Big or small, chubby or lean, fuzzy or hairless — dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and we dog lovers embrace them all. Still, there’s no denying that most of us have special affinity for certain types of dogs. Some of us love giant breeds like the Newfoundland and St. Bernard. Some of us go for the bully breeds, while others love hunting dogs. And then there are the dog lovers who simply adore the toy breeds — the tiny little guys who all seem to be competing to be the smallest dog in the world. For these folks, almost no dog is too small — they’re happiest when their canine companion fits neatly inside a purse. And their numbers are growing. Ever since Paris Hilton charmed the TV world with her chihuahua Tinkerbell back in 2003, tiny dogs have been gaining popularity, and more and more dog lovers are looking for breeders of tiny dogs. So, today we have decided to give those folks a treat and try to answer the burning question: What is the smallest dog in the world?
This tiny little guy weighs less than 4 pounds.
A Word About Tiny Dog Breeds
Before we go into a discussion about the smallest dog breeds, let’s talk about the difference between toy dogs (the smallest designation recognized by major breed classification organizations such as the American Kennel Club) and teacup dogs. Toy dogs are all part of a the AKC “small dog group” which includes miniature versions of a number of large breed dogs (think miniature pinscher or miniature Schnauzer) and dogs that are, by nature, small (chihuahua, Maltese, lhasa apso and so on.) As a general rule, small dogs range from 2 to 22 pounds and can be as tall as 18 inches. Toy and miniature dogs range from 3 to 12 pounds and are, with rare exceptions, never more than 12 inches in height.
Teacup dogs, on the other hand, are miniaturized versions of toy dogs. Usually bred by selecting the “runt of the litter” and breeding it with another runt, they are very small — generally weighing less than 4 pounds and sometimes as little as 1 to 2 pounds. Because they are bred from dogs selected for their small size with (usually) little thought given to their overall health, teacups are prone to a variety of health problems. Some of the most common include:
- Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can be precipitated if the dog misses even one meal. Low blood sugar can lead to seizures and even death
- Congenital heart defects
- Collapsing trachea and other respiratory problems
- Difficulty maintaining body temperature
- Dental issues
These tiny dogs are also incredibly fragile, and can sustain lethal injuries from simply falling off a couch or jumping off a bed. Broken bones, which are rarely life-threatening but always painful, are also common, so owners must be ever-vigilant to keep the dog safe.
For these reasons, many veterinarians caution small-dog lovers against acquiring a teacup dog.
The Smallest Dog Breeds
With that precaution as a backdrop, let’s spend some time looking at some of the smallest dog breeds. All of these dogs tend to weigh in at under 10 pounds when fully grown, and teacup varieties are smaller still. That said, they can have big personalities and lots and lots of energy — so don’t assume that all tiny dogs are lap dogs.
The smallest dog breed recognized by the AKC and arguably in the world, the chihuahua is the national symbol of Mexico and one of the world’s most popular dogs. Weighing in at no more than 6 pounds and standing 5 to 8 inches tall, it definitely qualifies as one of the smallest dogs in the world. In fact, according to the most recent version of the Guiness Book of World Records, the world’s smallest dog yet on record was a chihuahua named Milly, who resided with her family in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Sadly, Milly, a brown and tan apple head chihuahua who was just 4 inches tall and weighed about one pound, died from respiratory problems in March 2020 at the age of 9.
The National Dog of Mexico, the Chihuahua is the world’s smallest recognized dog breed.
Despite their diminutive stature, chihuahuas are lively, intelligent, loyal dogs. They come in a variety of colors and patterns and can be short-haired or long haired. And while the breed is traditionally known for its iconic apple-shaped head (the only head shape acceptable for show), the “deer-head” chihuahua, which sports a longer snout that slopes towards the crown, is also a recognized variety of the breed.
