For those of us who prefer a dog you can take anywhere, a small dog is the perfect sidekick. But a small, companion dog doesn’t necessarily mean “lap dog.” If you want a dog you can take anywhere who will play with you when you get there, then our list of the ten most playful small dog breeds is for you. Top 10 Most Playful Small Dog Breeds.
Terriers are generally known to be playful, energetic dogs, but there is a Terrier that is so playful that you can sense its whimsical nature in its name—the West Highland White Terrier.
With their happy temperament and adorable expressions, Westies are born to have fun. They typically get along well with all their human family members, not singling anyone out as their favorite, and they don’t mind sharing the house with other dogs and friendly felines.
That said, a Terrier is a Terrier and they are wired to have a high prey drive. It is not recommended that a Westie live in a home where small animals, like rabbits, gerbils, or guinea pigs roam freely about.
Most Westies come with an “on-off switch.” They have a calm, composed “indoor demeanor” and can hold down the fort while you’re at work or running errands, but when it’s time to romp in the backyard or dog park, they shift to their “outside demeanor” and become 100 watt balls of energy.
And don’t worry, this breed is quite flexible when it comes to choosing a playtime activity. From a vigorous game of fetch, to hiking on a trail, to throwing chew toys around, or just running around the yard, they enjoy it all…Westies just wanna have fun!
The Brussels Griffon has been described as the dog with the “monkey face.” So, it’s only fitting that the favorite pastime of the Griffon is monkeying around.
Its small, yet solid body type, agility and athleticism are physical attributes that make the Griffon as ready for play as larger dogs— but its curiosity, intelligence, and sense of humor take playtime to the next level for both its canine buds and you.
Though they tend to be impatient, these fearless little dogs are well-suited to almost any activity. From hiking and jogging, to playing fetch, catch, or poker—not really, though their grumpy expression would be the ideal poker face—Griffons are perfectly comfortable as long as they’re where the action is.
These affectionate, sensitive pups get along well with all their human family, but will gravitate to particular person, so if you’re not “the one,” don’t take it personally…it’s not you it’s them. Griffons get along well with other animals, but are unaware of their size and may try to dominate much larger dogs, so keep a watchful eye during play dates.
Fun Fact: Star Wars creator, George Lucas, modeled his adorable Ewok characters after the Brussels Griffon he had at the time.
Does your dog have a favorite person or pet sibling?
Border Terriers are born to dig. These friendly, yet strong-willed busybodies were bred to burrow underground to chase rats and foxes. So, it’s only natural that their some of their favorite playtime activities involve excavation.
One great way to keep your busy Border Terrier occupied is to invest in a sandbox, or section-off an area in the yard that is just for your furbaby. While your Border watches from a stationary position, bury a few toys or treats, then give them the go-ahead to dig up the riches. For a more challenging adventure, bury the booty when your little pirate isn’t looking.
Another wonderful way to stimulate your Border Terrier and let them play on their natural instincts is through Earthdog trials held by local kennel clubs across the country. Dogs that hunt small prey, such as Terriers and Dachshunds, race through underground tunnels in search of quarry. Though each dog is evaluated for its hunting ability, it is not a competitive sport.
Yes, Borders do enjoy standard dog games, like catch and tail chasing, but if you want your buddy to be happy and healthy, find a place where it can do what it was born to do…dig it?
Coming in at lucky number seven is the Papillon. This breed gets its name from the French word for “butterfly” because of its ears, which extend up and away from its head, like the wings of the graceful insect. But perhaps there is another reason the Papillon dog’s name fits it perfectly—it has a light, airy presence and playful spirit that is much like that of the butterfly.
The Papillon is a toy Spaniel that makes a great companion, but will never be content as a lap dog. Instead of curling up next to you in front of the T.V., this smart, vivacious pup would rather chase balls, wrestle squeak toys, socialize with furry pals, or spend hours entertaining themselves by making up their own games. They have a strong desire to please, which makes them highly trainable, and at playtime they’ll be eager to show off any tricks they’ve learned.
If introduced at a young age, these “social butterflies,” typically to get along well with their pet siblings, but like other toy breeds, they have no awareness of their relative size and may try to bully dogs that are much larger than they are.
Papillons make great family dogs, but if they feel they’re being mistreated or mishandled, they won’t hesitate to defend themselves, so they should be watched around small children.
In the 19th century, the genteel, tuxedo coated Boston Terrier was referred to as the “little American gentleman,” but don’t get it twisted, this playful pup is as clownish as it is smooth.
In order to stay out of trouble, the lively, intelligent Boston needs a lot of exercise and mental stimulation. Like most dogs, Bostons enjoy playing fetch, hiking, or going for a brisk walk or jog. Since they have a predilection for chewing objects, a showdown with a good chew toy is right up their alley. When properly acclimated, Bostons also enjoy aquatic activities, like retrieving balls from the water, and believe it not—swimming.
Bostons have an easygoing demeanor and a friendly face with large, wide-set eyes that say, “Come play with me,” but when it comes to their people, Bostons can be very territorial and aggressive with strangers and other pets. Early socialization, is key to having a Boston that gets along well with others—human, canine or non-canine.
5. Bichon Frise
The Bichon Frise may look like a giant powder puff and have a frou frou name, but it’s more like a ball of fire, and is anything but frou frou when it’s time to play.
