15 Healthiest Small Dog Breeds for Your Family

Healthiest Small Dog Breeds

Are you a small dog person? Have you ever wondered which breeds live the longest? Small dog breeds tend to live longer than large dogs, and we’ve got the 411 on which small dogs are the healthiest. Below are 15 small breeds that are hardy, don’t suffer too many health issues — like genetic diseases, and generally live a healthy life.

According to research from last year, big dogs have shorter lives because “selective breeding for size has made large breeds more susceptible to cancer.” Another theory is that large breeds live shorter lives because of the way they are bred and that they use more energy to grow fast.

Responsible breeders screen their dogs for many health issues. Mixed breeds can be healthier than pedigree dogs because purebred dogs have a limited gene pool, and consequently, genetic disorders can appear in each generation. Sadly, severe health problems are often the result of bad breeding.

Healthiest Small Dog Breeds

This bunch of cutie pies are healthy dog breeds. If you feed them nutritious food, make sure they exercise, bring them for annual vet trips, and don’t let them become chubby — they should be healthy and live a long time and hopefully won’t develop issues.

1. Boston Terrier

healthiest small dog breeds
WEIGHT12-25 pounds
HEIGHT10-12 inches
LIFESPAN11-13 years

This little cutie is a robust creature. Although all dog breeds are at risk of having certain illnesses, the Boston terrier is a healthy dog breed as long as their owners follow the usual dietary, exercise, and vet visit rules. This muscular breed is one of the healthiest little dogs.

They are a wonderful family pet because they have a playful nature and are good with children and other pets, they are loving, friendly, intelligent, amusing, very trainable, and have a lot of energy. Boston terriers are adorable with their short coat that looks like a tux.

Their main health concern is related to their brachycephalic flat nose. They can have breathing issues, so it’s best not to let the Boston terrier get really hot or run around too much. They are also susceptible to hip dysplasia.

2. Havanese

healthy small dog breeds
WEIGHT7-13 pounds
HEIGHT8.5-11.5 inches tall
LIFESPAN14-16 years

Havanese dogs are from Cuba and descend from the same ancient ancestor breed as the Bichon Frise and Maltese. These great companions are intelligent, elegant, playful, friendly, funny, good with kids, adaptable, and very trainable.

The ancestors of this Cuban breed are believed to have arrived on the island in the 1600s when Italians and Spaniards traveled to the Americas to colonize the New World. They are lapdogs whose double silky coat doesn’t trigger people’s allergies, which is especially fortunate so they won’t be sneezed on while occupying laps.

They are at risk of having patellar luxation (the kneecap slides or pops out of place) and hip dysplasia.

3. Border Terrier

healthiest small dogs
WEIGHT11.5-15.5 pounds
HEIGHT12-15 inches tall
LIFESPAN12-15 years

The scruffy, bearded Border terrier hunted foxes in the past, and their high prey drive for small animals remains. They delight in digging holes in the yard. These little dogs are happy, friendly, playful, loving, energetic, strong, and very trainable.

This little agile pooch hails from the border of Scotland and England and is weatherproof. As excellent workers, they will chase a fox to the end of the earth.

These sweet scruffs are great as pets and good with children and other dogs. Their wiry coat is as low maintenance as their personality. In addition, the Border terrier’s fur doesn’t produce a lot of dander, so they are good for people who suffer from allergies.

4. Cairn Terrier

small dogs with least health issues
WEIGHT13-14 pounds
HEIGHT9.5-10 inches tall
LIFESPAN13-15 years

Fortunately for Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Toto is a Cairn terrier and blessed with longevity. The adorable Cairn is from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. They are an energetic breed that’s cheerful, active, loving, alert, playful, independent, and protective. They bark a lot (especially at evil witches and the Munchkin people).

This little shaggy teddy bear of a working dog has short legs. They were trained to dig up fox dens (and the homes of other terrified little creatures) and chase them away. Part of their job was to go into cairns (a pile of stones used as a marker or a burial mound) and scare away prey that was living under them.

I’m seeing several terriers from the UK on this list of healthy small-breed dogs. They must be doing something right up there.

Cairns are prone to Patellar luxation and hip dysplasia.

5. Norwich Terrier

what is the healthiest small dog breed
WEIGHT12 pounds
HEIGHT10 inches tall
LIFESPAN12-15 years

This precious little pooch is friendly, playful, affectionate, curious, loyal, alert, protective, active, and needs mental stimulus. They bark a lot. The Norwich terrier hails from Norwich, England, where they were bred to chase rats away.

They look a lot like their cousins, the Norfolk terrier from Norfolk, England. They were considered the same breed until 1979. You can tell the difference between them because the Norwich has erect, pointed ears, and the Norfolk’s ears are folded over.

