Popular Small Breed Dogs

By Janice A. Jones   | Last Updated 09-01-2023

What are the most popular small breed dogs in America?  

If you have your heart set on one of these little dogs, you might be curious to know which ones are the most popular. 

Do you wonder where all these popularity statistics originate?   

In the United States, Each year the American Kennel Club Releases a list of most popular dog breeds based on registration figures. This data is available in February of each year. 

But, surprisingly, popular dog breeds in America are also very popular world-wide.

Group of Popular Small Breed DogsPopular Small Breed Dogs

Though the list changes from year to year, many small breeds still remain popular. 

This is only part of the answer though, because the statistics do not take into account the growing number of designer breeds people own and they don’t list rare breeds, or dogs that are not registered with the AKC. 

Many pet owners have purebred dogs as pets but neglect to register them.  They are not counted into the statistics.

Even so, this is the best estimate of popularity we have in the United States.

Why the Popularity of Small Breed Dogs

That’s easy to answer. 

  • Their small size makes it easy to manage them, keep them in tiny house, apartments and condos and they do well in city living. 
  • They are portable and can easily go everywhere in carriers and small purse size containers. 
  • They are more economical in that they eat less and easier to clean up after and they require less exercise. 
  • Most are good with a wide variety of people:  families, singles, seniors and inexperienced dog owners. 

What Else Contributes to the Popularity of Some Breeds?

Is the Movie Effect Dead for Popular Small Breed Dogs?

Yearnings for a particular dog breed due to its popularity in a movie no longer reflects a desire for that breed like it once did according to some recent research and explained by Julie Hecht.

Does Looks Have Anything to Do With It?

Few people would deny that the dog's appearance plays a big role in their decision to buy or adopt. 

Think about what a dog's look does to you - Smushy faces that look almost human, big round eyes that stare straight at you, or long droopy ears that make the dog irresistible? 

Maybe you prefer the feel of soft silky hair or the enticing smell of puppy breath. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, or so I've heard, and everyone has their own definition of attractiveness. Maybe you love fluffy dogs, or dogs that don't shed.  Maybe you just love the look of short haired dogs.

The Friend Effect

How many times have you fallen in love with something a friend possesses?  Or perhaps you are persuaded by an influential person who you've grown to trust. 

If that influencer also happens to have a very popular dog breed, it's not difficult to see how one might choose the same breed.


It goes without saying that for a dog breed to become popular, it must be locally available.  Even if you fall in love with a specific breed, it may not become popular if the closest puppy is only available on the other side of the world. 

Just the logistics and cost of getting your puppy from one part of the world to another part can be difficult let alone all the legal issues involved. With that said, the most popular small breed dogs in the world are surprisingly similar.

Top Twenty Most Popular Small Breed Dogs in the
United States in 2018 to Present

The first three spots are reserved for large breed dogs. In order of popularity:

1. Labrador Retriever

2. German Shepherd

3. Golden Retrievers

The following breeds are in order according to popularity.  They only represent small dogs under 25 pounds and exclude all others. That is why you see gaps in the popularity numbers.

French Bulldog

It's not hard to explain why the affectionate French Bulldog is the most popular small breed dog.

The Frenchie as they are lovingly referred to are bright and charming, a breed that doesn't bark much and are adaptable to just about any living arrangement, singles, couples, families and seniors. 

They get along well with other dogs and enjoy making new human friends too. 

They are the quintessence companion dog that can amuse and entertain their human counterpart for hours.

Learn more about the French Bulldog


It's hard to dislike the happy-go-lucky Beagle whose is happy and loving and an all-round family pet. 

Once known for their hunting ability and are still used for that purpose, today's Beagles are more companion than hunter.  They are affectionate, friendly and playful. 

They love adults and children alike, and enjoy playtime about as much as any hound breed.

Not big barkers, but they will let their presence be known if the occasion arises, they thrive on being part of the human pack.

Still, they are a proud member of the hounds and have maintained many of those hound instincts that made them loyal companions on the hunt and beyond.

Learn more about the Beagle


Poodles come in three sizes, but the smallest or Toy is the feature on this site. 

They are incredible smart, adaptable and versatile. Expect a great athletic and an easy dog to train. 

Grooming is a bit of a challenge but can be accomplished through regular visits to professional groomers. 

They generally make excellent family dogs and do well with singles, couples and seniors. 

Remember their exercise requirements and their need to be challenged mentally as well as physically.

Learn more about the Toy Poodle

Yorkshire Terrier

Don't be fooled by the dainty, diva appearance of the Yorkie.  They are small but much of their terrier background can still be seen in the breed.  Remember terriers were developed to to hunt and kill rats in mines and mills of the 19th century. 

