If you’re thinking about getting one of many popular small dog breeds, researching the breed is the first in a long list of steps before you can take home your small furry friend.

Firstly, have you considered the potential health risks of your desired breed? 

Secondly, have you considered how much a small dog may cost? 

And lastly, do you know which small dog breeds might fit your personality, bond with your children or blend in with your lifestyle?  

We’ve compiled a list of small dog breeds with all the information you’ll need about their health, personalities and costs, so you can choose the best small dog breed for you and your family.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lies down on concrete outside

Known as a companion to royal families in Europe in the 17th century, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a large toy breed with feathered ears and a medium long coat  that doesn’t shed excessively.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health

Males and female Cavalier King Charles Spaniels measure between 30-33 cm and both weigh between 5.5-8.0 kg. [2]

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is prone to several inheritable health conditions. These include: [3]

  • Heart disease
  • Syringomyelia (when the spinal cord fills up with fluid near the brain)
  • Joint problems like hip dysplasia and luxating patella (the dog’s knee cap slips out of its groove)
  • Eye problems including cataracts and dry eye syndrome

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Personality

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are small, affectionate and eager-to-please dogs who thrive in the company of people and other pets. It’s recommended that this breed isn’t left home alone too often. 

This breed is known as a companion dog and will make a great family pet due to its even temperament. Their obedient natures make them very easy to train too.

Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russell Terrier stands on sand at the beach

The Jack Russell Terrier (also known as the Parson Russell Terrier) is small and sturdy with a short smooth coat. They were originally bred to hunt foxes and were part of a selective breeding program that aimed to develop a “tenacious but tiny hunter”. [4]

Jack Russell Terriers Health

Males measure around 36 cm and females measure around 33 cm. Both male and female Jack Russell Terriers typically weigh between 5-8 kg. [5]

The Jack Russell Terrier is generally a healthy breed and often lives a long life. Jack Russell Terriers are known to have eye, joint and mobility problems as well as poor muscle control.  

Common dog diseases and conditions include:  [4]

  • Patellar luxation (the dog’s knee caps slip out of place)
  • Deafness
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma (pressure inside a dog’s eye)
  • Cerebellar ataxia (abnormal movement due to the central nervous system)
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease (causes degeneration in hip joints)

Jack Russell Terriers Personality

Jack Russells are small but they aren’t your typical lap dogs. They have major exercise needs and require 90-120 minutes of activity per day. 

They’re great dogs for active families but their strong prey drive is not ideal for households where there are other small pets (including cats).

Their strong willpower and stamina can also make them a challenge for any first-time dog owners.

Miniature Poodles

Brown Miniature Poodle sits on green grass in a backyard

Originally bred in Germany to retrieve waterfowl, the Miniature Poodle was downsized from the Toy Poodle and previously from the Standard Poodle. Their fluffy coat is curly, coarse and hypoallergenic but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have regular haircuts.

Miniature Poodles Health

Both male and female miniature poodles measure between 28-38 cm and weigh between 12-14 kg. [6]

While poodles are a fairly healthy breed overall, they’re prone to some hereditary health issues including: [7]

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Sebaceous adenitis (skin disease)
  • Von Willebrand’s disease (blood disorder)
  • Luxating patella (a dog’s kneecap moves out of place) 
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (hip disorder)
  • Bloat

Miniature Poodles Personality

Miniature Poodles are an extremely intelligent, friendly and energetic small dog breed. This breed usually gets along well with people who have an active lifestyle. They also maintain an even temperament around kids and can make great companion dogs for your family.

Miniature Schnauzer

Miniature Schnauzer stands on green grass outside

Bred in Germany, the Schnauzer worked on farms, protected property and assisted in herding. The Standard Schnauzer was bred with the Poodle and the Affenpinscher to create the Miniature Schnauzer, which was specifically bred to hunt for vermin.

Miniature Schnauzer Health

Males measure up to around 35 cm and weigh 8 kg while females typically measure up to around 33 cm and weigh 7 kg. [8]

The Miniature Schnauzer is known for being a healthy and robust dog but can still be prone to some hereditary issues including: [9]

  • Cataracts
  • Hyperlipidemia (the dog’s blood has more lipids or fats e.g. high cholesterol)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver shunts (blood bypasses around the liver)
  • Urinary stones

Miniature Schnauzer Personality

Miniature Schnauzers (unlike other small dogs in the terrier family) have a bright and excitable temperament and are affectionate towards their owners. They are intelligent and trainable making Miniature Schnauzers the ideal kid-friendly small dog breed.

While this small breed is more friendly and eager to please than other terrier breeds, they’re also vocal and can make great guard dogs.

Yorkshire Terrier

Yorkshire Terrier lies in green grass in the garden

The Yorkshire Terrier (also known as a Yorkie) was specifically bred to trap rodents in textile mills in Yorkshire, England. It’s believed that several breeds, including the Skye Terrier and Dandie Dinmont, were bred to create the Yorkshire Terrier.

