9+ Best Family Small Dog Breeds


If you’re like me, you know that a home just isn’t complete without the pitter-patter of four-legged family members. But when it comes to adding a new canine companion to your household, size definitely matters—especially if you’re tight on space or have little ones running around.

Small dog breeds can be the perfect addition: they’re often easier to care for, cheaper to feed, and let’s face it, absolutely adorable. But hold your horses before you rush to the nearest breeder or shelter, it’s crucial to pick a breed that aligns with your family’s lifestyle.

In this guide, we’re going to dig deep into the world of pint-sized pooches that are big on love and perfect for families. We’ll cover everything from temperament to grooming needs so that you can make an informed decision.

Trust me, the right small dog breed can bring joy, companionship, and a wagging tail into your family life for years to come. So, shall we fetch some knowledge?

Factors To Consider Before Adopting a Small Dog

So you’ve decided a small dog is right for you—awesome choice! But let’s pump the brakes for a second. Choosing a dog isn’t just about those adorable puppy eyes or a wagging tail. It’s a long-term commitment that impacts your family in multiple ways. Here are some key factors to mull over before making the leap:

1. Temperament

This is a biggie. You’ll want a dog that gets along well with all your family members, especially if you have kids or other pets. Some breeds are more playful, while others prefer a more relaxed lifestyle. Make sure the breed’s temperament fits well with your family’s dynamic.

2. Exercise Needs

Don’t let their size fool you; small dogs often have bundles of energy. Consider how much time you can realistically devote to walking or playtime. Some breeds are happy with a quick romp around the yard, while others crave more vigorous exercise.

3. Grooming

From brushing to bathing to regular vet check-ups, grooming can be a significant commitment. Some breeds require minimal grooming, while others, especially those with longer hair, may need frequent trips to the doggy salon.

4. Health Concerns

Small dogs often live longer than larger breeds, but they can have specific health issues. Things like dental problems and joint issues are more common in smaller breeds. Check what kind of health issues are common to the breed you’re considering and prepare accordingly.

5. Budget for Pet Care

Let’s talk dollars and cents. Between food, toys, grooming, and regular vet visits, having a dog can add up. Make sure you’ve budgeted for the ongoing costs of dog ownership, including any unexpected health issues that may pop up.

The 13 Best Family Small Dog Breeds

Selecting the right small dog breed for your family can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. But don’t worry, we’ve done the legwork for you. Here’s our roundup of the 13 best family-friendly small dog breeds:

1. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

English Toy Spaniel
Source: Antoine91// Wikimedia Commons

These dogs are known for their affectionate, friendly, and well-mannered disposition. They get along great with kids and are highly social animals. Cavaliers do require regular exercise, but a daily walk and some playtime in the yard should suffice.

They have a moderate grooming need, with weekly brushing typically adequate to keep their coat looking good. Their gentle temperament and moderate activity level make them a great match for families with children and even other pets.

2. Poodles (Miniature and Toy)

Toy Poodle
Source: TheSamDe//Wikimedia Commons

Don’t let their posh looks fool you; Poodles are smart, active, and surprisingly good with kids. The Poodle’s curly coat needs regular grooming to prevent matting. As for exercise, they enjoy physical activity but adapt well to various living environments.

Their intelligence and hypoallergenic coats make them ideal for families with allergies or those who want a smart, trainable dog.

3. Shih Tzus

Shih Tzu
Source: Marcelo RosaMelo//Wikimedia Commons

These dogs are generally friendly, outgoing, and great lap warmers. They’re good with kids and tend to get along well with other dogs. Their long, flowing coats require regular grooming.

Exercise needs are relatively low; a few short walks and some playtime are usually enough. Their relaxed temperament and low exercise requirements make them excellent for families who live in apartments or have a laid-back lifestyle.

4. Bichon Frises

Bichon Frise
Source: Bernt Fransson//Wikimedia Commons

Known for their cheerful disposition, Bichon Frises are friendly and love to be part of the family action. These dogs have hypoallergenic coats that require regular grooming. Exercise needs are moderate; daily walks and playtime will keep them happy.

Their friendly nature and hypoallergenic coats make them perfect for families with allergies or asthma.

5. Malteses

Malteses are affectionate and enjoy companionship, making them great lap dogs. Their long, silky coats need regular grooming. Exercise needs are minimal; a couple of short walks daily will suffice. Their loving nature and low-shedding coats make them suitable for families with members who have mild allergies.

6. Boston Terriers

Boston terriers are friendly and social, Boston Terriers often get along well with children and other pets. Their short coats require minimal grooming, and moderate exercise will keep them content. They are easygoing and require relatively little maintenance, making them good for busy families.

7. Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are known for their gentle and sociable nature. They require regular exercise and enjoy playtime. Their wavy coats also need consistent grooming. Their friendly disposition makes them a popular choice for families with children.

8. Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkies are small but have a big personality; they are spirited and affectionate. Their long coats require regular grooming. Exercise needs are moderate, and they enjoy playtime. Suitable for families with older children who can respect their space.

9. Chihuahuas

Source: Caterinarufo//Wikimedia Commons

Chihuahuas are loyal and can become very attached to their owners. Their coats can vary but are generally easy to care for. Exercise needs are relatively low. Best suited for families with older children who understand the need for gentle handling.

10. Pekingese

Source: SheltieBoy//Wikimedia Commons

Pekingese are independent but loving, making them great companions. Their long coats require regular grooming. Exercise needs are low; they’re content with minimal activity. Suitable for families that prefer a more laid-back canine companion.

11. Papillons

Papillions are intelligent and friendly, Papillons are social dogs who enjoy being the center of attention. Minimal grooming is required, and moderate exercise will keep them happy. Their intelligence makes them good for families who enjoy teaching their dogs new tricks or commands.

12. West Highland White Terriers

West Highland White Terrier
Source: Imoen//Wikimedia Commons

The West Highland White Terriers are energetic and sturdy, “Westies” have a zest for life. Their coats require regular grooming to prevent matting. They also enjoy daily exercise and playtime. Good for active families who can provide the exercise and mental stimulation they crave.

13. Dachshunds

Source: Katemil94//Wikimedia Commons

Dachshunds are curious and brave, often displaying a sense of independence. Exercise needs are moderate; however, due to their elongated back, they shouldn’t engage in activities that strain their spine. They are best suited for families with older children who can understand their unique care needs.

Tips For Adopting A Small Family Dog

So you’re ready to take the plunge and bring a small furball into your family—congrats! But before you get lost in those adorable puppy eyes, here are some important tips to ensure a smooth transition for everyone involved:

1. Consider Adoption

First things first, have you considered adoption? Shelters and rescue organizations are filled with lovable small dogs waiting for their forever homes. Adopting a dog can be rewarding for your family and also gives a homeless pet a second chance at life.

2. Meeting the Dog

Whether you’re adopting or buying, make sure to spend quality time with your future pet. It’s a great way to gauge temperament and energy levels. If possible, bring the whole family along to make sure everyone clicks with the new addition.

3. Preparing Your Home

Before the new pup sets paw in your home, you’ll need some essentials: a collar, leash, dog food, water, and food bowls, a crate or bed, and some toys. Consider also dog-proofing your home to keep your new family member safe from potential hazards.

4. First Few Weeks of Transition

The first few weeks are crucial in setting up a positive relationship between your new dog and your family. Stick to a consistent schedule for feeding, potty breaks, and exercise. Use this time to also introduce your dog to basic commands and perhaps enroll in a puppy training class.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most low-maintenance small dogs?

Low-maintenance small dog breeds include the French Bulldog, Chihuahua, and Dachshund. These breeds generally require less exercise and grooming compared to others. However, keep in mind that every dog will need basic care and attention.

How much exercise do small dogs need?

The exercise needs of small dogs can vary widely between breeds. While some breeds like the Toy Poodle and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may require regular exercise to stay happy, others like the Shih Tzu and Pekingese are content with shorter walks and playtime.

Are small dogs good with kids of all ages?

Most small dog breeds are good with kids, but it’s essential to consider the dog’s temperament and the child’s behavior. Breeds like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon Frise are known for being exceptionally kid-friendly. However, some breeds may not be suitable for very young children due to their more delicate build or feisty temperament.

What are some hypoallergenic small dog options?

If allergies are a concern, you might want to consider hypoallergenic breeds like the Poodle, Maltese, or Bichon Frise. These breeds are less likely to trigger allergies, thanks to their unique coat types.

How can I prepare my home for a small dog?

Preparing your home involves buying the essentials like a collar, leash, bowls, and crate. You’ll also want to dog-proof areas where the dog will spend time to ensure safety. Consider installing baby gates if needed and removing or securing any items that could be harmful if chewed on or swallowed.

Sum Up

Choosing the right small dog breed for your family is a big decision, but it doesn’t have to be a stressful one. Armed with the right information and a thoughtful approach, you can find a furry friend that fits seamlessly into your family life.

Whether you’re looking for a playful companion or a cuddly lap dog, there’s a small breed out there for you. Remember, adopting a dog is a long-term commitment filled with love, care, and lots of wagging tails. Happy adopting!

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