Dogs have been cohabiting with humans for over 10,000 years, and for good reason; studies show that there are many benefits to having a dog in the house. Growing up with the best small family dogs in the house is a one-of-a-kind experience. Dogs help children learn lessons on responsibility, respect, compassion, loyalty, and trust. The unconditional love we receive from dogs boosts children’s self-esteem. Children learn patience while taking care of dog siblings and get plenty of exercise. Dogs also help decrease the risk of children developing pet allergies or eczema. Even for those who are allergic, there are hypoallergenic breeds available.

While any dog breed can make an ideal pet, families with small children might do best with smaller dogs. Here are some of the lesser-known best small family dogs.

6 Best Small Family Dogs

French Bulldog

French Bulldog, Dog, Animal, Sleep, best small family dogs

The French Bulldog is a one-of-a-kind breed. They’re smart, loyal, playful, and cute! These small, stocky dogs have ancestors that hail all the way back to Ancient Greece. They were popularized by Phoenician traders who spread them across the globe. After popular blood sports like bull-baiting fell out of fashion, breeders started creating a smaller, friendlier bulldog, leading to the French Bulldog.

These toy-sized goofs were created to befriend any and all humans. A Frenchie never meets a stranger and has abundant energy for keeping up with kids of all ages. They are great playmates for children and aren’t so small or fragile that a well-meaning child might accidentally hurt them. French Bulldogs are one of the best small family dogs.

Norfolk Terrier

Dog, Garden, Terrier, Fun

Norfolk Terriers are another of the best small family dogs. This British breed is one of the smallest working terriers, standing no more than 10 inches tall at the shoulder. Originally bred to hunt rodents, most Norfolk Terriers now spend their days curled up in your lap. They have a rough double coat that is usually tan.

Though they are much more even-tempered than many other terrier breeds, the Norfolk terrier still has plenty of pep; despite their size, they are confident, fearless, and ready for adventure. This terrier is loyal and loving to their family, but also strong-willed, so training takes some patience on their human’s part. Norfolks have a lifespan of 13 to 15 years. 

Miniature Schnauzer 

Miniature Schnauzer, Dog

You might as well call a miniature schnauzer your shadow; they want nothing more than to follow you around as you complete your daily tasks. They love to play and especially love to cuddle. First bred in Germany to protect homes and farms from rodents and other vermin, they are agile, tough dogs.

Miniature Schnauzers are curious, alert, goofy companions that are normally quite well-mannered. They enjoy being right in the thick of chaos and fun. They get along well with other dogs and, despite their history as hunters, can get along with most other animals as well. This breed is well known for their love of children. They can be quite vocal in the home and a little on the stubborn side to train, but with patience and consistency, this dog can be one of the best small family dogs you will ever have.


Puppy, Havanese, Run, Running, Playful

Hava-what? Havanese! The Havanese is a small, long-haired dog that resembles a Maltese and is part of the Bichon family. All dogs in this category originated in the Mediterranean before Spanish traders brought them overseas as gifts, most notably for the Havanese, to Cuba, where the breed was refined. This famously happy dog has a soft double coat that does require maintenance to prevent tangling.

These dogs were often circus performers, and they retained their showstopping charm and tricks to this day. Havanese are another dog breed that loves to be the center of attention, even in large gatherings. They love to clown around with small humans, soaking up all the love and affection they can get. They love their family and strangers alike. They seek to please and learn quickly but are also on the vocal side.

Border Terrier

Dog, Puppy, Race, Border-Terrier, Mascot

While the Border Terrier isn’t nearly as small as their Norfolk cousin, this breed is still quite small, standing no more than about 11 inches at the shoulder. The Border Terriers got their name because they originated near the border of Scotland and England sometime in the 1700s, which makes this breed Britain’s oldest terrier.

This terrier is one of the friendliest terriers there is, getting along fantastically with children and other dogs. However, the Border Terrier does have a prey drive, so they don’t always do well with other small animals. They are an independent breed, so if given a chance, they can be quite the little escape artists, prone to roaming their area searching for adventure. 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Dog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has the regal demeanor to match their royal name. Named after King Charles II, this toy spaniel was created to adorn the laps of the Tudors in the British royal family.

Cavaliers can be described as the ideal house pet. They are sweet and gentle but have plenty of playful energy too. They enjoy active time with their families as well as cuddling into the laps they were bred to lie on. They aren’t particularly vocal, nor are they prone to digging. They get along well with other dogs, strangers, and other animals too. Their long coats do need to be brushed regularly to avoid issues with tangles or skin irritation. This breed has a life expectancy of between 9 and 14 years.

Choosing The Best Small Family Dogs For You

Choosing a companion can be a stressful endeavor. Adopting a dog is a life-long responsibility that will affect your family for years to come. You’ve already taken the first step, though; you’re researching the best small family dogs to determine what breed best suits your lifestyle. While popular breeds like Maltese and Pugs make great family dogs, it doesn’t hurt to explore the lesser-known options as well.


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