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Most people think of small breed dogs as easy lap dogs that don’t need much exercise and are happy lying next to you all day long. That is certainly true for some small breed (and also large breed) dogs. But if you’re an active person, there are also lots of small breed pups that love going on adventures just as much as you do!
If you’re thinking about getting yourself a dog and would like to take him to all sorts of activities, then don’t only look at medium or large breed dogs! Especially if you live in a city a small breed dog can be just so much easier. You can literally sneak him in about everywhere, you can take him on your bike (ideally using a dog backpack carrier). And it’s mostly also easier to convince your boss to take a small pooch to work, instead of a large dog. So what if you’d like a small breed dog for yourself but also love to be active?
Then you’re in the right place. Below you’ll find a list of the 7 best active small breed dogs! Plus I’ll also show you their personality so you can determine exactly which breed suits your lifestyle best! If you’re specifically looking for a small breed dog to go backpacking, check out my other post about the 10 best small dog breeds to take backpacking.
I’m focusing on the really small breeds, meaning less than 20lb on average because I want to show you the breeds that you can carry in your dogpack but that can also run next to you.
1. Miniature Poodle
Of course, this breed has to be first, since I have one myself! 😉 Poodles are amazing dogs. During the last century they have gotten a bit of a misconceived image because of their grooming style. Most people think of poodles as well (or not so well) groomed dogs that can have literally any hair style and go from one dog show to the next. It’s very unfortunate that poodles are limited to this image. Yes, they don’t shed and yes, that’s why you can live your wildest dreams on their hair style. But people totally forget about their character. Poodles are extremely intelligent dogs. And they have loooots of energy! And the advantage of miniature poodles is that they won’t get any joint problems compared to their bigger relatives. They also have an average life expectancy of 15 years.
So overall, a miniature poodle can be your perfect companion for your adventures. Baloo loves to join me everywhere. If he’s close to me, he’s happy. And the more activity, the better. He’s happiest after a full hour of agility or a daylong hike. While he’d still be able to keep going, he’s happily retracting to his bed and relaxing after such activities. Poodles are generally super friendly and will love any person. But because they have so much energy, they can be a bit jumpy. I’m still having a hard time getting rid of this. With the right amount of exercise, this can be limited to a minimum, though.
To be aware of: being so intelligent, your poodle will likely not just accept things you say the first time. He’ll question your commands and sometimes think he knows it better. So you have to be willing to work with your poodle and be very consistent. Otherwise, you’ll soon be obeying your pooch instead of the other way around. Also, poodles really do need a lot of exercise. And not only physical, but also mental. If not properly occupied, they will find themselves something to get rid of their boredom, like barking at whatever they can find or empty your yummy smelling trash bin…
Conclusion: If you want a small breed dog that will adore coming on every adventure and you’re willing to work with him, look no further. A miniature poodle is your breed.
2. Jack Russell Terrier
This breed is the best example of a big dog “trapped” in a small body. Jack Russel Terriers definitely think a lot of themselves. Character wise, Jack Russells are similar to Miniature Poodles. In fact, I was thinking for a very long time whether to get a Poodle or a Jack Russell.
This breed loves adventure more than anything. He loves it so much that he’ll try to dig underneath your fence to get out and find something interesting to do. And he’s more than happy to go on adventures by himself! So proper training is a must! Being such an intelligent breed, Jack Russells are highly trainable. With a lot of positive reinforcement and endurance, a Jack Russell can become the perfect adventure companion!
To be aware of: One big difference to Miniature Poodles is that Jack Russell Terriers are hunting breeds. So most of them will have a strong hunting instinct. You’ll have to be willing to work hard to get this instinct under control or you’ll be likely looking for you’re a dog on a regular basis. And he loooooves digging, because he was originally bred to go after small animals such as mice, rats or squirrels. So leaving a Jack off leash is rarely advised unless you really have his hunting instinct perfectly under control.
Despite their small legs, Dachshunds are active and adventurous dogs. Check out Jessica’s blog to see where she’s taking her two Dachshunds. Many owners are so devoted to them that they never want to get another breed or they even get themselves another Wiener dog. They’re comical little clowns and being clever little pups, they can be stubborn and not the easiest to train.
These are not the kind of dogs you can take jogging. Agility and any other jumping activities are also no good idea for a Dachshund. And while hiking, you might have to carry them over bigger boulders because jumps can hurt their backs.
They are definitely willing to come on adventures with you, though. As long as you take some precautions regarding their health, they make good hiking companions. They’re ideal small dogs for semi active owners, who like to walk or trek for a good two to three hours at a time. They’re not the kind of dog you can take to multi-day mountain hikes. Miniature Dachshunds and Wirehaired Dachshunds seem to be the most active. Wirehaired Dachshunds stem from the same family as Terriers, hence have a similar personality.
