23 Best Small Dogs for First-Time Owners


Are you finally joining the global dog owners club? Then, you came to the right place.

If you’re a first-timer who prefers smaller dog breeds, we’ve listed below the best small dogs for first-time owners so you can easily choose one whose personality speaks to you.

1. Affenpinscher


Standing about 9 to 11.5 inches tall and weighing only 7 to 10 pounds, Affenpinschers are one of the best options for a first-time dog owner living in an apartment.

These dogs are sometimes called “monkey dogs” and “ape terriers” thanks to their dense, shaggy coat of dark hair. If you’re a Star Wars fan, Affenpinschers may strike you as Ewoks or Wookies.

Loyal, curious, and famously funny, you’ll never experience a dull moment with these fearless toy dogs.

  • Highly amusing
  • Loyal
  • Ideal for apartment life

2. Basenji


Basenjis are moderately sized hounds, growing as tall as 17 inches at the shoulders. They sport a short shining coat, wrinkled forehead, and expressive almond-shaped eyes – a combination that’ll charm you in no time.

Basenjis are known for their minimal shedding and are often referred to as cat-like because they tend to keep themselves clean. A routine bath is all you need to provide since you won’t catch them being smelly.

These dogs are rather active and love a good chase so when you take one outside, keep it on a leash. They’re also barkless dogs, which is another plus for first-time owners.

  • Minimal shedding
  • No barking
  • Self groomers
  • Not picky eaters

3. Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise

Bichon Frise dogs are adorable inside and out. They boast a white puffed up coat with a contrasting set of jet black orbs and leathery button nose.

Bichons don’t typically shed, and their coats are considered to be hypoallergenic., which makes them a good option for first-time owners who often suffer from allergies.

Bichons have an inviting personality. They’re playful, curious, and outgoing when introduced to other people, dogs, or kids.

Bichons have moderate energy levels, so they’re not too active nor too idle. They train nicely and don’t like being left alone for long periods – this may result in negative behaviors.

  • Hypoallergenic coat
  • Very friendly
  • Moderate energy

4. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier

Boston Terriers are commonly recognized by their tight tuxedo jacket coats. Their bodies are sporty, compact, and well-balanced, standing tall at 17 inches max.

Boston Terriers are people-oriented animals that make excellent urban pets. Their big round eyes mostly shine with friendliness, with moments of curiosity or mischief.

These dogs are always up for a brisk walk, which is usually an adequate dose of exercise. With a bright personality and impeccable manners, the Boston Terrier has earned the nickname “The American Gentleman”.

  • Great urban pets
  • Bright
  • Friendly

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The lustrous silky coat is a signature of the regal origins of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed. Although this beauty requires regular brushing, grooming, and frequent baths to upkeep, many people don’t mind doing it all.

Cavaliers have a pretty sheepish nature. They rarely bark, even when introduced to new dogs or new people.

They can act anywhere between full-blown athletes and lazy balls depending on their owner’s lifestyle.

Cavaliers are curious pets with scenting and hunting instincts, but they were bred to be precious lap dogs so they’re strongly inclined to indoor life.

  • Rarely barks
  • Adaptive personality
  • Like to stay indoors

6. Chihuahua


A tiny dog with a massive personality, a Chihuahua stands at 5 to 8 inches tall and weighs no more than 6 pounds.

These dogs are a national symbol of Mexico and many people view them as highly energetic “purse dogs”.

Chihuahuas are alert, balanced, and graceful with erect ears and big, expressive eyes. They’re sassy with a big-dog attitude so training is needed to establish who’s in charge.

  • Very small
  • Highly energetic
  • Ideal city pet

7. Chinese Crested

Chinese Crested

A lively and alert toy breed, the Chinese Crested dog stands between 11 and 13 inches tall, weighing 12 pounds max.

It can be hairless (with smooth skin and tufts of hair on the head, ankles, and tail) or coated (with a soft, silky coat all over the body).

Chinese Crested dogs are practically unmistakable with their spiky, crested hairdo. Besides the unique appearance, these dogs are equally fun, playful, and devoted to their humans.

The hairless variety has the advantage of being low-shedding, which is ultimately more convenient for first-time dog owners.

  • Lively and alert
  • The hairless variety is low-shedding
  • Ultra affectionate

8. Coton de Tulear

Coton de Tulear

Exceptionally cheerful and outgoing, Coton de Tulear dogs are clever, light-hearted, and will definitely keep you amused with their non-stop antics.

