Pet Keen is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

Home > Dogs > 10 Best Small Dog Breeds for Families: Pictures, Facts & History

10 Best Small Dog Breeds for Families: Pictures, Facts & History

happy family with white dog

It’s always important to research the traits and quirks of any dog you’re welcoming into your home, especially when you have children or other family members. Small breeds are attractive because they don’t eat as much, don’t shed as much, and they’re less threatening than larger breeds.

You want a breed that’s friendly, affectionate, and more social than a breed for a single person or even a couple. Then there’s coat maintenance like grooming and baths. All the responsibility can be a lot to handle. If you’re thinking about adopting a new dog but aren’t sure where to start, we’ve got you covered. Check out the best small breeds for families down below.


The 10 Best Small Dog Breeds for Families

1. Beagle

beagle dog crawling
Image Credit: Masarik, Shutterstock
Weight: 18–25 pounds
Lifespan: 12–15 years

Beagles are one of the best small dogs for families, though they’re more accurately smaller medium-sized dogs. They’re lively, charming, and very loving dogs but without the timidity you often see with more agreeable small breeds. They’re natural pack dogs that instinctively treat family members as their pack, children and other pets included. Like all dogs, Beagles can be a little rowdy when young, and they’ll need plenty of supervision and training to weed out bad habits while reinforcing good behavior.

2. Yorkshire Terrier

standard yorkshire terrier standing on grass
Image Credit: Imageman, Shutterstock
Weight: 3–7 pounds
Lifespan: 13–15 years

Yorkies are a solid choice for any family, with a tiny size, long lifespan, and star-of-the-show winning personality. They can be a little bossy and clingy, but that belies a sugar-sweet demeanor and close-knit loyalty to their family. They will let you know about any unexpected knocks at the door! The downside to all this is that their coats require regular trims to stay presentable.

3. Bichon Frise

bichon frise dog sitting on a wooden surface
Image Credit: Spill Photography, Shutterstock
Weight: 7–12 pounds
Lifespan: 14–16 years

It’s been speculated that Bichon Frises aspire to be stand-up comics—there’s simply no other explanation considering their undying penchant for making us laugh. They’re one of the sweetest dog breeds out there, with a fluffy fur coat you’ll want to run your fingers through and snuggle 24/7. Bichons are kind dogs by nature, but they’re shockingly sassy and mischievous when they want to be. Of course, their coats are fairly high maintenance, but that’s just the price you pay for a snuggly fluff ball like a Bichon.

4. Pomeranian

brown pomeranian polar bear cut
Image Credit: Smit Photos, Shutterstock
Weight: 3–7 pounds
Lifespan: 12–16 years

Affectionately dubbed Poms by their zealous devotees, Pomeranians are a true toy breed that stays small and with a notably long life expectancy. Poms are spunky attention hogs with a cheerful mischievousness you just can’t get mad at, though they’ll try your patience at times. They’re gregarious pups that thrive on socialization, and they can effortlessly make fast friends with children when properly supervised. Sadly, Pomeranians are far from low shedding, requiring regular trims and baths to keep clean.

5. American Eskimo Dog

Miniature American Eskimo Dog playing outside
Image Credit: Pixabay
Weight: 6–35 pounds
Lifespan: 13–15 years

Also called Eskies, American Eskimo Dogs are strikingly similar to Pomeranians and, in fact, are part of the same Nordic spitz family of canines. They have a showy streak that made them famous in the circus, and they are whip-smart dogs with an eagerness to please that makes them fine family pets. Their only real downside is a super thick double coat that’ll need lots of grooming and vacuuming to keep off your furniture. They come in miniature to standard sizes to fit neatly in any home as well.

6. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

cavalier charles king spaniel couple on grass
Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock
Weight: 10–18 pounds
Lifespan: 12–15 years

Most people know the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel by their silky, droopy ears, but they’re also beloved for their endearing temperament and heart-melting puppy eyes. Though small, they have a big personality and need lots of exercise to stave off boredom and anxiety. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a natural choice for families, but they’re also a very popular choice for empty nesters seeking companionship.

7. Poodle

White toy poodle dog on grass at sunset
Image Credit: NicoPerez, Shutterstock
Weight: 14–50 pounds
Lifespan: 12–15 years

Another popular dog that comes in multiple sizes, the Poodle is a fluffy show dog with genius-level intellect. They’ve sparred with the German Shepherd for the smartest dog for years now. All sizes of Poodle are very tolerant of children and don’t mind a good afternoon romp outside, but they’re just as happy to curl up by your feet in the evening. The cherry on top is that Poodles are surprisingly a low-shedding breed, but they do require regular grooming and trims.

8. Pekingese

white pekingese
Image Credit: RAFZILLA, Pixabay
Weight: 6–14 pounds
Lifespan: 12–14 years

Like Pugs, Pekingese were bred to be lap dogs for Imperial Chinese royalty, and that loving, loyal skill set has definitely carried through the centuries. They’re sometimes called Velcro dogs because of the way they shadow their favorite people everywhere, and you can’t help but fawn over that snazzy lion’s mane they’ve got going on. Pekingese are polite toward strangers and don’t bark a ton, which is reassuring for some folks, but they need comprehensive grooming on a routine basis to look their Sunday best.

9. Maltese

cute female maltese dog
Image Credit: tsik, Shutterstock
Weight: 3–8 pounds
Lifespan: 12–15 years

Maltese are a fluffy, sprightly little toy breed that makes a marvelous companion for families, seniors, or apartment dwellers in general. They’re fun-loving but don’t need as much exercise as more active toy breeds and, in fact, can get a little overwhelmed with young children. However, you can help mellow them out with ample socialization and training from a young age.

10. Chihuahua

Portrait of a cute chihuahua puppy
Image Credit: kei907, Shutterstock
Weight: 2–6 pounds
Lifespan: 15–17 years

Bred to be rat catchers in Mexico, Chihuahuas are a sassy, long-lived, and protective breed that’s more independent than more clingy breeds like the Maltese. They’re not great for families with little kids and can’t roughhouse because of their diminutive size, which makes training a must to prevent injury. Chihuahuas have a lot of personality deviance from dog to dog, and some are silent shadows rather than feisty attention-loving gremlins; it all depends on your dog.



Getting a dog when you have a family, especially one with children, can be a challenge even when everyone’s on the same page about what you’re looking for. The good news is that you have countless breeds to browse and fall in love with, whether it’s a posh Bichon Frise or a larger-than-life Pomeranian. Don’t forget grooming, either. Choose a breed that’s compatible with the amount of time you have to devote to grooming them.

Featured Image Credit: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock

Our vets

Want to talk to a vet online?

Whether you have concerns about your dog, cat, or other pet, trained vets have the answers!

Our vets