So, you want a dog and you think it needs to be a small breed, preferably one that’s slightly challenging but not to the point where it ruins the experience of dog ownership. Which small breeds are best for a first-timer, you ask? Let’s take a look.
What Makes a Dog Breed “Easy?”
Owning a dog is a big responsibility, so we use the term “easy” with caution. All dogs require work on your part, from training and feeding to exercise and grooming. You can’t get past the work if you want them to live full and happy lives.
Even so, some dog breeds require less work in specific areas. For instance, some breeds require more exercise, and others need frequent trips to the groomer. Some dogs are great breeds for families with small children, and others are best for families with older children.
In this list, we’re covering the basics of what we feel characterizes an “easy” breed:
You won’t check all of these boxes. Your dog will have its own personality and quirks, making it unique to other pets. And as a reminder, we’re discussing small breeds. With that said, let’s get started.
The 15 Small Dog Breeds For First Time Owners
1. Miniature Schnauzer
As members of the terrier group, Miniature Schnauzers are excellent farm workers and vermin catchers. These dogs are lovable dogs that are good with small children and decent with other animals. However, some supervision with other dogs is recommended.
One of their best characteristics is their adaptability to physical exercise. Mini Schnauzers will happily lounge or go on a long jog with you. They like to bark, so apartment life may not work well for this breed, but they make great guard dogs.
2. Shih Tzu
Shih Tzus have always lived as fancy lap dogs, so they’re excellent for apartment dwellers. They do well with only 20 minutes of exercise daily and love children and other animals. Because of their small size and indoor history, they can easily injure themselves, so be careful on outings.
You can easily fall prey to the puppy dog look, so train your Shih Tzu well. They also must see the groomer often to keep the silky main lush and luxurious. This is an excellent family pet if you can make peace with frequent grooming trips.
3. Yorkshire Terrier
Known for their spunky personalities, Yorkshire Terriers are one of the smallest terriers on the market. They may be small, but their feisty personalities make them perfect for people looking for a “tough cookie” to add to the family.
Those with children needn’t worry—Yorkies get along well with kids, although other dogs could be a problem. Yorkies hardly shed but will need frequent grooming if you want to keep the long, silky coat looking good (or you could trim the fur short).
If someone knocks on the door, a Maltese will surely meet the person at the door, barking all the way there. These little dogs like to think they’re larger than they appear and aren’t afraid of expressing their opinion.
Regardless, this lap dog is highly affectionate and doesn’t require much physical exercise to keep them happy and healthy. They are playful, charming, and will befriend anyone, including children.
You can keep their fur long and luxurious or take them to the groomer for a trim.
The famous sausage dog is curious, loving, and stubborn. Dachshunds are great guard dogs, don’t require much grooming, and love having fun. If you have a backyard, your Dachshund will likely dig holes to satisfy its hunting instinct.
Unlike other dogs, Dachshunds aren’t built for excessive exercise, so don’t expect to take this breed for a run or long-distance fetch session. They also don’t get along with small children if mishandled. However, in the right home, these quirks can be worked around.
6. Cairn Terrier
The famous Wizard of Oz dog is playful, cheerful, and full of life. They love people, children, and other animals, and enjoy showing off when the time is right. Smaller animals like rabbits and hamsters will trigger their natural instinct to chase and dig, so be careful if you have other small pets.
Cairn Terriers may be small, but they’re not fragile like other small breeds. They adapt quickly to change and don’t shed much. However, Carin’s are prone to skin allergies, so offer a high-quality diet to avoid irritation.
7. Boston Terrier
The Boston Terrier’s quirky personality sparks giggles and laughs. These dogs are entertaining, proving they can be the life of the party anytime, anywhere. They also love everyone and everything, making them great family pets.
Boston’s are basically “barkless,” so they’re excellent for apartment life. Still, they’re not couch potatoes. Boston’s love to run and play. Unfortunately, their flat noses cause breathing problems, so don’t take a Boston outside when the weather is too hot.
8. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have flat heads and longer noses. They’re known as the “old-style breed” and have a kind, loving demeanor. The Lady and the Tramp dog is easy to train, sweet around children, and generally good around other pets.
These dogs are larger than other small breeds, so they can handle rigorous activities like running and climbing. Expect to exercise your Cavalier for at least one hour a day.
Throughout its lifetime, your vet should monitor your Cavalier’s heart, eyes, and hips since it’s prone to ailments in these areas. Their long floppy ears should also be checked for infection.
The Havanese is a Cuban breed and makes an excellent family pet. These dogs are well-known for their friendly demeanor and sociable behaviors. Their cheerful personalities and high energy make them entertaining for everyone of all ages.
Havanese do very well in training and dog sports and make excellent therapy dogs. Barking is a hobby for the Havanese, so expect some chit-chat when on a brisk walk. Ultimately, Havanese dogs enjoy company, so they do best in homes when the owner is always present.
10. Toy or Miniature Poodle
Commonly associated with France, Poodles are actually a German breed. Poodles are highly active, requiring plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. They do very well in active families with small children, are loving, and are highly intelligent. They excel in any training, from puppy classes to service training.
Their dense, spongy fur makes them ideal for homes prone to allergies if you’re willing to take them in for frequent grooming appointments.
The Beagle could be a good fit if you’re looking for a challenge within small dog breeds. They have the energy of a toddler and can be difficult to keep focused on training.
Despite these hurdles, Beagles love people and are modest in their approach to affection. They carry an optimistic attitude, adapting to changes well. Beagles are part of the hound group, so expect them to use their nose and voice when necessary.
12. Australian Terrier
The Australian Terrier is one of the smallest of the terrier group. It’s cuddly, great with children, and doesn’t require much grooming. Australian Terriers are agreeable but can become demanding without early training.
Like other terriers, the Aussie Terrier was bred to clear out vermin and small mammals. Your Aussie Terrier will likely dig and chase other animals when instinct kicks in. These dogs are high-energy and should be monitored closely when around other dogs.
13. Bichon Frise
Bichon Frises have a pep in their step that can’t be ignored. A natural street performer, the adorable Bichon Frise loves everyone and enjoys being the center of attention. These dogs make great city dogs and have a charm that will surely put a smile on your face.
Although they don’t shed, their fur requires hefty grooming. Bichon Frises can be challenging to housebreak, too. If you’re patient and use positive reinforcement, this pup will catch on quickly.
The Affenpinscher is a lesser-known breed, but great for those looking for their first dog. These dogs are comical, friendly, and don’t bark as much as other small breeds. The famous German Monkey Dog is thought to be stubborn but does well in training.
This dog isn’t for you if you’re looking for an active breed. They’re happy to lounge and hunt mice indoors, making them an excellent option for cat people and apartment dwellers. They also shed often, but a good weekly brushing will take care of the excess fur.
The Bolognese is a member of the Bichon family but isn’t as peppy as the Bichon Frise. In fact, this breed is very laid back, preferring to veg on the couch most of the time. Families looking for a playful dog with Labrador-esque energy will want to steer clear of this breed.
Despite their quiet, low-energy demeanor, the Bolognese is friendly and enjoys quality time with its owners. This breed is perfect for those who want a snuggly best friend who likes to hang out.
Did this list give you an idea of what dog you want to adopt? Despite this list, remember that each dog is different. Personality, experience, and training will factor into your experience with a dog.
Take your time researching the right breed and start training early. Doing so will ensure a positive experience for everyone involved.
Featured Image Credit: Zarubina Viktoriia, Shutterstock