Science says we are hardwired to find tiny things cute. Because human babies are so helpless, our instinct is to want to take care of them and – at its most basic level – help our species survive. And this drive is so strong, that we tend to be attracted to mini versions in other species. The smallest dog breeds fit into this category. Not everyone loves a toy dog, but they do have certain appeal. They fit on your lap (or in your handbag), take up minimal space in a small house or car, and they’re a great way to meet people, as they tend to attract attention and make a talking point.
“Teacup” dogs are a more controversial issue. These are created by continually breeding the runt – the weakest – of the litter, in an attempt to make tinier and tinier dogs. As these cute mini-pups are in high demand, they can command big prices. But most vets and responsible breeders would advise against teacup versions of breeds. They are more prone to health issues and injuries directly related to their micro size and unethical breeding practices, and tend to live shorter lives. The best plan if you want a little petite friend is simply to choose one of the smallest dog breeds, avoiding the teacup variety, and buy from a reputable dealer.
7 smallest dog breeds
The shortest dog ever registered is a chihuahua from Florida called Pearl. She holds the Guinness World Record at 9.14cm (3.59in) tall and 12.7cm (5in) long – that’s shorter than the length of a £10 note. She weighed just 553g (1.22lb). The Kennel Club breed standard describes chihuahuas as typically 1.8–2.7kg (4–6lb).
The mini dachshund is the second-smallest pure-bred dog, weighing in at around 4.5kg and around 15cm tall. These playful and intelligent little dogs might be low to the ground, but they love to work as they were bred for hunting badgers.
The dachshund is often crossed with either the similarly diminutive Yorkshire Terrier or the chihuahua to produce even smaller offspring – the “dorkie” and the “chiweenie” respectively.
Both the dorkie and chiweenie are “designer dogs” which really emerged in the 1990s, and are not in the Kennel Club list of pedigree breeds, but make a great mini hybrid.
Covered with a mantle of luxurious, silky, white hair, the Maltese is a gentle, affectionate dog. While small and bred to be pampered pets for the Mediterranean aristocracy, they tend to be lively, alert and intelligent, with a sweet temperament. They should be no taller than 25cm (10in).
These pedigree dogs are often crossed with other small breeds to create other tiny dogs, for example the Malti-poo (x toy poodle) or the Mal-shi (x shih tzu).
These pint-sized fluff bundles used to be known as sleeve dogs – presumably because they could fit inside the sleeves of the robes worn in the 17th century when these pooches originated. Despite their minuscule dimensions, they were historically bred as water retrievers for duck-hunting and so are an energetic and hardworking dog in a glamorous little package.
Poodles come in three sizes: standard, miniature and toy – of which the latter is the smallest. They should be no taller than 28cm (11in).
This toy terrier is full of spirit and intelligence. It originates from both the Maltese and Skye Terrier, and is thought to have been a companion dog for Scottish millers and miners. They should weigh up to just 3.2kg (7lb) making them almost as teensy as the chihuahua. This dinky British dog breed was traditionally shown in exhibitions on a silk cloth or cushion and remains the only breed to be exhibited on a decorative box in the show ring. They have long, glossy straight coats and a neat, compact body.
This friendly, independent little dog has Tibetan origins, but has been recognised as a breed in the UK since 1940. Although among the bigger of the smallest breeds, it has the toy dog look, with a plumed tail, and dense wavy coat. Should be no taller than 27cm (10.5in), and weigh 4.5–7.5kg (10–16lb).
This dainty dog that originated in France and Belgium translates as “butterfly”. It is also described as a dwarf spaniel on the Continent. The butterfly nomenclature has more to do with its well-feathered, alert ears which resemble the shape of a butterfly, rather than its diminutive stature. However, it is certainly small, being 20–28cm (8–11in) tall. It is an elegant, fine-boned dog, which light, fluid movement and tends to thrive at obedience and agility classes.
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