11 Best Small Dog Breeds for First Time Owners

As a first-time dog owner, it’s usually best to get a smaller breed. They don’t take up too much space, and since they have smaller bodies and less fur, their grooming needs are easier to handle. On top of that, there’s no worry of them outgrowing their things too quickly, they need lesser food, they generally poop less, and It’s also very easy to meet their daily exercise needs indoors, which is great if you live in an apartment. Even amongst the smaller breeds, there are dogs that are even easier to deal with than others.

It’s always an exciting prospect bringing in a new pet into your family, especially so if it’s your first time. Small dogs, are great to start off with, since they generally have good temperaments and are easy to train. They also come in different breeds, which means you’ll generally know what to expect from them, like their overall size or their general temperament. With so many breeds available out there, however, it can be an overwhelming thought to find what works best for you.

So, what are the best small dog breeds for first-time owners? To help you decide which ones are best suited for you, we’ve compiled a list of 11 of the ideal small dog breeds for first-time owners.

1. Pug

• Temperament: Affectionate and Charming

• Highlights: Eager to please and easy to train. Has a predisposition towards respiratory problems. Short fur makes for minimal grooming maintenance.

Best Small Dog Breeds for First Time Owners

First on our list is a classic favorite. The pug is a good place to start if you’re looking for small dogs for first-time owners, owing to the fact that they’re very personable. They go along well with everyone, including children and other pets if you have them, and would love to goof around every chance they get. They’re the ideal house dog if you live in an apartment, since they’re more than happy to stay indoors, though this usually means they don’t do too well as running buddies. They enjoy going sploot rather than running around.

Though they’re larger than most toy breeds, pugs are generally hardier and more muscular. Like many flat-faced breeds, pugs do have a predisposition to breathing problems, so you’ll need to watch out for that. Aside from this though, they’re a low-maintenance breed that requires less coat maintenance, though you may need to check their skin folds every so often.

If you love pugs you may also love it’s adorable miniature cousin the teacup french bulldog.

2. Chihuahua

• Temperament: Charming and Sassy

• Highlights: Has two variants, the smooth-coat and the longhaired. Can be a bit sassy when trained. Exceptionally loyal and prefers to spend time close to the owner or on their lap.


You can’t really have a list of small dog breeds without talking about the most iconic small dog breed of them all. Despite its small size, the Chihuahua has a big personality, which is great if you like dogs that are impressionable. Though they generally do well with kids, supervision is required during playtime, since they can be a bit fragile. Though they’re very intelligent and learn quickly, they do give a bit of sass, owing to their big personalities. They respond well to commands from their owners, though.

Chihuahuas come in two varieties, and their grooming needs vary accordingly. The smooth-coat variant has shorter, more manageable fur, so you wouldn’t need to brush them too often. The longhaired variant may have issues with shedding every once in a while, and will need to be brushed more often than their shorthaired counterparts.

3. Papillon

Temperament: Friendly and Alert

• Highlights: Requires surprisingly low grooming maintenance despite having long fur. Very eager to please and very intelligent, making them easy to train.

small dogs for first time owners

Another small breed that is very easy to train, the Papillon is known for its characteristic long, perky ears. They are a dainty and elegant breed, and their friendly personality makes them great with children, even more so towards their owners. Despite their small size, they are surprisingly robust and hardy, so very little supervision is required during playtime. They can be energetic, and will need a lot of exercise, but you can get away with letting them use up their energy indoors, thanks to their small size.

Although they are generally furry, they don’t need much brushing, since they don’t have an undercoat. You may want to comb their fur instead though, so as to prevent them from matting. Another thing with Papillons is that their nails tend to grow quickly, so you will need to trim them more often than other dogs.

4. Shih Tzu

• Temperament: Affectionate and Outgoing

Highlights: Extremely mellow towards their owners. Very affectionate and loves to spend time on their owner’s laps. Perfect for indoor living.

small dogs for first time owners

The Shih Tzu is a small dog breed that is the epitome of companionship. It has a very affectionate demeanor and loyal to a fault. They work especially well with children, though perhaps not so well with other dogs. These dogs were bred exclusively for the Chinese nobles of old and would prefer to stay indoors. Their idea of fun is basically sitting on your lap, which makes them perfect for living in apartments in the middle of the city.

Because of Shih Tzus aiming to please their masters as much as they can, they tend to be easy to train. They have long fur, so daily brushing is a must and on top of this, they need to be bathed every month at least. Despite their long fur, Shih Tzus don’t shed as much as other longhaired dogs.

5. Basenji

• Temperament: Smart and Independent

• Highlights: Barkless dog. Very intelligent and easy to train. Very catlike in its demeanor.

the Basenji is a great small dog for first time dog owners

The Basenji, otherwise known as Africa’s Barkless Dog, was originally bred for hunting, and is prized for its intelligence. Though they are capable of barking, they do so very rarely, and the sound they make when they do is very unique, not like the typical “woof” sound other dogs make. Because of this, they tend to be quiet, and is perfect if you’re living in an apartment with thinner walls. They can be very energetic though, so giving them proper exercise is a must.

While these dogs are well-mannered towards their owners, they can be a bit wary of strangers. They’re also a bit stubborn, so teaching them anything can prove difficult, unless done from when they were puppies. As for grooming, they require very little, as they are fastidious, even licking themselves like cats would to get clean. They also don’t produce the typical dog smell, which can be a blessing for your furniture.

