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Most popular small dog breeds

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CHRISTOPHE SIMON // Getty Images

Most popular small dog breeds

Dogs are the most popular pet in America with 63.4 million U.S. households owning one in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute. They’re also the most abandoned pets. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals reports that approximately 3.3 million dogs end up in shelters each year—a considerable number of animals being deserted by owners who find they can’t care for them properly.

If you’re considering adding a dog to your family, doing plenty of research beforehand is essential. Part of being a responsible pet owner is being realistic about what you can handle. For example, are you living in a city apartment or on a large farm? Do you have room for a big dog to stretch their legs, or should you stick to something smaller? Does the pooch need to mix well with kids or other dogs? Do you have lots of time to devote to a needy breed or should you be looking for something more independent?

Stacker is here to help that research and decision-making process go more smoothly. Using data from the American Kennel Club dog profiles, we’ve compiled a list of the 30 most popular small dog breeds. To be considered for the list, each dog’s max height must be at most 20 inches, and its max weight must be less than 50 pounds. We’ve ranked the dogs by their 2018 AKC popularity rank, which was released in 2019.

From celebrity favorites like Italian greyhounds to the Queen’s preferred Pembroke Welsh corgi to old favorites like Yorkies and shih tzus, these smaller breeds may be short in stature but they have a great deal to offer in other areas. Bubbly personalities, cuddly couch potatoes, and high-energy athletes are among these beloved breeds—there’s sure to be a canine companion for everyone on our list.

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#30. Chinese crested

- Height of dog: 11–13 inches
- Weight of dog: 8–12 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #79 of 191
- Temperament: affectionate, alert, lively
- Life expectancy: 13–18 years

The exact origins of the Chinese crested are ancient and unknown, but it is assumed they evolved from hairless African dogs who were reduced in size through Chinese breeding. There are two versions of the dog today: a hairless variety that has tufts of fur around its head, tail, and ankles and a coated variety (dubbed the “powderpuff”) that boasts a soft, shiny mane all over its body. The playful, loving pups make great family dogs and are good around children.

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Lenkadan // Shutterstock

#29. Italian greyhounds

- Height of dog: 13–15 inches
- Weight of dog: 7–14 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #73 of 191
- Temperament: playful, alert, sensitive
- Life expectancy: 14–15 years

This short-haired pup is the smallest member of the Gazehound (or sighthound) family, originating in the area that is now Turkey and Greece some 2,000 years ago. A favorite with celebrities like Kylie Jenner, Italian greyhounds are sweet and playful, combining the sedated nature of lap dogs with the active nature of a hound. Relatively low-maintenance, Italian greyhounds require slightly more care in the winter, when their low body fat necessitates special accommodations like sweaters and boots to make sure they stay warm.

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#28. Lhasa Apsos

- Height of dog: 10–11 inches (male), slightly smaller (female)
- Weight of dog: 12–18 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #71 of 191
- Temperament: confident, smart, comical
- Life expectancy: 12–15 years

Lhasa Apso dogs have been serving as sentinels for palaces and Buddhist monasteries in the Himalayan Mountains for over a thousand years. The long, straight-haired breed became popular in America after the 14th Dalai Lama brought them over as gifts in the late 1940s. Lhasa Apsos' luscious coats require regular grooming and attention to avoid matting, and they can be aloof with strangers, so owners need to ensure they can accommodate the dog’s needs before bringing them home.

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#27. Miniature pinschers

- Height of dog: 10–12.5 inches
- Weight of dog: 8–10 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #70 of 191
- Temperament: fearless, fun-loving, proud
- Life expectancy: 12–16 years

Native to Germany and incredibly popular in Europe, miniature pinschers are an active, stubborn breed. They require ample exercise (experts recommend at least two walks a day) and are seldom content to just lounge around the house with their owners. The pups are famous for their high “hackney” gait, which is reminiscent of a horse at a trot.

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#26. Cairn terriers

- Height of dog: 10 inches (male), 9.5 inches (female)
- Weight of dog: 14 pounds (male), 13 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #69 of 191
- Temperament: alert, cheerful, busy
- Life expectancy: 13–15 years

Cairn terriers have been rooting out rodents and foxes in the Scottish Highlands since at least the 1600s, but the most famous member of the breed, Terry, only became nationally recognized in 1939 after being chosen to play Toto in a small MGM production titled “The Wizard of Oz.” The shaggy, alert, and active dogs have been described as the ideal pals thanks to their unending loyalty and close bonds with both children and adults. The breed does well in almost any living situation, from small apartments to larger farms, as long as they get some amount of regular exercise.

