10 Best Small Dog Breeds for Limited Space

Small pomeranian dog

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Small dog breeds have been bred for their compact, manageable size. In some cases, their petite size benefitted their working or hunting ability, as they were able to get into small spaces their owners (and larger dogs) could not. In other cases, they were simply desirable as lap dogs and all-around endearing little companions. Small dogs are generally easy to transport, and they typically have lower food and medication costs than large breeds. Plus, many small dog breeds do well in homes with limited space. 

Here are 10 of the best small dogs to keep as pets.

Breed Characteristics

In general, dogs that weigh around 20 pounds or less are considered small. Some small breeds are very compact and low to the ground, while others can be relatively tall and lanky. Not all small dog breeds love being lap dogs, and many have more energy than some of their large canine counterparts. So, if you're looking for a breed that can adapt to life in a small home, make sure to select one that’s known for its calm demeanor. 

Tip

Small dogs often make up for their size with huge personalities, which means they benefit from consistent training and positive reinforcement. And even small, low-energy dogs still need daily exercise and activities to stimulate their minds and bodies.

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  • 01 of 10

    Yorkshire Terrier

    Yorkshire terrier on grass

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    Many Yorkshire terriers love to sit on their owners' laps and are fine with being carried. But they're not a wimpy dog. Yorkies make up for their small stature with huge personalities. They can be excellent watchdogs, vocally announcing any movement around the house. Still, they are first and foremost affectionate companions and don't need much space to get adequate exercise.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 7 to 8 inches

    Weight: 7 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact body; silky coat; colors include black and tan, blue and tan, and more

  • 02 of 10

    Dachshund

    Dachshund on furniture

    ​The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

    The dachshund has many nicknames: doxie, wiener dog, sausage dog, hot dog, and more. Of course, these names mostly relate to the breed's distinct appearance. Dachshunds come in standard or miniature size, the latter being ideal for the small-dog enthusiast. They're sweet and affectionate with their families but can be wary of strangers.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 5 to 9 inches

    Weight: Up to 32 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Low, long body; short legs; colors include chocolate, black, red, and more

  • 03 of 10

    Poodle

    Poodle walking on grass

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    Poodles come in three sizes: toy, miniature, and standard. Standards are fairly large, while miniatures and toys fall into the small-dog category. The smaller poodles are known for their longevity, along with their intelligence and trademark curly coats. They can be loving companions but need activity to keep them entertained. Fortunately, the smaller poodles don't need that much space to get their energy out.

    Breed Overview

    Height: Miniature: 10 to 15 inches; toy: up to 10 inches

    Weight: Miniature: 10 to 15 pounds, toy: 4 to 6 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Curly, dense coat; colors include white, apricot, black, brown, and more

  • 04 of 10

    Shih Tzu

    Shih Tzu on furniture

    ​The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Shih Tzu is basically the poster child for lap dogs, which is no surprise as the breed originated strictly as a companion. These dogs sport long, silky hair, though many owners trim the coat short for easier maintenance. They tend to be fairly hardy with an alert, confident disposition.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 9 to 11 inches

    Weight: 9 to 16 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Long double coat; colors include black, blue, silver, white, and more

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  • 05 of 10

    Miniature Schnauzer

    Miniature schnauzer looking alert

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    The miniature schnauzer is a spunky little dog with a friendly but tough personality. Easily recognized by its signature bearded haircut, this terrier has a strong sense of loyalty and protectiveness toward its family. It's also known to be a vocal breed and needs a solid foundation of training. Still, with daily walks and playtime, it's suitable for a small home.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 12 to 14 inches

    Weight: 11 to 20 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Bushy beard and eyebrows; colors include black, silver, and more

  • 06 of 10

    Chihuahua

    Chihuahua under blankets

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    Chihuahuas are some of the world's tiniest dogs and are often seen toted around in carriers, but they have huge personalities. While lovable and loyal, chihuahuas are also active and sassy with major "tough dog" attitudes. Many bond closely with their favorite humans but are wary of anyone else. The good news is that their tiny size means they don't need much space to play and get their energy out.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 5 to 8 inches

    Weight: Up to 6 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Alert expression; smooth or long coat; colors include black, tan, and more

  • 07 of 10

    Pug

    Pug lying in grass

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    These round little dogs are jovial souls. Pugs were once the pets of royalty and companions of Tibetan monks. Affectionate and even-tempered, they can fit into many different living situations, including small homes. But they do have a tendency to develop breathing problems and eye issues, so regular health checkups are a must.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 10 to 13 inches

    Weight: 14 to 18 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Square body; short legs and face; colors include black and fawn

  • 08 of 10

    Pomeranian

    Pomeranian on couch

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    Pomeranians look like a cross between a stuffed animal and a tiny lion, thanks to their long, fluffy coat. They tend to be alert and sometimes bossy dogs with an intense loyalty to their loved ones. They need consistent training and boundaries to keep their strong-willed spirit in check. Due to their small size, a couple daily walks and playtime should be enough to meet their exercise needs.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 6 to 7 inches

    Weight: 3 to 7 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Compact body; fluffy coat; colors include black, orange, and more

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  • 09 of 10

    Boston Terrier

    Boston terrier on chair

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    The Boston terrier is a cheerful, loyal, and even-tempered dog. The breed originated from crossing an English bulldog with a white English terrier and was named after the city in which it was created. Bostons tend to be playful, though they also love to spend time in their owners' laps. They generally are very adaptable to apartment living.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 15 to 17 inches

    Weight: 12 to 25 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Short face; smooth coat; colors include black and white, seal and white, and more

  • 10 of 10

    Maltese

    White Maltese dog

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    The Maltese tends to have a gentle yet brave disposition. This dog is generally playful and friendly, and it bonds closely with its family. The breed can be traced back to ancient times, where it was the beloved companion of royalty and nobility. Today's Maltese still loves to be pampered and doesn't need much room to roam.

    Breed Overview

    Height: 7 to 9 inches

    Weight: Up to 7 pounds

    Physical Characteristics: Dark, alert eyes; silky, white coat

Breeds to Avoid

It might seem obvious for small-dog lovers to avoid large breeds, such as German shepherds and Siberian huskies. But it's just as important to rule out any undesirable characteristics, including high energy levels or the need for vigorous exercise, before deciding on a breed. There are several small- to medium-size dogs, such as Jack Russell terriers, that generally have high activity needs and might not be suitable for small spaces.