Though some small dog breeds may have reputations as "accessories" for grown women, they can make great companions for kids as well. What these petite pets lack in size, they more than make up for in personality and playfulness. And they're extremely loyal, to boot. In fact, your main concern when adopting a small dog may simply involve whether you and your family have the energy to keep up with him.
Knowing which small dog is right for your family depends on many factors, such your lifestyle, the size of your family, the age of your children, and your willingness to train and groom the dog. There are also a number of small breeds to choose from, each with a mix of potential pros and cons. To help you decide among these petite pooches, we've compiled a list of the top 10 kid-friendly small dogs based on personality, trainability, considerations for care and, of course, compatibility with children.
If you're into royalty, you'll love the Maltese. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), these playful and affectionate creatures have lounged alongside aristocrats for the past 28 centuries. And this is no surprise when you consider their beautiful silken locks, gentle dispositions and constant cheerfulness.
Despite being bred for lounging on the bed -- or chaise, as the case may be -- the Maltese is actually quite enthusiastic about learning and highly trainable. The only possible downside to having a Maltese in a family with kids is that this animal needs to be brushed daily, which may be too big a responsibility for younger kids or those with only a passing interest in their pet.
The pug is an ancient breed of small dog that hails from China. They're playful, outgoing, trustworthy and loyal, so it's tough to go wrong with a pug as a family pet. These petite pups were bred to be with people, as well as other animals, which makes them an ideal choice for families with children.
The pug's flat and wrinkly muzzle gives it a distinctive appearance, but according to Washington D.C.-based dog trainer Rachel Jones, it also makes the dog prone to respiratory problems, especially in extreme weather conditions. If you have a pug, be sure to keep him out of severe hot and cold temperatures. Another possible concern for potential pug parents is that this breed sheds a lot, which may be problematic for allergy sufferers.
8: Yorkshire Terrier
If your family has tons of extra energy to spend playing with a pet, then a Yorkshire terrier may be perfect for you. These tiny dogs are both very active and highly intelligent (not to mention incredibly cute). But Washington, D.C-based dog behavior and training specialist Jeff Weiss says that while Yorkshire terriers may look like toys, they can be fairly aggressive when they play, so be sure you're up for the challenge.
Affectionately known as "Yorkies," these pooches were bred to herd animals. This instinct makes them very social and friendly. However, it also gives them a tendency to be a bit nippy. The good news is that you'll likely be able to control this behavior through training that includes techniques based on positive reinforcement.
7: Miniature Schnauzer
Bred in Germany, miniature schnauzers are among the smartest and most cheerful of all the small dogs. According to Kellner, they are also very outgoing and protective, which makes them excellent companions for children. And when you consider how easy and enjoyable it is to train dogs of this breed, it's no surprise that they made our list.
Another great quality of miniature schnauzers is that they're equally happy in the expanse of the countryside and the confines of a small urban apartment. And if this isn't enough to sell you on the greatness of this breed, consider that they shed very little, which makes them a good choice for allergy sufferers.
For a glimpse of what it's like to have a beagle in the family, check out the old "Peanuts" comic strip, in which Charlie Brown's dog Snoopy is the quintessential beagle: a breed the AKC describes as charming, happy, intelligent, easy-going and naturally social.
One important point to keep in mind before adopting a beagle is that, like Snoopy, these dogs can get into trouble if left alone too long. This makes them a good choice for a family with a lot of kids and an active lifestyle, but not such a good choice for a mellow brood that likes long spans of quiet time.
5: Brussels Griffon Terrier
The Brussels Griffon terriers are extremely lovable and sensitive animals. They will follow you around for as long as it takes to win your attention. They're also very loyal and protective. These great qualities, Weiss says, combined with the fact that they're remarkably obedient, make these pups excellent watchdogs and fun playmates for children.
Bred in Belgium as rat catchers, Brussels Griffons are extremely smart dogs that love to learn and excel in training. But despite generally cheerful, energetic dispositions, they are also perfectly content to be snoozing in the sun room. For these reasons, Jones says the Brussels Griffon terrier is a great choice for any family.
4: French Bulldog
The French bulldog has been called a "clown in the cloak of a philosopher," which, according to the AKC, essentially means that dogs of this breed are smart with a powerful penchant for play. They're very lively and social, but not overly boisterous or barky. In fact, Weiss says their stellar doggie demeanors stand out among other dogs, large and small.
Bred to be loungers, French bulldogs require very little in the way of exercise or grooming. They're also heavy-boned and fearless, which makes this breed a good choice for families who want a pet that's playful, but not too skittish or delicate. However, one important consideration is that French bulldogs do best in a mild climate, which means they need air conditioning when the temperature rises.
3: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
If the French bulldog is the clown-philosopher, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel may be the joker of the canine community. Named for King Charles II of Britain, these dogs' whimsical and high-spirited personalities can instantly charm even the hardest heart. They are very friendly and vivacious animals with virtually no tendency toward nervousness or aggression, Jones says.
Cavalier King Charles spaniels are highly adaptable in their need for exercise, which is great for families who like to get out and play but also appreciate a little rest and relaxation. Jones adds that these pups are smart, obedient and generally quite eager to learn. According to the AKC, they're also relatively low-maintenance, requiring little more than weekly brushing to keep them looking great.
If you want a small dog that's also easy-going, the Havanese may be right for you. The national dogs of Cuba -- as well as its only native breed -- Havanese have light, fluffy coats of hair that keeps them cool in the Havana heat. Their coats are also non-shedding, which is great for allergy sufferers, though the dogs do require grooming.
Havanese are smart and well-behaved dogs, assuming you train them early and often, using positive reinforcement. They're also very friendly and good-natured and make great watchdogs and children's companions. Despite being a compact in size, the Havanese are sturdy and can keep up with even the most active families.
1: Shih Tzu
The fact that Shih Tzu means "lion dog" in Chinese is misleading, considering that most members of this breed probably couldn't hurt a fly, let alone bring down a gazelle. Shih Tzus are ideal small dogs: lively and alert, yet rarely nervous or snappy. And despite their diminutive stature, they're strong and unafraid, which means they have no trouble holding their own when playing with children and keeping up with an active family.
The Shih Tzu's long, luxurious coat of hair is certainly beautiful, but it can also be a lot of work to maintain. If you're considering a Shih Tzu, keep in mind that they do require regular grooming. Most pet parents don't mind this aspect of caring for their Shih Tzus, though, considering these dogs' infinitely loving and loyal nature.