Toy Dog Breeds: The Ultimate Companions

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What is a Toy Dog Breed?

A toy dog breed refers to a group of small-sized dog breeds that are bred primarily for companionship and as pets rather than for specific working or hunting tasks. These dogs are usually small in size, affectionate, and enjoy close bonding with their owners. Toy dogs are known for their adorable appearance, lively personalities, and adaptability to various living environments, making them popular choices for families and individuals seeking loving and low-energy canine companions.


Toy dog breeds are the ultimate companions in the canine world. But there is more to them than their tiny demeanor. Before bringing a toy dog into your family, there are some essential things to consider. Toy dog breeds possess a magical charm that can captivate us instantly.

They are small, devoted to their owners, and love to snuggle on their laps. Their innate companionship is endearing, but it’s essential to be aware of a few key points before welcoming them into your home.

A toy dog’s job description

In contrast to other groups, toy breeds were not primarily bred for work. Unlike pastoral or gundog breeds that utilized their hunting instincts for various tasks, toy breeds were developed based on their natural social tendencies and strong bonding abilities with humans.

This group consists of small to tiny dogs from different regions, bred as companions, even if some may have had working ancestors. They often served as companions to affluent individuals, royalty, or religious orders.

Toy dog sizes and coat types

With their endearing names, it’s no wonder that toy dogs are delightful small companions. They exhibit a variety of coat types, ranging from the long and flowing fur of the silky Maltese to the wiry and unkempt appearance of the Bichon, and everything in-between.

Toy dog breeds natural instincts

Toy breeds were primarily bred for companionship and, in some instances, as an early warning system, rather than for work. As a result, they typically have a weaker predatory instinct and are content with being affectionate companions. While some toy breeds with origins from working dogs, like terriers, may still retain these instincts to some degree.

Toy breeds behavior and personality

Pomeranian puppy with black eyes and tongue out. Despite their small size, toy dogs exude plenty of personality and charm. Here are the traits that usually characterize the dogs in this group.

Affectionate and tactile

Toy breeds enjoy very close contact. Sitting in their lap and enjoying the owner’s attention is their version of heaven. If you desire a highly affectionate dog that loves to be by your side, toy dogs make for the perfect companions.

Low exercise requirements

  • Dog exercise can be kept low-key with this dog group.
  • Due to their smaller size, toy dogs don’t require as much physical exercise as larger breeds, but they still need regular activity to stay healthy.
  • Most toy breeds are content with around 30 minutes of exercise daily, which can include short walks or playtime in the garden.
  • Their adaptable nature means they can happily thrive in urban environments without the need for a large house or garden.
  • However, it’s important to be cautious with brachycephalic toy dogs like Pugs during hot weather, as their flat faces may lead to breathing difficulties, warranting limited exercise.


Toy breeds tend to be selective with their social skills. When it comes to their owner, they’re able to bond very closely. Nevertheless, when interacting with other dogs, they may display aloofness and lack of interest, as their primary focus is typically on their human family.

Separation-related issues

Toy breeds form strong bonds with their owners, making it difficult for them to tolerate separation from their human family. While they may be reluctant to stay away for too long, there are ways to help your dog cope with separation anxiety.

Toilet training difficulties

It’s important to note that toilet-training toy breeds can be challenging and may take longer than other breeds. However, there are helpful dog toilet-training tips that can make the process easier.

Image of a Pomeranian, a popular toy dog breed, showcasing its fluffy coat and endearing appearance

Is a toy dog breed right for you?

Given their breeding as excellent companions, toy dog breeds may seem like the ideal family addition. However, there are other crucial factors to consider, such as training, grooming, and noise levels, before making your decision.


A toy dog is not the type that enjoys long walks in the countryside every day. Sometimes, convincing them to venture out in the rain can also be a challenge. If you don’t mind spending most of the evening on the couch, toy dogs will happily comply, but for an active owner or sporting family, these dogs will not fit well into their lives.


