5 Best Small Miniature Dog Breeds

Updated on June 1, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

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An ItalianGreyhound running.How does the Italian Greyhound stay so skinny?Another Italian Greyhound sleeping, what she does best.
An ItalianGreyhound running.
An ItalianGreyhound running.
How does the Italian Greyhound stay so skinny?
How does the Italian Greyhound stay so skinny?
Another Italian Greyhound sleeping, what she does best.
Another Italian Greyhound sleeping, what she does best.

Bigger is not necessarily better. A lot of people want a giant dog, or at least a really large dog, but they are not always better and not right for everyone. Large dogs cost more to keep, usually need more exercise, and most large and giant dogs do not do so well in apartments. Miniatures almost always do okay in small spaces.

Some miniature dogs have been around a long time. Others are a product of big dog breeders that thought about this problem and bred small versions of their favorite breed.

What are the five small but impressive miniature dog breeds out there?

Italian Greyhound

A frail looking dog, the Italian Greyhound (IG) is a sight hound and a miniature of the Greyhound found at the race tracks. (IG breeders and fanciers will tell you that their dog is NOT a miniature of the large dog. Decide for yourself.) The dog only weighs about 3-8 kilos (7-17 pounds) and is relatively tall and thin.

The IG makes a good companion but if any dog is accident-prone, this is the one. They are okay with kids but can easily be dropped and injured, so are better in a quiet home without young children. They have to be leashed all the time when outside since they will run away after anything they see, and require special breakaway collars that will allow them to get loose if the collar gets caught.

This skinny miniature actually has more health problems than a lot of full sized dogs. The most common is periodontal disease, so their crowded little teeth need to be brushed daily. They can also have epilepsy, eye problems like cataracts and retinal atrophy, luxated patellas (trick knees), hypothyroidism, and quite a few less common problems.

They live about 12 or 13 years, a good lifespan but not one of the best for a small breed.

Why is the Italian Greyhound so impressive? He can run at a speed of up to 40 km/h (25 mph), ripping across the field like a little horse. He is not quite a greyhound, but he is close.

An Alaskan Klee Kai.
An Alaskan Klee Kai.

Klee Kai

This rare dog breed is fairly new and was actually bred to look like a miniature Siberian Husky. True miniatures are only about 5 kilos (11 pounds) and 38 cm (15 inches) high at the withers but there are also smaller dogs (toys) and larger Klee Kais (standards) that still look like miniature Huskies.

Like Siberian Huskies, the Klee Kais are pretty easy to care for. (They are clean, do not smell as bad as some dog breeds, and do not need to be bathed very often.) Like Siberians, they shed, a lot. Since they are so small it may not sound like that big of a deal, but anyone who has owned a Pomeranian will be able to tell you differently. When they blow their coat the hair comes out in huge clumps and usually manages to get everywhere.

There still isn’t much information about the health problems of Klee Kai but most dogs seem to be healthy.

Siberian Huskies have become popular but a lot of people don’t realize how much exercise dogs of that breed need. Alaskan Klee Kai are a little more aloof than a Siberian Husky but they are as impressive as the big sled dog and a lot easier to take care of.

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Min Pin running free.Miniature Pinshcer jumping.
Min Pin running free.
Min Pin running free.
Miniature Pinshcer jumping.
Miniature Pinshcer jumping.

Miniature Pinshcer

A miniature Doberman! Well, not really. There were all sorts of dog breeds mixed up to produce this one and the Doberman probably didn’t have anything to do with it.

Dobies were brought to the US before Min Pins though so everyone who saw them thought they looked like a miniature of that breed. The AKC made it even worse by saying in the breed standard the dog needed to look like a Doberman in miniature, but the Min Pin has actually been around a lot longer than the Dobie.

Looks like a small Dobie to me, though.

They act tough, too, but since they are so frail they are more nervous and nippy around small kids. Min Pins are pretty easy to take care of since they have short coats, but they do best with people used to handling dogs.

