Guide To Miniature Dog Breeds

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Guide to Miniature Dog Breeds

Miniature dogs meet many unique family needs. Whether living in an apartment or looking for a dog that isn’t too large to knock down young children, miniature dog breeds are often a better choice for some families. Below we will take a look at some of the more popular miniature dog breeds including Chihuahua, Miniature Pinscher, Italian Greyhound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and more.

What Makes A Dog Breed Miniature?

The term “miniature” when used in reference to dogs can have two distinct meanings. In the first incidence “miniature” can refer to the fact that the dog is a smaller version of a larger breed with the same name for example: the miniature poodle. In the second instance the term miniature can refer to the fact that the dog is just a small dog breed. Below we will look at breeds of dog that fall into both of these categories.

Why Choose A Miniature Dog Breed?

Miniature dog breeds are a good choice for a number of households.

Families With Young Children

Many families with younger children decide to adopt or purchase miniature breeds because there is less of a chance of their young children getting knocked down. There is of course the concern that smaller dog breeds could be more easily injured by toddlers and children that play rough.

Families That Live In Apartments

Most large dog breeds and even medium dog breeds require homes with back yards to exercise in. Families that live in apartments are often better off adopting or purchasing miniature dog breeds.

People That Can’t Manage Large Dogs

Some individuals love dogs but simply cannot manage large dogs because of impairment, they are small of stature, or simply don’t care for large dog breeds. While it is possible to train all dog breeds to behave well, there may be instances where dogs need assistance from their owners. Elderly dogs sometimes require help getting in and out of vehicles. Sick dogs sometimes require help getting upstairs or outside to the bathroom. In these situations, it is important that dogs can rely upon their owners.

Some People Simply Like Smaller Dogs

For some people smaller dogs mean dogs that cuddle in their laps, lower fees at the kennel, lower cost preventative medication costs and a dog that they can carry if need be. For other people with small dog affinities there is simply one dog breed that has always captured their heart.

Watch Out For Small Dog Syndrome

Small dog syndrome can occur when a dog is treated like a person more than a dog. People often associate small dogs as being yappy barkers, ankle biting, timid when people approach or aggressive when you’re in their space. However, small dogs can be amazing and small dog syndrome can be avoided if you train your dog appropriately.

Top Miniature Dog Breeds To Consider


  • Lifespan: approximately 15 years
  • Height: 6-9 inches
  • Weight: 2-6 pounds
  • Colors: chestnut, black, white, sand, fawn, silver, steel-blue, sable, parti-color and black and tan
  • Type of Coat: thin short coat which requires an occasional brushing to maintain overall skin and coat health
  • Common Health Conditions: small dog syndrome, rheumatism, hum disease, colds, glaucoma, slipped stifle, fractures, upper respiratory conditions and high levels of stress
  • Characteristics: adventurous and strong-willed
  • Not recommended for households with young children because they can be easily startled and snap as a means of defending themselves
  • Do not do well in colder climates because of their thin coats
  • Native to Mexico

Miniature Pinscher

The Miniature Pinscher
  • Lifespan: 15 years
  • Height: 10-12 inches
  • Weight: 8-10 pounds
  • Colors: black with rust coloration, chocolate with tan-red markings and red with black hairs or “stag red”
  • Characteristics: energetic, intelligent, requires leadership from owner (without leadership the breed can become aggressive, excessive barkers and develop small dog syndrome)
  • Believed to have been developed through cross breeding between the Dachshund, Italian Greyhound and the German Pinscher
  • When cold outside, cover your “min pin” with a jacket or sweater to keep him/her from developing a cold

Italian Greyhound

The Italian Greyhound
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Height: 12-15 inches
  • 2 Weight Classes: up to 8 pounds and over 8 pounds (typically between 6-10 pounds)
  • Colors: red, fawn, slate grey, blue, black, cream, white or white with colored markings
  • Type of Coat: thing, short coat that should be protected from cold weather
  • Common Health Conditions: fractures and breaks (particularly in the legs), progressive retinal atrophy, slipped stifle, epilepsy and upper respiratory infections due to cold exposure
  • Characteristics: playful, need socialization, independent, requires a firm leader, fast
  • Providing too much “babying” to this breed can lead the dog to become incredibly nervous and increase the likelihood of snapping behavior
  • As a sight hound it should not be trusted off leash or with smaller household pets
  • The Italian Greyhound is a good dog for apartment life, but they can be particularly active indoors, so they tend not to do well in apartments above the ground floor with hardwood floors