This small breed has a long silky coat that requires a lot of grooming. The Yorkie’s long coat should be brushed daily and needs regular trims to be kept healthy and shiny.

Yorkshire Terrier Health

The Yorkshire Terrier is in the toy dog family, meaning both males and females will measure no taller than 20.5 cm and weigh between 2-3 kg. [10]

Yorkshire Terriers can experience some hereditary health problems including: [11]

  • Patellar luxation (looseness of the dog’s kneecap)
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Portosystemic shunt (a liver disorder)
  • Heart disease
  • Intervertebral disc disease (herniated disc in the spine)

Yorkshire Terrier Personality

While Yorkies are affectionate to those they love, they’re also vocal, protective and loyal. Despite their size, Yorkies are active and energetic dogs and surprisingly make excellent guard dogs.  

They prefer a lot of attention and don’t like being left alone. Due to their feisty temperament, they may not be one of the best dog breeds for families with kids as well as first-time dog owners.

Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier lies in green grass next to wooden fixture

Modern Boston Terriers were originally bred from a Bulldog cross White English Terrier from England and are now known as small, friendly, companion dogs. They have short coats that don't shed a lot but this doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be groomed. 

Like any other small breed make sure they have a bath at least once a month, you check their nails, ears and nose for debris and you follow recommended dental care from your vet.

Boston Terrier Health

Both males and females measure between 38-43 cm while their weight should be between 6.8-11.5 kg depending on their weight class. [12]

Boston Terriers are prone to: [13]

  • Cataracts
  • Corneal ulcers and glaucoma pressure on the eye)
  • Deafness
  • Patellar luxation (a dog’s knee cap is loose)
  • Brachycephalic syndrome (upper airway obstructions that can cause breathing problems) 

Like other brachycephalic breeds, Boston Terriers can also overheat at times and should have ample amounts of rest to recover. [13]

Boston Terrier Personality

Boston Terriers are happy, friendly and affectionate and are well suited to being around kids, as well as other dogs. They are a high-energy breed and are active but are also stubborn when it comes to training them.

Border Terrier

Border Terrier stares intently at something in the distance

The Border Terrier was originally bred in England to help catch foxes and burrow into their dens to stop the threat to the farmer’s sheep. This breed has a double coat; a wiry outer coat and a soft coat underneath. The Border Terrier’s coat naturally repels dirt and will only shed heavily during the Autumn and Spring months.

Border Terrier Health

Males measure up to 30.5 cm and weigh between 6-7 kg while females measure up to 28 cm and weigh between 5-7 kg. [14]

Border Terriers are known to be a healthy and robust small dog breed but they’re prone to some hereditary health conditions including: [15]

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Heart disease
  • Progressive retinal atrophy (leads towards blindness)
  • Juvenile cataracts
  • Seizures
  • Allergies

Border Terrier Personality

Border Terriers are known to be loving towards their families and love to play even though they have strong-willed personalities. They’re smart and trainable but like other types of terriers, they can also be vocal and stubborn and will chase other animals and dig.

Scottish Terrier

Scottish Terrier stands amongst lavender plants

Scottish terriers are said to be the oldest of the Scottish Highland terriers and worked as hunters, farm dogs and vermin exterminators in Scotland. They have a medium-length coat, their trademark beard around the face and long hair on their legs and body.

Scottish Terrier Health

Both male and female Scottish Terriers measure between 25-28 cm and weigh between 8-10 kg. [16]

Scottish Terriers are prone to some hereditary health issues including: [17]

  • Von Willebrand disease (a blood clotting disorder)
  • Patellar luxation (dislocation of the knee cap)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Eye problems

Scottish Terrier Personality

This breed is independent but still loyal to its close family members. Scottish Terriers tend to stay alert and are aware of strangers and other threats within close range. This small dog breed is highly intelligent and this sometimes makes it more difficult to train due to their stubbornness.

Bedlington Terriers

Bedlington Terrier stands on green grass with their tongue out

The Bedlington Terrier is a unique breed that was developed in Northumberland (a mining shire of Bedlington) and is a combination of local terriers and whippets (due to their arched back, speed and agility). 

Known as hunting dogs, Bedlington Terriers hunted foxes, hares, badgers and vermin and are considered one of the smartest and fastest of all terrier breeds.

Bedlington Terrier Health

Both male and female Bedlington Terriers measure between 38-43 cm and weigh between 8-10 kg. [18]

The Bedlington Terrier has been associated with conditions including: [19]

  • Copper toxicosis (copper toxins build up in the liver)
  • Luxating patella (dislocation of the knee cap)
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Von Willebrand’s disease (blood clot disorder)
  • Dry eye
  • Distichiasis (abnormal growth of eyelashes)

Bedlington Terrier Personality

These terriers are both loving family members but also alert watchdogs that are protective of the ones they love. They love to be the centre of attention of their family and are very playful. They’re an ideal breed for active families who are looking for a loyal companion.