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Daniel Stockman // Flickr

#25. Cardigan Welsh corgis

- Height of dog: 10.5–12.5 inches
- Weight of dog: 30–38 pounds (male), 25-34 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #68 of 191
- Temperament: affectionate, loyal, smart
- Life expectancy: 12–15 years

Just looking at a Cardigan Welsh corgi you might not guess that the breed is particularly athletic or outdoorsy, but you’d be grossly mistaken. One of the oldest British breeds, it is thought that Cardigan Welsh Corgis were brought by the Celts to Britain around 1200 B.C. in order to drive and herd cattle. The small pups have a “big dog” bark, but are faithful and particularly fond of children. That being said, the social breed needs plenty of regular exercise and ample space to explore.

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Dawid Kolano // Flickr

#24. Scottish terriers

- Height of dog: 10 inches
- Weight of dog: 19–22 pounds (male), 18-21 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #57 of 191
- Temperament: confident, independent, spirited
- Life expectancy: 12 years

Nicknamed “the diehard,” Scottish terriers are aloof and cantankerous, best serving as watchdogs and not lapdogs. One expert has called the breed, “the oldest variety of the canine race indigenous to Britain,” where they’ve been serving as hunting companions for thousands of years. Scottish terriers peaked in popularity during the 1930s and ‘40s, and perhaps the most famous of all their ranks was Fala, President Roosevelt’s dog during World War II.

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#23. Papillons

- Height of dog: 8–11 inches
- Weight of dog: 5–10 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #54 of 191
- Temperament: friendly, alert, happy
- Life expectancy: 14–16 years

It is papillons’ most distinctive feature, their large wing-shaped ears, that gives them their name (papillon is French for butterfly). A favorite with European royalty—Marie Antoinette owned one called Thisbe—the pups were bred as companions for noblewomen as early as the Renaissance. A great indoor pet, papillons don’t require much special attention at all: They thrive in all climates, their long coat doesn’t need regular grooming, and they get along well with family members both big and small.

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#22. Soft coated Wheaten terriers

- Height of dog: 18-19 inches (male), 17–18 inches (female)
- Weight of dog: 35-40 pounds (male), 30–35 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #53 of 191
- Temperament: friendly, happy, deeply devoted
- Life expectancy: 12–14 years

An “iron fist in a velvet glove” soft coated Wheaten terriers are muscled farm dogs covered in a soft golden coat. The friendly-but-stubborn Irish pups can be difficult to train and need lots of exercise, but make great additions to families who are willing to put in the work.

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#21. Spaniels (English cocker)

- Height of dog: 16–17 inches (male), 15-16 inches (female)
- Weight of dog: 28–34 pounds (male), 26-32 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #52 of 191
- Temperament: energetic, merry, responsive
- Life expectancy: 12–14 years

Centuries ago, before the development of hunting rifles, Englishmen began breeding spaniels to assist with bird hunting. English Cocker spaniels are a direct result of this breeding and were often used by Victorian-era hunters to suss out and bring home feathered game. The silky coated dogs are merry, eager to please, easy to train, and make great family companions.

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#20. Bichons frises

- Height of dog: 9.5–11.5 inches
- Weight of dog: 12–18 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #46 of 191
- Temperament: playful, curious, peppy
- Life expectancy: 14–15 years

Ideal city dogs, bichons frises are hypoallergenic couch potatoes who mix well with strangers and other pups. The breed is most noted for their big personalities: The dogs have often found success in showbiz and even earned their keep as circus performers in the late 1700s. One thing’s for certain, these comical, outgoing, and charming dogs are sure to bring joy to the lives of everyone around them.

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#19. Shiba inu

- Height of dog: 14.5–16.5 inches (male), 13.5-15.5 inches (female)
- Weight of dog: 23 pounds (male), 17 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #44 of 191
- Temperament: alert, active, attentive
- Life expectancy: 13–16 years

Shiba Inus, the most popular canine companions in Japan, are relative newcomers to the West, arriving in America as little as 60 years ago. Almost fox-like in appearance and movement, these small dogs have been working as hunters in Japan since 300 B.C. The breed’s history means that they require a decent amount of exercise and cannot be trusted off the leash, but they are also sweet and adaptable companions content to lounge around with their owners for hours at a time.

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#18. West Highland white terriers

- Height of dog: 11 inches (male). 10 inches, female
- Weight of dog: 15–20 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #42 of 191
- Temperament: loyal, happy, entertaining
- Life expectancy: 13–15 years

Called Westies for short, West Highland white terriers have been bred in Scotland as rodent-catching dogs since the 1700s and have been popular companion dogs in America since the early 1900s. Their distinctive white fur gives them a plush-toy-like appearance, but their independent nature means they don’t generally act like the cuddly companions they’re perceived to be. Westies require little-to-no pampering and have few health issues, making them a great option for owners who are on the hunt for a low-maintenance pet.

