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Best Small Breed Family Dogs

Updated on July 15, 2013

When a Small Family Dog is Best

What is the Best Small Family Dog?

Looking to add a little canine flair to your family? Already know that you want a small breed dog to fill the spot? Finding the right small dog for your family can take time, but more importantly it takes a little knowledge. Among the over 150 available breeds, almost as many personalities reside. Before heading out to the pet store, breeder, or shelter, you should arm yourself with some know-how regarding the type, energy level, attitude and maintenance required for your soon to be, small family dog.

Finding the perfect Small Dog for your Family takes time and a little research!
Finding the perfect Small Dog for your Family takes time and a little research! | Source

What to Look For when Choosing a Small Breed Dog for My Family

Getting a Dog on a Whim

A dog is not something you should just run and pick-up on the weekend as a gift or surprise. Dogs are not a pair of skinny jeans that when they don't fit just right, can be return for a refund. Dogs have emotions, fears, and abandonment issues that can be effected because of such encounters with uncaring humans. Many cute puppy faces acquired on a whim have ended up as sad, lonely, adult dog faces shut out in the back yard with no companionship, and only because they naturally grew out of their "puppy-ness". This is just not fair to the dog. So, be mindful of your personal circumstances and commitment level before bringing home your new fury FAMILY MEMBER. The loyalty of a dog is something to treasure, not neglect.

Before Choosing and Bringing Home a Dog:

Does My lifestyle Suit Owning a Dog;

  • Are you equipped emotionally to care for the well-being and life of a living creature.
  • What's your work schedule like.
  • Is your house and neighborhood a good place for a dog.
  • Who will dog-sit when you're away.

Am I economically ready for a dog;

  • A free small breed dog can easily cost you around $900 a year to care for.
  • First time dog ownership usually cost the most (getting stuff set-up takes cash).
  • That free puppy cost money to feed, get shots, licenses, neuter/spay, vet care, grooming, toys, and shelter.

Recognize your Dog Ownership responsibility;

  • Dog ownership is a lifetime commitment, as if you brought him into the world yourself!
  • Your dog's health is in your hands, from puppy shots to geriatric canine care.
  • You're promising to be your dogs best friend, his loyalty is like no other; respect it.

Once you have taken all of these things into consideration and find the confidence and willingness to add a small family dog to your household responsibilities; the next step is finding the right personality and type of dog for your family to love—forever.

Characteristics of Small Breed Dogs

The listed small breed dogs here are my favorite dogs for families to consider bringing home. They each have the qualities and durability to manage a busy to laid-back home life. No matter the dog breed you choose as your family pet, make sure you feel a connection, because this critter is going to be with you for a lifetime!

The ranking system provided works like this; Ranks 1 to 5, with 5 being most suited for a family, 1 being not suited for family life at all. The choices below all rank as 5's because they have been hand picked as good small family dogs.

Chinese Crested Small Dog Breed
Chinese Crested Small Dog Breed | Source

Let's Get to Know Some Small Breed Family Dogs:


Even as the history and origins of this strange little dog breed are difficult to trace, it appears that he has evolved from the African hairless dog, which the Chinese bred down in the early 13th century. They sailed on merchant vessels with the chinese mariners, serving as the "rat patrol" during the plague. By the 1800s, a small group of Americans had begun to breed the little fireball, and so it became pretty popular with dog show enthusiasts. The American Kennel Club (AKC) didn't recognize the fluffy crowned breed until 1991.

Size: Small, 11 -13 inches tall, and about 10 pounds.

Color: Just about anything that pops out.

Temperament: This is a very dedicated companion dog. He is very alert, gentle, playful, as well as sensative. Is amiable with other dogs, pets and unfamiliar people.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: Medium to high energy, great for those with allergies to dander. Does need regular skin care (including sun block) and protection from cold weather; The "powder puffs" of hair need regular brushing. This breed rates a strong 5 in being a successful family dog.

Life Expectancy: 14 - 16 years.

Toy Fox Terrier Small Dog Breed
Toy Fox Terrier Small Dog Breed | Source


Developed in the early 1900s, the Toy Fox Terrier was created by American breeders who crossed small smooth Fox Terriers with toy breeds like Miniature Pinschers and Manchester Terriers. This little dynamo has all of the working attributes of the Terrier but gained a mild and very clown-like personality making these small dogs a wonderful family companion. AKC recognized in 2001, the Toy Fox Terrier is a great farm dog, loves the show ring, retains strong conformation, and excels in agility and obedience work.

Size: Small, 8½ - 11½ inches tall, and weighs in at 3 to 7 pounds.

Color: Tricolor; white, chocolate and tan; white and tan; white and black, all having a mostly colored head.

Temperament: Quite alert, high spirited, determined (can be a little stubborn). Animated in action, playful, loyal; may not accept strangers too quickly.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: The best family for this happy active breed is going to be active itself. Does best when busy and is only recommended for families with post-toddler children.This breed rates a lower end 5 in being a successful family dog, only because they can be somewhat stubborn at times.