They are another of the short-legged earth dogs that hunted rodents and other undesirable vermin. These little guys are all very brave and worked hard to dispose of whatever animal they were instructed to get rid of.

At the end of the grueling work day, they jumped into their people’s laps for a snooze because these exterminators are just little cuties who think they they are big dogs.

A bunch of Cambridge University students adopted Norwiches in the 1870s and ’80s to serve as pets and ratters. Can you imagine trying to study with rats running over your shoes and your pet Norfold terrier following behind them?!

6. Scottish Terrier

what are the healthiest small dog breeds
WEIGHT18-22 pounds
HEIGHT10 inches tall
LIFESPAN12 years

The delightful Scottie is playful, affectionate, protective, independent, confident, and needs mental stimulus. They bark quite a bit. This little Scottish pooch still has the prey drive from hunting foxes, badgers, and rats in the Scottish Highlands.

Seems like chasing animals around helped these terriers develop healthy DNA. This iconic dog is a healthy breed. There are many adorable Scottish dog breeds.

Scotties are another of the many wiry-haired and short-legged terriers. In the 17th century, England’s King James I, who was born in Scotland, loved Scotties and gave them to people as gifts. Scotties made their way to America in 1883. Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, and President Franklin Roosevelt were all Scottie pet parents.

Scotties are good for allergy sufferers because they don’t produce a lot of dander.

7. Australian Terrier

healthiest toy dog breeds
WEIGHT15-20 pounds
HEIGHT10-11 inches tall
LIFESPAN11-15 years

The adorbs Australian Terrier is playful, good with children, brave, curious, energetic, protective, highly trainable, affectionate, loves people, and needs attention and mental stimulation. They also bark a lot.

People from England who moved to Australia brought their Cairn, Norwich, Scottie, Skye, Yorkie, and Dandie Dinmont terriers — which explains why these Aussies look like them.

These precious Down Under terriers love to dig, as many terriers do. Like the other terriers, they work hard, and when they go home, they look for a lap to snooze in. They love their people and despise being left alone.

Want to learn more about the sweet Australian terrier?

8. Chihuahua

healthiest small dog
WEIGHT6 pounds or less
HEIGHT5-8 inches tall
LIFESPAN14-16 years

The charming Chihuahua is from Mexico, where the Aztecs bred down an ancient dog called the Techich. These little cuties are protective, affectionate, playful, sassy, active, graceful, loyal, and energetic lapdogs that love to cuddle and warm your lap. They bark a lot. Chi Chis have a big personality and an excellent sense of hearing in their big pointy ears.

Chi Chis come in long and short coats. My friend lives on Cape Cod and posts daily pictures of her photogenic long-hair Chi on the beach. It’s fun to enjoy a virtual visit to the ocean and see her adorable pup every day. He’s so portable! She just places him on objects and takes pictures. He’s a little Chi Chi Cape Cod model.

Many sources call Chi Chis the healthiest small dog breed. Unfortunately, they are prone to patellar luxation in old age.

There are 7 types of Chihuahuas.

9. Fox Terrier

dogs with the least health problems
WEIGHT15-18 pounds
HEIGHT15½ inches tall
LIFESPAN12-15 years

The athletic Fox terrier hunted — wait for it — foxes. They are friendly, playful, protective, funny, loving, independent, and high-energy. They bark a lot. Thankfully, fox hunting is illegal in England now, so the fox terrier can focus on being a treasured pet. This pooch looks like their cousin, the Wire fox terrier.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the terriers were kept in saddlebags during fox hunts and set free when the fox went underground. The terriers drove the fox above ground, and the horses and hounds could continue the chase. Those poor foxes.

10. Bolognese

WEIGHT6-10 pounds
HEIGHT10-12 inches tall
LIFESPAN12-14 years

This little endearing puff of white fur is from Bolognese, Italy. They are sweet, calm, devoted, playful, friendly, very trainable, and have a lovely long coat. The Bolognese is part of the Bichon Frise family.

They were popular with nobles in the 11th- and 12th centuries during the Renaissance. This pooch loves their owners and suffers from separation anxiety. They will use their cuteness to keep you home.

These little fuzz balls were fortunate to simply be companion animals and not to be given the task of chasing and digging up foxes and other creatures. That would have been a disgusting mess because they are white.

The Bolognese is a good doggy for people with allergies.

11. Norfolk Terrier

healthiest terrier breeds
WEIGHTWEIGHT 11-12 pounds
HEIGHT9-10 inches tall
LIFESPAN12-16 years

The adorable Norfolk terrier dog breed is active, alert, fun, loving, fearless, friendly, playful, good with kids, protective, and needs stimulus. Terriers, as a group, tend to bark a lot because they are energetic.

Norfolks used to hunt in packs, and now they lay in laps. They bond strongly with their owners, will go anywhere their people want to take them, and are good travelers.