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#17. Maltese

- Height of dog: 7–9 inches
- Weight of dog: under 7 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #37 of 191
- Temperament: gentle, playful, charming
- Life expectancy: 12–15 years

If Westies are the most low-maintenance small white pups out there, Maltese are the exact opposite. Their long white coats require daily brushing, they are prone to dental disease, and their stubborn nature can make them hard to train. That being said the dogs are playful, outgoing, and (barring any major health issues) generally live long lives, perfect for those looking to make a long-term canine commitment.

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Lextergrace // Wikimedia Commons

#16. Miniature American shepherds

- Height of dog: 14–18 inches (male), 13-17 inches (female)
- Weight of dog: 20–40 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #34 of 191
- Temperament: good-natured, intelligent, devoted
- Life expectancy: 12–13 years

In the 1960s small Australian shepherds were bred to create an even more petite version of the herding dog, which the American Kennel Club classified as miniature American shepherds. Unwaveringly loyal and lively, these dogs make great, easily trainable companions and traveling partners. However, they do shed a considerable amount and require plenty of exercise to stay fit and healthy.

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#15. Chihuahuas

- Height of dog: 5–8 inches
- Weight of dog: not exceeding 6 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #33 of 191
- Temperament: charming, graceful, sassy
- Life expectancy: 14–16 years

It’s unknown exactly how long Chihuahuas have been around, but it’s certainly been centuries—the miniature pups decorate artifacts of several different lost civilizations. There are two varieties of this big personality pooch, long-haired and smooth-coat, both of whom require ample training to ensure they don’t rule the household like a “little Napoleon.” Ideal city dogs, Chihuahuas require very little exercise or space to roam and could be quite content living in a small apartment.

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#14. Spaniels (cocker)

- Height of dog: 14.5–15.5 inches (male), 13.5–14.5 inches (female)
- Weight of dog: 25–30 pounds (male), 20–25 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #30 of 191
- Temperament: gentle, smart, happy
- Life expectancy: 10–14 years

In the 1950s, Cocker spaniels were the most popular dog breed in America. Their glorious coats, which require frequent and involved grooming, are the breed’s biggest draw behind their happy and playful personality. Cocker spaniels make great playmates for children and their eager-to-please attitudes make them easy to train.

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#13. Pugs

- Height of dog: 10–13 inches
- Weight of dog: 14–18 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #28 of 191
- Temperament: charming, mischievous, loving
- Life expectancy: 13-15 years

Another ancient breed, pugs were the preferred dogs of the Chinese emperors and Holland’s royal House of Orange. Small and muscular, these dogs are prone to obesity, but with regular exercise can maintain good health. Their sweet, loving, couch-potato nature makes them a perfect companion for less-active owners.

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#12. Shetland sheepdogs

- Height of dog: 13–16 inches
- Weight of dog: 15–25 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #25 of 191
- Temperament: playful, energetic, bright
- Life expectancy: 12–14 years

Originally bred in the U.K.'s northernmost point, the Shetland Islands, Shetland sheepdogs look like a smaller, more compact version of their collie dog cousins. Used as herders, Shelties are incredibly vocal and wary of strangers but they are sensitive and affectionate towards their owners. Shelties are good with children and would make a great family dog.

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#11. Havanese

- Height of dog: 8.5–11.5 inches
- Weight of dog: 7–13 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #24 of 191
- Temperament: intelligent, outgoing, funny
- Life expectancy: 14–16 years

The only dog breed native to Cuba, Havanese dogs first came to America with their owners on the heels of Fidel Castro’s revolution. The dog has become increasingly popular with city dwellers over recent years as they don’t require too much space or exercise to stay happy and healthy. Havanese are smart, playful, and funny dogs who are easy to train and fairly extroverted.

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#10. Pomeranians

- Height of dog: 6–7 inches
- Weight of dog: 3–7 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #23 of 191
- Temperament: inquisitive, bold, lively
- Life expectancy: 12–16 years

Often called ideal companions, Pomeranians are intelligent, playful, and sweet. The favorite of Queen Victoria, the little fluffy dogs seem to have a permanent smile stamped on their faces and have been known to make great therapy dogs. The pups do require frequent grooming and their small size makes them prone to injuries, but when cared for correctly they’re active and fun.

