10 Small Dogs with Big Personalities

By Joy H. Montgomery, Animal Planet

When you think of small dogs, does an image of Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, stuffed in a Louis Vuitton bag come to mind? If the answer is yes, you aren’t alone. Many people think of small dogs as accessories, but get to know them and you’ll see they’re so much more than four-legged fashion statements. Although little in stature, most petite pooches are big on personality. In fact, there’s such a range in their interests and abilities that you could almost imagine them fitting in with some common high school cliques.

Which dog would be captain of the football team, and which would you most likely catch causing trouble? What breed is the biggest clown, and which could be head cheerleader? Check out our top 10 small canines with big personalities — from the spirited to the sweet — to find out who the biggest little dogs on campus really are.

Check out our top 10 small canines with big personalities —as seen in our Dog Breed Selector — to find out who the biggest little dogs on campus really are.

10. Italian Greyhound: The Track Star
Explore the Italian Greyhound in Animal Planet’s Dog Breed Selector

The Italian greyhound is a small version of his cousin, the standard greyhound, and just as fast. Just over a foot tall, this miniature track star can run at top speeds, reaching up to 40 miles per hour, according to author Sam Stall. This lightning fast canine is sleek, athletic and loves to run more than anything.

Before you choose an Italian greyhound as a pet, consider the time commitment this runner requires. According to the Italian Greyhound Club of America, the breed is very playful well beyond his puppy years and requires a lot of attention and daily exercise. He is intelligent, but can be timid around strangers. His fine bone structure and energetic personality may not be a great combination for families with young children, but he does well in families with older children and even gets along with other small dogs or cats that might enjoy playing chase.

9. Brussels Griffon: The Party Animal
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The Brussels griffon loves people and playtime with a face that matches his wild side. This dog isn’t necessarily the most popular of the small dog set — due to its being one of the more uncommon breeds in the United States — but he makes quite an entrance with his crazy hair and spunky attitude. The Brussels griffon tends to have an inflated sense of self and believes he is a big dog, which can get him in trouble from time to time with the larger animals.

According to the National Brussels Griffon Rescue, this dog has been known to wander when given the opportunity, so it’s best to keep him contained or leashed at all times. If you leave this canine alone, make sure you stock up on plenty of toys to keep his attention; otherwise, you could return home to find your place resembling a frat house the day after a keg party. Overall, though, the Brussels griffon makes a wonderful four-legged companion that has a tendency to form a strong attachment to its main caretaker.

8. Beagle: The Rebel
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The beagle is like the James Dean of the dog world. He’s all-American and well loved, but a little challenging at times. The beagle can really be a bit stubborn and has a mind of his own. He also bores easily, rarely responds to his name and loves to dig, so be careful of your prized petunias. Watch out if your beagle gets bored: He will howl to the moon until something comes along to keep him occupied.

Originally bred for hunting, beagles are big dogs in small bodies and ready for adventure. If you choose a beagle for your home, be prepared to give lots of attention and playtime. This hound loves being part of a pack and generally makes an excellent family dog. Though they might be a little hesitant around strangers, with good socialization, your beagle should learn to accept others into his inner circle.

7. Miniature Schnauzer: The Intellectual
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The miniature schnauzer’s overall appearance makes it a good fit for the role of an intellectual. With distinct eyebrows, salt and pepper fur, and a beard, this canine appears ready for the lecture hall. And his looks don’t lie: He is highly intelligent, quick to learn, and usually makes the dean’s list at obedience school.

Part of the terrier family, the miniature schnauzer likes a small social circle, loving his family the best. Thanks to his willingness to learn, this canine makes an excellent choice for anyone who wants to teach a dog tricks or enter agility competitions. The miniature schnauzer also makes an excellent companion and watchdog, because he’s loyal and alert. But make no mistake — this dog has a fun side, too. He is spunky, fearless and plays well with others. Early training and socialization will give this pooch a head start toward a bright future.

6. Affenpinscher: The Loner
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You might say the affenpinscher has a face only a mother could love. Commonly called a “monkey dog” for his monkey-like mug, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC), a lot of this pooch’s personality comes from his unique appearance. He often looks like he just rolled out of bed and, like a loner, is generally quiet. He’s always aware of what’s going on around him, though, and can be a little suspicious of others.

The affenpinscher is a rare breed you won’t see every day, and he’s often misunderstood due to his odd looks. He really does love affection and has a good attitude, although he’d rather play indoors than out. This canine might not look like the other playful pups, but once you get to know him, he’ll keep you constantly entertained with his antics.