I don’t understand how these precious little pooches hunted rats and bolted foxes out of their dens. Look at the photo of the sweet-looking little Norfolk terriers with their short legs and wiry hair!

Norfolk’s are prone to hip dysplasia.

12. Coton de Tulear

what is the healthiest dog breed
WEIGHT8-15 pounds
HEIGHT9-11 inches tall
LIFESPAN15-19 years

This exquisite pooch is the ideal companion dog. They are happy, relaxed, loving, witty, intelligent, charming, playful, very trainable, and great with kids and dogs. Cotons are from Tulear in Madagascar, where they were adored by nobles who hid them and didn’t share them with the world until the 1960s.

Their name comes from their cottony fur. Part of their charming schtick is their vocalizations made only by them and walking on their hind legs.

They don’t produce much dander and are good for people with allergies.

Cotons are prone to hip dysplasia.

13. Manchester Terrier

small dogs easy to take care of
WEIGHTUnder 12 pounds
HEIGHT10-12 inches tall
LIFESPAN15-17 years

This cutie looks like a mini Dobie guard dog. They are loving, intelligent, playful, protective, agile, very trainable, active, athletic, fearless, and good with kids. They bark a lot, too. The Manchester terrier was bred in Manchester, England, as a ratter.

Aren’t we lucky we don’t need dogs to hunt rats anymore?! I’m visualizing all the dog breeds chasing rats around England and everywhere back then. Sounds chaotic!

In the 1800s, Black and Tan terriers were bred with Whippets to create the Manchester terrier. Sadly, when they weren’t ratting, these dogs were placed in a rat pit, and people bet on how many rats the dog could kill. This breed was created for the dual purpose of hunting rabbits and killing rats in pits. Yuck!

14. Lakeland Terrier

healthiest breed of dog
WEIGHT15-17 pounds
HEIGHT14-15 inches tall
LIFESPAN12-15 years

The Lakeland terrier is named after the Lake District in England, where they were originally bred. They are loving, playful, bold, friendly, and they need mental stimulus. Farmers employed these dogs to protect sheep from foxes.

The AKC reports that this breed was the “first and foremost workingman’s working terrier.” In addition to that honor, the Lakeland terrier is known for being a nice pet.

They are another wiry terrier, like millions of others, bred to chase away foxes and rats. The AKC says they were the blueprint of a long-legged British terrier.

15. Affenpinscher

which dog breeds have the least health problems
WEIGHT7-10 pounds
HEIGHT9-11.5 inches tall
LIFESPAN12-15 years

he adorable Affenpinscher is a wiry toy breed that worked the terrier job of ratting. They are from Germany, where their name means “monkey-like terrier.” They spent their days outdoors ratting. Then, they were let into homes to chase mice and slept in their pet parents’ beds at night.

They are loyal, funny, fearless, curious, and loving. They have a human-like quality — probably because of their monkeyness.

Affies enjoy walking and being a guard dog. They don’t realize they have a small body and fancy themselves as big dogs. They were ratters in German stables in the 1600s. Dog historians believe that Affies were used to breed Brussels Griffon and the Miniature Schnauzer. They are great at obedience and agility and work as therapy dogs.

The Affie is a good pup for people with allergies.

They are at risk for hip dysplasia.

FAQs

What is the overall healthiest breed of dog?

The Australian cattle dog is the healthiest dog breed, according to PetMD.

Which small dog breed is healthiest?

Chihuahuas are the healthiest small dog breed.

What is the easiest small dog to take care of?

Dachshunds are very low maintenance. They don’t need much grooming and are easygoing.

Conclusion 

So there you have them, the 15 small healthiest dog breeds. Lots of terriers are on the list. Several were ratters and hunters. Perhaps all that exercise boosted their health for future generations. Do you think rats are nutritious?

Dog owners will find that these dogs tend to have fewer health problems than a big dog that has more weight to carry.

We all know how sad it is when our fur babies aren’t feeling well — not to mention the vet bills, so taking in a pooch with the least health problems is beneficial for both reasons.

As always, if you plan to obtain one of these sweet breeds, make sure you find a reputable breeder that follows good health protocols. You can also check with breed rescues and Petfinder to find a pure breed that’s looking for a home.

Elise Margulis
Elise Margulis is a talented animal writer and a devoted pet parent residing near Manhattan in a cozy suburb. With a Chow mix and a rescued Siamese as her loyal companions, she's been animal-obsessed since childhood. Penning informative articles on pet nutrition, health, and animal welfare, she's also an avid advocate for adoption and animal rights. When she's not writing, she serves as the editor of two local online news sites. Working from home with her fur babies, she advocates adoption and animal welfare through volunteering and social media. A true animal lover and vegetarian for over 31 years, she's on a mission to raise awareness and make the world a better place for all creatures.

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