Healthiest Small and Mid-Sized Dog Breeds

Carlee Linden

Last Updated: April 1st, 2021

Topics:

dog breeds

Small dogIf you’re considering getting a dog, don’t exclude the smaller and mid-size breeds. While they may have gained a negative reputation for being yippy and possessive, that’s not always the case. Smaller dogs are often recognized for their unique personalities and quirky characteristics. But people tend to forget that small dogs usually live longer and have less of a risk of developing specific cancers.

The best way to keep your dog living a long and happy life is to give your dog daily exercise, love, and discipline as well as visiting your veterinarian regularly for checkups.

While it is never a guarantee that your dog won’t get sick, some small and mid-sized breeds have less of a chance of developing serious health issues.

Check out our list of the healthiest small and mid-sized breeds to see if your pup made the list:

English Springer Spaniel

English Springer Spaniel

Height: 19-20 inches
Weight: 40-50 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

The English Springer Spaniel was bred to work with people, so these dogs are easily trained and people-pleasers. Overall, the English Springer Spaniel stays relatively healthy, but owners should be aware that this breed should be checked for elbow and hip dysplasia and some eye conditions. Owners should also check the Springer’s ears for signs of infection.

Shetland Sheepdog

Shetland Sheepdog

Height: 13-16 inches
Weight: 15-25 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

A part of the herding family, Shetland Sheepdogs (Shelties) are active and agile. Their dynamic nature means they need a moderate amount of exercise. Sheltie owners should take their pup to the veterinarian on a regular basis to check for thyroid disease, dermatomyositis, von Willebrand’s disease, and epilepsy.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: 27-30 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

It may come as a surprise to learn that the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is actually quick and agile. The breed has small but muscular legs, as they were bred to herd cattle. Pembroke Welsh Corgis do best in an environment where they are given a job to maintain their physical and mental health. Corgi owners should screen their pup for cardiac issues, degenerative myelopathy, and von Willebrand’s disease.

German Pinscher

German Pinscher

Height: 17-20 inches
Weight: 25-45 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

The German Pinscher is an intelligent and energetic dog with a fairly clean bill of health. As a high-energy breed, Pinschers require ample daily exercise. Although the German Pinscher is generally healthy, owners should be aware that the breed is prone to hip dysplasia, eye disease, and von Willebrand’s disease.

Bolognese

Bolognese

Height: 10-12 inches
Weight: 5.5-9 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-14 years

A small and stocky breed, the Bolognese is a calm and inactive pet. They are a reasonably shy breed but extremely devoted to their owners. They are prone to separation anxiety and do not like to be left alone for long periods of time. With their reserved personality and low energy level, the Bolognese is an excellent breed for seniors. Even though the Bolognese is a reasonably healthy breed, owners should check for health conditions like luxating patellas and eye anomalies.

"Early training for these dogs is a must to help them develop into a confident dog who can be left alone. Get professional help early if your pup shows signs of separation distress."

—Dr. Wailani Sung, Chewy Veterinary Behaviorist

Lakeland Terrier

Lakeland Terrier

Height: 14-15 inches
Weight: 15-17 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Lakeland Terriers are known for their friendly and bold personalities. This breed needs more mental exercise than physical, but short walks won’t cut it for a Lakeland Terrier. Owners should be prepared to go on long walks or brisk jogs to keep up with this breed. The Lakeland Terrier has very few health conditions specifically related to the breed. Owners shouldn’t neglect to check their ears for signs of infection or brushing their teeth regularly.

Border Terrier

Border Terrier

Height: 12-15 inches
Weight: 11-15 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Border Terriers are loving, even-tempered pets that get along well with young children. They love exploring the outdoors and require plenty of daily exercise. This breed has an instinct to chase small animals, so keep Terriers on a leash in public areas. Another thing Border Terrier owners should be aware of is the breed’s love for digging. Border Terriers are prone to hip dysplasia, juvenile cataracts, seizures, and heart problems. Some Border Terriers are even less tolerant of hot weather, so keep the outdoor exercise to a minimum in extreme heat.

Smooth Fox Terrier

Smooth Fox Terrier

Height: 15-16 inches
Weight: 15-18 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

The Smooth Fox Terrier is an independent and friendly breed that requires lots of exercise to stay mentally and physically fit. You might find that a closed off backyard is the best place to play with the Smooth Fox Terrier as they are likely to run off if they see a small squirrel or bird. Owners of this breed should be on the lookout for patellar luxation and cardiac disease.

