We share our homes and hearts with them, melt when met with puppy-dog eyes, and can’t keep our hands from stroking their silky fur. While all dogs are mighty, some are tiny. Here is a list dedicated to twenty of the world’s smallest dog breeds.
This list of small but mighty pooches begins with one of the tiniest of the tiny. Chihuahuas possess loyalty, charm, and big-dog attitude, all while weighing in at no more than six pounds. Besides their trademark size, they are distinct in appearance due to their rounded “apple” head, erect ears and full, luminous eyes. A national symbol of Mexico, these alert and amusing “purse dogs” stand among the oldest breeds of the Americas, with a lineage going back to the ancient kingdoms of pre-Columbian times.
- Brussels Griffon
This unique, almost human-looking dog has a big personality in a thick, sturdy five-to-15-pound package. This breed comes in four colors—red, black-and-reddish-brown, black and tan, and black—and in smooth or rough coats. Their black muzzle and whiskers earned them the nickname “bearded dogs” in old folk songs. They appear human-like through their big black eyes, and their fringed beard and mustache give them the air of a worldly, French-speaking philosopher.
The quick, curious Papillon is a toy dog of beauty, upbeat athleticism, and dainty elegance. Despite their refined appearance, the Papillon is truly a “doggy dog” blessed with a hardy precedent. Papillon fanciers describe their breed as happy, alert, and friendly. Despite the small body, you can spot a Papillon a block away thanks to the large, wing-shaped ears that give the breed its name (“papillon” is French for “butterfly”). As surprising as it may be, they are also excellent agility dogs and are consistent winners at the sport’s highest levels.
The tiny Pomeranian, long a favorite of royals and commoners alike, has been called the ideal companion. The glorious coat, smiling, foxy face, and inquisitive, vivacious personality have helped make them one of the world’s most popular toy breeds. The fluffy double coat, with its frill extending over the chest and shoulders, comes in almost two dozen colors, and various patterns and markings, but is most commonly seen in orange or red.
This small but muscular breed comes in three colors: silver or apricot-fawn with a black face mask, or all black. Their large, round head, as well as their big, sparkling eyes and wrinkled brow give Pugs a range of human-like expressions—surprise, happiness, curiosity—that have delighted owners for centuries. They are considered to be the ideal house dog, and their history of companionship goes back to when they found their place beside Chinese emperors.
- Toy Poodle
The Toy Poodle is one of the absolute most popular dog breeds according to the American Kennel Club. They weigh four to six pounds and do not exceed ten inches in height. They also have the potential to live longer than most toy breeds—up to 18 years is not an uncommon lifespan for the toy poodle. This breed is eager, athletic, versatile, and wickedly smart.
Standing less than a foot tall, these sturdy terrier-like dogs approach life with great confidence. The Affenpinscher is loyal, curious, and famously amusing. This almost-human dog is fearless out of all proportion to its size. Due to their facial appearance, they are often called “monkey dogs” and “ape terriers,” though Star Wars fans argue they look more like Wookies or Ewoks. They can be willful and domineering, but mostly Affens are loyal, affectionate, and always entertaining. People who welcome this breed into their home say they love being owned by their little monkey dogs.
- Yorkshire Terrier
Commonly referred to as “Yorkie,” this breed sports a beautifully glossy, floor-length coat and the heart of a feisty, old-time terrier. These tomboyish terriers earned their living as ratters in mines and mills long before they became lapdogs of Victorian ladies. Often named the most popular dog breed in various American cities, they are favorites of urban dwellers all over the world. Yorkies are long-lived and hypoallergenic (the coat is more like human hair than animal fur), and they make good little watchdogs.
- Toy Fox Terrier
These handsome little creatures had their start as barnyard ratters and have developed to become lovable lap dogs with a whole lot of tenacity. They are distinct due to their large, erect, Chihuahua-like ears, their small body, and thin legs. And their dark eyes sparkle with eager intelligence.
- Russian Toy
The Russian Toy is not classified by the American Kennel Club into a distinct category of dog, but they are commonly considered a member of the toy group. The Russian Toy is a terrier-like breed with a lineage that dates back to the Russian aristocracy. They are good-natured and love to run and play. They thrive on human companionship and will let you know if they are feeling neglected. Their coat is either semi-long or smooth. Long-coated Russian Toys will not have an adult coat until it is more than a year old and full fringing not until three years of age. The smooth-coated variety is sleek and smooth to the touch. There is also a slight attitude difference between the two varieties; Smooth Coats tend to be a little more terrier-like than Long Coats.
