19 Best Small Dogs for Kids (Because…Double the Cute, Right?)
If you’re looking for a canine companion, there are tons of reasons small dogs are the way to go. Believe it or not, tiny apartments, limited budgets and busy schedules all factor into the ideal dog size for you. But, wait—you got kids? A small dog breed might be your best bet.
Small dogs sometimes get a reputation for being overly aggressive. While this is a pretty grand generalization, one University of Sydney study did find a correlation between size and behavior, showing shorter dogs tended to be more combative with owners and destructive in their homes. The study’s authors added this could have a lot to do with environmental factors, not just natural temperament.
It’s possible owners tend to allow nastier behavior from tiny canines than they do from bigger ones, since a Chihuahua feels like less of an immediate threat than say, a German shepherd. A poorly trained Great Dane makes us feel more vulnerable than a poorly trained Yorkie, so we focus our energy on really solidifying commands with the Great Dane and let the Yorkie have his way. A vicious cycle.
Another study from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna supports this self-fulfilling prophecy: Owners assume small dogs are yappier and more demanding, so people give in more easily and train less consistently than they do with large dogs. On top of that, small dogs tend to respond to punishments more sensitively than big dogs, which makes chastisement a more delicate process with tiny canines.
So, if you’ve got kiddos and your heart set on a small breed, Dr. Melissa Bain of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine advises strong socialization and positive training methods for the pup to instill good behavior early. Work with a trainer to ensure your dog knows the limits of her reign and how to follow commands.
Another tactic is to observe your dog’s body language and behavior if and when she gets upset. Knowing what to look for can prevent nipping or jumping incidents between dogs and kids. Even if your dog is a good dog (who’s a good dog?!), avoid leaving her unsupervised around little children. Dogs who are startled unexpectedly (by a rough four-year-old trying to grab fur, for instance) may react instinctively with teeth.
On that note, take time to teach kids the best way to interact with your small dog. Gentle petting, firm commands and ample space are good places to start. Again, it depends on the dog, the kid and the environment.
Finally, start with the breeds on this list. They are all terrific family pups with very kid-friendly dispositions. This means they can be trained easily, enjoy being around people and overall have a lot of love to give.
1. Bichon Frise
These dogs pack a ton of personality and fervor into a small package. Bichon frises are charmers and social butterflies who are eager to please and ready to play. This makes them excellent companions for kids and large families. Plus, bichons are hypoallergenic!
Similar in style to the bichon frise, the Bolognese is a companion pup who won’t freak out when kids come running in fired up after school; they can also embrace the calm moments after dinner when everyone sits down to finish homework. Definitely more on the chill side, though, so if your kids have loud wild sides or are super young, maybe wait a few years.
3. Boston Terrier
Boston terriers love socializing and will never turn down an opportunity to make new friends or visit old companions. They train easily, need a fair amount of exercise and are durable dogs, which is great for kids learning to interact with a canine playmate.
4. Australian Terrier
Training will be a cinch with an Australian terrier, who is smart and ready to get moving! They’ve got tons of energy and bore easily, so a house full of kids sounds like their ideal scenario. Territorial behavior pops up around other dogs, so if you’re into a one-dog household, this pup is for you.
5. Border Terrier
Border terriers were bred in the English and Scottish countryside, so they’ve got an instinct for outdoorsy playtime. However, they know when it’s time to come home for dinner (aka they are obedient and even-tempered). Affection is never in short supply with these pups.
6. Parson Russell Terrier
Considered happy-go-lucky, Parson Russell terriers just want to have a good time, you guys! Let him run around the yard with the kids or fetch balls at the beach! This dog is like the nice jock in an ’80s romcom—athletic, cute and surprisingly humble about it all.
7. Biewer Terrier
Looking for a small dog that takes direction well, doesn’t excite easily and wants nothing more than to be your BFF? Check out the Biewer terrier. They look like little Yorkies but are much less stubborn and much more cheerful. Biewer terriers don’t tire quickly, either, which is good news for kids looking to frolic.
8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
For a more chill small dog, head toward the nearest Cavalier King Charles spaniel. These pups adapt to your family’s lifestyle (whether you host neighborhood parties or prefer quiet board game nights) and could be the biggest sweethearts on our list. They make great therapy dogs, too, which says it all: comfort and love!
9. Cocker Spaniel
Look deep into the dark, affectionate eyes of a cocker spaniel and you’ll understand immediately why they’re often labeled “merry” and “gentle.” These dogs enjoy hanging out with kiddos as much as they like taking long walks with adults. They’re sensitive, which means although they respond well to commands—so don’t be too harsh about it.
10. German Spitz
A foxlike resemblance makes this dog super cute—but don’t worry, they aren’t as wild or wily. The German spitz is incredibly obedient and ready to have a fun time. While they love their people, strangers who aren’t part of a German spitz’s inner circle will likely get a taste of their wary bark.
There’s something almost goofy about a Havanese, like they’re trying to make us laugh with their mischievous eyes and ability to learn any number of tricks. They adapt well to various environments but will be truly hurt if you just let them out for their exercise instead of joining them in the fun.
12. Miniature Schnauzer
Outgoing. Obedient. Adorable! Miniature schnauzers make excellent family dogs because of their ability to learn commands quickly and engage in fun activities, all while keeping an eye on the ones they love most (hint: that’s you!).
13. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
If their smiling faces are any indication, Pembroke Welsh corgis are always in a happy headspace. A solid combination of loyalty and alertness makes them excellent watchdogs. Content to give affection or get it, a Corgi might just feel like another kid instead of a dog.
Perhaps it’s the Chihuahua that gives small dogs everywhere that feisty reputation. They aren’t big on roughhousing, but they are big on cuddling and doting on their favorite human. Train Chihuahuas early—and well—to ensure they follow household rules. After that, they’ll fit right in.
With their thick, muscular bodies and expressive faces, pugs make some of the funniest companions in the dog world. They love their owners with everything they’ve got and get along well with all ages in most environments (high heat can be dangerous to pugs). Just make sure your pug doesn’t overeat; they’re known for easily packing on pounds.
Give a Pumi something to learn and he’ll understand it in record time. Give him something to play with (like kids with a frisbee) and he’ll be the happiest dog in the land. Pumis love to do stuff and figure out new commands, which makes them excellent dogs for families on the go.
Calm, loyal and only slightly needy, beagles feel right at home with a family of humans ready for mutual doting. In fact, if left alone too long, they may worry and get destructive. Plus, they have perhaps the most quintessential puppy dog eyes of any breed—how can you say no to that face?
18. French Bulldog
A super popular breed these days, the French bulldog is good-natured and a thick bundle of joy. They don’t bark often and are always down to meet someone (or some dog) new. Training should definitely happen earlier, otherwise they can get stubborn (but still lovable).
19. Norwegian Lundehund
Clever and friendly, the Norwegian Lundehund was bred to hunt puffins in Norway. Today, these dogs are known to be energetic and ready to fetch whatever tennis ball is thrown their way. If you’re in the market for a dog that will alert you to strangers and snuggle up with your babes at night, this is the pup for you.