6. Beagle

• Temperament: Friendly and Fun-loving

• Highlights: A very loyal companion with a strong sense of smell. Originally bred for pack hunting, they do really well with other pets, especially with other dogs.

the Beagle is a great small dog for first time dog owners

Beagles are one of the best small dogs for first-time owners, thanks to their great temperaments. They love to play, they’re loyal, they’re friendly, and they’re pretty smart. They’re also very hardy dogs, so whenever they play with kids, which they’ll do very often, you can be sure that they wouldn’t get hurt. They also do well with other animals as well as other dogs.

Although their coats aren’t that thick, they do shed during spring, so keep that in mind. Weekly brushing is a must for these dogs. Beagles are also very energetic and will need to be taken out for exercise at least once a day. Walks, in particular, need to be done with a leash. Due to their scent hound heritage, coupled with a strong hunting instinct, they will try to chase down anything that moves unless they’ve been trained not to.

7. Bichon Frise

• Temperament: Playful and Curious

• Highlights: Does really well with other pets as well as children. Very eager to please, and very friendly.

the Bichon Frise is a great small dog for new dog owners

Another dog breed ideal for apartment life, the Bichon Frise requires very little exercise. What little exercise they need can be done indoors, due to their small size. Despite being a bit stubborn, they are smart, which makes training them somewhat easy. Known for their playful and friendly nature, the Bichon Frise does well with kids and other pets.

The Bichon Frise will need professional grooming every month and will need to be brushed daily. Despite this, however, they very rarely shed, which means you won’t find much fur stuck on the furniture or your clothes. Their outgoing natures tend to make them lousy watchdogs, but very good at being companions.

8. French Bulldog

Temperament: Calm and Friendly

• Highlights: Very affectionate towards its owners. Known to be very alert, making them good watchdogs. A very calm demeanor and very adaptable

the French Bulldog is a great small dog for new dog owners

The French Bulldog is a calm breed that rarely barks, and when they do, they only do it when there’s an intruder, which makes them good guard dogs. They also need minimal outdoor exercise, so if you live in an apartment building, they’ll do really well for you. They do well with other animals as well as children, and are very adaptable, making them a good companion to have.

French Bulldogs do shed, but not very frequent. Their short fur also requires a good bit of brushing. These dogs don’t do very well in water, as they tend to be very dense. If you’re not careful, they will sink. Just like many flat-faced breeds, French Bulldogs are prone to having breathing problems as well.

9. Yorkshire Terrier

• Temperament: Affectionate and Playful

• Highlights: Known to have great personalities. Makes for good watchdogs. Very friendly towards their owners, though not so much with other dogs.

the Yorkshire Terrier is a great small dog for new dog owners

Yorkshire Terriers are small dog breeds that have personalities bigger than their physical size. They are known to love their owners and will be very eager to please, so training them is relatively easy. While they do well with children, they will need to be trained to socialize with other dogs. They can be very feisty, and their big personalities are loved by many. Because their fur is hypoallergenic, their fur rarely causes allergic reactions to people.

Yorkshire Terriers will need to be groomed by a professional at least once a month to keep their coats healthy. Because their coats tend to be long, they will need to be brushed daily. Despite their higher grooming maintenance, however, they don’t shed too often, and because their fur acts more like human hair, they rarely cause issues for people who get allergic reactions from dogs.

Yorkshire Terriers typically have coats that have two colors. But sometimes Yorkies can have a tri-colored coat. These Yorkies are known as Parti Yorkies. If want to know more about the distinction check out the difference between Parti Yorkie vs Traditional Yorkie.


• Temperament: Friendly and Curious

• Highlights: They’re not built for strenuous physical activities due to their short legs. Very intelligent and vigilant, they make good watchdogs.

the Dachshund is an ideal small dog for first time owners

Another iconic breed amongst small dog breeds, the Dachshund is known for its stubby legs and its big dog personality. They’re generally fun-loving, and love playing with kids and other pets. They are known to be stubborn, but aren’t too hard to train, since they’re eager to please. They don’t need too much outdoor exercise, but if you do decide to take them out, make sure that you’re using a leash, as this breed is known to have a strong prey drive. You can also train this out of them if you’re patient enough.

The Dachshund requires minimal grooming, only needing to be brushed once a week. Like many dogs with droopy ears, Dachshunds will need their ears cleaned periodically to avoid infection. They’re a long-living breed, though because of their long bodies, they wouldn’t do too well if they become overweight. Watching their diet closely is a definite must.

11. Havenese

Temperament: Outgoing and Intelligent

Highlights: They’re very sociable companions and are very playful. Generally, keeps barking to a minimum, making them good for city dwelling.

the Havanese is a good small dog for first time owners

Known as Cuba’s national dog, the Havanese is a popular breed known for their friendly demeanor and cheerful personality. They’re also very loyal to their owners, and are a great example of a companion breed. They do require regular exercise as they are a bit energetic, though their exercise requirements can easily be fulfilled indoors. Their naturally affectionate attitudes make them good pets around kids and other dogs.

The Havanese is a very extroverted breed with robust bodies and adaptable nature. They are easily trainable and are known to be good trick dogs. Because of their long fur, they will need brushing 2 to 3 times a week and will need to be groomed daily to prevent tangles and matting from forming.

Final Thoughts: Best Small Dogs for First Time Owners

If you love small dogs and are planning to become a dog parent for the first time – consider getting one of the small dogs from this list. Small dogs are often the best choice if you leave in an apartment and a dog like a Shih Tzu or a Pug is a great choice. If you are active, a beagle could be a great choice for you. Any of these adorable little dogs can be a great addition to your family!

If you like larger dogs – be sure to check out the list of best large dogs for first time owners.