They may have been larger then, but they still retain the "little dog with big attitude" temperament. 

From Victorian ladies to today's discriminating buyers, these dogs fill the roll of companion and ultimate lap dog.

Expect to share your lap and pillow with your Yorkie as you develop a deep bond with this tiny terrier that may be more of a toy than a member of the terrier group.

Learn more about the Yorkshire Terrier

How to Puppy Proof for a Yorkshire Terrier

Just the Basic Facts About a Yorkshire Terrier


This little breed comes in a variety of forms, something for everyone.  Two sizes and three coats, there may be a dachshund for everyone.

The Dachshund's appearance is unique with a long back and short legs coupled with a big personality that appeals to a wide range of dog lovers.  

Look for standard size dogs that are between 16 and 32 pounds or miniature varieties which are 11 pounds or under. 

Your next choice is hair length and texture:  Choose between smooth, wire-haired or long haired.  

With so many choices, anyone looking for a tiny hound, the Dachshund is your best bet and it's not just in the U.S.A.

Learn more about the Dachshund

Hindleg paralysis in the Dachshund dog breed

Spinal Injuries in the Dachshund

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Here's an example of a rising star.  Moving up in popularity, there is a major reason why these dogs are on the rise.  

They are still small enough for a small dog lover, yet powerful enough for mid size to large dog lovers.  As a herder they can accomplish a good day's work due to their quick, agile abilities.

As a family pet, they seem to be the dog with the perpetual smile. 

Whether that smile represents a happy disposition is still out for debate. The Pembroke is smart, sensitive and loving to their human family. They can be a herder, watch dog, or loyal family dog.  

Learn more about the Pembroke Welsh Corgi 

Miniature Schnauzers

Many Schnauzer owners will tell you that they will never own another breed once they have fallen in love with one of these loyal companions.

They are active but do fine on a couple of walks per day and the rest of their exercise can be satisfied indoors through play and following you around.

Expect to pay for professional grooming every couple of months unless you plan on doing it yourself.

They are easy to train which makes them ideal for just about any new owner, single, couple or family.  Check them out.  You may find this is the dog for you.

Learn more

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

This is one breed that is gaining in popularity over the years and rightly so.  They are lovable, gentle, and the quintessential lap dog and bed warmer. 

At 13 to 18 pounds, they may be one of the largest small breed dogs, but one of the smallest member of the Spaniel family.

They have all the attributes that a family dog should have:  affection, playfulness, loving nature, and great with children. They are even good with other dogs.

One of the biggest drawbacks of this breed for some is their shedding.  They would not make a good choice for someone with allergies.

Learn more

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu owners will chuckle as they tell you that their breed is like potato chips, you can never just have one.  Once someone falls for this breed, they become devoted Tzu lovers for life.  But what makes these dogs so special?

For starters, it's nearly impossible to resist those big round eyes staring at you or the flat face that is almost human like.  

Looks are not everything and Shih Tzu dogs have enough personality to complement their stately appearance.

Adaptable, friendly, loyal to a fault, and people pleasing, these dogs are a good choice for families, couples and singles.  Grooming is a factor that shouldn't be ignored as these dogs will need plenty of brush time.

Learn more

Boston Terrier

Bostons are highly intelligent and love to learn therefor training is easy peasy. They also do not require any special exercise, only excessive love.

Bostons can entertain anyone for hours on end because of his or her sweet-nature, clown-like personality.

They can be the center of attention and the spotlight of the room, but they are also known to have the ability to clear the room. That’s right, they’re very gassy.

Beyond the gas, any other downsides to this breed? Their excited nature makes them somewhat hyperactive at times and they do need an owner willing to provide enough stimulation, both physically and mentally to keep these little ones happy. Couch potatoes?  Maybe not.

Learn more


Poms are basically the epitome of a big dog personality in a little dog. They have a ton of personality and demand attention and pampering.

Even though they are small dogs, they are also very sturdy. Poms are the type of dog that loves to please others.

They cannot get enough attention and affection from their owners. Although these dogs are pretty athletic and energetic, they do not need an excessive amount of exercise which makes them ideal for busy people.

Grooming requirements may be the deal breaker for some people as they require brushing daily and bimonthly visits to the groomer.  Some of the dogs are yappers so try to squelch that habit early.

Learn more


If you’re looking for a very adaptable, amusing and overall humorous dog, then this breed could be the absolute perfect dog for you.