They sport a beautiful coat that’s white as snow, soft as cotton, and generally considered to be hypoallergenic.

Cotons do require a fair share of attention, but chances are you’ll be more than happy to give it!

This breed is also non-shedding, which is good news for any dog owner.

As for their energy scale, Cotons moderately active dogs. They enjoy slow-paced walks which are usually enough to stay fit.

  • Very cheerful and outgoing
  • Non-shedding
  • Hypoallergenic

9. Dachshund


Commonly known as Weiner dog, the infamous Dachshund breed is most recognized by an elongated body with a low-profile and tiny legs.

A standard sized Dachshund stands at 9 inches max, whereas a miniature sized one doesn’t grow over 6 inches tall.

Dachshunds have 3 coat types: wirehaired coats, long-haired, and smooth coats. All types are generally categorized as low-shedding.

Dachshunds are quite spirited creatures. Their top-notch sense of smell allows for their curious nature to fully breakthrough. However, their limited physical abilities make playing around the house or apartment enough to satisfy their active side.

  • Low-shedding
  • Spirited dogs
  • Suitable for apartment life

10. Havanese


If you like pets that are intelligent and outgoing, then get ready for the time of your life with the companionship of a Havanese dog.

Native to Cuba, these little dogs are cheerful extroverts. They sport a glamorous silky coat and a curled-over tail.

Their bodies are small but sturdy, carrying an adaptable nature with great social skills – a recipe for an ideal city pet.

Havanese dogs are also smart and quite trainable. They can also be pretty serious watchdogs if you need them to be, otherwise, they’ll keep the barking to a minimum.

  • Extrovert nature
  • Can be excellent watchdogs
  • Don’t bark a lot

11. Japanese Chin

Japanese Chin

Sporting a coat of silky long hair, this small and charming aristocratic lapdog is an ideal roommate, especially for first-time owners.

Japanese Chins have big heads, tiny muzzles, and astonished looking dark orbs. They’re sensitive and loving, but also relatively independent.

This royal breed isn’t keen on being vocal, so barking won’t be an issue. However, they’re rather territorial and will surely let you know if a stranger is nearby.

A Japanese Chin would happily opt for slow walks or some backyard exploration, but they might get too curious so a leash would be a good idea just in case they get too stubborn.

  • Loving nature
  • Mostly quiet
  • Alert for strangers

12. Maltese


If you’re looking for a breed that screams sophistication and luxury, then Maltese dogs are probably a good match. They boast a magnificent coat of long, white, straight hair, with sparkling black eyes that’ll capture your heart.

These little charm balls weigh no more than 7 pounds when fully grown. They rarely shed, but their coats require serious grooming action to avoid mats and tangles.

Maltese dogs are extremely friendly. They typically live into the double digits age, so first time owners can look forward to a lengthy companionship.

  • Stunning coat
  • Very lightweight
  • Extremely friendly

13. Maltipoo


A fairly new breed, Maltipoos are friendly, intelligent, and of course, adorable. Known as a designer dog, a Maltipoo is actually a mix between the Maltese and the Poodle (Toy or Miniature).

These dogs have an average height between 8 to 14 inches tall, and an average between 5 to 20 pounds.

Maltipoos can adjust just fine in both large and small households, and they love curling up to you as much as playing fetch.

Additionally, Maltipoos are classified as hypoallergenic, with very little to none at all shedding.

  • Adorable look
  • Can be both energetic and laid back
  • Hypoallergenic

14. Miniature Schnauzer 

Miniature Schnauzer

The Miniature Schnauzer is the compact version of a standard Schnauzer, standing at 14 inches tall and weighing 20 pounds max.

The prominent beard and bushy eyebrows give these dogs unique bad-ass vibes. They’re strong and courageous, but friendly and joyful around their owners.

Mini Schnauzers rarely shed. Their undercoats lock in loose hairs, which is handy if you suffer from allergies.

Minis have an average energy level, so they can live in the city just as well as in rural homes.

  • Rarely shed
  • Courageous nature
  • Quick learners

15. Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier

Standing no higher than 10 inches at the shoulder, Norfolk Terriers are among the smallest working terriers. They possess a hard, wiry, and straight outer coat with a soft undercoat for heat insulation.

This fun-loving, fearless breed is known to be good travel buddies; they’re adaptable, portable, and down for anything.

Despite their toyish attributes, Norfolk Terriers are confident, alert, and make nice watchdogs.