Italian Greyhound

Italian Greyhound stands on dead leaves under a tree

The Italian Greyhound is a small toy dog breed that was bred in the Mediterranean region (specifically in Italy) over 2,000 years ago for companionship. This small breed was loved by royal families and aristocrats during the Renaissance in Italy. 

This breed has a short coat, long neck and slender legs.

Italian Greyhound Health

Both male and female Italian Greyhounds should measure between 32-38 cm and weigh between 3.6-4.5 kg. [20]

Italian Greyhounds are prone to some hereditary health issues including: [21]

  • Progressive retinal atrophy (leads to blindness)
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease (orthopaedic disorder)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Patellar luxation (dislocation of the knee cap)
  • Dental issues
  • Autoimmune issues

Italian Greyhound Personality

This small breed is a playful, sensitive and sociable lap dog. They love being around people as well as other dogs. One of the things you should know before owning this breed is you’ll need to socialise your Italian Greyhound from an early age. This will help them become more confident and well-adjusted dogs.

Maltese Shih Tzu

Maltese Shih Tzu runs through green grass

This mixed breed consists of the Maltese from Malta in the Mediterranean region and the Shih Tzu which is an ancient breed that originates from China. In China, Maltese dogs were routinely bred with Chinese toy breeds, namely the Shih Tzu.

Maltese Shih Tzu Health

Male Maltese dogs measured 21-25 cm and females measured between 20-23 cm. Both males and females weighed between 3-4 kg. [22]

Shih Tzu dogs measure no more than 26.7 cm and their ideal weight should be between 4.5-7.3 kg. [23]

Maltese are prone to some hereditary conditions including: 

  • Patellar luxation (dislocation of the knee cap)
  • Heart issues
  • Liver issues including liver shunts
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) [24]

Shih Tzus also experience some hereditary issues including: [25]

  • Brachycephalic syndrome (upper airway obstructions that can cause breathing problems)
  • Intervertebral disc disease (slipped disc)
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eyes)
  • Distichiasis (excessive tearing)

Maltese Shih Tzu Personality

Of the two breeds, the Maltese is an alert and fearless watchdog while the Shih Tzu is confident and playful. Known as a lap dog, the Maltese Shih Tzu cross is an ideal small breed for people living in apartments and small spaces.  

Both breeds are loving and affectionate towards their families but characteristics of the Maltese can make them somewhat defensive around strangers.

French Bulldog

French Bulldog sits amongst purple flowers

The French Bulldog breed did originate from the English Bulldog and was brought to France where it was developed over time. A way to distinguish a French Bulldog from other Bulldog breeds is the appearance of their bat-like ears.

French Bulldog Health

Male and female French Bulldogs measure around 30 cm in height and weigh between 10-15 kg. [26]

It’s important that you obtain a French Bulldog from a responsible breeder who actively maintains the highest standards of breeding established. 

While dogs bred to these standards are less likely to inherit health problems, there are some hereditary health problems this breed can experience including: [27]

  • Brachycephalic syndrome (which impacts the dog’s airways and ability to breathe)
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Skin and allergy issues

French Bulldog Personality

French Bulldogs are affectionate, playful and family-oriented. They love to be around family, children and other pets too. They’re a great small breed for people who live in apartments and will only bark when something desperately needs your attention.

How much do small dog breeds cost?

With pet ownership on the rise in recent years, the cost to own a pet in Australia has increased too.

According to Animal Medicines Australia (AMA), 22% of pet dogs cost more than $1,000 in Australia, with dogs acquired since March 2020 averaging $1,740. [28]

The overall cost related to small dog breeds will depend on several factors including: 

  • How much pet food do they eat?  
  • How often do you take them to the vet and for what reason?
  • How much do you spend on pet healthcare products (flea/worming treatments, tick prevention etc.)?
  • How many products or accessories do you buy for your dog? 
  • How much do you pay to insure your pet?

Annual Cost of Pet Insurance by Breed

Type of Breed 1-year-old - Average Accident & Illness 5-year-old - Average Accident & Illness
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel $1,210 $1,618
Jack Russell Terrier $947 $1,225
Miniature Poodle $1,092 $1,456
Miniature Schnauzer $1,070 $1,404
Yorkshire Terrier $1,069 $1,420
Boston Terrier $1,436 $1,906
Border Terrier $979 $1,281
Scottish Terrier $1,370 $1,732
Bedlington Terrier $1,387 $1,793
Italian Greyhound $1,405 $1,831
Maltese (Cross) Shih Tzu $821 $1,121
French Bulldog $2,309 $3,101

Small “designer” breeds have a higher risk of health issues during their lifetimes, making French Bulldogs one of the most expensive breeds to insure.

While breeds like Jack Russell Terriers, Border Terriers and Maltese (Cross) Shih Tzu are more affordable to insure due to their average probability of having health issues during their life. 

If you’re looking for a personalised report on your pet’s habits and health then Budget Direct’s BudPet app is the ideal tool. You can retrieve your dog’s report at any time and keep a close eye on how well you really know your pet.