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#9. Boston terriers

- Height of dog: 15–17 inches
- Weight of dog: 12–25 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #21 of 191
- Temperament: friendly, bright, amusing
- Life expectancy: 11–13 years

The official mascot of Boston University for nearly 100 years, Boston terriers are native to the East Coast city. Easily identifiable by their “tuxedo” coat, the breed is alert, social, and happy-go-lucky. They do well in urban areas and small living quarters as long as they’re exercised regularly by their owners.

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#8. Shih Tzu

- Height of dog: 9–10.5 inches
- Weight of dog: 9–16 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #20 of 191
- Temperament: affectionate, playful, outgoing
- Life expectancy: 10–18 years

First bred by imperial breeders in the palace of the Chinese emperor, shih tzus were virtually unknown to the outside world until the 1930s. Since then, the tiny pooch has become a favorite in America and the U.K. The dogs are calm, preferring snoozing on the couch to hiking in the woods, and affectionate (especially with children).

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#7. Miniature schnauzers

- Height of dog: 12–14 inches
- Weight of dog: 11–20 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #19 of 191
- Temperament: friendly, smart, obedient
- Life expectancy: 12–15 years

The smallest of the Schnauzer breeds, miniature schnauzers are sturdy dogs who love vigorous play. The pups get along well with other dogs and kids and are known to make great watchdogs.

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Kbwatts // Wikimedia Commons

#6. Cavalier King Charles spaniels

- Height of dog: 12–13 inches
- Weight of dog: 13–18 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #18 of 191
- Temperament: affectionate, gentle, graceful
- Life expectancy: 12–15 years

Named for King Charles II, Cavalier King Charles spaniels are among the most adaptable dog breeds. A mix between a toy breed and a sporting breed, the dogs are content leading either an active or a homebody life depending on what their owner exposes them to. The sweet and friendly dogs are prone to several health issues however, including eye conditions, hip dysplasia, and neurological conditions.

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#5. Pembroke Welsh corgis

- Height of dog: 10–12 inches
- Weight of dog: up to 30 pounds (male), up to 28 pounds (female)
- AKC popularity rank: #13 of 191
- Temperament: affectionate, smart, alert
- Life expectancy: 12–13 years

Queen Elizabeth II’s favorite breed, Pembroke Welsh corgis were originally created to herd animals on English farms—a far cry for the royal palace. Affectionate but not needy, independent, and incredibly active, these pups aren’t for everyone, but those who can meet the dogs’ need for frequent exercise will be rewarded with a most loyal companion.

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#4. Dachshunds

- Height of dog: 8–9 inches (standard), 5–6 inches (miniature)
- Weight of dog: 16–32 pounds (standard), 11 pounds and under (miniature)
- AKC popularity rank: #12 of 191
- Temperament: friendly, curious, spunky
- Life expectancy: 12–16 years

A German breed, dachshunds come in two varieties, standard size (16–32 pounds) or miniature (11 pounds or under). Smart, brave, and stubborn these long and low dogs are pretty active but are certainly indoor dogs thanks to their social nature. Their loud, hound-ish bark is a holdover from their days as badger hunters some 300 years ago.

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#3. Yorkshire terriers

- Height of dog: 7–8 inches
- Weight of dog: 7 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #10 of 191
- Temperament: affectionate, sprightly, tomboyish
- Life expectancy: 11–15 years

With their long, silky coat and companionable nature, Yorkshire terriers have long acted as companions to fashionable ladies. Their fur, which is very akin to human hair, requires consistent grooming and is low-allergen. The sweet, friendly pups have been among the top 10 most popular dog breeds since 2013.

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#2. Beagles

- Height of dog: 13 inches and under, 13–15 inches
- Weight of dog: under 20 pounds (13 inches and under), 20–30 pounds (13–15 inches)
- AKC popularity rank: #6 of 191
- Temperament: friendly, curious, merry
- Life expectancy: 10–15 years

After they began arriving in America around the time of the Civil War, beagles became instantly popular and have remained among the most popular breeds ever since. Bred to hunt in packs the dogs are incredibly social and thrive when placed in a home that has other dogs. They also need at least an hour of strenuous exercise every day to help them run off energy and maintain their health.

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#1. French bulldogs

- Height of dog: 11–13 inches
- Weight of dog: under 28 pounds
- AKC popularity rank: #4 of 191
- Temperament: adaptable, playful, smart
- Life expectancy: 10–12 years

Bright, affectionate, and quiet French bulldogs have long been one of the most popular small dog breeds. City pups at heart, these dogs don’t require lots of outdoor exercise and love being social. However, due to their squished snouts, they often suffer from breathing problems and are known to have eye conditions.

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