  • Good travelers
  • Alert as watchdogs
  • Form close bond with owners

16. Papillon


Papillons are tiny dogs measuring at 8 to 11 inches tall at the shoulder.

They possess a distinctive appearance thanks to their large, wing-shaped ears, which is where the breed gets its name (Papillon is French for butterfly).

Papillons are quick, athletic, and curious. They thrive in cool or warm climates, in the city or countryside, and will fit into families in no time.

  • Adaptable
  • Happy nature
  • Agile physique

17. Peekapoo


The Peekapoo is a hybrid dog breed where the Pekingese and Poodle are crossed. The result is a fascinating companion dog who enjoys spending time sitting by your side or curled in your lap.

Peekapos are loyal, affectionate, and can be somewhat protective of their loved ones. They’re playing and easy-going, which makes them perfect for novice dog parents.

Peekapoos adapt well to apartment living with a moderate energy level. These designer dogs are also clever and tend to be rather vocal.

  • Easy going
  • Very affectionate
  • Handle apartment living well

18. Pomeranian


Standing at a maximum of 7 inches tall, the Pomeranian is what comes to many people’s minds when asked about small dogs. These dogs combine a tiny body and a big-dog attitude, which helped deem them one of the world’s most pop toy breeds.

Pomeranians have a dense, puffed double coat with a smiling foxy face that’s almost a trademark of this energetic breed.

Pomeranians are alert and intelligent. They make fine watchdogs and are easily trained. They equally enjoy indoor play and short walks, so being in the city or the suburbs works for them

  • Very tiny
  • Huge personality
  • Great watchdogs

19. Pug


A little dog with a huge heart, Pugs can display a wide range of human-like emotions thanks to their big sparkling eyes and furrowed eyebrows.

They’re mostly quiet dogs, except for the sound of their heavy breathing.

Pugs are sensitive dogs. They possess a strong need to be with their families and will feel very lonely and unhappy if left alone for extended periods.

Pugs are also big on snuggling, so much so that they can easily become obese.

Consequently, they need moderate exercising sessions taking into account their breathing difficulties.

  • Expressive facial features
  • Affectionate dogs
  • Love to snuggle

20. Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog

The Shetland Sheepdog, also known as the Sheltie, stands anywhere between 13 and 16 inches tall.

Playful, bright, and energetic are all words to describe the personality of this Scottish dog. It resembles the look of the Collie, but smaller.

First-time owners will have no issues training their Sheltie. These dogs are world-class competitors in obedience and agility.

Shelties are highly affectionate towards family and reserved when it comes to strangers, so they’re fantastic watchdogs.

  • Highly obedient
  • Bright personality
  • Serve as watchdogs

21. Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu

Practically swimming in a sea of lush hair, Shih Tzu dogs possess incredible beauty emphasized by big, dark heart-melting orbs.

Their long-haired coats are very tempting to let flow, but it’s better to keep it trimmed short if you suffer from allergies. Shih Tzus dogs can really be the life of the party. They’re playful, outgoing, and generally affectionate pets.

As a royal breed, Shih Tzus are excellent house companions. They’re great with kids and love sitting on their owner’s lap.

  • Lush hair
  • Playful nature
  • Great with kids

22. Toy & Miniature Poodle

Toy Poodle

Poodles come in 3 sizes: standard, miniature, and toy. The latter two stand at around 10 inches tall or less.

But no matter their size, Poodles are proud hounds with impressive intelligence and agility.

Poodles are also considered hypoallergenic since their coats are mostly non-shedding with minimal dander release.

These dogs are smart and athletic, which is why they’re an extremely trainable breed that usually dominates dog shows.

Additionally, Poodles are generally peaceful, easy-going, and great with kids.

  • Graceful
  • Non-shedding with minimal dander
  • Good with children

23. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier

Last but not least, the Yorkshire Terrier (or Yorkie for short) is a tiny toy-size terrier that weighs no more than 7 pounds. It sports a silky, glossy, floor-length coat of hair that’d simply described as majestic.

However, don’t be fooled by its size or demeanor, the Yorkie is feisty, brave, and can be even bossy at times.

Such an intense yet affectionate personality packed in a little package made this dog a true celebrity.

  • Fiesty
  • Protective
  • Hypoallergenic

Final Thoughts

First-time owners have nothing to worry about. As you can tell by now, there are dozens of options when it comes to small dog breeds, so taking your pick should be a piece of cake.