Life Expectancy: 13 - 14 years.

Pomeranian Small Dog Breed
Pomeranian Small Dog Breed | Source


This little cutie comes from the the Spitz family of dogs, which is characterized by long, thick, and often white fur, and pointed ears and muzzles, with the tail usually curled over the back. The Pomeranian gets its moniker from the historical region of Pomerania (which splits Germany and Poland today). This is where they were used as loyal sheepherders. Queen Victoria brought one of these delights back with from Italy, causing the smaller breed size to grow quickly in popularity; even becoming quite fashionable. This fox-faced dog is very popular in and out of the show ring, and makes a fantastic companion dog.

Size: Tiny, 8 - 11 inches, will weigh 3 to 7 pounds.

Color: Red, orange, cream and sable, black, brown and blue, brindle, beaver, white and parti-color.

Temperament: Outgoing, active, really curious. Attentive and playful. A little shy with strangers. They have been known to bark a lot when bored.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: This is a High energy breed! Does best and even thrives with a loving, gentle family or owner. Does need a whole lot of daily exercise, and demands lots of attention. Training and Brushing is necessary a couple of times a week. For the safety of this little breed, supervision with young children is advised, and a secure fenced yard is a must.This breed rates a low-end 5 in being a successful family dog, because they can be a bit moody when pressed to task.

Life Expectancy: 12 - 15 years.

Japanese Chin Small Dog Breed
Japanese Chin Small Dog Breed | Source


Possibly unexpected, the Japanese Chin originated in China. The ranking class of people were fascinated by this breed, prizing it enough to be honored as gifts to visiting aristocracy. In 1853, Queen Victoria was gifted the dog by a returning Commodore. Despite the fact that the breed was cut off to the USA during World War I, it found its way there anyway. Through its playful and entertaining antics came some popularity in the United States. Unfortunately, the majority of this breeds fans still reside in Japan.

Size: Tiny, 8 -11 inches, weighing 4 to 7 pounds.

Color: Black and white, red and white, black and white with tan points.

Temperament: Very smart, sensitive, willing to please. This breed is exceptionally devoted, following their owners to the ends of the earth.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: This breed is very adaptable. Older families where a senior or invalid human is in the picture will find this little darling to be a sweet natured canine companion. It is sensitive to heat and humidity—A/C is an absolute must in hot climates. This breed will shed a great deal, so brushing two or three times a week is necessary. Does great at apartment life! This breed rates a strong 5 in being a successful family dog in spite of its quirky needs.

Life Expectancy: 12 - 14 years.

Havanese Small Dog Breed
Havanese Small Dog Breed | Source


A little Cuban and a little Spanish, the Havanese arrived from Spain, capturing the title of Cuba's national dog. By the mid-18th century, the breed was so popular it became the favorite dog of Charles Dickens! Because a small group of Cubans migrated with their Havanese during the Cuban revolution, the breed gain some noteriatey in the US. When the end of the 1970s rolled around, the breed had become a very desired dog. So much so that, in 1996 the AKC was all but forced to recognize the breed.

Size: Small, 8½ to 11½ inches, 7 to 10 pounds.

Color: All colors.

Temperament: Intellegent, trainable, busy mind, quite curious. This loving dog breed is affectionate with everyone—those with or without fur.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: This dog sports a medium energy level. He is perfect for families who want a dog that isn't too yappy, and while being small remains pretty durable for kids. The fact that the breed has a non-shedding coat is good news for those who suffer from allergies. The Havanese needs exercise in the form of walks or play sessions. Brushing this fury sweetheart every other day is a must. This breed rates an outstanding and hard to beat high 5 in being a successful family dog.

Life Expectancy: 12 - 15 years.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Small Dog Breed
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Small Dog Breed | Source


The Tudor era found this small dog the top choice for the social and royal aristocrats. This breed descends from the European toy Spaniels. King Charles II enjoyed this dog so much that he graced it with his own royal name in the 1700s. The breed had changed over the years until the 1920s when an American fan gathered enough interest from breeders to actually revive the original Spaniel. First sent to the US in 1952, it took until 1996 for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to make it among the recognized AKC breeds.

Size: Small, 12 - 13 inches, weighing in at a hefty 13 to 18 pounds.

Color: Red and white, tricolor, black and tan, mahogany red.

Temperament: Really easy to please, gentle, and sweet in nature. Very non-aggressive breed that finds friends easily among other dogs, pets, and strangers.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: Has a medium energy level, and is fantastic for active seniors and families with thoughtful children. Needs regular daily exercise and grooming, but most of all must have loads of cuddling! This breed rates a 5+ in being a successful family dog.

Life Expectancy: 12 - 15 years.

Affenpinscher Small Dog Breed
Affenpinscher Small Dog Breed | Source

A Comprehensive Guide to the Affenpinscher Dog

AFFENPINSCHER (monkey-terrier)

I personally love this little creature! Beyond having the cutest face ever, the Affenpinscher in one of the oldest toy dog breeds; believed to have originated in Germany around the 1600s. The name means "monkey-like terrier" when spoke in German. Fantastic ratters for farm and home, their hunting prowess comes from their strong terrier genes, but that wiry hair is sure to have come from the German Pinscher. Not as popular today, this wonderful companion continues to entertain owners with its playful antics and fun loving personality. It is my personal top pick as a small family dog.

