11 Small Dogs with Big Dog Energy

We’ve all heard someone comment, “I don’t like small dogs.” Well, newsflash: Categorizing all small dogs as yappy and annoying is just not true. In fact, certain small breeds that have big dog energy through and through. Many tiny pooches pack a lot of personality into their small frames and aren’t afraid to show it. Here, 11 small dog breeds who bring major big dog energy to the table—even when they’re not allowed in the dining room.

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Russell Terrier

These pups are confident and smart, so of course they’ve got some big dog energy going on. Despite their tiny stature (10 to 12 inches tall, 9 to 15 pounds according to the American Kennel Club), Russell terriers are always game for calorie-burning, fun-inducing activities like biking and running.

Norfolk Terrier

Similarly, Norfolk terriers are bold little canines who prefer adventure to leisure. They can definitely be stubborn, but that could just be their inner German shepherd trying to get out. Honestly, if you’re an outdoorsy type who needs more room in the car for camping gear, this is the dog for you.

Border Terrier

Lots of terriers on our list! That’s because this group is active and usually bred for hunting and protection. On top of that, they’re playful and eager to show some love. The border terrier encompasses all of these traits—in about 14 compact pounds.

Shetland Sheepdog

Commonly referred to as Shelties, the shetland sheepdog’s hair alone takes up a lot of space, giving it the vibe of a slightly larger dog. Their herding instincts have taught them how to command a room, and they aren’t afraid to let a stranger know to keep his distance.


Barely a foot tall and rarely more than 15 pounds, the schipperke looks like a tiny wolf. This breed is a lightning bolt of energy constantly on the lookout for what’s next. Don’t expect to leave this breed alone for long—chances are they’ll find some way to have an adventure while you’re out.

Miniature Bull Terrier

If the word “miniature” weren’t in its name, you’d think the mini bull terrier was a giant dog. They are essentially mini-me versions of the bull terrier, with just as much strength and stamina. Be sure to regulate puppies during play and exercise time; young mini bull terrier joints are weak, and it’s possible to overwork them.

Miniature Pinscher

All it takes is one look at a miniature pinscher’s stance to know she’s a brave soul ready for anything—whether it’s roughhousing with golden retrievers at the dog park or guarding her turf. They call this breed the “King of Toys,” and for good reason.

Miniature Schnauzer

For a healthy blend of fearlessness and loyalty without the hostility you might get from a ferocious watchdog, miniature schnauzers make great family pets. Again, we see this power pose that basically says, “Check me out. I’m a big dog!”

Shiba Inu

These dogs offer up so much personality, you’ll forget how small their frames really are. As one of Japan’s current most popular breeds, Shiba Inus have been trained as hunters in the past, which makes them fairly self-sufficient and confident.


Don’t let the short legs fool you! These adventurous dogs have been known to like hiking just as much as any rough-and-tumble lab. Sure, they don’t stand much taller than nine inches (at most!), but what they lack in height they make up for in charisma.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Similar to the dachshund, Pembroke Welsh corgis have cute, short legs and more than enough love and athleticism to go around. Don’t forget corgis are herders, which means they’ve got energy to burn and are eager to get in on the action.


Pro tip: Just because a dog is small, does not mean she isn’t eager and willing to roll on a skateboard, surf some waves or protect her territory. Keep this in mind when training your dog; include tiny canines in engaging activities and let them decide whether or not a hike or some surfing is right for them.

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