Finding a good family dog for your home can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have a kid-friendly household. And we get it. The yelling. The smells. The pulling of a tail.
As much as we try to keep everyone in line, things happen.
There is a lot to be said about kids and bigger breeds. After all, they are considerably more sturdy than the toy breeds and tend to be less fearful. The only thing scarier than a loud, stinky human who likes to grab at you is a giant loud, stinky human who wants to hold you.
And while we are in full support of medium & large dogs becoming family members, we understand that not every home can support a full-sized St. Bernard or Retriever.
So if you are living in a small space with children or simply prefer a lap dog over a larger pooch and are wondering, “Which small dog breeds are best with children?” This article is for you.
Here are some of our favorite small dog breeds that make great family pets.
While breed stereotypes aren’t always accurate (or fair), these 13 dog breeds have made a name for themselves with families.
Why You Should Consider a Small Dog
Now, many of you might be wondering, “What’s so great about small dogs?”
Small Dog Breeds Are Lower Maintenance
Smaller breeds can make great companions for families because they are lower maintenance than more giant breeds.
Think about it — you have less food to buy, plus daily exercise can be met by playing inside the home rather than going outside to a dog park.
And it’s pretty easy to cuddle a small dog. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a 100-pound Pittie in my life who wants to cuddle all day long. But his sheer size often leaves me with bruises and makes me wish he was a bit smaller.
Whether the small breeds like to cuddle out of sheer love and adoration or only as a self-preservation tactic to stay warm, we can’t say. But at the end of the day, who cares if you can pick up and snuggle a little friend anywhere you want.
Smaller Breeds are Easier to Handle
Another benefit of small dogs is that they are, well, small.
Their size comes in handy if you ever find yourself in a position to pick them up. (Think bath time, trips to the vet, etc.)
You can be sure they are safe in your arms in case you run into something unfortunate or dangerous, like a skunk or other loose dog.
Finally, walking a small dog is an entirely different experience than walking a bigger dog. Training can make a difference for any breed, but no dog is exempt from the occasional twinkle in the eye. And when that moment comes, you may be thrilled that you have a small dog.
While we don’t advocate for children walking dogs alone or taking charge of the leash before they are ready, the possibility of your child stepping into new pet ownership duties becomes infinitely more accessible with smaller dogs. It’s nice knowing that you won’t have to worry about them getting pulled around the neighborhood at every sign of a cat or squirrel.
Small Dogs Live Longer
Wouldn’t it be great if our pets lived forever? Or, at least as long as we do? Of course. And while that’s not in anyone’s cards, it does help to know that smaller dogs tend to have longer life spans.
Small, Fluffy Dog Breeds
If you are looking for a cuddle-worthy fluffball, these popular dog breeds may be for you. Keep in mind that all of these breeds will require regular grooming to keep their luscious locks in good shape — and I don’t just mean trips to the groomer.
Owners of long-haired breeds should be prepared for regular brushing, checking for matted fur and the unpleasant job of cleaning up the aftermath of a good poop.
And while I wish I could tell you that these furry breeds don’t shed…. I can’t. Some do.
But all the work to keep them looking good is worth it. After all, just look at these cute faces!
The name Shih Tzu means “Little Lion” in Mandarin, but we tend to think of a young Simba (not so much a Mufasa) when we look at this breed.
Shih Tzus are friendly, loyal and affectionate dogs. And much like a young lion, they have a big personality. If you’ve ever met a Shih Tzu, you know first hand how much this breed likes to play and snuggle… and how long one can hold a grudge if you have not lived up to their expectations.
While this breed isn’t hypoallergenic and does shed, they don’t shed as much as other breeds, and many families find it manageable.
Height: 9-10 inches
Weight: 9-16 pounds
Life Span: 10-18 years
I may have a personal bias for Malteses because there is an extraordinary one in my life. Still, their charming personality makes this breed a perfect companion for really any household.
While Malteses are considered lap dogs, this low-shedding breed also loves to play and is quick to make friends with anyone who will give them some attention.
But don’t let their friendly personality fool you. This small, fluffy breed can also hold its own and has been known to have a willful nature at times.
Height: 7-9 inches
Weight: Under 7 pounds
Life Span: 12-15 years
Pomeranians are a favorite among households today, and it’s easy to see why. These small dogs are full of life, personality and fun.
Poms are active dogs who like to play, but they are often content to play indoors. Some downsides? Because Pomeranians look like a teddy bear, your child may think they can treat them as such. So if you have young, grabby kids, you might want to reconsider this breed... or at least get ready for some serious parenting opportunities.
