The Best Small Dogs for Apartments, Including People With Kids and Allergies

updated Jan 10, 2023
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There are plenty of advantages to owning a small dog. Not only are smaller breeds less expensive to feed; they also generally need less space. Little dogs can also make some of the best companions out there—they’re easy to cuddle and make great travel partners. 

Think a small dog could be a hugely warm addition to your home? Get to know some of the breed types you might spot at shelters and online (even mixed-breed dogs have a history).

If you happen to zero in on a favorite breed, go meet one in person. Dog trainer Russell Hartstein, CEO of Fun Paw Care Puppy and Dog Training in Los Angeles, says it’s important to remember dogs, like people, are individuals. Regardless of what a breed is “known” for, Hartstein recommends meeting with a dog individually to determine if it’s the right fit for you and your family. 

Whether you’re looking for a pup that will thrive in a small space or you’re hankering for a lap dog, here are some breeds Hartstein recommends all aspiring small-dog owners consider:

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1. Pomeranian

Fabulously fluffy, a Pomeranian’s personality is just as adorable as you’d expect. These fun little pups don’t require much exercise and are perfectly content playing indoors. They’re sweet, loyal and love it when you lavish them with attention. 

2. Basenji

The low-maintenance Basenji is one of the best small dog breeds for apartment dwellers for one major reason: these are the only dogs that never bark! Combine that wonderful feature with their diminutive size and lack of shedding, and you can see why Basenjis and apartments are a match made in heaven. 

3. Chinese Crested

Looking for a pup that will follow you around all day long? Look no further than the adorably elegant Chinese Crested. These devoted pups are perfect for people who work from home, since they don’t like to be left alone for long periods of time. What’s more, the Chinese Cresteds needs very little outdoor exercise, making it one of the best small dog breeds for apartment or other small-space living. 

4. Italian Greyhound (mini greyhound)

A low-energy dog is well-suited for small-space living. That’s why we love the Italian Greyhound, which is just a miniature version of the beautiful, greyhound. These quiet, docile dogs require very little exercise and tend not to get wild in the house, either. Consider it a win for your neighbors below you! 

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

A toy breed that’s enjoyed a recent surge in popularity, the Cavalier King Charles is extremely friendly toward both humans and other dogs. Hartstein says they may not be the brightest dogs in the world, but they are some of the friendliest and most loving. Another bonus: They’re quite docile, and you can expect them not to bark too much. 

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6. Pug

Who can resist the Pug’s trademark, wrinkled face? Pugs are one of the lower-energy small breeds, so they don’t require as much exercise and space as other dogs. If you’re a hard sleeper in the market for a good laugh, a Pug might be up your alley: Hartstein says people love pugs because they make hysterical snoring sounds when they sleep.  

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7. Beagle

If you’re willing to put in some training time, Beagles can make great companions. “They’re energetic and love to howl and bark, so a person needs to train with them often,” Hartstein says. “As a working dog, they also require a lot of exercise.”

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8. Bichon Frise

These cuties are in the poodle family, but they’re much more petite. While they’re energetic and need regular exercise, they also aren’t big barkers and don’t shed. Hartstein says Bichon Frises love to cuddle, and they make great family members. 

9. Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkies are tiny, cute and love to cuddle, so they’re the perfect movie marathon companion. They are also quiet and calm but are great with new people and other pets. Just keep in mind this breed can be a bit high maintenance. “Yorkies may be small but they sure bark a lot if they are not trained and socialized well,” Hartstein says. 

10. Miniature Schnauzer 

This working dog has two brothers, the Standard and the Giant Schnauzer. Hartstein says all three are particularly spirited, alert, and friendly, and they love being trained by their parents.

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11. Maltese

These long-coated beauty queens are wonderful snugglers and companions. But like any other dog, the Maltese hads needs: They need lots of grooming and thrive when their owners shower them in attention.

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12. Havanese

Hailing out of Cuba, these little white darlings are sweet-tempered and versatile — Hartstein says they are just as pleased to snore the day away with you or to go for a walk around town. The best of both worlds!