  • All dogs should be trained, and toy dogs are no different. Many are surprisingly smart and enjoy tricks and obedience. With their low exercise needs, engaging their minds can turn these small dogs into impressive powerhouses. Some can even be seen competing in dog sports. They may not enjoy the traditional dog training class environment where the other dogs can just be a bit too much for them.
  • Individual training sessions with a professional trainer or enrolling in a class with companion breed dogs can be enjoyable for both owners and their toy dogs.
  • Certain toy breeds excel in training and can achieve high standards in agility courses, rally-obedience (rally-O), and flyball, provided the equipment is suitable for their small size.
  • If you can’t dedicate the time to regular agility training, you could enroll your dog on an initial ‘taster’ course to learn the basics and then pursue the hobby at home in your garden with some purchased or improvised equipment such as a tunnel, some low jumps and weave poles.
  • Your dog will delight in navigating a miniature course alongside you, and their strong connection to their owners and understanding of body language often leads to surprisingly quick learning of how to excel with their new equipment!


Toy breeds are extremely bonded to their owners but often are aloof to others. While some toy dogs may not enjoy the company of other dogs, especially boisterous ones, others may prefer the company of their own breed or other small dogs. Generally, they rarely display dog-to-dog aggression, but if they feel intimidated or have had negative experiences, they may become defensive or fearful.


  • The toy group comprises various coat types, ranging from high-maintenance double-coated breeds to those requiring simple wipe-downs with a cloth.
  • Seek guidance from the breeder regarding grooming and coat care. As the grooming area is small, regular grooming allows early detection of any skin issues or coat changes for prompt treatment.
  • Teach toy dogs to enjoy grooming and handling to avoid overwhelming them, ensuring all interactions with them are positive and rewarding.


Once again, this varies within the group. Certain toy breeds originally served as early warning systems, and they have retained their instinct to alert owners to potential intruders or any significant events happening around them. Others are quiet and self-contained. The breeder or other owners can give you valuable advice on the noise levels you should expect, so don’t hesitate to ask.


In general, toy breeds are incredibly affectionate towards their owners and often seek constant physical contact with them. They usually bond closely to one person, however, rather than being a family dog, and they may be indifferent to others.


The majority of toy breeds delight in gentle games with their owners, and some excel at interactive enrichment toys. Engaging in dog games and play not only stimulates their minds but also strengthens the bond between the dog and its owner.

Toy breeds dog owner checklist

  • You could be the perfect owner of a toy breed if you:
  • Sheltie in a field of long grass. If you are mostly at home or willing to take your dog everywhere or arrange for a dog sitter when needed, and prefer shorter periods of exercise rather than long walks, a toy dog may be a perfect fit for you.
  • Want a dog who is very attached to you and shows obvious affection with constant contact?
  • Have a smaller property – either rural or urban.

Feeding toy dogs

Toy dogs can be picky eaters, and owners might unintentionally worsen this behavior by offering more enticing alternatives when they show fussiness. If you instantly replace their regular food with tastier options, your dog may learn that refusing their meals leads to getting indulgent treats instead. Consistency in feeding and resisting the temptation to offer lavish alternatives can help curb fussiness.

Feeding toy dogs, then, might mean being inventive. Eating a bowlful of food twice a day usually doesn’t hold too much appeal for a toy dog, so it’s a good idea to be inventive with how their food is offered throughout the day.

For toy dogs that eat dry food, enhance their mealtime experience by scattering some in the grass outdoors or using a treat-dispensing toy to make them work for their food. Hide the toys in different places to stimulate their search. Occasionally hand-feed them a portion of their daily food allowance to strengthen the bond. Use food rewards during training, counting them towards their overall food intake. Split the remaining food into two meals in a food bowl to reinforce the perception of you as their provider. Ask all family members to take on this role on a rota basis, so they can all benefit from a strengthened bond with your lovely dog.

