Choosing a Small Dog Breed

Big dogs, medium dogs, little dogs, toy dogs: size is one of the first choices to make when deciding which dog is right for you. And there are distinct differences between a big dog and a small dog that go beyond the stereotype that big dogs are mellow while little dogs are extremely social and like to be carried around in a purse. Of course, you might come across a Pomeranian who prefers to lounge on the couch. You might even see a big dog being pushed in a dog carriage - but these are the exception rather than the norm.

A dog is usually considered small if it's under 22 pounds. Small dogs tend to be more constantly alert than big dogs, which means you should be prepared for yapping at the postman, yapping at the alarm in the morning, yapping at the dishwasher at night. These yappers can be trained to hold their tongues or you may decide you want an enthusiastic four-legged burglar alarm. As with big dogs, the various breeds of small dogs have different looks and personalities but, in general, small dogs are loyal, owner-oriented, friendly and tenacious or "game"). They are also considered low-maintenance when compared with breeds of other sizes (less food to feed, less fur to sweep up and so on).

There are many breeds of small dogs and it can be overwhelming to choose just one. Be sure not to pick one based solely on looks - you might wind up with a dog that does not fit into your family. A good way to get a quick look at what small dog might fit into your life is to consider your lifestyle and then find a breed that matches it. The breeds listed below are just a sample, so if you want more examples consider the type. If you are planning on adopting a mixed-breed small dog, you can know much about his personality and other traits by determining what breed he resembles the most.

Lifestyle Example #1

  • You live in: A small apartment and have limited space
  • Your activity level: Low
  • Time you will spend on grooming: Moderate
  • People in your family: Adults only, dogs of the same breed
  • What you're looking for: Companionship, and oodles of attention when you go out with your pooch

Small Dog Match: Lapdogs

Many lapdogs were originally bred for royalty to pamper. They do not require a lot of exercise. Many of these breeds do require grooming which adds to the cost of their upkeep. Some of these dogs are not good with children unless they're very well-behaved and, though you can certainly work on integrating them with other dogs, most prefer to be the only pet or share the roost with another dog of its breed. This type includes the following breeds: Miniature and Toy Poodle, Maltese, Havanese, Lhasa Apso, Bichon Frise and Brussels Griffon.

Lifestyle Example #2

  • You live in: The city or a suburban area with small yard
  • Your activity level: Moderate
  • Time You will spend on grooming: Low to moderate
  • People in your family: Adults, children, other dogs, no cats
  • What you're looking for: Companionship, and a lot of goofiness

Small Dog Match: All-Around Dogs

In this type, the breeds are more active, good with children, good with other dogs but most are not always good with cats. They do well with a small yard and a good walk a day. Some, like the Spaniels, need grooming but it can be easily done at home. Some breeds in this type are the French Bulldog, Boston Terrier, English Toy Spaniel, Pug and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Lifestyle Example #3

  • You live in: A small house
  • Your activity level: Low to moderate
  • Time you will spend on grooming: Low
  • People in your family: Adults, maybe other dogs
  • What you're looking for: Companionship, and a burglar alarm

Small Dog Match: Watchdogs

The small dogs of this type fit into small spaces, are usually fiercely loyal to one person and jealous of children and other pets (unless socialized well). They prefer to stay inside. That said, you might have to find ways to tempt one out the door for its walk. Some breeds of this type are the Pomeranian, Tibetan Spaniel, Bolognese, and Australian Terrier.

Lifestyle Example #4

  • You live: Anywhere near trails in the fields or woods
  • Your activity level: Moderate to high
  • Time you will spend on grooming: Low to none
  • People in your family: Adults, children, other dogs, cats, gerbils, etc.
  • What you're looking for: Companionship, and a walking buddy

Small Dog Match: Game Dogs

This type of dog is game for anything - a 12 mile hike, searching for squirrels or playing with an old tire. These are active dogs who will happily curl up in front of a fire - but only after an exhaustive day. There is little to no grooming needed for these dogs. They are, in general, excellent with children and other dogs and cats (after they are taught that cats are not squirrels). The breeds of this type include the Cairn Terrier, Norfolk Terrier, Bull Terrier, Parsons Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer and West Highland White Terrier.

Small dogs are unarguably cute, whether they're poking their heads out of purses, sitting on a royal cushion or jotting along in a Burberry sweater. But they're more than just arm ornaments - they're dogs who want nothing more than to be your protector and companion and, above all, to please you.