One of the most popular dogs among city dwellers in the U.S., Yorkies are dainty looking dogs with big personalities and lots of spunk. Most tip the scales at no more than 7 pounds and stand less than 7 inches tall. But it’s not unusual for them to weigh considerably less — teacups can be as small as 2 pounds and just 5 inches in height (That’s about as tall as an iPhone.) Known for their silky, blue and tan, floor-length coats (a requirement for the show ring) they look just as adorable when they’re clipped short.
Yorkshire terriers are one of the most adorable of all the tiny dog breeds, and have personalities to match!
Dainty appearance aside, Yorkie’s are still terriers at heart, with all of the feisty energy and assertive nature of other terrier breeds. Smart, loyal and adventurous companions, they can also be quite vocal (read “yappy”) and strong-willed. But most Yorkie owners will tell you they possess enough good looks and charm to more than make up for any annoying traits.
Daschund’s (aka “weiner dogs) come in two sizes, standard and miniature. The standard dachshund is a smallish dog that typically weighs 16 to 30 pounds and stands about 8 to 9 inches tall. But the mini-daschund is quite petite, weighing in at under 10 pounds and standing about 5 to 6 inches tall. Teacup versions are smaller still.
Like many tiny dogs, this miniature dachshund gets cold quite easily, so he’s dressed in a sweater to keep him warm.
The miniature dachshund is a very popular breed, and it’s easy to see why. The dogs can have short, wiry or long hair and come in a variety of colors and patterns. Their short legs and long body limit how much vigorous activity they can handle, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fun- loving companions — these dogs are smart and funny and love to play.
Poodles come in three sizes, standard, miniature and toy, all of which are recognized by the AKC. And while both miniature and toy poodles are small dogs, the toy is by far the tiniest of the two, usually weighing only 4 to 6 pounds and standing less than 10 inches tall. Still, these diminutive pups are a perfect example of the adage, “good things come in small packages.” Athletic, loyal, and whip smart, they make wonderful companion dogs, and perform exceptionally well at agility and in the show ring.
These two toy poodles make an adorable couple!
Toy poodles come in a variety of colors, but all have a thick, curly coat that will mat quickly if it’s left too long. For this reason, they need a fair amount of grooming — at minimum daily brushing and professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks. (Or you can buy a good set of clippers and a high-quality brush and do it yourself!) That said, they are low-shedding dogs, and can fit in well in a household where someone has allergies.
Another very popular toy breed both in the U.S. and around the world, the Pomeranian is an adorable little dog that rarely weighs over 3-5 pounds (7 pounds is considered the top acceptable weight.) With its long, fluffy double coat and tiny, fox-like face, it is one of the most iconic of the toy breeds. (Remember Boo, the internet sensation who inspired millions of Instagram and Facebook “likes,” and even a couple of books?) But pomeranians aren’t just pretty faces. They’re also smart, active, loyal and very trainable companion dogs who love to play. They can even do well in a home with school-age children as long as the kids understand that small dogs must be handled with care.
Pomeranians are some of the most iconic and beloved tiny dogs
Poms come in a variety of colors, but the most common are tan, orange and red. Their poofy, double coat needs regular maintenance — at least weekly brushing all the way down to the skin and shampooing at least every 4 to 6 weeks. Regular tooth brushing is also important, since these tiny dogs have a tendency to develop dental disease.
Tiny, white and very fluffy, the Maltese is an ancient dog breed whose popularity dates back to Biblical times. Although its origins are unclear, it may have been brought to the island of Malta by the Phoenicians, where it later became a much-treasured status symbol among ancient Greeks and later, Romans. When the Roman Empire fell, the dogs were saved from extinction by the Chinese, who cross-bred them with some of that country’s more refined breeds, such as the shih-tzu and Pekingese. The result was, to a large extent, the beautiful little Maltese that still exists today.
The Maltese is an ancient dog that’s as popular today as it was in Biblical times.
Maltese dogs are very small — usually 7 to 9 inches tall and under 7 pounds, and, as with all toy breeds, teacups are tinier still. They sport a long, silky, all-white coat that acts as a perfect backdrop to their large expressive dark eyes and black button nose, and give off an air of quiet, assured elegance. But don’t let that cool exterior fool you! Underneath the regal air, the Maltese is a spunky, athletic little dog who does well at agility, loves to learn new tricks and is friendly to just about everyone.
