With their diminutive stature, baby-faced expressions, and compact sizes that make for perfect cuddling companions, it’s no wonder that toy dog breeds have been cherished by canine aficionados for centuries. From English nobles who adored little lap dogs to tiny pooches who descended from ancient China, small dog breeds have been delighting their owners across the globe for a variety of reasons.
Some folks prefer smaller dogs because they require less physical exertion or strength to care for (since walking an 8 pound dog is a lot easier to control than an 80 pound pooch), while others opt for toy breeds because they’re more appropriate for their living situation. For example, smaller dogs are very popular in urban areas, since they don’t require as much room or vigorous outdoor activity as a larger breed might. For anyone who’s ever lived in a small city apartment, it’s quite easy to see why toy breeds are so popular in metropolitan areas.
However, every small toy dog breed is different, so it’s important for potential pet parents to research a specific breed’s personality traits, characteristics and energy levels before adoption to see if they’re a good fit for their household. Here is a list of toy dog breeds as well as interesting facts and trivia for the true toy dog enthusiast:
1) Toy Poodle: Ranked 7 out of 191 in AKC Breed Popularity, it should come as no surprise why this elegant toy breed has been a favorite among dog lovers – besides boasting glamorous good looks and intelligence, Toy Poodles are also natural entertainers. Beloved in the United States since the early 20th century (when they were bred as a city-dwelling companion dog), Toy Poodles originated from the larger Standard Poodle, whose lineage traces back to Europe over 400 years ago. In fact, the Poodle is the national dog of France. However, the French refer to the breed as the caniche, or “duck dog”, as they were originally bred in Germany for duck hunting. Additionally, these naturally-showy dogs are easily trained, and have a long tradition as featured performers in European circuses.
2) Chihuahua: One of the most popular city breeds on our list, the Chihuahua is actually a national symbol of Mexico – and one of the oldest breeds of the Americas, with the breed’s bloodline dating back to ancient kingdoms of pre-Columbian times. The epitome of the ‘toy’ dog definition, these graceful canines rarely weigh more than 6 pounds, and have great longevity – they usually live 14-16 years. Physical trademarks include their “apple”-shaped head, large, alert ears and big, expressive eyes. However, one of their most notable traits is their “big dog” attitude – charming, loyal and sassy, fans of this breed love their free spirit. While they’re too tiny for roughhousing with small children and require special care in cold temperatures, Chihuahuas are quite adaptable – just so long as they get plenty of TLC from their loving pet parents.
3) Pug: Affectionate and a bit mischievous, these googly-eyed pooches have brought joy to owners for thousands of years – in fact, the Pug is one of the oldest dog breeds known to mankind, dating back to 400 BC! Although the breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1885, this ancient breed can trace its lineage back over 2,000 years ago to Imperial China. While they are small in stature – an adult typically stands between 10-13 inches high – their larger-than-life personalities more than make up for their compact size. In fact, this toy breed’s motto is the Latin phrase “multum in parvo” – a lot in a little. Many owners favor the breed because they make great house pets – equally happy in urban or rural settings, they fare well with children as well as senior citizens, and are also just as happy solo as they are sharing their dwelling with other pet siblings.
4) Pomeranian: Don’t let his tiny size fool you – a Pomeranian is a spunky pooch whose big-dog attitude will more than make up for his dainty proportions! Known for his feisty nature, intelligence, and superb watchdog skills, this breed is trained quite easily and enjoys socializing. Due to their small size, however, most experts won’t recommend them for households with young children who may injure them accidentally. Poms make great pets for senior citizens as well as working professionals, since they aren’t a very dependent breed. Weighing in between 3-7 pounds, this cute but bold breed takes its namesake from the province of Pomerania in Germany. Fun fact: Poms grew wildly popular in the 1890s when Queen Victoria first exhibited some of her beloved dogs in London. In fact, the Queen’s royal Pomeranians frequently traveled with her – and were even protected by special policemen to ensure their safety.
5) Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: Aptly named after King Charles II, ruler of 17th century England, most fans of this gentle yet noble breed love their Cavaliers as much as this royal leader did hundreds of years ago. Affectionate and graceful, the breed is known for its expressive, round eyes and beautiful silky coat. Weighing between 13-18 pounds on average, they are one of the larger toy breeds and have a life expectancy of 12-15 years. While the AKC classifies them in the ‘Toy Group’, the breed possesses what many consider the best of both worlds, as they’re also athletic dogs. Cavaliers are known to get along equally well with other dogs as well as children, making them a great family pet. They also adapt to their owner’s lifestyle – they’re just as content to chill out on the couch as they are to run around and chase squirrels in the yard.
6) Chinese Crested: Although many people assume that this unique-looking breed is completely hairless, they actually come in two varieties – hairless or coated, according to the AKC – and the hairless variety isn’t completely ‘bald’, but features hair in tufts on the head, tail and ankles. Graceful, slender, lively and affectionate, Chinese Crested pooches make great companions and have a fairly long lifespan – their expectancy ranges from 13-18 years. Weighing between 8-12 pounds on average, the ‘hairless’ variety (i.e., the one with less overall hair) is particularly popular among people with allergies, since they have less hair to shed. With their distinctive appearance and easy-going temperament, there are many reasons why this toy breed has grown in popularity among dog lovers – Chinese Crested pups are very loyal creatures, and once they bond with their pet parents, they will show total devotion throughout their lifetime.
7) Yorkshire Terrier: Lovingly known as “Yorkies” by their devoted doggie owners, Yorkshire Terriers are typically affectionate, energetic little pooches who epitomize all of the great characteristics of a standard terrier in a compact package. With an average weight of only 7 pounds, one of their most notable features is their shiny, silky coat of amber and steel blue. However, their sprightly size belies their fierce personalities – brave, steadfast and even a bit bossy at times, Yorkies have plenty of attitude and style to boot and are a favorite among city dwellers around the globe. Since their hair resembles human hair more than animal fur, allergies sufferers may do better with this spirited breed. Fun fact: way before they were groomed to look like the adorable little pooches we know and love, Yorkies actually earned their keep over a century ago as ratters in mills and mines.
8) Papillon: Owing their namesake to France – the word ‘papillon’ is French for ‘butterfly’ – one of the Papillon’s most distinctive physical characteristics is their dramatic wing-shaped ears that resemble the winged insects. Weighing between 5-10 pounds at maturity, these little pooches are treasured for their friendly and cheerful disposition, as well as their beauty and athleticism. Featuring a long, silky coat and a plumed tail, these happy little dogs are hardy and do equally well in hot or cold climates, faring just as well as the city as they do the country. Truly a family dog, these alert canines make great indoor pets, and love to be around their people. However, they still need exercise – and are highly trainable, so teaching a Papillon tricks is second nature to this lively breed.
9) Shih Tzu: Known as the “Lion Dog” by the Chinese, this ancient breed dates back thousands of years – in fact, Imperial breeders from the Chinese emperor’s palace developed the Shih Tzu many centuries ago from Tibetan breeding stock. For hundreds of years, this breed was only reserved for royalty, literally unbeknownst to the rest of the world until around the 1930s. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed wasn’t officially inducted into its ‘Stud Book’ until 1969. Today, Shih Tzus are one of the most popular toy dogs in both the US and the United Kingdom – and it’s no wonder, since they are renowned for their darling personalities, playful manner, outgoing nature and overall affectionate temperament. With their long, flowing coat and very expressive facial features, these dogs continue to win the hearts of their owners as they have done so throughout the ages.
10) Toy Fox Terrier: With their entertaining personalities, compact stature and highly intelligent disposition, Toy Fox Terriers make delightful companions to dog lovers who seek a large personality in a small package. Featuring the best traits of the terrier group and the amusing qualities typically found in toy breeds, Toy Fox Terriers are known for their friendly temperament, lovable nature, and tenacious behavior – in other words, there’s no shortage of charisma in this charming breed. With a handsome coat and a lean physique, these graceful dogs began as barnyard ratters, so it comes as no surprise that they are quite agile and naturally active. According to the AKC, they often found their way into show business, including the circus as trick dogs.
As you can see, there are many loving dogs that fit within the toy breed category. Whether you go for the famous Shih Tzu or the loving Cavalier, all these toy breeds can make for loving, fun additions to any household.