9+ Best Small Dog Breeds For Beginners


If you’re reading this, chances are you’re considering taking the plunge into the world of dog ownership. And let me tell you, it’s a decision you’re unlikely to regret.

As a devoted dog parent for years, I’ve been fortunate to experience the love, companionship, and sheer happiness these wonderful creatures bring. Now, for many first-timers, diving into this journey with a smaller breed is often a popular choice – and for good reason!

Small dogs not only fit seamlessly into various living environments, from spacious homes to compact apartments, but they often come with personalities that are just as big, if not bigger, than their size. But with the myriad of small breeds out there, which ones are best suited for someone new to the canine world?

Whether you’re a single individual looking for a furry sidekick, a family hoping to introduce a pet to your kids, or perhaps a senior looking for a gentle companion, this guide aims to point you in the right direction.

Let’s explore some of the best small dog breeds for beginners, factors to consider, and, of course, sprinkle in some tried-and-tested tips from yours truly. Ready? Let’s get started!

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Small Dog for Beginners

There are several factors to consider when choosing a small dog for beginners and they include:

1. Temperament

Dogs, just like humans, come with their own unique personalities. While certain breeds tend to be more laid-back and docile, others can be energetic and feisty. For beginners, it might be more manageable to start with a breed known for its even temperament and friendly disposition.

2. Energy Level

Think about your lifestyle. Are you an active individual who loves outdoor activities, or do you prefer a more sedentary pace? While some small dogs are content with short walks and indoor play, others have the energy to burn and require frequent exercise.

3. Grooming Needs

Grooming isn’t just about keeping your dog looking sharp; it’s also about health and hygiene. Some breeds have coats that require regular grooming, while others are more low-maintenance. Remember, grooming encompasses brushing, bathing, nail trimming, and dental care.

4. Health Considerations

Every breed has its own set of potential health issues. It’s wise to be aware of any breed-specific conditions or predispositions. This can help you prepare for future needs and assess whether you’re ready for potential challenges.

5. Training and Socialization Needs

Some small breeds are known to be more independent or stubborn than others. As a beginner, you might find it easier with a breed that’s receptive to training.

Socialization, the process of exposing your dog to various environments, people, and other animals, is crucial regardless of the breed, but some may require a more patient and consistent approach.

6. Adaptability to Your Living Situation

Whether you live in a spacious house with a backyard, a city apartment, or somewhere in between, it’s important to choose a breed that can comfortably adapt to your living conditions.

7. Life Expectancy and Size

It’s essential to remember that adopting a dog is a long-term commitment. Understand the typical life expectancy of the breed and consider if you’re prepared for the long haul. Also, while all the breeds we’re discussing are ‘small’, there’s still variation in size. Choose one that fits well with what you envision.

8. Dietary and Health Care Costs

Different breeds might have specific dietary requirements or might be more prone to certain health issues. This can affect the long-term cost of food, supplements, and veterinary care.

13 Top Small Dog Breeds for Beginners

For many aspiring dog parents, diving into the world of canine companionship starts with a smaller breed. Their manageable size, coupled with personalities that often rival those of their larger counterparts, make them particularly enticing. That said, here are the best small dog breeds suitable for beginners;

1. Pug

Source: Abuk SABUK// Wikimedia Commons

Sporting a distinct wrinkled face and a compact, muscular body, Pugs are known for their endearing personalities. They often display a playful and sometimes mischievous character combined with a strong affection for their families.

Pugs are low-maintenance in terms of exercise requirements. Their adaptable nature makes them suitable for both apartment and house living. Plus, their friendly disposition allows them to get along excellently with kids and other pets.

2. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Possessing a graceful appearance with a silky, medium-length coat, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the epitome of a lap dog. They have a gentle, affectionate nature and are known for their expressive, puppy-like eyes.

Their innate eagerness to please their owners makes them relatively easy to train, even for novice pet parents. Additionally, they thrive in both active households and quieter environments.

3. Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise
Source: Bernt Fransson//Wikimedia Commons

The Bichon Frise boasts a soft, curly white coat and a merry disposition. Their cheerful personalities make them favorite companions in many households. One of their key advantages is their hypoallergenic coat, making them a top choice for allergy sufferers. They’re also quite sociable and get along well with other animals and children.

4. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu
Source: Marcelo RosaMelo//Wikimedia Commons

Recognized by their long, flowing coat and sturdy body, Shih Tzus carry a distinct aura of royalty. They are affectionate and often form strong bonds with their families. Their relatively calm temperament and love for snuggles make them great companions for those living in apartments or with limited outdoor space.

4. Maltese

With their long, silky white hair and gentle demeanor, Maltese dogs radiate elegance and charm. They are adaptable and thrive in various living situations. Their lively and playful nature ensures there’s never a dull moment when they’re around.

5. Boston Terrier

Often dubbed the “American Gentleman” due to their tuxedo-like black and white markings, Boston Terriers are lively dogs with a friendly disposition. They are known for their intelligence and can be trained easily with positive reinforcement techniques. Their size and temperament also make them suitable for both apartments and houses.

6. Havanese

Recognized by their wavy, soft coat and small, sturdy body, Havanese dogs are cheerful and known to be natural comedians. Their sociable nature makes them wonderful companions, especially for families. Their adaptability to different environments, from city apartments to suburban homes, also marks them as beginner-friendly.

7. Chihuahua

Source: Caterinarufo//Wikimedia Commons

One of the smallest dog breeds, Chihuahuas are alert, lively, and possess a big-dog attitude in a pint-sized body. While they might require a bit more patience in training, their small size, and minimal grooming needs can be attractive to new dog owners.