Small in stature but big on style, the papillon is a tiny dog with instantly recognizable “butterfly” shaped ears, long, feathery fur and a beautiful plumed tail. Standing just 8 to 10 inches tall and weighing 5 to 10 pounds max, these dogs are a bundle of energy and lots and lots fun. Despite their dainty appearance, they are quite athletic and robust, and their high intelligence and people-pleasing personality makes them very easy to train. Not the smallest of the toy breeds, they are arguably one of the prettiest, and their endless stamina makes them a great fit for families with kids.
Papillons are tiny, dainty looking dogs with a lot of spunk!
Want a peek at a papillon in action? Watch 3-year-old Gabby slay the agility course at the 2019 WKC Masters Agility, finishing at just under 40 seconds to win.
As its name implies, the shih-tzu hails from China, where it was bred as a companion dog for the Chinese ruling class. Typically standing about 9 to 10 inches tall and weighing 9 to 12 pounds, shih-tzus are beautiful dogs with long, flowing coats and charming, friendly faces with big dark eyes. They are short-snouted, but their faces usually don’t have quite as much of the “smushed in” look of a Pekingese or pug.
Shih-tzus are adorable little dogs with big personalities.
Here in the U.S., shih-tzus are very popular among single apartment dwellers and suburban families. Amazingly robust given their small size, they love to play, and can even stand a little roughhousing as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. That said, the teacup version of the shih-tzu is too tiny to live in a household with young children, and must be handled very carefully because of its small size and delicate physique.
Agile, alert, and athletic, the miniature pinscher appears in many ways to be a miniaturized version of the German or Doberman pinscher, but they are not the same breed. Long-legged and well-muscled, with high-set, upright ears and large, expressive eyes, they are quite tiny — standing only about 10 to 12 inches tall and weighing about 8 to 10 pounds. It’s also possible to find a teacup version of the breed, although these are usually bred by unethical breeders and aren’t in the best of health.
Min-pins, as they are commonly called, are wonderful little dogs that come in a number of colors and combinations, although tan and black is the most common. Hearty and long-lived, they make great companions for singles and families with older kids.
This mini-pinscher has the regal bearing and athleticism of a dog 10 times its size!
Also hailing from China, the Pekingese, or Peke, is a tiny, stocky dog that typically stands about 6 to 9 inches tall but can weigh up to 14 pounds, although teacup versions of the dog can weigh as little as 4 to 6 pounds. Known for their leonine manes and extremely short snouts, Pekes are distinctive-looking dogs whose lineage dates back to ancient times. Along with the shih-tzu and the pug, they were bred as companion dogs for Chinese emperors, who cherished them dearly. It has been said that stealing one of the emperors Pekes was a crime punishable by death.
Beloved by kings and celebrities, the Pekingese dog is also a wonderful pet for us ordinary folks.
Known for their quiet, even, somewhat subdued temperament, Pekingese dogs are popular with urban apartment dwellers and dog-loving celebrities. Back in the day, they were a favored “accessory” for Hollywood “glamor girls,” like Jayne Mansfield, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor and Lana Turner, to name just a few. Even former President Donal Trump was photographed with a Peke back in 2012. The dog, Malachy, and owner/handler David Fitzpatrick visited Trump and his then-wife Ivanka after Malachy won Best in Show at 136th Westminster Kennel Club.
The Bottom Line
If you’re a small-dog lover, any of the dogs mentioned here would almost certainly make a wonderful addition to your home. Just remember that the smallest dog is not necessarily the healthiest dog. Little Milly, the tiny chihuahua who made the Guinness Book of World Records, lived only 9 years, many years fewer than most toy dogs. What’s more, if you do choose to adopt a teacup dog, look for a reputable breeder who can provide you with references from other satisfied clients. And make sure to keep your little dog warm, well-fed and safe!