Image credit: dmjarvey / Flickr

5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: The Teacher’s Pet
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The Cavalier King Charles spaniel loves to be praised for being a good dog. This canine is polite, sweet-tempered and eager to please, much like every teacher’s pet. The cavalier becomes very attached to her owner and will eagerly follow you around, lapping up any attention given to her. She excels in obedience training and plays well with others when properly socialized.

Because of these spaniels’ need of companionship, they don’t do well when left alone. They should always be on a leash when outdoors as this is one breed that is book smart but lacks street smarts. Lots of cuddles and attention is all this pooch needs to feel like the apple of your eye.

4. Boston Terrier: The Class Clown
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The Boston terrier might have a dapper, tuxedo-wearing appearance, but it’s all just a ruse for what lies underneath. Like a class clown, these canines love to entertain and amuse. There’s no doubt this breed dances to the beat of its own drummer, and they use their energetic spirits to capture the hearts of those who meet them.

Commonly called an “American Gentleman,” according to the Boston Terrier Club of America, this breed succeeds in dog shows and performance events like flyball, so schedule plenty of time for fetch, dog tricks and other high-energy activities. Despite all of his entertaining qualities, at the end of the day, the Boston terrier seems happiest just being around his family. His gentle temperament makes him easy to love, and it’s a good thing because this canine clown loves plenty of attention.

3. Pembroke Welsh Corgi: Theatre Geek
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The Pembroke Welsh corgi is a pup that loves the limelight. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), this breed is extremely bright and alert, enthusiastic and enjoys being around people, but she needs continuous mental and physical stimulation to be most content. Veterinarian Debra Eldredge says the corgi is earnest in her role as a pet and is very generous with her affection to all family members, making her an excellent companion.

Corgis were originally bred to herd cattle so they like having a job to do, even if it’s just getting the squeaker out of a toy. This is a creative canine that will find ways to entertain herself if boredom sets in, so make sure to leave plenty of toys around that stimulate her brain. Eldredge recommends you start early to teach your corgi that you are the director of the show; otherwise this determined dog might try to gain the upper paw in your relationship.

2. Parson Russell Terrier: The Jock
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Strap some shoulder pads on this high-energy, compact dog and you’ll have an all-star on your hands. The Parson Russell terrier, formerly called the Jack Russell, lives up to the feisty terrier reputation and is proud of it. This small dog is a true athlete who excels in flyball competitions and has an endless supply of energy and courage.

If you live in a small apartment, the Parson Russell might not be the best choice for you. This pooch needs plenty of room to run, chase and jump. Since this MVP loves to be the star, he might not like other dogs taking some of the attention. Much like a scrappy athlete, an excited Parson Russell is often “all bark, no bite,” but according to the AKC, he doesn’t like rough handling, so be sure to supervise young children who are playing with him.

1. Dachsund: Class President
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The dachshund may stand low to the ground, but this breed could start its own political party with the loyal following it enjoys — according to the AKC, it’s one of the most popular. Commonly called “wiener dogs,” these pooches are curious, charming and enjoy being around others, all winning attributes for any leader. Your dachshund might be stubborn at times and can be possessive with toys or food, but theses canines generally love people and are very sociable.

Doxies, as they are sometimes called, also enjoy being around their own kind, so it’s not unusual to find multiple dachshunds living together, and their social networking can extend to their owners, too. According to Meetup.com, there are more than 100 “meet-up” groups across the U.S. where dachshund enthusiasts get together regularly to socialize and discuss the doxie agenda. As do the other breeds on this list, the dachshund proves that being petite has its perks, including cultivating a loyal following to your super-sized personality and charm.

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Val M.
Val M.about a year ago


Azaima A.
Azaima A.about a year ago

All dogs have big personalities

Carole R.
Carole R.1 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Primum Nocere
Primum Nocere2 years ago

6:44AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

"They are all adorable, but you are missing one of the most loving dogs: CHIHUAHUAS!!!!"

Chihuahuas are anything but loving. I suggest you do your due diligence. They're number one on a list of deceptively dangerous dog breeds.

Nadine H.
Nadine H.2 years ago

Love dogs!

Wendy h.
Wendy H.2 years ago

Oh, SO Cute!

Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 2 years ago

just adorable,thank you for sharing 9/7

miriam klein
miriam klein2 years ago

so cute :) thank you for the informations

Lisa Gourley
Lisa Gourley2 years ago