As a dog lover, you must have seen countless videos on Instagram featuring small dogs that have you in awe of their cuteness. But before you head off to a pet shop or an adoption agency (Which Pawsomebarks strongly suggests) to become a pet owner of this bundle of cuteness, there are a couple of things you should know about, including:

  • How manageable they are compared to the bigger dog species,
  • Characteristics of small dogs
  • Popular small dog breeds
  • Difference between small, medium, and large dogs

Lucky for you, this guide covers all that you need to know about small dogs before you make the final decision to become a pet parent to one.

Historical and Practical Definitions

Dog breeds were historically divided into hunting, guarding, and companionship categories based on their sizes. This is probably the reason why you see large dogs like the German Shepherd or the Rottweiler in guarding roles and chihuahuas as companion dogs (although they are notorious for their aggressiveness).

According to the American Kennel Club, the Chihuahua is a small dog with a huge personality!

Now that we are past when dogs were categorized into roles because of their sizes, people in modern society especially those in urban areas want to keep small dogs. Despite the popularity of small dog breeds, are they really easy to maintain?  

Definition of Dog Sizes by Weight and Height

Generally, small dogs are those that weigh 22 lbs. or less even when fully grown. However, these classifications might vary among different kennel clubs or organizations.

Generally, canines are classified into sizes by their weight and height. Here is the breakdown so you know at what weight is a dog considered small:

Dog CategoryWeight RangeShoulder Height Range
Small Dogs22 lbs. or lessLess than 16 inches
Medium Dogs23 lbs. – 55 lbs.16 -22 inches
Large DogsOver 56 lbs.More than 22 inches

These figures are just suggestive of the category. For instance, a fully grown Boston Terrier could weigh up to 25 pounds but is still considered a small dog breed because of its short shoulder height.

Characteristics of Small Dogs

Small dogs are known to have high energy levels and a low requirement for exercise. Compared to this, medium or large dog breeds might need more space for exercise and cannot adjust to a small urban apartment.

But if you’re choosing a small dog because you think they are low maintenance, you might want to think again. Even though small dogs can do well in small places, they have huge personalities. They need training or at times, professional intervention to stay calm and well-behaved.

Now that you know what you are up for, it’s time to discuss some popular small dog breeds:

1.Boston Terrier

The Boston Terrier is one of the most popular small dog breeds in the world. With its tight tuxedo jacket and big round eyes, the Boston Terrier looks quite friendly. But it’s the manners that have earned the name ‘The American Gentleman’ for this small dog breed.

Boston Terrier on grass


The Havanese breed is native to Cuba and known for its gorgeous silky coat. Because this breed is known for its fur, it needs to be well-maintained to look its best.  

Havanese at a photo shoot

3.Japanese Spitz

The Japanese Spitz are known for looking like they are always smiling. Their pure white coat is what makes them stand apart from the rest of the dog breeds. Their tails also curl over their back in a beautiful hair plume.

Cute Japanese Spitz

4.Jack Russell Terrier

The Jack Russell Terrier is one of the most popular city dog breeds. The main character in “The Secret Life of Pets” was also a Jack Russell Terrier because of its lively, inquisitive, and friendly nature. However, despite these characteristics, it remains true to its name “Terrier”. So, this breed is quite fearless when it comes to facing enemies.

Cute Jack Russell Terrier


The Chihuahuas are the national symbol of Mexico and are known as “purse dogs”. This breed has a terrier-like demeanor which is where its personality comes from. The rounded “apple” head is the hallmark of this breed.

Chihuahua on a carpet

Living with a Small Dog

Advantages of Owning a Small Dog

Small dogs are the best companions when you’re living in a city with limited space because a small space is sufficient for a small dog’s needs.

If you have a large dog in a small house or apartment, you will have to dedicate a lot of your time to taking them out for walks, so they remain healthy and happy.

Challenges of Owning a Small Dog

While owning a small dog can be a dream since they gather so much attention for being cute and small, it comes with its fair share of challenges. A small dog is quite fragile which is why they might get injured even when they attempt a small jump.

Small dogs also have a potential for over-pampering. And like a child, when a dog has unfulfilled desires, it can lead to behavioral issues.

Health and Lifespan Considerations

Smaller dogs are generally known to live longer than larger breeds. However, this isn’t always good news.

Quick Fact; When Paris Hilton first showed up on TV with her Chihuahua, the dog breed became immensely popular. But what people don’t know is that these dogs live up to 20 years – much longer than any other popular dog breed. The result – a lot of these Chihuahuas landed in the shelter when their owners couldn’t care for them anymore.

Large dog breeds also have more health problems than small dogs. However, according to OVRS, small dog breeds are at a higher risk of conditions like:

  • Birthing issues
  • Pancreatitis
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Joint issues
  • Intervertebral Disk Disease
  • Mitral valve disease
  • Temperature sensitivities
Shiba Inu and Papillon and Corgi on stairs
Shiba Inu and Papillon and Corgi on stairs


Small dogs are those that only grow up to a certain height and don’t exceed a certain weight limit even when they are fully aged.

While small dogs are traditionally assigned companion roles, don’t misjudge them as being happy and playful. Behavioral issues are common when you’re taking in any pet – be it a big German Shepherd or a small Havanese. Apart from behavior, small pets easily adjust in small spaces but might have pampering needs. Small dog breeds also tend to live longer than large dog breeds.

So, before you head to the store or the adoption center to become a pet parent, consider your lifestyle, living conditions, and personal preferences before you choose the breed size.

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