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13. Cairn Terrier

There’s probably no small breed more sophisticated looking than a Cairn Terrier. This wire-haired dog is intelligent and eager to learn and train with you, so they make a great family dog. 

Credit: Katie Currid

14. Coton de Tulear

Hard to pronounce, but easy to live with. The Coton du Tulear is a playful, intelligent, and affectionate breed who loves to be with the family. They require more grooming that other dogs, but they are adaptable to many living conditions and environments.

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15. Affenpinscher 

Some people think they look similar to monkeys, but these unique dogs are fun, adorable, and intelligent. As a terrier, they are a working dog that requires training and socialization.

16. Australian Terrier

This adorable little package will cuddle like the best of them. Don’t let their small stature fool you; the Australian Terrier is an intelligent dog that should be trained and worked with often.

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17. Bolognese

Tiny, white, and adorable. The Bolognese requires grooming more often, but you won’t find a breed that’s more eager to be your best friend. Plus, Hartstein says they’re one of the most intelligent dogs out there. 

Credit: Minette Hand

18. Boston Terrier

These shorties sometimes get confused with their friends, French bulldogs. Boston terriers are fun, spunky, and wired for fun and a good ball chase. Get them home and they will cuddle on the couch with you for hours. Just don’t forget to train them, or you will have a wired dog with behavior problems.

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19. Brussels Griffon

If this dog’s mug doesn’t make you grin, nothing will. This small dog makes a wonderful best friend and is a snuggling expert. Just get ready to be somewhat involved: Hartstein says Griffons love to dog train and learn new obedience tricks.

20. Cardigan or Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Corgis are adorable, fluffy dogs that look like a mix between a German Shepherd and a Dachshund. This breed thrives when you keep them active and busy —Hartstein says they are intelligent working dogs that will herd you if you don’t give them a job or train with them.

Credit: Monica Wang

21. Chihuahua

Hailing out of Mexico, this small dog is spunky and can be yappy if their needs are not met. They need to be trained to not have behavior problems, but they make wonderful cuddlers and companions.

22. Dachshund

Known as a wiener dog to many, Hartstein says this long and strong dog makes a wonderful best friend for its smart, funny, and cuddly personality. They can be a bit more aggressive, so make sure to stay on top of training.

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23. Papillon 

The papillon (butterfly in French) gets its name for its characteristic, butterfly-like ears.  Small, intelligent dogs that love to please their owners, Papillons are ideal companion dogs. 

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24. Pekingese

A top-notch cuddle partner who knows how to make you laugh? That’s not your ideal partner, that’s a Pekingese. Hartstein says this breed is known for being big dogs trapped in little dogs’ bodies. “They’re not loud, they’re very small, and they love to be socialized and walked for short distances,” he says.

Best small dog for apartments: Shih Tzu

Limited square footage doesn’t disqualify you from having a furry friend! If you live in a small apartment, Hartstein recommends Shih Tzus, who are friendly with other dogs (a bonus for roof-top potty breaks), not too loud, and perfectly tiny.

Best small dog for allergies: Toy Poodle

While Hartstein says no dog is truly hypo-allergenic, there are some more allergy-friendly dogs. The affectionate and intelligent Toy Poodle needs to get brushed and groomed often, but they shed less hair, making them a great match for someone with allergies.

Best small dog for kids: French Bulldog

If you’re looking for a small, family dog, Hartstein says the French Bulldog — which is bred to be smaller than their standard Bulldog cousins — could be a great match. They’re also low maintenance, which means you can pay more attention to your kiddos. “They have short hair that doesn’t need much grooming, and they love to lie around the house and snore and make fun noises,” Hartstein says.

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Best small dog for the city: West Highland Terrier

The Westie makes a great walking and exploring partner — this breed loves to be active and experience the world. But Hartstein says they come with one caveat: Make sure to dog train and socialize this little guy, or he could become spooked by new experiences.