Best small dogs for families

6 June 2024 - 6 min read
A woman, a toddler, and a small white dog playing with a toy train on a patterned rug.

Finding the perfect small-sized dog for your family is about more than choosing a conveniently pint-sized pup—it's about finding a dog that will work with your unique family dynamic.

Of course, you don't have to opt for a pedigree dog. Adopting from a shelter not only gives a dog a much-needed home but also introduces a versatile and often resilient family member into your life.

But if you do choose to buy a pedigree pup, choosing a reputable breeder is key. A great breeder focuses on breeding up to the highest standards, meaning they won't breed dogs with problematic temperaments or hereditary conditions just because they're cute.

Whichever path you choose, this guide will help you navigate through some fantastic small-sized dog breeds and mixed breeds that are known for thriving in family environments.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier king charles spaniel

The royal companion

Why they’re great: Renowned for their expressive eyes and affectionate nature, Cavaliers meld seamlessly into family life. They have a notable tolerance for noise and chaos, which makes them ideal for households with children.

Ideal family: Perfect for families seeking a gentle and empathetic companion. They are particularly sensitive to the emotions of their owners, making them suitable for families that can offer plenty of affection and attention.

Things to consider: That lovey-dovey nature comes with a flip side: Cavaliers thrive on companionship and may experience separation anxiety if left alone too often. They're also prone to genetic health issues, necessitating attentive care and regular veterinary check-ups. And break out the brushes and combs—those silky coats require frequent grooming to prevent mats and tangles.

Shih Tzu

shih tzu

The affectionate companion

Why they’re great: Shih Tzus are lap dogs that adore spending time with their families and are particularly good with gentle handling, making them excellent for homes with respectful younger children.

Ideal family: Perfect for families who enjoy grooming and pampering their pet, Shih Tzus need regular maintenance to keep that coat looking fabulous.

Things to consider: Again, stay on top of grooming your Shih Tzu for best results; their long, flowing coats need daily care to prevent matting. They're also prone to some other health issues, which are sometimes preventable (tooth decay, for instance). And finally, those squishy adorable flat faces can lead to breathing problems, so keep an eye on them in very hot weather or during strenuous exercise.


Pug on beige background

The quirky entertainer

Why they’re great: Pugs are sociable, hilarious, and love to be the centre of attention, making them a hit in family settings.

Ideal family: Best for families who enjoy a fun, lively pet with lots of character. Pugs are sturdy enough to handle play with children and are always ready for cuddles.

Things to consider: Pugs are susceptible to obesity as well as respiratory issues due to their compact faces. Keep an eye on their food intake (and the snacks they nab from your kids), and make sure they're not outside for too long when it's hot out.

Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier

The American gentleman

Why they’re great: Known for their tuxedo-like markings, Boston Terriers are as charming in personality as they are in appearance. They're intelligent, quick learners who make reliable and affectionate companions.

Ideal family: Bostons are great for active city dwellers looking for a dog with moderate energy levels that can adapt easily to apartment living and being around children.

Things to consider: Like several other breeds on this list with shorter snouts, you'll want to monitor your Boston for difficulty breathing during hot weather or strenuous exercise.


Dachshund sitting with head tilted

The curious adventurer

Why they’re great: Dachshunds are brave and energetic, with a unique body shape that always turns heads. Their vivacious personality makes them excellent watchdogs and playful companions.

Ideal family: Best suited for families that appreciate a bold character and are able to manage a dog with a strong hunting instinct (fencing required, particularly if you're surrounded by wildlife). They enjoy being involved in activities and can keep up with active children.

Things to consider: Dachshunds' long spines are susceptible to injuries, so it’s important to keep them at a healthy weight.



A bright delight

Why they’re great: Havanese are known for their bright and affectionate personality, making them wonderful family pets. They are highly sociable, love to play, and are great with kids of all ages.

Ideal family: Excellent for families looking for a small but hearty dog that can keep up with busy family life and enjoy regular interaction.

Things to consider: Havanese require regular grooming to maintain their beautiful, silky coats. They can become anxious if left alone for too long, so they're ideal for families where someone is often at home.



The gentle aristocrat

Why they’re great: Known for their gentle disposition and affectionate nature, Malteses are great for families and thrive in calmer living spaces.

Ideal family: Best for families who will provide regular grooming and cherish a quiet, loving lap dog. While Maltese can work well in plenty of households, they'll appreciate gentle affection from family members and a quieter atmosphere.

Things to consider: Maltese's long, white coats require daily care, and they may need sunscreen during outdoor activities due to their sensitivity to the sun. They're also prone to dental disorders, so make sure to stay on top of teeth brushing.

Yorkshire Terrier

yorkie on tan background

The tiny dynamo

Why they’re great: Small but mighty, Yorkshire Terriers offer a big personality in a tiny package.

Ideal family: Well suited for families with older children who are ready to consistently train a small dog with a spirited personality (break out the training books).

Things to consider: Yorkies are known for their loyalty but can be suspicious of strangers. They require plenty of socialisation to develop a balanced temperament. And they're not low-maintenance; regular grooming is a must to maintain their fine hair.



Chihuahua + poodle mix

Why they’re great: Chipoos mix the Chihuahua's bold personality with the Poodle's intelligence, often with a (mostly) hypoallergenic coat.

Ideal family: Perfect for families looking for a small, energetic dog that's good with older children. Chipoos can be pretty delicate, so kids should be taught to play gently with them.

Things to consider: Chipoos can be vocal, so training to manage barking is important. They'll also need jackets in cold weather.



Maltese + poodle mix

Why they’re great: Maltipoos are affectionate, smart, and sport hypoallergenic coats. They blend the Maltese's sweet nature with the Poodle's brains, making them both cuddly and clever.

Ideal family: Excellent for families looking for a playful, gentle, and smart dog. As an added bonus, Maltipoo coats are easier on those with allergies (although they'll still shed dander).

Things to consider: Like many other small dogs that thrive on companionship, Maltipoos can get pretty intense separation anxiety. And pay attention to the breeder you choose, even when it comes to mixed breeds like this one. A poorly bred Maltipoo can end up with luxating patella, hip dysplasia, and other potentially expensive conditions.

Mini Cockapoo

Golden cockapoo laying down

Cocker Spaniel + Mini Poodle mix

Why they’re great: Mini Cockapoos combine the affectionate nature of Cocker Spaniels with the intelligence of Mini Poodles, making them versatile and easygoing family pets.

Ideal family: Honestly, well-bred cockapoos are nearly perfect for any family, especially those with children or first-time dog owners. They're trainable, sweet, and fun dogs.

Things to consider: As with most pups, cockapoos require regular grooming and a good amount of daily exercise to be their best selves. And again, if you're opting to go with a breeder, make sure they test for common Cockapoo health conditions that might get passed down.

Protect your pup with dog insurance

Managing a household with kids and pets definitely keeps you on your toes, especially when unexpected vet bills pop up from accidents or illnesses.

Consider easing some of that stress with a dog insurance policy that helps cover costs from those unexpected visits.

A person high fiving a dog

Get £15,000 lifetime vet fee cover with our Complete policy.

A person high fiving a dog

Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.