When using wet food for training, opt for convenient treats but ensure they are accounted for in your dog’s daily requirements. Divide their food into at least two meals, with one main meal comprising half their allowance and 4-5 smaller portions for the other half, scattered in different spots for mental stimulation. Don’t be concerned if the amount appears small; following the daily feeding guidelines on the packaging and monitoring their weight ensures they receive the necessary nutrients and energy. No need for extra compensation if they have their daily food allocation and a complete diet.

Bonding with your toy dog

Image of a Bichon, a delightful toy dog breed, with its elegant white coat and charming demeanor.
  • Building a strong bond with your toy dog is crucial, as they were bred to be loving companions. These “professional pets” have historically warmed laps and provided companionship to both royalty and ordinary people. Spending ample time with their human family is essential for their well-being and happiness.
  • Toy breeds love nothing more than to be with you. Toy dogs will find joy in quiet evenings on the sofa, spending time with you in front of the television. They will relish coming along on your daily outings and appreciate gentle stroking and grooming.
  • Integrating them into your daily life is vital for their happiness, so take them on car rides, walks, or visits to cafes or pubs. Their small size makes them convenient to carry in crowded spaces and less intimidating to others.
  • Teaching toy dogs to be comfortable in their own company is a crucial aspect of their care. While these little companions adore human company, excessive togetherness can lead to social over-reliance. If you have to leave them alone, even briefly, they may become anxious.
  • To build their self-confidence, gradually expose them to short periods of solitude from an early age. Practice separating from them in another room occasionally, even when you’re at home. This will help them adjust and become more independent.
  • Provide a comfortable space indoors, such as a dog crate or a comfortable bed, where your toy dog can relax and enjoy alone time. Include a familiar scent by placing an old, worn jumper or T-shirt in their bedding.
  • Prior to leaving them alone, ensure they have been exercised and have relieved themselves. Hide a safe, treat-filled chew toy to keep them entertained in your absence.
  • Although it’s natural to want to pay your loyal dog a lot of attention. some toy dog breeds can be persistent in their attempts to solicit attention, leaping onto your lap or into your arms at every opportunity. Teach your dog that attention and contact won’t be available when a specific visual signal is put in place, such as a scarf hanging over a doorknob or a particular ornament placed on a table. (You can find out more about this kind of training in our article).
  • This really helps with managing the nature and intensity of the bond you enjoy with your dog, as they won’t develop expectations for attention that are then frustrated, and they won’t become a nuisance with their well-intentioned demands for attention. They’ll get just as much attention as you want to give them, but won’t become dependent on it for their happiness.
  • Toy dogs can develop strong affectionate bonds with other family dogs and cats, depending on their temperaments and social backgrounds. If there’s no human lap around, toy dogs often enjoy cuddling with each other or even with the family cat. If you adore small dogs, we’ve compiled a list of popular breeds and the endearing characteristics that make them cherished companions.


Toy dog breeds are the ultimate companions, captivating us with their tiny size and affectionate nature. However, before bringing one into your family, it’s essential to consider their specific needs. Toy dogs are primarily bred for companionship, not work, and thrive on close bonding with their owners. They require regular exercise, mental stimulation, and positive reinforcement training. Grooming and socialization are also vital aspects of their care. With the right understanding and dedication, toy dogs can be delightful and loving additions to any family.

Explore the complete list of toy dog breeds officially recognized by the Kennel Club.

  1. Affenpinscher
  2. Australian Silky Terrier
  3. Bichon Frise
  4. Bolognese
  5. Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  6. Chihuahua (Long Coat)
  7. Chinese Crested
  8. Coton De Tulear
  9. English Toy Spaniel
  10. English Toy Terrier (Black & Tan)
  11. Griffon Bruxellois
  12. Havanese
  13. Italian Greyhound
  14. Japanese Chin
  15. King Charles Spaniel
  16. Lowchen (Little Lion Dog)
  17. Maltese
  18. Manchester Toy Terrier
  19. Miniature Pinscher
  20. Papillon
  21. Pekingese
  22. Pomeranian
  23. Pug
  24. Russian Toy
  25. Toy American Eskimo
  26. Toy Poodle
  27. Yorkshire Terrier

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