Watch a Havanese walk and you'll notice a tiny spring to the step.  This is caused by front legs that are slightly shorter than back legs. Many people find this little bounce too cute for words.

This little bounce makes everything they do even more amusing than it already is.

These little guys are very cheerful and smart, but can tend to be mischievous and occasionally naughty. Training and socialization should begin the day you bring them home.


Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland sheepdog owners will tell you that their favorite breed is intelligent, loyal, and affectionate and they are absolutely right.  

Originally developed to assist farmers with herding sheep, they still retain their herding and chasing habits, so it’s not inconceivable that your little Sheltie will try to herd your toddler. 

Their intelligence makes these dogs a breeze to train and their work ethic makes them ideal for a wide variety of jobs including medical alert and therapy dogs.

Their athleticism can be seen in their ability to excel in agility, rally, herding, flyball, and tracking.

Learn more

Cocker Spaniel

Gentle, affectionate, and loving, Cocker Spaniels are the perfect family pet, and they also fit comfortably into any home.

These little guys, also known as “Cockers” are absolutely stunning to look at with a personality to match.

They are sweet, loyal, and playful--Perhaps the sweetest dogs you will ever meet.

Don't get one for their watch dog ability as they are way too friendly to everyone that they meet.  

Down-side?  They do have grooming requirements that may be too much for some and expect some health problems from time to time.

Learn more


Here's an all-round happy go lucky breed that has something to offer everyone.  

If you have a very laid back lifestyle and like to sit on the couch, watch movies, and eat snacks, then your pug with sit there right with you.

On the other hand, if you are very active and love to go biking, or surf, then bring him with you, and they will adapt to that lifestyle.

They are playful, affectionate and friendly with everyone, children, strangers and even other dogs.

Expect some issues as this is a brachycephalic breed that can be prone to the breathing problems that accompany the syndrome.

Learn more


For those who love the breed, they would say that cute hardly describes this little one—but cute, fun-loving, loyal and intelligent have made the breed one of the favorites among small dog lovers and celebrities alike.

The breed is known for its agility, fearlessness and cheerful demeanor.

The perfect purse pet, it is often referred to as Teacup, Pocket Size, Tiny Toy, or Miniature. 

While they may be the best choice for a single or couple, these dogs don't make a great choice for a family with children.  Their delicate frame and small size does not bode well with rough and tumble play.

Learn more


The AKC standard describes the Maltese as being “gentle mannered and affectionate.”  They make great watch dogs because they never seem to miss a new sound. 

While being very affectionate with his owners, he is also an individualist and may not take to strangers at first. 

He is quite fearless, often to the point of wanting to protect his owners, but don’t expect him to be a true guard dog.  No small dogs can take on that role.

They have a regal appearance and their long silky hair may be hard to resist for some people.  Still most owners keep their Maltese trimmed in a puppy cut to avoid the long hours of grooming.

Before choosing one of these lovely dogs, consider that white dogs often have problems with staining on the face and under the eyes (a problem that is difficult to treat)

Read about the Maltese Dog

Most Popular Small Breed Dogs in Canada

Most Popular Small Breed Dogs

These are the top 10 most popular small breed dogs in Canada in 2022:

  • Labrador Retriever
  • Golden Retriever
  • German Shepherd
  • Poodle
  • French Bulldog
  • Australian Shepherd
  • Havanese
  • Shetland Shepdog
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Bernese Mountain Dog

Four of the Top Ten Popular Small Breed Dogs in Canada are Small Dogs

Most Popular Small Breed Dogs in the UK

In 2023 the UK,  the kennel club, in the UK reported these small dogs as being in the top twenty most popular small breed dogs in Great Britain.  They also publish the actual registration figures in addition to the rank.  These small dogs are in order according to popularity.

Please note: Many very popular dogs such as the Labrador Retriever are not listed here because they are not considered to be a small dog breed.

French Bulldog 


Spaniel (Cocker) 

Dachshund (Miniature Smooth Haired) 

Miniature Schnauzer 

Border Terrier 

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel 

Shih Tzu 

Chihuahua (Smooth Coat) 


Boston Terrier 

West Highland White Terrier 

Lhasa Apso 

Poodle (Toy) 

Chihuahua (Long Coat) 

Bull Terrier 



Tibetan Terrier 

Yorkshire Terrier 

Shetland Sheepdog 

Dachshund (Miniature Wire Haired)

Bichon Frise 

Wire Fox Terrier 

Cairn Terrier 

Norfolk Terrier 

Bedlington Terrier 


Welsh Corgi (Pembroke)