Size: Tiny, 8 - 11 inches, averages 7 to 9 pounds.

Color: Black, gray, silver, black and tan, beige, red.

Temperament: A bit mischievous, very inquisitive, bold, and alert. Super loyal and affectionate with family and friends, yet is not afraid to bark when threatened or attacked. This dog is really brave and fearless for being such a small breed.

Rating as Small Breed Family Dog: The Affenpischer sports a medium to high energy level that can get quite "busy" in no time. An owner or family with a sense of humor and an active lifestyle suits this little gem best. He can exercise or play happily indoors or out. He needs socializing and regular brushing. A periodic trip to the groomer for a clip and a stripping would do him a great service. This breed rates the strongest 5+ and as my personal top pick in being a successful family dog.

Life Expectancy: 12 - 14 years.

A shelter dog can be the best choice for your family!
A shelter dog can be the best choice for your family! | Source
Active dogs are happy healthy dogs!
Active dogs are happy healthy dogs! | Source

Are Small Rescue or Shelter Dogs a Good Choice as a Family Pet

Many shelter dogs are the best choice as a family pet. Discerning the cross breeds within the dog can help assess possible temperament concerns as well as delights. If you decide to get a shelter rescue dog, spend time with the dog before closing the deal. Watch for behaviors that may have developed from mistreatment or neglect. Remember you are choosing a family pet here, so first and foremost the animal must be safe for your children.

Ask questions of the staff, look at health history (when available), make certain it has been spayed/neutered, and again make sure you get to know the dog. Request a weekend stay to see how the new family member will fit in at home. Walk the dog, interact with the dog, and test its submission and obedience prior to taking full custody or signing-off on ownership. You may just find a shelter dog has just what your family needs!

What You Think Really Does Matter!

Was your first family dog a small breed or a large breed?

See results

Comments for "Best Small Family Dogs"

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  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    7 years ago from Northern, California

    Mary615~ I am a big fan of Schnauzers personally. But, that's probably because I like a dog with a little spirit! These little guys are prone to allergies and can get a bit high in maintenance requirements. As for the Maltese breed,...I can't stop hugging those adorable little faces! Thanks for stopping by Mary, it is always a joy to find here.


  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 

    7 years ago from Florida

    I have a Maltese and a Miniature Schnauzer. Of course, I think they are the ideal small dog. My Schnauzer is high maintenance with all her allergies, though. My Maltese is a love. Great Hub.

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    7 years ago from Northern, California

    Earth Angel~ I have been a fan of cockers over the years, and you are so right; the in-breeding of pedigreed dogs by irresponsible puppy-mill breeders has managed to create very cute, but genetically weakened dogs. The animals deserve better! Thank you for adding your rescue links, I love this kind of stuff!

    Super HubHugs and Namaste, EA!

  • K9keystrokes profile imageAUTHOR

    India Arnold 

    7 years ago from Northern, California

    Doc Sonic~ Sure appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. Glad you found the dog breed descriptions worth a read. Thanks for finding time to make it by!


    Sportgames~ You are right. For most people, staring off with a small dog is the best way to get use to having a pet. Thrilled you like the hub.


  • profile image

    Earth Angel 

    7 years ago

    Woof Woof! GREAT Hub K9! Especially about NOT adopting on a whim! And the benefits of adopting shelter dogs ~ or adopting from responsible rescue groups!

    My favorite small (10-15 lbs) to medium (20-25 lbs) is a Cocker Spaniel! Alas, all the recognized breeds have been soooooooooooo over bred for "cuteness" without regard for their long-term health! Still, I find Cockers charming and adaptive; small enough to be fluffy lap dogs and large enough to not be too fragile!

    The issues with Cocker Spaniels is their ears, eyes and skin! Regular grooming generally takes care of all the issues before they start! The need for regular grooming is also why so many Cockers are abandoned at shelters!

    I have three that are the JOY of my life!

    And why we rescue so many of them in California: and!

    Thank you for calling attention to the wonderful canine companions in our lives ~ And the need for their care as members of our families!

    Blessings Always, Earth Angel!

  • sportgames profile image


    7 years ago from Ashter Street 14, New Yok

    I have a Yorkshire Terrier- toy:) and I am very satisfied with a small stature dog. I think a small dog is the best idea for your first pet, and getting a larger dog should be a well considered decision. It needs more space than you think and it's a lot of hassle. So start with a small one and test if you can handle a bigger one.

    Nice hub, super useful!

  • Doc Sonic profile image

    Glen Nunes 

    7 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

    Thank you for telling people not to get a dog on a whim (I know people who actually did this - it wasn't good for them or the dog), and for spelling out what dog ownership entails. Nice descriptions of the various breeds.


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