Which Small Dogs Are Good Family Pets?

The easy-going beagle even plays 'dress-up.'
The easy-going beagle even plays 'dress-up.' (Image: Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Labs and golden retrievers seem to top every “best family dog” list, but let’s not forget about the little guys. Small dogs make wonderful family pets for those who don’t have all the space a large breed requires or those who don’t want their walls covered in drool and floors covered in large tufts of fur.


Snoopy, from the famed “Peanuts” comic strip, made the beagle famous, and for good reason. These small yet sturdy dogs are known for their happy-go-lucky disposition; their tails always seem to be wagging. The typical beagle stands around 14 inches tall and weighs between 20 and 25 pounds. They are the perfect size for rough and tumble play without overpowering small children. This curious, somewhat mischievous breed enjoys daily exercise and makes a wonderful buddy for adventurous, active boys and girls.

Boston Terrier

Nicknamed “the American Gentleman,” the Boston terrier is an intelligent, gregarious breed, whose markings make him look like he’s ready for a black tie affair. Don’t let his dapper appearance fool you, however, this breed has a ton of wild energy. Highly adaptable to apartment living and eager to learn new tricks, the Boston terrier is the best of both worlds. Due to their short snout, this breed does best with moderate exercise but is always looking to romp and show off their tricks. The loyal 15- to 20-pound Boston terrier also has a short coat, which requires little more than weekly brushing, perfect for families looking to cut down on grooming time and expenses.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If your family is more laid back, or you have small children, consider the gentle Cavalier King Charles spaniel. These 13- to 18-pound beauties are always smiling. Known for their sweet, affectionate nature, the cavalier is trustworthy around small children and more than willing to snuggle up on the couch for movie night. You will, however, want to bring out the brush during daily snuggle sessions as the cavalier’s long, silky coat requires brushing at least every other day. Though this breed loves to spend quiet time indoors, it also requires regular daily exercise to stay healthy.

Bichon Frisé

Allergy sufferers look no further; the bichon frisé may be the best small, allergy-friendly, family dog on the list. This vivacious, playful breed weighs between 7 and 12 pounds and has a puffy, white coat that rarely sheds; some people say they resemble a cotton ball. Aside from not having to worry about the family sniffling and sneezing, the bichon frisé is trustworthy around children, strangers and even other pets. They love to play with their new friends and require daily exercise -- the perfect companion for the whole family.

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