From the sassy Yorkshire Terrier to the gentlemanly Boston Terrier, small dogs (classified here as generally under 25 pounds) win big kudos with Americans. Now some of the bigger small breeds may balk at inclusion in this list (“Pour l’amour de Dieu! I weigh 5 times more than a Chihuahua!” says the French Bulldog). Even so, all of our named popular small breeds fit nicely on laps. That alone, I would contend, is a great canine classification scheme!
1. Yorkshire Terriers, weighing about 7 pounds, are one of the smallest and yet most popular breeds. Bred in England to control rat populations, the Yorkie today primarily controls (well he likes to think so!) his family with sweet cuddles and his neighborhood with bossy protestations, such as the ever-popular: “how dare you walk by my house, Mr. Stranger!” Yorkies make lovely apartment companions, requiring walks, playtimes, and plenty of attention, but not huge spaces. They do well with older children, but may be exasperated with toddlers. Despite their small size, they’re true Terriers; families should expect a smattering of sassiness along with affection and loyalty.
2. Toy Poodles, daintily tipping the scales between 6 and 9 pounds, are one of three Poodle varieties. Rather than the oft-shared account that Toy Poodles were sized down from Standard Poodles, some historians contend the Toy Poodle may actually be the oldest variety. Easy to train, adaptable, and social, the Toy Poodle loves exercise and activity, exceling in sports such as obedience and (don’t underestimate him!) tracking. A properly socialized Toy Poodle does well with animals and children, although supervision, given his petite size, is always warranted. A rambunctious child or big dog could accidentally hurt him.
3. The increasingly popular French Bulldog, weighing about 22 to 28 pounds, is positioned right between medium and small. Historically, as English lace makers brought their Bulldogs over to France, the newly developed French Bulldog gained popularity in France, apparently even with Parisian call-girls. Today’s Frenchie is a social, laid-back, affectionate, low-maintenance companion with a hearty appetite and a charming repertoire of snores. Just don’t expect focus on the “heel, sit, stay, down” routines we try to coordinate.
4. While both sizes of Dachshunds (miniatures weigh up to 11 pounds, standards between 16 and 32 pounds) may fall into a small dog class, the miniature Doxie more certainly meets my “fits on a lap” qualifier. Although small, Dachshunds are tough and hardy. Developed with a unique body shape to hunt badgers and hole-digging vermin, today’s Doxies excel in barn hunts, earth dog trials, and tracking. They’re not nearly as interested in classic obedience work. But we can’t fault them for independent thinking: we developed them for self-governing hunting. It’s not like we followed them down badger holes!
5. The Miniature Schnauzer, weighing about 10 to 15 pounds, is known for his charm, his whiskers, and his distinctive “schnauze.” Bred in Germany for farm work and controlling rodent populations, the Miniature Schnauzer today is small enough to live happily in apartments, but robust enough for family fun and play. Merrier than many in his terrier grouping (No, I’m not going to name names!), the Schnauzer is smart, spunky, curious, and trainable, excelling in dog sports such as rally and barn hunts. A socialized Schnauzer is usually okay with children. Some, like any terrier, may be scrappy or suspicious of other, especially same-sex, dogs.
6.The royally-appreciated Shih Tzu has a wide range of acceptable weights, tipping the scales somewhere between 9 and 16 pounds. The little lion dog may be one of the earliest and smallest Tibetan holy dogs. For centuries in China, the Shih Tzu were favored by imperial rulers. Generally even-tempered and biddable, the Shih Tzu’s sole purpose is to love and be loved. He wasn’t bred to chase rodents, work on farms, or sound the alarm (although some do bark at newcomers, they rarely chase them away). While the Shih Tzu needs daily walking, he’s a great apartment companion since he doesn’t need around-the-clock exercise. He’s good-natured with respectful children, and normally does okay with other animals too. As for training, although he’s an agreeable breed, he’s got a mind of his own, and certainly no history of servitude (me? Work? Didn’t you see the royal pedigree?)
7. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, weighing about 13 to 18 pounds, was bred as a comfort companion. Often painted alongside royalty, the Cavalier was a favorite of royalty, including Charles II. Bred for gentleness, the sturdy Cavalier also thrived on activities, such as frolicking on (not guarding!) palace grounds. Today’s Cavalier makes a friendly and fun family dog. He may tell you the delivery man has arrived, but that’s about as far as his watchdog instincts go. Friendly with other dogs and children, the Cavalier adapts to many living environments, including apartment life if he’s walked daily. As for trainability, his commitment to obedience isn’t quite as reliable as his commitment to companionship and cuddling.
8. The Pomeranian, weighing 3 to 7 pounds, descends from larger Spitz breeds and has a history of sheep herding in his genes. Bred down to a smaller size in the Pomerania region, the Pom was a favorite of Queen Victoria of England. Confident, bold, and spunky, Poms take on the world with exuberance. Although affectionate, they’re not insecure or clingy. Content with short walks and indoor play, Poms can live nicely in apartments. Like most companion dogs, Poms make top rate friends but second-rate guard dogs. Although probably too delicate for toddlers, Poms do well with older children and generally don’t grumble about other animals. Shining in agility, rally, and obedience, Poms also climb with remarkable skill (if there was a dog sport for climbing out of pens, Poms would likely dominate!)
9. The American Gentleman, the Boston Terrier (divided into weight classes) weighs between about 10 and 25 pounds. Bred in the eastern US from Terrier and bully breeds, the original crossing by stable hands may have been to develop fighting dogs, but the focus soon became companionship. Stable workers were known to bring early Boston Terriers in to the family, saying they were far too friendly to be anything but companions. Gentle and social, the Boston lives for togetherness and fun. Adaptable to apartment-living, the Boston tires out nicely after walks. Friendly with newcomers and usually good with children, a socialized Boston does fine with other dogs, but won’t run from a challenge. Eager for inclusion, Bostons enjoy sports such as rally or agility. Owners simply need some patience (and a sense of humor) in the training arena. The American Gentleman, after all, has some independent Terrier genes topped off by a flair for the comical. Remember, he puts the highest value on fun. He may ham it up for the audience rather than perfect his moves at a sporting venue!
10. Weighing less than six pounds, a Chihuahua sits — and fits –easily on family laps. The Chihuahua originated in early Mexico, with links to ancient Techichi dogs. Developed for sacred purposes (such as being sacrificed to help his owner on the perilous passage to the afterlife!). as well as companionship, Chihuahuas were popular with Aztecs. Today many Chihuahuas still exhibit a saucy, lordly air, and they typically shower affection on one special person, not the world at large. Rather oblivious to their size, Chihuahuas often seriously take on the role of watchdog. They generally get along nicely with the family pets, especially other Chihuahuas. If socialized, a Chihuahua can do well with older, respectful children, but he can be unpredictable with young (equally unpredictable!) children.