for more unique coat colors, girls, or fluffy Frenchies.
Our prices include these services (altogether worth over 1,800 USD):
- travel cost to international airports
- payment insurance fee (worth up to 200 USD)
- up-to-date shots (worth 200 USD)
- deworming and anti-parasite treatment (worth 150 USD)
- heart examination (worth 1,000 USD)
- three vet examinations (worth 250 USD)
- Frenchie Love eBook about adopting and training a healthy and happy French Bulldog (worth 14,95 USD)
- TomKings Frenchie Family Membership (priceless)
- TomKings Frencie Meetups
- Lifetime health guarantee
- Lifetime vet assistance
- Lifetime breeder’s help
Frequently asked questions
Chihuahua is the smallest breed, they weight under 10 pounds.
It’s hard to say because small dogs, and lapdogs are bred to keep company of people. Poodles, Bulldogs, Terriers are extremely friendly.
Short coated dogs, like bulldogs are usually easier to take care of.