Also, they have a stunning double coat, but it does tend to shed. Remember my mention of the unfortunate poo aftermath? Poms are notorious for this unsightly problem. And who can blame them? Look at all that fur.
Height: 6-7 inches
Weight: 3-7 pounds
Life Span: 12-16 years
While they may look like a Maltese, Bichons are a breed all their own.
Russell Hartstein, Founder of Fun Paw Care, adds, “These cuties are in the poodle family but much more petite. They’re energetic, so they need regular exercise, but they are not big barkers and don’t shed. They love to cuddle and make great family members.”
Bichons are hypoallergenic and are often recognized by their soft, velvety coat. (Which will require some regular grooming.)
Bichons are a friend to everyone — adults and children alike.
But they are also alert, curious and can make excellent watchdogs.
Because this breed loves people so much, they are quick learners and very trainable.
Height: 9-11 inches
Weight: 12-18 pounds
Life Span: 14-15 years
Move over, Yoda. There are some new ears in town. Papillons get their name from their butterfly-like ears. (Papillon means “butterfly” in French.) But their ears do more than just provide a namesake — they also make them easy to spot and pretty darn adorable.
Papillons are hearty, energetic dogs that don’t let their small size keep them from playing big. While they are graceful and delicate looking, this breed adapts well to outdoor climates and would love to play with your family in any weather.
Papillons are regular winners at agility competitions but can also be content learning tricks and playing with their family.
Height: 8-11 inches
Weight: 5-10 pounds
Life Span: 14-16 years
Yorkshire Terriers are among the smallest breeds on our list at only 7-8 inches high. But where they may run short on size, they make up for in personality.
Yorkies are a true terrier and have the grit to match. They are known for being somewhat bossy but endlessly adorable.
This breed has a low-allergen coat that can be kept long and elegant or short for lower maintenance.
Hartstein shared some additional insight on what a Yorkie household would look like, stating, “Yorkies are tiny, cute and love to cuddle, so they’re the perfect movie marathon companion. They are also quiet and calm but are great with new people and other pets. Yorkies may be small but they sure bark a lot if they are not trained and socialized well.”
Much like Pomeranians, Yorkies can get overwhelmed by loud, grabby kids and may do best in a home without small children who tend to love too hard.
Height: 7-8 inches
Weight: 7 pounds
Life Span: 11-15 years
Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Between the Corgi butt and those adorable ears and wide smile, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is definitely one of the cutest picks. But they are also one of the most high-energy breeds on our list.
Bred for herding, these small-statured dogs have a surprising amount of girth and boldness and will do best in a home where they get plenty of exercise and playtime.
Like all natural herders, your Corgi may get the urge to herd children, and if that is a concern, you should keep an eye on things when you have a house full of kids.
But at the end of the day, your Corgi will love to cuddle up and be with the ones they love the most: their humans.
Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: Up to 30 pounds
Life Span: 12-13 years
Not-So-Fluffy Small Dog Breeds
These dog breeds may not have the luscious locks that the previous picks did, but they do have one serious advantage: none of the grooming upkeep.
Maybe it’s the tuxedo coat. Or perhaps it’s those big, dreamy eyes and ears that will listen to you all day long. Either way, Boston Terriers are considered “The American Gentleman.”
This breed is a little larger than some others on this list and, therefore, a little more sturdy when it comes to homes with children.
They love to play, and they love their humans, too.
Because Bostons have a higher energy level, you will need to make sure to keep them exercised and stimulated, lest that twinkle of mischief creeps back into their eye.
Height: 15-17 inches
Weight: 12-25 pounds
Life Span: 11-13 years
A Latin phrase sums up a pug: multum in parvo, which means “a lot in a little.”
And their fun personalities and big expressions help them live up to that motto.
There’s just something about a pug that screams for some cuddles. We think it’s probably the wrinkly skin and the curly tail.
These little dogs are adaptable to meet your family dynamics, making them great family dogs for any household.
Unfortunate pug fact: those big, bulging eyes may be cute, but they have been known to pop out of the socket during play, causing quite a disturbance for everyone.
Height: 10-13 inches
Weight: 14-18 pounds
Life Span: 13-15 years
French Bulldog (Frenchie)
The ears. The Wrinkles. The stocky body. Did we mention the ears? All the French Bulldog features make them adorable and Instaworthy.
Frenchies are fantastic for snuggling, playing, sleeping and posing for pictures.
They do well as an only dog or as part of a pack.
Although, keep in mind that these popular dogs have made quite an impression on people the last several years and may be hard to come by.
Luckily, local animal shelters see all kinds of dogs, and a quick phone call may put you in touch with someone who can help you adopt a Frenchie.