Besides being prone to injuries (like the Italian Greyhound), they are also diagnosed with patellar luxation (trick knee), eye problems, and Legg-Calves-Perthes disease, or loss of the head of the femur.

Min Pins can be around 14 or 15 years, and of course we always hope for longer. Keep this impressive little Miniature on a leash and under control and those years will go by in no time.

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A Sheltie puppy.An adult Sheltie on the beach.An athletic Sheltie likes to perform.
A Sheltie puppy.
A Sheltie puppy.
An adult Sheltie on the beach.
An adult Sheltie on the beach.
An athletic Sheltie likes to perform.
An athletic Sheltie likes to perform.

Shetland Sheepdog

When I was younger a lot of people used to say “I have a miniature Collie”. The breed actually has a name, the Shetland Sheepdog, and except for his looks he is not really a miniature Collie. A lot of other dog breeds were involved in making this miniature. They used to be called “Shetland Collies” but the Rough Collie breeders were not happy with that and it was changed to the Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie).

(That kind of makes me wonder how the Border Collie managed to hang on to his name.)

Like all miniatures, they are small but not tiny. They are usually about 7-10 kilos (15-22 pounds), long haired, tri-colored, and athletic. Shelties are intelligent, rated 6th by Coren in The Intelligence of Dogs. (I do not agree with all of the ratings in the book, but the information on breeds like the Sheltie are accurate. If you are looking for your next dog this book is a good place to start.)

If you can put up with a lot of barking, the health issues are not bad. They have some eye problems, just like the full size Collies (Collie Eye Anomaly), and some of them have epilepsy, allergies, and hip dysplasia.

There is also a serious type of cancer of the bladder found in Shelties.

If you keep them groomed, and give them a job to do running around the show ring performing agility or moving around the farm herding the small livestock, the Sheltie is an impressive small dog.

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A young Miniature Schnauzer asking for food.A Miniature Schnauzer puppy.Miniature Schnauzers make good watchdogs.Miniature Schnauzers are great at agility.
A young Miniature Schnauzer asking for food.
A young Miniature Schnauzer asking for food.
A Miniature Schnauzer puppy.
A Miniature Schnauzer puppy.
Miniature Schnauzers make good watchdogs.
Miniature Schnauzers make good watchdogs.
Miniature Schnauzers are great at agility.
Miniature Schnauzers are great at agility.

Miniature Schnauzer

This little dog is actually the most famous miniature of all. The full size and giant version of this breed are not even that popular, but this miniature is one of the most common dog breeds around the world year after year.

One reason they are so popular is they do not shed much. A lot of breeds don’t shed much, but this dog is also good with kids, okay for an apartment, learn well during obedience training, and excel in dog sports like agility.

They are not too small, weighing in at a hefty 4-7 kilos (usually 10-15 pounds).

Miniature Schnauzers do have some health problems. They have a high level of fats in their blood, an inherited condition called hyperlipidemia. It makes them more likely to suffer from pancreatitis.

Sometimes they develop bladder stones, diabetes, or skin problems. Hip dysplasia is a problem too even though they are so small, not the type of dog usually seen suffering from this disease.

If all is well, they live about 12 years, and sometimes even a lot longer!

Of course I could have included Miniature Dachshunds, Miniature Bull Terrier, or the Miniature Poodle. All are good; none of them are as impressive as what I was looking for.

If you are looking for one of the miniature dog breeds, be sure to check your local animal shelter. A miniature dog may have been picked up as a stray or dropped off because he does not like the new baby. Small dogs usually find homes quickly and big black dogs are usually left homeless in a dark kennel, but you can never be sure until you visit or call around.

It is also a good idea to check with Petfinder.com and see if anything is available in neighboring cities or states.