Though known as a French dog, this small, merry, yet robust canine, once called the Tenerife, (after the largest of the Canary Islands) originated in the Mediterranean, where they sailed the waters with 13th century Spanish seafarers. The Renaissance ushered in a new era and a new name for the breed. It became popular in France among the aristocracy and was renamed the Bichon Frise, which loosely translates to “curly lap dog.”
The little canine sailor that was once valued for its affinity for all things aquatic, was now kept as a companion dog, and was as prettied and pampered as the bourgeoisie, but to this day it still has the soul of a sailor.
Bichons love all types of games, but have a fondness for retrieving and, of course, water activities. Make the most of playtime for your Bichon by taking your fluffy friend to the beach, where you can try everything from surfing to water polo. Or you can simply initiate a round of…you guessed it—fetch!
What does your dog enjoy more? Land-roving or water-based activities?
Small Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement training. Check out Brain Training for Dogs to learn how to use your dog’s natural intelligence to stop bad behavior.
4. Fox Terrier – Playful Small Dog Breeds
“An idle mind is the devil’s workshop”—this saying applies to people, but it also applies to certain dog breeds, including the Fox Terrier.
Like a typical Terrier, the Foxie is agile, energetic and loves to burrow. Combine these physical characteristics with an outgoing, intelligent, cocky personality, and you have the makings of a dog that is lovable, yet high-strung.
If you have a Fox Terrier, be prepared—your compadre will require plenty of mental and physical stimulation to stay of trouble. Ball chasing, jogging, or playtime with doggy pals at the park are all great ways for your furbaby to burn off energy. And yes, Earth trials and a sandbox or kiddie pool full of dirt will provide them with endless opportunities to get their dig on. Many Foxies also enjoy a brisk swim in the pool or ocean. It’s a great way for them to get ample exercise, while cooling off…especially during the “dog days” of summer.
Though Fox Terriers are loyal and affectionate with their humans, they are quite scrappy and inclined to pick fights with other dogs. Early socialization is key to bringing up a well-adjusted pup that can hang out with the “cool kids.”
3. Corgi – Playful Small Dog Breeds
Who has a long body and short legs, but is as nimble and quick as “Jack” from the nursery rhymes? The Corgi, that’s who.
The Corgi is a herding breed whose agility was once essential to avoid being trampled by cattle. Today, that same mercurial mobility, fearlessness, and alertness contribute to their playful nature. Corgis are very easy to make friends, both human and animal, so they never have a hard time finding someone to play with.
Classic dog games like fetch and ball-
chasing will keep your Corgi in great physical condition, but be sure to include activities that will keep your pal’s mind sharp, too.
You can get creative and invent your own games, like “hide and sniff.”
Take a few of your dog’s favorite treats,
along with a few miscellaneous items, and put them in the cups of a muffin tin. Place a tennis ball over each cup, and let your pup sniff out the goodies. Want to up the ante? Hide the treats around the house.
Since Corgis are born herders, herding tests and trials are a fantastic way to let your dog do what comes naturally. The herding test is non-competitive and requires the dog to move livestock such as sheep, ducks, and cattle along courses of varying difficulty.
2. Jack Russell Terrier– Playful Small Dog Breeds
The aforementioned “nursery rhyme Jack” has nothing on our next breed, not even his name. The Jack Russell Terrier is a vivacious, fearless, intelligent breed that is small in stature but big in…well, everything else. This “go big or go home” personality and an abundance of unbridled energy is what makes the Russell so much fun when it’s time to play.
Games like chase, fetch, and tug of war are all very physical games that will help your Russell burn off some of those energy reserves. Hide and seek is also a wonderful way to work their mental muscles, while wearing them down for a good long snooze.
Russells that are comfortable in water may enjoy swimming and dock diving—jumping into the water to retrieve a floating toy or other object. Just make sure that your pooch is acclimated to water. If he or she likes water but is not a “natural” swimmer use a life vest to train them.
Russells get along well with people, but can be aggressive toward other dogs and small animals. Like several other diminutive pups, they are unaware of their relative size and the risk they take when trying to boss around a larger dog.
1. Cockapoo – Playful Small Dog Breeds
The foundation for a playful dog is a joyful dog. And no breed has the zest for life that this playful small dog breeds has.
There are several reasons for the Cockapoo’s perpetual happiness. First of all, it is a mash-up of the Cocker Spaniel and the Poodle, two dogs known for their cheery temperaments. Secondly, the Cockapoo is a light shedder and ideal for people with allergies. And to top it all off, they’re so adorable, they can’t help but be tickled pink. Well, the last two reasons might not actually contribute to the Cockapoo’s sunny outlook, but they do contribute to its standing as one of the most popular hybrid dogs around.
Cockapoos love everybody and never meet a stranger. So when it’s time to play, all they have to do is look to the nearest person, pet or thing and let the good times roll.
This breed is so easygoing and eager to please, that as long as they’re not being mistreated, they’re typically happy doing anything. From a strolling vigorously around the neighborhood, to rolling around in the grass, hunting for treasure, camping, and even shopping, it’s all fun and games to this happy-go-lucky furball.
Yes, for all intents and purposes, the world is the Cockapoos playground—we just live in it!
What are some creative activities that you’ve come up with for your dog’s playtime?
*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).