To be aware of: They also have quite a strong hunting instinct, originally being bred to hunt vermin. This means they love digging more than anything. Be prepared to have a few holes in your garden and start training them to stop digging on command as early as possible. They also make great watchdogs and will therefore have to be trained so that they don’t bark at any- and everything.
Also a commonly overlooked breed when looking for an active dog. They look like a super cute fluff ball and are therefore often held by women who want a cute accessory dog. But Pomeranians are far from being lap dogs only! Yes, they love to be the center of attention. But they’re also very alert and curious and love to explore their surroundings. This is another small dog with a big personality! He thinks a lot of himself. While Poms are not as energetic as some of the other breeds displayed, they can still come hiking for hours with no problems. They’re also among the best in their size class in Agility and Obedience Training. They are usually very friendly towards people and other animals.
To be aware of: Pomeranians are not the easiest to train. They’re quite bossy and stubborn and by far not as admiring of their owner as e.g. a Miniature Poodle or a Papillon. Of course, also a Pom can be trained. But if you’re a first time owner, it’s not gonna be the easiest dog to start with. Don’t make the mistake to think that this cute little fluff ball doesn’t need any training! That way he’ll make you obey him without you even noticing it. If you wanna take your pup on adventures, some basic obedience should always be trained. This breed is also a little barker which will need a lot of patience to get rid off.
5. Miniature Pincher
While being a really small breed dog, Miniature Pinchers are incredibly active breeds. They are basically a miniature watchdog and take their role very serious! This pooch will have no problem running or hiking with you. He’s probably the most active and energetic of all toy breeds. And he’s one of the best examples of a small dog thinking he’s a big one. He’s fearless and will clearly try to be the boss in the house. On the other hand he’s also a cuddle lover. But he’ll tell you when and how he wants it. So he has a bit of a cat character…
If you’re thinking about getting yourself a Miniature Pincher, be prepared to get a very strong character in the house!
To be aware of: Having such a strong character and being so sure of themselves, they like to live on their own terms. Meaning training can be tricky and needs a lot of knowledge and consistency. It’s recommended to keep any Miniature Pincher on leash at all times. Otherwise he’s probably not coming back even when called! He’ll probably be coming back when he’s done with whatever he was dealing with.
This definitely isn’t a beginner dog. If you’re looking for a highly energetic small watchdog, this is the ideal breed for you! But you’ll have to provide lots of activity and mental stimulation to keep this little one from taking your house apart.
Character wise and on the energy side, Papillons can be compared to Miniature Poodles. They’re very intelligent and have a high energy level. Their small size also makes them a perfect fit for life in an apartment. It’s a very good first time dog for an active person. But be aware that this intelligent little guy will also find himself some kind of entertainment if not provided enough by you. They love and excel at dog sports such as Agility and Obedience. They’re also very fixed on their owner. They will adore you more than anything and will try to please you. So training isn’t too hard. Same as for Miniature Poodles, they can seem a little stubborn if they don’t understand your commands. Consistent training is key.
To be aware of: Because of his undeniable love for his owner, Papillons tend to develop separation anxiety. Slow, patient and consistent training is essential. If you give a Papillon enough time, this should be manageable. Like other toy breeds, Papillons are barkers. This can also be trained so that he doesn’t feel like he has to let you know every what so little thing.
To summarize: a perfect small beginner dog for active people. But you have to be willing to work with him or he can soon become a little tyrant!
Corgis literally are big dogs on small legs! There are two different kinds of corgis, the Pembroke Welsh corgis and Cardigan Welsh corgis. Prembroke Welsh corgis tend to be the more active kinds, while Cardican Welsh corgis are more laid-back. Both breeds love to be around people and to please their owners. They are also a fairly intelligent and easy to train breed. Overall, they make perfect family dogs and are quite adaptable, as long as they have their favorite humans with them.
They are on the bigger side, weighing between 24 and 28 lb (10.8 to 12.8 kg), so they don’t exactly fit my list. But I still wanted to add them because they are super friendly and just perfect for medium active beginners. Similar to Dachshunds, you have to watch out that their long back doesn’t get hurt on jumps. But apart from that they’re happy to join you on a trekking or camping trip.
To be aware of: Corgis were originally bred for herding. So they have a very high stamina and will love lots of exercise (with special attention to their long backs). And they have the ability to make important decisions for themselves. So, you have to watch out that you get his independence under control.
This is a list of my favorite active small breed dogs. I’m sure there are other breeds who love adventures just as much. And lots of mutts will make perfect hiking and adventure companions as well.
Which one is your favorite? Leave a comment and let me know. I’m happy to extend the list.