Worst Small Dogs for First-Time Owners

Your first dog will always have a special place in your heart. But bringing home that first dog isn't always easy: No matter how prepared you are — how many training articles you scour and essays you read — there's nothing quite like caring for a real, live dog for the first time in your life.

And whether you realize it, a lot depends on the kind of dog you choose.

While every dog, every owner and every situation are different, there are some breeds that are better options for inexperienced owners than others. Many first-time owners gravitate toward small breeds, thinking they'll be easier to own in general, and, in some cases, that's true. However, according to the 218 veterinary professionals we surveyed (including veterinarians, technicians and office managers), the 10 small breeds below are dogs that new owners should think twice about bringing home.

Worst Small Dog Breeds for First-Time Owners


Julie Poole, Animal Photography

No. 10: Whippet

The sleek Whippet is a sight hound that tends to be quite athletic. She was bred to course rabbits and kill small vermin, and proved to be a fast and effective hunter. Though she's generally a friendly breed that likes to snuggle, her athletic ability can make her a challenge for inexperienced owners. Her sight hound roots mean that if she sees something in motion, she's likely to take off after it, and her muscular build equates to impressive jumping and running skills — so if she's determined to go, it may be hard to stop her. And although she's usually quite intelligent, she's also known to be an independent thinker, meaning training may not always be easy.

French Bulldog

Robin Burkett, Animal Photography

No. 8 (tie): French Bulldog

The Frenchie is a popular pick among dog owners (No. 11, according to the American Kennel Club), and there's good reason for that. He's typically sweet natured, is less likely to become yappy than many other small breeds and, in general, tends to be a real charmer. However, his loving nature can sometimes go a little too far for some people: He can become so attached to his family that he may not be a good choice for someone who has to spend long hours away from him at work or elsewhere. He's also highly sensitive to heat (like all brachycephalic breeds), can be somewhat difficult to house train and may not be safe with the family cat.

English Cocker Spaniel

Nick Ridley, Animal Photography

No. 8 (tie): English Cocker Spaniel

The English Cocker Spaniel is larger than her American cousin and has less coat. She's generally affectionate, funny and a quick learner. However, because this breed's original job was to flush birds from heavy cover and then retrieve them, her instincts may kick in any time she has a chance to go after feathered game, making it important that she's always kept on a leash. Like the French Bulldog, she truly loves her people and should always be kept in the house, never outside.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 6 (tie): Pembroke Welsh Corgi

A fun-loving herding dog, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is usually a bold but kind breed that prefers to be in charge of whatever's going on. Outgoing and alert, the Pembroke loves his family and needs to be kept busy with exercise or dog sports like agility, herding or rally. He has the capacity to become a nuisance barker if he's not properly trained early on.

Chinese Crested Dog Breed

Eva-Maria Kramer, Animal Photography

No. 6 (tie): Chinese Crested

The Chinese Crested comes in both a hairless and Powderpuff variety. Whether you take your Crested with or without fur, she's likely to be a charming, entertaining and loving companion who's happiest curled up in the lap of a family member. She's too small and delicate for most homes with small or rough children, though, and she's notoriously difficult to house train.

Scottish Terrier Dog Breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 5: Scottish Terrier

The intelligent Scottie is the embodiment of terrier attitude. Lively and sometimes scrappy with other dogs, he's generally devoted to his family but takes awhile to warm up to strangers, and he will hunt little critters. He's one of the more recognizable breeds, but his bristling nature is also well-known. He's not usually an easy dog to train, but (overall health permitting) he's often up for a challenge like agility or AKC Earthdog trials.

Cocker Spaniel

Olivia Hemingway, Animal Photography

No. 4: Cocker Spaniel

The Cocker Spaniel has some of the more expressive eyes in the dog world and is typically willing to either hunt birds or hang out with her family at home. She's generally a happy breed that loves to splash in the water and, at her best, she's gentle, affectionate and healthy. However, her popularity over the last 50-plus years has been a bit of a curse, as the breed is now a favorite among puppy millers, Internet retailers, pet stores, irresponsible private breeders, and others who breed and sell puppies that grow into unstable, noisy, nervous dogs who are difficult to house train and have a tendency to snap or bite. Even with proper breeding, however, Cockers can be prone to separation anxiety and destructive behavior when left home alone.

Chihuahua Face Closeup

Anita Peeples, Animal Photography

No. 3: Chihuahua

The small and sassy Chihuahua has a personality far bigger than his physical size. He's typically determined, feisty and loyal, and in recent years has become a favorite among rich and famous young women who tote their pups around in designer purses. However, this tiny breed is often high-strung and prone to nipping or even biting when frightened (or when he thinks he's protecting his people or territory), so he can present challenges when out in public or around children. The breed is also known to be difficult to house train without plenty of consistency and patience.

Miniature Pinscher

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 2: Miniature Pinscher

Although the Min Pin looks like a scaled-down Doberman, that's not really the case. He can make a good watchdog, but this fireball of a pup has a willful nature that requires diligent training to temper. He's active and curious, which can make him likely to get into trouble if you're not very cautious about keeping dangerous items far out of reach. And though he's generally affectionate with his family, don't mistake him for a snuggly purse dog — he'd rather prance around on his own. He's also a bit of a Houdini, viewing a fenced backyard as a challenge to overcome, either by tunneling or climbing.

Shiba Inu

Tara Gregg, Animal Photography

No. 1: Shiba Inu

The Shiba Inu is an official Japanese national treasure, and though he's adored by his fans in America as well, few are likely to argue the fact that this small dog has a big attitude (as well as a sense of humor about those "commands" his humans are so fond of trying to teach him). The bold and spirited breed was originally a hunting dog in Japan's mountain regions, and he's still an active fella, typically loving hikes, walks and runs with his human. However, he's also happy to run without his human — he's a noted escape artist. He's typically extremely attached to his family and can't tolerate being isolated from them, a feeling he may channel into noise and destruction.

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