Height: 11-13 inches
Weight: Under 28 pounds
Life Span: 10-12 years
Slightly Larger Dog Breeds
If you love the dogs on our list but aren’t sold on a small or toy-sized breed, some other small-ish dogs make great family pets.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
If the soft, droopy face of a Cavalier doesn’t warm your heart, then their sweet personality surely will.
Like the Frenchies before them, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are hopelessly photogenic and make a great addition to any home.
You want to play outside? A Cavalier Spaniel will join you. You want to just lounge on the couch all day? Great. They’ll do that too.
Emily Green — a dog trainer with over 20 years of experience and the CEO of DoggieDesigner.com — gave some insight on this breed and a warning to all household when looking to bring home a new pup, stating, “One of the friendliest, kindest dog breeds out there, the Cavalier is great for families because they’re so patient. They’re also a little bigger than many other small dogs, meaning they're more robust around toddlers. Once again, the Cavalier’s popularity has led to bad breeding and problems, making them expensive to insure. Heart problems and spine/neck problems are common.”
“As a reminder to families, ALL dogs can bite around children, and getting one breed over another isn’t any way to prevent this.”
With a medium coat, you will also get the best of both grooming worlds: cute and fluffy but without the same attention that some other breeds require.
Height: 12-13 inches
Weight: 13-18 pounds
Life Span: 12-15 years
Part of the hound group, Beagles are full of energy and vigor. The tallest Beagle variety is still under 15 inches, making this the perfect sized dog for families with children.
Because Beagles are meaty, they will be able to tolerate little hands more than the Poms or the Yorkies would. And since they are full of energy, they are great for households with children who enjoy playtime as much as they do.
Keep in mind that energetic breeds also require regular exercise to keep them from digging, chasing and causing other forms of mayhem.
Height: Up to 15 inches
Weight: Under 20 pounds
Life Span: 10-15 years
Schnauzers come in three sizes: toy, miniature and standard. And all of them are equally cute.
I was raised in a house with no less than two schnauzers at all times (and most of the time, there were three.)
This breed has a stocky, muscular build, but don’t let that make you think they aren’t great cuddlers. I know from personal experience that they make great cuddle buddies.
Schnauzers are known for their beards, eyebrows and the fact they rarely shed. However, they should see a groomer regularly to keep them looking and feeling their best.
Even though their hair is nothing like that of a Pomeranian, I spent an excessive amount of time with the scissors taking care of all my dogs’ back ends. Maybe it was just them. But either way, you should know what you’re getting into.
If you can handle that, Schnauzers are excellent family dogs, loyal to their humans and avid watchdogs who will alert you to any possible sign of danger.
They are also fun to play alongside.
Height: 12-14 inches
Weight: 11-20 pounds
Life Span: 12-15 years
Cocker Spaniels are the smallest of the Spaniel group, but their size hasn’t kept them from being a popular dog among families for years. (It’s probably those great ears, but be cautious. Those ears tend to come with ear infections as they age.)
Cocker Spaniels are ready to play and learn new tricks. And since they are a little bigger than others on this list, they are sturdy enough to hold their own with kids while staying small enough to pick up and transport easily.
These Spaniels come in various colors, and it’s always hard to choose our favorite.
Either way, if you are looking for a classic family dog, look no further than a Cocker Spaniel.
Height: 14-16 inches
Weight: 25-30 pounds
Life Span: 10-14 years
Small Dogs Are Some Of The Best Dogs
No matter what a day in your home looks like, there is a dog that could likely match your family dynamics and make a fabulous family pet. And even if you have an active lifestyle or a house full of children, don’t rule small dogs out of the mix just yet.
The breeds on this list are full of prominent personalities, even if they come in petite packages.
We covered quite a few dog breeds, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Other top contenders for the best small dog breeds include the Dachshund, Havanese and another one of my personal favorites, the Jack Russell Terrier. Dog expert Jeff Carbridge with DogOwner also recommends looking into a Border Terrier, noting, “These pups have a very even temper, making them naturally obedient and eager to please. With them, affection is never in short supply.”
Ready to bring a dog home?
Be sure to check out your local animal shelters first! They often see purebreds come through their doors, and there are always thousands of dogs looking for homes each year.
Do your part to save a life and adopt, don’t shop.
You might also be interested in: How To Pick The Perfect Dog For Your Home [Lifestyle Guide]
Best Small Dogs For Families With Young Children:
- Shih Tzu
- Bichon Frise
- Boston Terrier
- French Bulldog
- King Cavalier
- Miniature Schnauzer
- Cocker Spaniel