Small dogs have been getting a bad rap! They're so cute that it's hard to resist dressing them up and carrying them around in a handbag, but many of these tiny tail-waggers are just as trainable and active as the big dogs. In fact, many petite pups excel in agility and endurance training far more than their larger counterparts. They also make excellent therapy and service dogs thanks to their learning ability and compact size. Every small dog breed has positive points, but check out our pick of ten highly trainable pups that are at the head of the pack.
10. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
This regal pooch is beloved by everyone from stoic queens (Elizabeth II always has a few corgis in her care) to sticky toddlers for its affectionate disposition, loyalty to his family and high intelligence. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the corgi makes a worthy competitor in obedience trials and, most naturally, herding. Originating in Wales, members of this breed have been used on farms for centuries, and are still employed as working dogs on many ranches and farms today. These little herders are very affectionate and will respond well to positive training methods. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America encourages corgi owners to train gently for the best results, including plenty of praise and belly rubs.
Don't let her diminutive features and daintily fringed ears fool you. Though the papillon got her name from the French word for "butterfly," this dog is extremely talented in performance and agility competitions, making her one trainable tail-wagger. Originally bred to kill rats, this small dog has plenty of energy for learning tricks. According to the AKC, papillons are easy to entertain and enjoy being outdoors where they have plenty of room to run, jump and play. Papillons are also popular as service animals in a variety of jobs, often assisting as therapy or seizure alert dogs.
8. Smooth Fox Terrier
The fox terrier is a highly intelligent dog -- one even sat as the Executive First Pooch for U.S. President Herbert Hoover. Originally, this dog was bred to help eradicate rats, foxes and other pests from farms, and the natural motivation and resolve that made them outstanding hunters is still evident in the breed today, making them attentive trainees for agility competitions. According to the AKC, this dog is also an excellent choice for families with children as he is sturdy enough for play and non-aggressive, although his inclination to dig might have to be tamed. Smooth fox terriers also make terrific watchdogs thanks to their keen sense of smell and eyesight.
7. Rat Terrier
Like its cousin the fox terrier, rat terriers were commonly used as farm dogs during the early 20th century due to their ability to hunt both above- and underground. Today, this versatile breed makes a wonderful addition to families and is exceptional in agility and obedience trials. With a compact body and loads of energy, the rat terrier is acutely aware, loyal and can easily be trained to follow commands, according to the AKC. This dog might be reserved with strangers, though, so early socialization is key.
6. Brussels Griffon
These bearded cuties are very similar to terriers in personality, but their distinguished looks and ability to learn tricks gave them their own place on our list. Originating in Belgium, they were often employed as rat trappers. Although this breed is a member of the toy dog group, there's nothing diminutive about them, and a griffon will require an active life with regular walks and plenty of playtime. They are affectionate and charming with an inquisitive nature that makes them open to new people and places, which helps with training, too.
5. Cairn Terrier
The cairn terrier gained notoriety as Dorothy Gale's trusty sidekick, Toto, in "The Wizard of Oz," but this pup is capable of so much more than sitting pretty in a basket. Originally used to control pests on Scottish farms, cairns still have an instinct to dig or chase small animals. Members of this breed are true terriers in the sense that they're tenacious and full of energy, so a new adopter should begin obedience training immediately to get the best behavior out of their little Toto. According to the AKC, cairns are successful in obedience, agility and tracking trials. However, owners should take care that this terrier doesn't become a terror by scheduling daily exercise and regular walks.
4. Shetland Sheepdog
When most people think of a sheepdog they don't think "small," but this miniature collie only grows up to about 16 inches (41 centimeters) tall at the shoulder. Often called "shelties," members of this breed have been used as farmhands for years and are still inclined to herd animals (and sometimes people). The AKC describes the sheltie as one of the most trainable breeds thanks to its devotion and high intelligence. This pooch catches on quickly and will excel in agility and obedience trials. Although shelties are excellent little learners, they are still herding dogs and might bark at or try to corral small children. Though happiest on a farm or with plenty of room to roam, shelties will also adapt to smaller accommodations if given plenty of exercise.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Named after King Charles I of Britain, the Cavalier King Charles spaniel is an excellent breed in obedience and agility, but her true talent may be in her pleasing personality. According to the AKC, Cavaliers are sweet, friendly and gentle-natured. These dogs are so laid-back that they even adapt their exercise needs according to what's going on with their owners, content to snooze all day or go find an adventure. Cavaliers are very easy to train thanks to their easy dispositions, and they make excellent therapy dogs, too.
2. Italian Greyhound
When most people think of greyhounds, they think of sleek, muscular speed machines. The Italian greyhound is exactly that, just in a smaller body. Cousin to the greyhound, a member of this smaller breed will be easy to train thanks to his fierce loyalty to his owner and calm personality. They love to run and can reach speeds up to 25 mph (40 kph), but will adapt well to apartment living as long as they get regular exercise. The Italian Greyhound Club of America indicates that this breed may be difficult to house train, but with consistency and a regular schedule, this dog can even be trained to use a litter box.
1. Parson Russell Terrier
Often called Jack Russells, these tiny terriers are one of the most popular dogs in the United States thanks to their screen-ready looks, energy, agility and obedience. Parsons do require plenty of exercise and attention -- if you let them get bored, these curious, mischievous pups may accidentally destroy your furniture or flowerbeds in an attempt to entertain themselves. The AKC describes members of this breed as confident workers who learn easily and display amazing strength and endurance. For any pet lover with an active lifestyle, this pooch will be a welcome training partner.