Size isn’t everything. Anyone who has ever had a toy breed can attest to this. In fact, while many small dogs are bred to be companions, some are bred to be hunters, and won’t stand for lounging on the couch all day. Regardless of which type of personality you prefer, there are plenty of small dogs to choose from.

Small dogs and their health

Small dogs generally live longer than their giant counterparts ― some well into their teens, while big dogs might not even make it past 10. But they still have health issues. A major one found in specifically flat-faced and snub-nosed breeds is breathing problems. The collective name for most of these issues is Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. The compressed respiratory system can make it harder for these dogs to breathe, so make sure to not go too hard on them, exercise-wise. If you want your dog with you, it’s best to avoid things like swimming or going for a run, especially on hot days.

Hypoglycemia is particularly common in toy breeds. This refers to a quick drop in blood sugar, and usually shows up at around 6-12 weeks of age. Symptoms of a hypoglycemic dog include weak and lethargic movements, and tremors, especially in the face. Make sure to get your dog to a vet, if this happens. Other health issues that are more common in small dogs are pancreatitis, tracheal collapse, and ectropion (especially in flat-faced breeds). Homeostasis imbalance is another thing to keep an eye out for; many small dogs have little insulation and not much surface area, which makes it harder for them to handle extreme temperature shifts.

The Dachshund, affectionately known as the wiener dog, is a hound breed that was originally bred for digging deep underground.

Nobility and grace

When you think of small dogs, usually what comes to mind is a lapdog. Small and dainty, perched on the laps of royalty, in paintings from centuries past. And this isn’t entirely untrue; many small dogs ― or, more specifically, toy breeds ― were originally bred solely for companionship. Their purpose was to be social and happy, beautiful to look at, and calm in their disposition.

At the top of this list, you usually find breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, the Shih Tzu, the Papillon, the Pug, the Pekingese, the Maltese, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and the Chinese Crested. The Yorkie is best known for its long, flowing coat, as is the Shih Tzu. Both have long found themselves comfortable on privileged laps, just like the Papillon and the Pekingese. They still have a lot of personality, though, and so do the versatile Cavvies, who thrive in agility competitions as well as napping on the couch.

The Pug has gained a lot of popularity in more recent years, although many disapprove of the harsh breeding which has led to ― and keeps maintaining ― their smushed faces. Faces with snub noses that are just as adorable as they are difficult, when it comes to breathing. The Maltese has been known for centuries for its almost supernaturally calming influence, and the Chinese Crested is a favorite among people with allergies. None of these breeds stand above 10 inches in size, but that doesn’t mean they’re particularly aware of that ― they’re cuddly, but still dignified.

Tenacious hunters

In this group, you’ll find breeds like the Dachshund, the Norfolk Terrier, the Toy Manchester Terrier, the Jack Russell Terrier, and the Toy Poodle.

The Dachshund is one of the most popular breeds around. They come in three coat types ― smooth, wirehaired, and longhaired ― and are best known for their long body and short legs. Affectionately called wiener dogs, the Dachshund stands only 8-9 inches tall, and was originally bred for digging their way into badger dens. “Dachs” is German for “badger”, and considering what a dangerous foe a badger can be, it’s no surprise that the Dachshund is still brave and fearless among small dogs. The Jack Russell was also bred for digging, specialized in fox hunting, and bred to run with the hounds as well as flush a fox out of its lair.

The Toy Poodle (like its Miniature and Standard varieties) is an exceptionally intelligent breed, originally bred for duck hunting. The Standard Poodle began their development as a retrieving water dog over 400 years ago, and is today the national dog of France (despite its German origins). The Toy Poodle, despite its size of only 10 inches, has retained much of these skills, and is definitely not a lazy lapdog. The Norfolk Terrier and the Toy Manchester Terrier both have that feisty terrier temperament. It’s necessary when you’re bred for hunting rats, where you need to be quick and attentive, ready to strike at a moment’s notice.

The Chihuahua is the smallest breed in the world, but definitely has the personality of a much bigger dog.

Small but mighty

Many small dogs believe they are giants, but some more than others. Here you’ll find breeds like the Chihuahua, the Pomeranian,the Miniature Pinscher, the Schipperke, and the Affenpinscher. The Chihuahua is the smallest breed in the world, standing only 5-8 inches tall, on average. They’ve long been famous for being carried around by socialites, but this terrier-like breed is anything but a docile lapdog. The Chihuahua ― or at least a slightly heavier predecessor ― roamed their homeland of Mexico at least a thousand years ago. They were held in high esteem by the Toltecs, and they haven’t forgotten this; without proper training, this smallest of the small dogs will run your household.

The Pomeranian has a less impressive history, but at 6-7 inches tall, they still hold their own. Like many small dogs, they believe they are much bigger than they are, and often make this known. The Pomeranian may be a tiny ball of fluff, but they’re quite independent, and very loyal to their human. Due to this, they make pretty great watchdogs. The Miniature Pinscher is known as the King of Toys, and stands 10-12 inches tall. They have a distinct, high-stepping “hackney” gait (as in, the hackney horse), and is renowned for their sharp vigilance and perky disposition.

The Schipperke was bred as a boat dog, hardy and attentive, and the Affenpinscher is an old German breed, known for its monkey-face and feisty personality. The French Bulldog is known for its bat-ears and charming disposition, making them a great city dog.

Things to consider

Small dogs are great for small spaces, which makes them ideal city dogs. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they require less exercise; many small dogs need to run around far more than bigger breeds. Their small size makes them quite portable, though, and for kids old enough to know the difference between a toy dog and a dog toy, they can make great family pets. Just keep in mind that even small dogs need proper training, perhaps even more so. The yappy stereotype people associate with small dogs is misleading ― people just underestimate them and their needs, due to their size, and don’t maintain proper training. This in turn makes them restless, which in turn can make them yappy and unruly.

In short, small dogs are amazing, and many aren’t even mentioned in this list. Just be sure that you keep in mind everything that goes into having one, health problems and temperament and all. If you do, you’ll have a happy, loyal friend for life.