Dogs are faithful, loving companions, but not all dogs are well-suited for the novice dog owner. Not because they are bad dogs, but because they have their own unique set of quirks which can make them a bad match for first time dog owners. Let’s see which small difficult dog breeds are best suited for more experienced dog owners.
In our last Difficult Dog Breeds Not for Newbies list, we covered mostly large dog breeds. It should seem pretty obvious why one should be careful in choosing a large dog.
But, even the smallest of dogs can present a number of challenges for those that aren’t quite prepared for ownership of some of the more challenging breeds.
I love Chis and the Chihuahua is known by those that love it as an affectionate companion, whose favorite pastime is snoozing the day away on your lap. As companion dogs, Chis form a tight bond with their owner and they tend to have a favorite person. Which is certainly fine for a single person that doesn’t entertain within the home often.
But, this can be a fault in a family dynamic. It’s quite often that Chis, especially those that have bonded closely with one family member, will become jealous of human relationships.
It is also fair to say, and many owners will agree that Chihuahuas and young children do not mix very well.
It is not a good idea to bring a Chihuahua into a home where small children are present. And, if you bring a Chi into a home with children, you’re going to need to teach your child to respect your dog’s wishes and some rules of engagement. Of course it all depends on the personality of the dog and the amount of early socialization the dog has gotten.
The late, great Robin Williams once described the Pekingese as a dog who looks like it got hit in the face with a shovel.
The AKC Standard says the Pekingese “should imply courage, boldness, and self-esteem, rather than prettiness, daintiness, or delicacy.”
And indeed, the Pekingese is dignified, supremely confident, and one of the most independent of the toy breeds. And by independent, I mean stubborn.
The Pekingese can be exasperatingly willful, and will resent being scolded. It needs a confident owner that can take charge. If you earn your Peke’s respect, you will have a well-mannered dog without much need for formal training. However, if you fail to set firm rules and to earn your little pooch’s respect, you can end up with a little terror on your hands.
They’re not recommended for children as they will not tolerate any rough handling or mischief. But, they do make excellent choices for adults that have the time and patience and most of all the confidence to earn the respect of this bold little dog.
8. Skye Terrier
The Terrier Group is perhaps one of the most interesting of the dog world. A group of small dogs that were more of less bred to be feisty, tough and independent, but increasing find themselves in the role of a house pet. This can many times cause issues within the household.
One of the few terriers who is actually laid-back indoors, the Skye Terrier is easy to exercise, requiring only walks and play sessions. However, it is a fearless, agile chaser with lightning reflexes and should never be let-off leash unless in a safe, enclosed area.
The Skye also needs a lot of personal attention and can not be ignored. Skyes do not suffer fools gladly. They are highly sensitive to correction and are likely to retaliate if handled harshly.
Like most dogs on this list, the Skye Terrier requires a strong-willed and confident owner to match its strong-willed personality. Being one of the most independent terriers out there, your Skye will utterly dominate any wishy-washy family members.
But, if you have an equally strong character, with a firm voice and an understanding of how to lead a proud strong-minded dog, this little, tough, unusual-looking terrier just might be the dog for you. That is if you can find one. They are rather difficult to find and usually carry a rather hefty price tag when you do.
One of the most intelligent of all dog breeds, the Border Collie is also one of the most challenging to live with.
The Border Collie is a working dog breed. As with many working dogs, the Border Collie has a superior intellect, combined with an intensity and obsessive zeal for working that are its most impressive features. But these features are also what makes this impressive dog unsuitable for most family homes, unless of course your family also has livestock that need herding.
Without physical and mental stimulation, Border Collies become hyperactive and will drive you up the wall with obsessive and destructive behaviors as they seek creative outlets for their physical and mental frustration.
Outside the working dog world, most families are not equipped with the time or knowledge to handle this intelligent and high strung breed.
Although the Dachshund is one of the more popular family dogs, this little hunting dog can be a bit much for the novice family.
Dachshunds attract devoted followers who would never consider having any other breed and for many, there is no better small house dog. But, cuteness aside, the Dachshund does have its fair share of challenging behaviors.
Though bright and clever, Dachshunds like to do things their own way. In other words, they’re stubborn. Also, they are proud little dogs who resist forceful correction. They become irritable when pushed too far, and they may respond with defensive growling or snapping if handled harshly. In many cases, this sometimes vengeful little dog, who can be notoriously difficult to potty train, will even retaliate your scolding by doing its business on your bed. Just in case you didn’t know it was mad at you.