- Toy Manchester Terrier
The Manchester Terrier is named after the English city where it was first bred. Sleek dogs who possess a terrier’s fearless ratting instinct and the streamlined grace of coursing hounds, Manchesters are spirited, bright, and athletic. These dogs come in two size varieties: Toy (not exceeding 12 pounds) and Standard (not exceeding 22 pounds). They’re easily recognized by a tight coat of rich mahogany tan and jet black. The head is long and wedge-shaped; tan spots above each eye give them a watchful expression.
- Chinese Crested
The Chinese Crested, a lively and alert breed standing between 11 and 13 inches tall, can be hairless or coated. The hairless variety has smooth, soft skin and tufts of hair on the head, tail, and ankles. The coated variety is covered by a soft, silky coat. Both varieties are characterized by fine-boned elegance and graceful movement. This breed is known to be loving, playful, and devoted to their humans.
- Miniature Pinscher
This is a sturdy, compact dog, standing no more than 12.5 inches at the shoulder. The smooth, shiny coat comes in two shades of solid red, or chocolate/black-and-rust. The dark, slightly oval eyes and high-set ears help bring out a self-possessed, “big dog” personality. A distinguishing characteristic of the breed is its high-stepping “hackney” gait, reminiscent to that of a trotting hackney horse. They are a proud and fearless dog in a small package.
- Cairn Terrier
Cairn Terriers are happy, busy little dogs originally bred to root out foxes and other small prey in the rocky Scottish countryside. Curious and alert, Cairns like having a place where they can explore and dig. They are small enough for a lap snuggle and sturdy enough for a good romp on the lawn. The double coat is harsh and wiry on top and downy beneath. Cairns are alert dogs, with head, tail, and ears up, and eyes shining with intelligence. Fans of The Wizard of Oz will recognize this breed as the one that played the beloved Toto in the 1939 film.
The Pekingese, a compact toy companion of regal bearing and a distinctive “rolling” gait, is one of several breeds created for the ruling classes of ancient China. These are sophisticated dogs of undying loyalty. They make charming, confident companions. Their coats come in various shades of reds and is longest at the neck and shoulders, giving Pekingese their famous “lion’s mane.” They are also ever alert, making them good watchdogs.
- Miniature Dachshund
The famously long, low silhouette, ever-alert expression, and bold personality of the Dachshund have made them a superstar of the canine kingdom. Dachshunds aren’t built for distance running, leaping, or strenuous swimming, but otherwise, these tireless hounds are ready for any activity. Smart and vigilant, with a big-dog bark, they make good watchdogs. Bred to be an independent hunter of dangerous prey, they can be brave to the point of rashness, and a bit stubborn, but their endearing nature and unique look has won millions of hearts all over the world.
The Maltese has been sitting in the lap of luxury since the Bible was a work in progress. Famous for their show-stopping, floor-length coat, Maltese are playful, charming, and adaptable. Beneath the all-white mantle is a compact body that weighs less than seven pounds and moves with a smooth and effortless gait.
- Norwich Terrier
The adorable, curious Norwich Terrier weighs in at no more than 12 pounds. The breed’s stubby legs lead it to stand a maximum of only ten inches tall at the shoulder. Norwich are among the smallest working terriers. They are toy-sized but are not satin-pillow dogs; they were originally bred as tough and fearless ratters. Beneath the hard, wiry coat is a stocky, substantial creature. Happy-go-lucky, fearless, and sometimes even bossy, Norwich Terriers are energetic enough to play fetch all day but affectionate enough to enjoy hours of lap time with their favorite human.
- Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu (pronounced in the West “sheed-zoo” or “sheet-su”, and “sher-zer” in China), is a surprisingly solid little dog, weighing between nine and 16 pounds, and standing only eight to 11 inches tall. Being cute is a way of life for these lively charmers. The Shih Tzu is known to be especially affectionate with children. As a small dog bred to spend most of their day inside royal palaces, they are perfect for apartment living and will gladly take up residency on their owners’ lap.
- Japanese Chin
The Japanese Chin is a charming toy companion of an unmistakably aristocratic bearing, the unrivaled noblemen of Japanese breeds. They’re tiny “indoorsy” companions, with an unmistakably Eastern look and bearing. Often described as a distinctly “feline” breed, this lapdog is graceful and generally quiet. The head is large, the muzzle short, and the round, dark eyes convey, as Chin fans like to say, a “look of astonishment.” The mane around the neck and shoulders and the plumed tail arching over the back project an elegant, exotic appearance so typical of Asia’s royal line of cuddly creatures.