Scottish Terrier 


Welsh Terrier 

Miniature Pinscher 

Irish Terrier 

Italian Greyhound 

Japanese Shiba Inu 

Coton De Tulear

Parson Russell Terrier 

Chinese Crested 


Japanese Chin 

Lakeland Terrier 

Griffon Bruxellois 

Miniature Bull Terrier 

Japanese Spitz 

Tibetan Spaniel 

Sealyham Terrier 

Manchester Terrier 

Welsh Corgi (Cardigan) 

Jack Russell Terrier 

Dandie Dinmont Terrier 

Lancashire Heeler 

King Charles Spaniel 


German Spitz Klein 


English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan) 

Norwich Terrier 

Smooth Fox Terrier



Glen of Imaal Terrier 

Hungarian Pumi (Imp) 

Skye Terrier 

Russian Toy

Cesky Terrier 

Hungarian Puli 



Swedish Vallhund 

Xoloitzcuintle (Mexican Hairless) (Miniature) 

Australian Terrier 

Cirneco Dell'Etna 

Australian Silky Terrier 

The Most Popular Small Breed Dogs in Australia

Here are the most popular small size dogs in Australia based on the Australian National Kennel Club (Year end 2017). 

The breeds are listed in descending order from the most popular to the least popular.  The number following the name represents the number of dogs of that breed that were registered. 

So far, the French Bulldog tops the charts in three of the top English Speaking countries.

oh, and by the way, we also have a great page about Australian Dog Names

French Bulldog (4082)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (2491)

Schnauzer (Miniature) (1678)

Pug (1506)

Cocker Spaniel (1503)

Poodle (Toy) (1168)

West Highland White Terrier (849)

Jack Russell Terrier (837)

Dachshund (743)

Chihuahua (Smooth) (734)

Shetland Sheepdog (624)

Chihuahua (Long) (619)

Italian Greyhound (607)

Pomeranian (490)

Bichon Frise (420) 

Boston Terrier 415 

Welsh Corgi (Pembroke) 408 

Papillon (402)

Havanese (374)

Tenterfield Terrier (368)

Shih Tzu (345)

Bull Terrier (Miniature) (339)

Australian Terrier (311)

Fox Terrier (Smooth) (275)

Maltese (243)

Japanese Spitz (241)

Scottish Terrier (221)

Cairn Terrier (219)

Yorkshire Terrier (208)

Miniature Pinscher (204)

Australian Silky Terrier (197)

Chinese Crested Dog (197)

Shiba Inu (184)

Tibetan Spaniel (171)

Border Terrier (158)

Griffon Bruxellois (Brussels Griffon) 137

Pekingese (124)

Lhasa Apso (107)

Welsh Corgi (Cardigan) 106

Schipperke (82)

Lowchen (67)

English Toy Terrier (Black and Tan) 65

Lakeland Terrier (61)

Wire Fox Terrier (53)

Tibetan Terrier (51)

Manchester Terrier (44)

Irish Terrier (42)

Swedish Vallhund (41)

Japanese Chin (40)

Bedlington Terrier (40)

Welsh Terrier (40)

King Charles Spaniel (33)

Affenpinscher (32)

Parson Russell Terrier (30)

Coton De Tulear (28)

Skye Terrier (25)

Norwich Terrier (18)

Norfolk Terrier (16)

Russian Toy (15)

Dandie Dinmont Terrier (15)

Xoloitzcuintli (Miniature) or Mexican Hairless (14)

German Hunting Terrier (Jagdterrier) (12)

Glen of Imaal Terrier (8)

German Spitz Klein (8)

Sealyham Terrier (7)

Cesky Terrier (5)

American Hairless Terrier (4)

The Most Popular Family Dog Breeds

Here are some of the most popular family dog breeds, not necessarily all small breed dogs.  Check out who they are:

Most Popular Family Dog Breeds

The World Loves Dogs

The world loves dogs, but the number of registered dogs varies widely from country to country.  Not surprisingly, the United States tops the charts with a whopping 403,760 registered dogs according to Statistics Brain.

United States 403,760

Canada 23,068

Philippines 13,232

United Kingdom 7,835

Australia 5,301

Singapore 2,688

Malaysia 1,726

Indonesia 1,537

Brazil 1,085

New Zealand 868

India 747

Mexico 702

Germany 683

Netherlands 594

South Africa 583

Pure-bred dogs registered worldwide illustrated with a pie graphIt's obvious that there are far more pure-bred dogs registered in the United States.

References for the Most Popular Small Breed Dogs

The American Kennel Club

The Kennel Club (UK)

The Canadian Kennel Club

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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