8. Pomeranian

White Pomeranian
Source: Boredathome101//Wikimedia Commons

With their fluffy double coat and fox-like expression, Pomeranians are energetic and often think of themselves as much bigger than they are. They are alert and can be great watchdogs. Their small size also means they don’t need vast amounts of exercise, though mental stimulation is essential.

9. Miniature Schnauzer

Distinguished by their wiry coat and bushy eyebrows, Miniature Schnauzers are spirited dogs with a friendly and intelligent demeanor. They’re versatile dogs, fitting well in various environments, and are known to be great with kids. They’re also hypoallergenic, reducing concerns for allergy-prone owners.

10. Papillon

Named after the French word for ‘butterfly’, referring to their butterfly-like ears, Papillons are graceful, alert, and highly intelligent. Their intelligence means they pick up on training cues quite quickly. They’re also generally friendly and sociable, making them great companions.

11. Corgi (Pembroke and Cardigan)

close up shot of a corgi dog sitting
Photo by Antoni Shkraba on Pexels.com

With their distinct short legs and long bodies, Corgis are playful, affectionate, and have a strong herding instinct. Though they’re herding dogs and can be a bit more active, their affectionate nature and intelligence make them fairly easy to train and manage.

12. West Highland White Terrier (Westie)

West Highland White Terrier
Source: Imoen//Wikimedia Commons

Known for their white, rugged coat and alert expression, Westies are confident, courageous, and always up for some fun. They’re independent but also quite loyal to their families. Their size and temperament make them suitable for many living situations, and they’re known to be relatively easy to train with consistent methods.

13. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terriers are small-sized dogs with fine, silky fur and a lively, confident demeanor. They are known for their beautiful steel-blue and tan coats that, when grown out, give them a distinctive, elegant appearance.

Yorkies are incredibly loyal to their families and can be very affectionate. They’re quite adaptable, making them suitable for city living. Their grooming can be high maintenance if you keep their hair long, but many owners opt for a “puppy cut,” which is much easier to manage.

Additionally, their small size and relatively calm indoor temperament make them perfect companions for those new to dog ownership. However, they also appreciate playtime and short walks, making them an active yet manageable choice for beginners.

Benefits of Owning a Small Dog

The following are the benefits of owning a small dog:

1. Easy to Manage

Due to their size, small dogs are generally easier to handle, making tasks like bathing, grooming, and even medical care more straightforward. It’s also simpler to control them on walks, especially if they get a little too excited!

2. Ideal for Limited Spaces

Small dogs are perfectly suited for apartment living. They don’t require as much space to move around, making them the ideal companion for those with smaller homes or apartments.

3. Travel-Friendly

Taking a trip? Small dogs are more easily accepted at hotels and are more convenient to travel with, whether by car or even on a plane. Plus, carrying them in pet carriers for short trips is a breeze.

4. Cost-Effective

In general, smaller dogs eat less food than their larger counterparts. This, coupled with their minimalistic space requirements, often results in fewer expenses. Toys, beds, and other supplies are also typically cheaper for smaller breeds.

5. Longer Lifespan

Many small dog breeds tend to have a longer lifespan compared to larger breeds. This means more years of companionship and love!

6. Versatile Exercise Needs

While some small breeds are energetic and need their daily dose of playtime, many are content with short walks and indoor play, making them more adaptable to various owners’ activity levels.

7. Social Butterflies

Many small dogs are known for their social nature, making them great companions for outings. Their size makes it easy to introduce them to new environments and social situations.

Tips For New Small Dog Owners

To properly care for small dogs, especially as a beginner, you will find the following tips handy;

  1. Expose your small dog to various sights, sounds, people, and other animals from a young age. This ensures they grow up to be well-rounded and confident adults.
  2. Watch where you step or sit, especially with toy breeds. Their small stature makes them easy to miss, and accidents can happen.
  3. Many small breeds can get cold easily. Consider getting a doggy sweater or coat for colder months. Conversely, during hot days, ensure they have protection from the sun and don’t overheat.
  4. Small breeds often have fast metabolisms, so they may require a diet specifically designed for their unique nutritional needs.
  5. Small dogs can develop “small dog syndrome,” where they exhibit undesirable behaviors like excessive barking or aggression. To avoid this, start training early, stay consistent, and set boundaries just as you would for a larger breed.
  6. Ensure your dog receives regular check-ups and vaccinations. Small dogs can be prone to certain health issues, so preventative care is crucial.
  7. Use a harness instead of a collar during walks to avoid putting pressure on their delicate necks. Ensure they’re securely restrained when traveling by car.
  8. Small breeds are often prone to dental problems. Regular teeth brushing and professional cleanings can help prevent major issues down the line.
  9. While their exercise needs might not be as demanding, they still need physical activity and mental challenges. Toys, puzzle feeders, and short walks can be beneficial.
  10. Whether it’s avoiding certain rooms or staying off furniture, setting and maintaining boundaries early on will make life easier for both of you.


Embarking on the journey of pet ownership, especially with small dogs, is a delightful and transformative experience. These pint-sized companions bring immeasurable joy, laughter, and warmth to our lives.

While challenges may arise, the unconditional love and endless memories they offer make every moment worth it. As you begin this adventure, cherish every wag, bark, and snuggle, and remember to provide them with the care, training, and love they so richly deserve. Welcome to the wonderful world of small dog parenting!

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