Also, the Dachshund may have a suspicious and even aggressive stance toward strangers if not properly socialized.
This is a hunting dog, never trust your Dachshund around other small pets, such as your hamster or guinea pig.
All that said, the Dachshund is a loyal and comical family companion if you are experienced enough to handle it.
Known by its fans as attentive and spunky, the cocky, commanding and animated Pomeranian is yet another popular dog breed whose intelligence can be a fault in an unsuspecting family.
The first rule of Pomeranian ownership is to never let your Pom make the rules. If the Pom doesn’t respect your position in the household, it’s not inclined to listen to a word you say. This small dog has a strong-willed mind of its own and requires an equally strong-willed owner.
Also, this dog is not a good dog for children. It’s too proud to suffer mischief and rough handling and will respond with growling and nipping.
4. Australian Cattle Dog – Difficult Dog Breeds
The Australian Cattle Dog was featured on my previous list of Not for Newbies dogs, which was occupied by mostly large dogs.
The reason is that the Australian Cattle Dog definitely does not think it is a small dog. Indeed, this is not a toy dog, it is most definitely a working dog breed.
The ACD has a reputation of being stubborn and being a bit over adventurous, not to mention that it has almost never ending stamina.
This breed is definitely over the top for an indoor pet. But it was never bred to be a pet. Although some breeds have been bred from working dogs to more mellow companion dogs, this is not the case with the Heeler. It is still a very much capable working dog breed with all the intelligence, toughness and tenacity to perform the tasks required of a farm dog.
These resilient herders are intelligent enough to routinely outsmart their owners, sometimes even experienced ones.
Not to mention the unobtainable amounts of exercise you’d need to supply this dog in a less rural living arrangement. Not only is this dog not for novice owners, but the ACD just shouldn’t be kept as a pet with no outlet for its natural instincts to work.
3. Basenji – Difficult Dog Breeds
Like every dog on this list the Basenji is a strong-willed intelligent dog that requires an experienced and confident handler.
The Basenji comes from Africa where it was bred as a hunter and for pest control. Clever and endearing, this is a good companion for the person or family who can stay a step ahead of it.
Although these are great family dogs with confident owners, there are some things that make this dog particularly challenging.
You don’t want to let your Basenji get bored. They are prone to massive destructiveness when they aren’t getting enough mental and physical stimulation or when left alone for too long.
Basenjis are also master escape artists with strong chase and exploratory drives. This can be especially dangerous for a dog in busy city surroundings. And your Basenji is not likely to come back to you without lots of recall training.
Most of these dogs are intelligent, but we could all use some help training them. Check out Brain Training for Dogs to learn how to use your dog’s natural intelligence to stop bad behavior.
2. Shiba Inu – Difficult Dog Breeds
It’s easy to fall in love with the cute, fox-like looks of the Shiba Inu, but if you’re not a strong-willed confident dog owner this might be a huge mistake.
The Shiba Inu is one of the most challenging dog breeds to own. With a marked stubborn streak and mischievous sense of humor, the Shiba Inu does best with owners who are firm, confident, and unwaveringly consistent, because if you give the Shiba an inch, it will take a mile.
Some of the less endearing traits of the breed are:
They are massively destructive if bored or lonely.
Aggression toward other dogs, cats and strangers, the latter of which can be minimized with proper socialization.
And, they are master escape artists, which will ignore any command to recall them.
All in all, unless you know the Shiba or other strong-willed dogs well, you’d do best to leave them to more advanced owners.
1. Jack Russell Terrier – Difficult Dog Breeds
It was a hard decision between which breed should get the number one spot; the Shiba or the Jack Russell Terrier. The Jack got number one because the Jack just might be one of the most Terrier of Terriers with everything that comes with the dynamic and often fiery terrier temperament.
If any dog can top the strong prey drive, determination, and intensity of a Jack Russell Terrier – well, it’s probably another Jack Russell Terrier.
Don’t let the Jack’s sporty good looks and adorable face fool you. This is not a dog for those new to dog training.
The Jack Russell Terrier is highly intelligent and can learn almost anything quickly. The most challenging part of training a Jack is convincing this assertive little dog that it actually has to DO what it has been taught, when you say so, even when you don’t have treats.
Jacks have an insatiable prey drive. If you have other pets that fly, flutter, squeak, scamper or move, your Jack will be on them constantly, including cats. They are also not well-suited to living with other dogs.
The Jack needs lots of exercise, both mental and physical. It needs constant training and reinforcement. And most of all it needs a strong, confident leader that can take charge. If not, it will.
*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).