Read more about this dog in our full breed profile: Italian Greyhound

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Lifespan: 9-14 years
  • Height: 12-13 inches
  • Weight: 10-18 pounds
  • Colors: tricolor, mahogany red, black and tan and red and white
  • Type of Coat: medium in length and silky to the touch and should be brushed frequently
  • Common Health Conditions: eye disease, syringomyelia, back conditions, dislocated kneecaps, deafness, hip dysplasia, ear infections, obesity and mitral valve disease
  • Characteristics: happy, willing to please, easily trainable, requires a gentle yet firm leader
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a good companion dog but does not thrive when kenneled for large portions of the day
  • This breed has exceptional eyesight and sense of smell and has a hunting background
  • Care should be taken to ensure that ears are fully dried following bathing in order to prevent ear infections
  • Households looking for a dog that is good with children should know that this breed may do well with older children who understand the needs of this dog, but they tend not to do well with younger children
  • The long coat of this dog means that it does not do very well living in extremely warm climates


  • 3 classes: standard, miniature and toy
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Height: standard 8-11 inches, miniature 5-7 inches and toy up to 12 inches
  • Weight: standard over 11 pounds, miniature 11 pounds or less and toy 8 pounds
  • Colors: wide range of coloration
  • Type of Coat: long-haired and short-haired varieties
  • Common Health Conditions: urinary tract conditions, diabetes, spinal disc conditions, obesity and heart disease
  • Characteristics: intelligent, brave, requires a strong leader, natural-born digger
  • With appropriate exercise and firm rules, socialization and obedience training this breed does well with family life

Miniature Schnauzer

  • Miniature SchnauzerLifespan: around 15 years
  • Height: 12-14 inches
  • Weight: 10-15 pounds
  • Colors: black and silver, salt and pepper, white and black
  • Type of Coat: double coat that’s soft on the underside and wiry on the outer side (often owners of this breed clip their dogs to appear as though they have bushy eyebrows, a mustache and a beard, keeping the rest of the coat shorter) it’s important that you brush this breed’s coat daily to prevent knotting and matting of the fur
  • Common Health Conditions: diabetes, von Willebrand’s disease, kidney stones, liver disease, cysts, eye conditions and obesity
  • Characteristics: intelligent, energetic, requires socialization and strong leadership
  • Miniature Schnauzers were derived from cross breeding between Standard Schnauzers and Affenpinschers, some believe the Poodle was also mixed in the cross breeding
  • The hair of these dogs does not shed frequently and as such they are recommended for some allergy sufferers that are looking for a low allergen dog
  • If not provided stable leadership this breed can develop a number of behavioral issues including separation anxiety, nuisance barking and guarding behavior

Yorkshire Terrier

  • The Yorkshire TerrierLifespan: 12-15 years
  • Height: 6-7 inches
  • Weight: 7 pounds
  • Colors: steel-blue or tan
  • Type of Coat: long coat that is silky to the touch
  • Common Health Conditions: bronchitis, slipped stifle, early tooth decay, digestive trouble, sensitivity to anesthetic and problems giving birth
  • Characteristics: energetic and demand strong leadership
  • Naturally these dogs have a considerable amount of hair on their heads that must either be trimmed or put in a hair band to ensure that the dog can see properly
  • Banding or clipping hair also helps to avoid matted fur from food and water exposure
  • The longer fur of the Yorkie requires regular brushing but with regular maintenance this is a low shedding breed
  • Teeth cleanings are a must
  • Yorkies are not the ideal breed for households with children unless the children are older and able to understand the needs of a smaller dog
  • This breed is sensitive to colder weather and prefers to stay where it is warm or to be provided additional warmth in colder climates

Brussels Griffon

Brussels Griffon
Photo credit: Wikipedia
  • Lifespan: 12-15 years
  • Height: 7-8 inches
  • Weight: 6-12 pounds
  • Colors: reddish-brown, red-brown and black, black and tan and solid black
  • Type of Coat: dense rough coats that are wiry in appearance
  • Common Health Conditions: eye conditions, sensitivity to heat, trouble giving birth, respiratory problems and slipped stifle
  • Characteristics: intelligent
  • The Brussels Griffon is of unknown origin but is thought to at least be a crossbreed with a pug and perhaps the Affenpinscher
  • While these are low shedding pups, this breed does require a significant amount of grooming in order to maintain a healthy knot-free coat


Photo credit: AKC
  • Lifespan: 10-12 years
  • Height: 10-15 inches
  • Weight: 7-8 pounds
  • Colors: red, black, dark grey, silver and black and tan
  • Type of Coat: double coat with the undercoat being curly and the overcoat being wiry in appearance
  • Common Health Conditions: slipped stifle, open fontanel, patent ductus arteriosus, fractures and respiratory conditions as a reaction to hot weather
  • Characteristics: intelligent and stubborn
  • It is important never to clip this breed’s coat, but it should be brushed on a weekly basis

Video: Miniature Dog Breeds Mashup

Want to see these guys in action? Check out this video compilation of miniature dog breeds.

Which Miniature Breed Is The Right One For You?

Researching which miniature breed is right for you can be tedious, but it is important to find a dog that will be happy in your home and a dog that you will be happy with. Be sure to ask any questions you may have to an educated professional such as a rescue organization or a reputable breeder and really prepare before deciding to bring your new dog home.

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