If you want to purchase from a breeder, take the time to visit some dog shows, see the dogs that you like, and ask for some recommendations. Do not buy from any sites online that you are not able to visit—you are probably supporting a puppy mill and a dog shipping and wholesale operation.

Can´t make up your mind on what kind of dog you want to choose?

If you like small dogs with impressive attitudes, you should go out there and find a miniature.

Questions & Answers

    © 2013 Dr Mark

    Comments

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      • profile image

        dismissed.zebra 

        5 years ago

        Pomeranian...best small breed ever. They are excellent in all sports, especially agility and obedience. They are smart and energetic and love to work with you.

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Thanks! You are so right, I did get a laugh out of that. In fact I think I will have to add that fourth variety of Lab to my hub about Common Dog Breeds. (I did read in Newsweek that Meth Labs were really popular in the southern US. I just didn't know what they were talking about. Doh.)

      • ptosis profile image

        ptosis 

        5 years ago from Arizona

        I love the crazy looking picture of the Min Pin running free.. Want to see another funny dog picture? It's a poster describing the four types of labradors - I promise - you WILL laugh:

        http://i.imgur.com/OQlBO.jpg

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Shawn, my new dog is an IG cross. They are really amazing, and run rings around the rest of us (dog and human).

        Pamela-anne, surely one is not enough? There is a great hub from a girl with a Min Pin seizure alert dog. Perceptive little dog. The link is on one of epilepsy hubs.

        bdegiulio, thanks for coming by. Coming soon: "The Mini-Idatarod, run from Anchorage to Anchorage, and only with the Alaskan Klee Kai." That will be a good one to write about!

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Jaye, lifespan is one of those things so variable that I did not even mention exact numbers in my "Five Dog Breeds with Long Lives" hub. I hope the number above is VERY wrong for your dog, and she can be with you many more years! Thanks for the great comments.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Great article DrMark. Especially love the Klee Kai, which I had never herd of. Great information for anyone considering a small dog. Great photos and video.

      • Pamela-anne profile image

        Pamela-anne 

        5 years ago from Miller Lake

        They all look so cute I would love to have a miniature dog; right now I have my hands full with my black shepherd Zowie. Thanks for sharing the great info on our little four-legged friends. Voted up!

      • Shawn Scarborough profile image

        Shawn Scarborough 

        5 years ago from The Lone Star State

        Great hub. My sister has an Italian Greyhound. It is an excellent pet. He has lots of energy and is always ready to run. He is faster than most dogs despite his small size.

      • JayeWisdom profile image

        Jaye Denman 

        5 years ago from Deep South, USA

        I always enjoy reading your hubs about various dog breeds and am pleased whenever you include the mini schnauzer, since that is my dog's breed and I think she's super. She is a bit larger than average--not obese, just bigger. Her parents were both pedigreed, but one was in the 20-pound range. Her weight fluctuates between 19 and 21 pounds. I keep her on a healthy diet (to, hopefully, prevent another bout of pancreatitis) and she gets her exercise in small "bytes" since my own walking ability is limited.

        You mentioned 12 years as the mini schnauzer's average lifespan. I've read in several websites about canine lifespans that it's 15 for her breed. This is the only aspect of "schnauzer-dom" in which I'm hoping you're wrong! She's eight now and I'm already stressing about the potential of losing my dear friend. The vet said she will be considered a "senior" dog at age 10, but she's already less playful (and only in short bursts when she does play) than she was two years ago. Whenever my great-grandchildren come to visit, they play "chase" with her, the game that once was her favorite. When she was younger, she liked to "zoom"--running around a room, jumping up, then down on each piece of seating furniture, as fast as she could go. I miss the zooming!

        Voted Up++

        Jaye

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Take care of that little guy! They are one of the small dog breeds that do well here in the tropics and I have become a fan over the past few years.

        Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment.

      • HendrikDB profile image

        HendrikDB 

        5 years ago

        Very interesting! I have a little pincher and he is cute!

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