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Is a small-breed dog right for your family?

Small-breed dogs are special. From the twinkle in their eyes to their tiny, adorable toes, small-breed dogs quickly wiggle their way into your heart and set up camp. But, is a small-breed dog the right choice for your family?

Many people assume that because a dog is small, they won’t be loud or rambunctious. While many small-breed dogs are also calm, the words “quiet,” tranquil,” or” serene” simply do not describe many pint-sized pups.

Just as some dogs are genetically predisposed to specific health conditions based solely on their breed, some are more likely to be affected by diseases based on their size. For example, large- and giant-breed dogs are affected by hip and elbow dysplasia at a higher rate than small-breed dogs. While we mention health conditions specific to an individual breed in the following list, it is important to remember that small-breed dogs in general are at an increased risk of developing:

  • Patellar luxation
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Dental disease

Here’s a closer look at a few small-breed dogs. Which one might be a perfect fit for your family?

Brussels Griffon dog breed

Brussels Griffon

This breed’s roots are planted firmly in Belgium. One part boisterous and one part clown, the Brussels Griffon made an easy transition from the streets of Brussels to the laps of Americans, and their main job today is keeping their owner company.

  • Living arrangements — They are a small and energetic dog so having enough room for them to run around your home is ideal. Griffons also tend to get lonely easily so they’ll want a lot of attention!
  • Exercise requirements — This breed needs daily mental and physical stimulation, but luckily, their small size makes indoor exercise a breeze.
  • Health — Cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and brachycephalic syndrome are concerns.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles spaniel (CKCS) is one breed who embodies friendliness. As an added bonus, these spaniels rarely bark or dig, and they are 100% adorable, to boot.

  • Living arrangements — The CKCS does well in any size family, from a party of one to a large, multigenerational household.
  • Exercise requirements — While CKCSs enjoy a bit of exercise, they are also happy going on a short walk or cuddling with you on the couch.
  • Health — Common concerns are mitral valve disease and syringomyelia.

Beagle dog breed

Beagle

The immensely popular beagle seems as American as apple pie, but they got their start chasing rabbits in England. The beagle’s sturdy, steady frame and friendly demeanor makes him a natural with children, but if you’re looking for a quiet dog, keep moving down the list. Beagles have a loud bay, and they love announcing the presence of visitors and passersby.

  • Living arrangements — Beagles are loving family dogs, but if barking makes them a nuisance to you or your close neighbors, consider another breed.
  • Exercise requirements — Beagles need daily play and walks that, given their penchant for following their nose, should be on leash or in an enclosed area.
  • Health — Beagles are commonly diagnosed with glaucoma, epilepsy, and hypothyroidism.

yorkshire terrier dog breed

Yorkshire terrier

You may not be able to tell from the looks of today’s Yorkshire terrier, or Yorkie for short, but this breed used to be prized for chasing down mice and rats for working class citizens in Yorkshire, England. Like many terriers, Yorkies don’t let their small stature stop them from starting a fight, and they are often eager to voice their opinions, as well.

  • Living arrangements — Yorkies have hair not coats, meaning they do not shed which is ideal for some families. They are prized as a hypoallergenic breed. Also, when not docked, yorkies have wonderful tails!
  • Exercise requirements — A couple of short walks a day rounded out by indoor or outdoor play will suffice.
  • Health — Dental disease is a common problem for Yorkies as is tracheal collapse and luxating patellas.

Dachshund dog breed

Dachshund

Everybody’s favorite wiener dog is also a wonderful small-breed dog to add to your home. Dachshunds are bold and adventurous, while still loving and loyal. This scenthound’s low profile and long body are perfect for flushing out and dispatching Germany’s badgers, foxes, and rabbits.

  • Living arrangements — Dachshunds are good additions to any family, but keep in mind that strangers, including children, may provoke a nip.
  • Exercise requirements — Dachshunds are happy to go with the flow. Their hunting roots remind them that a run through the woods is a fine way to spend an afternoon, but they are also happy with a walk around the block.
  • Health — Diabetes and Cushing’s disease are concerns, as well as IVDD.

toy poodle dog breed

Toy and miniature poodles

You may be surprised to learn that standard and miniature poodles were originally bred as water dogs to accompany European duck hunters into the field. The toy version of the breed was, however, always meant to be a lap dog. Toy and miniature poodles are as intelligent as they are tiny, and these high-energy dogs excel today in obedience and agility trials. In general, the breed is friendly and amiable, although their coats require a bit of upkeep.

  • Living arrangements — Toy and miniature poodles are prone to bark, but they make excellent, devoted additions to families of any size.
  • Exercise requirements — These poodles are small enough to be satisfied with indoor play, but their high intelligence should be met with plenty of mental stimulation, too.
  • Health — Addison’s disease, epilepsy, and cataracts are common concerns for toy and miniature poodles, however, they are known for their longevity.

Shetland Sheepdog dog breed

Shetland sheepdog

More commonly referred to by their nickname, sheltie, this popular breed was originally a Scottish sheepherder. Shelties are bright and eager to please, and although they bark more than your average dog, they are lovingly devoted to their families.

  • Living arrangements — Shelties are wonderful companions to owners of all ages. They are playful, yet gentle, and do exceptionally well with children. Their long coats will need brushing several times a week to avoid mats.
  • Exercise requirements — While an energetic breed, shelties are satisfied with one or two brisk walks a day.
  • Health — Common concerns include dermatomyositis, hip dysplasia, and hypothyroidism.

Is a small dog the right fit?

Small dogs are great companions if living space is at a premium. Whether your family is looking for a dog with a big personality, or one with a more laid-back take on life, there’s definitely a small-breed dog out there who will tick off all the right boxes for your family. No matter which lovable dog you gravitate to, be smart and learn more about Trupanion’s dog insurance to keep him protected.