Norwich Terrier

Norwich Terrier

Height: 9.5-10 inches
Weight: 11-12 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years

Much like the Norfolk Terrier, the Norwich Terrier was bred as a fierce and fearless ratter. However, they are known for their affectionate and curious nature. Having been bred with innate hunting instincts, the Norwich Terrier enjoys ample exercise. Norwich owners should be aware that their pup may develop hip dysplasia, epilepsy, degenerative, myelopathy, and upper airway syndrome. They are also prone to plaque and tartar build-up, so dental care is important.

Norfolk Terrier

Norfolk Terrier

Height: 9-10 inches
Weight: 11-12 pounds
Life Expectancy: 12-16 years

This breed was first bred to hunt rodents, but don’t let their small size fool you. The Norfolk Terrier is fearless, feisty, and fun-loving. Norfolk Terriers tend to stay close to their owners and can become quite possessive over their master’s attention. This breed loves socializing, so a game of fetch or tug-of-war should satisfy this pup. Overall, the Norfolk Terrier lives a healthy life; however, owners should visit the vet to check for heart and eye issues, and patellar luxation.

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier

Height: 9.5-10 inches
Weight: 13-14 pounds
Life Expectancy: 13-15 years

A great family dog, the Cairn Terrier is a shaggy and alert breed. The Cairn Terrier is an excellent all-around breed that can live just about anywhere. They enjoy a moderate amount of exercise and thrive in herding, agility, obedience, and tracking activities. Cairn Terrier owners should visit the vet regularly and receive an ophthalmologist evaluation, cardiac exam, and a patella evaluation.

Havanese

Havanese

Height: 8.5-11.5 inches
Weight: 7-13 pounds
Life Expectancy: 14-16 years

The Havanese is the ultimate city dog. An extremely intelligent and trainable breed, Havanese love to perform tricks for their owners. Surprisingly, this breed makes an excellent watchdog, but won’t keep you up all night with constant barking. The Havanese needs a decent amount of exercise and loves going on brisk walks. However, they can be easily over-exercised, so owners should go home once a Havanese starts panting or is struggling to keep up. These pups often live long, healthy lives but are prone to the following conditions: chondrodysplasia, deafness, heart murmurs, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and patellar luxation.

Shiba Inu

Shiba Inu

Height: 13-16 inches
Weight: 17-24 pounds
Life Expectancy: 13-16 years

The most popular dog in Japan, the Shiba Inu is an extremely alert and attentive breed. They often boast a confident and bold personality. The Shiba Inu enjoys a good amount of exercise but is not so hyper that they require more than one walk per day. Owners of this breed should be willing to go for long walks or have an adequately sized yard for this breed to run around in. The most common health ailment for a Shiba Inu is allergies. However, the breed should also be screened for hip dysplasia, eye disorders, and patella luxation.

"This is a breed that would benefit from early handling and socialization, which should continue through 1 year of age. This a breed that often does not like being handled, which makes nail trimming and any veterinary procedures difficult."

—Dr. Wailani Sung, Chewy Veterinary Behaviorist

Manchester Terrier

Manchester Terrier

Height: 15-16 inches
Weight: 12-22 pounds
Life Expectancy: 15-17 years

The Manchester Terrier is a sleek looking and observant breed. Owners of this breed should be willing to take their pup on several walks a day to keep up with their active lifestyle. While the breed does enjoy their downtime, they are always up for chasing a tennis ball. Manchester Terriers do tend to live longer than other breeds but are subject to cardiomyopathy. This breed is also affected by patellar luxation or “loose knees.”

Chihuahua

Chihuahua

Height: 5-8 inches
Weight: Typically less than 6 pounds
Life Expectancy: 15-20 years

This tiny dog comes with a big personality. Chihuahuas are often extremely loyal to their owners and possess an attitude that puts a toddler to shame. Their small size makes them an ideal city pet, as they don’t need a large backyard to get a workout in. They are generally happy to follow their master around, and this usually provides the right amount of exercise. Chihuahuas are known for their long lifespan, but they should be checked for genetic issues, heart problems, eye diseases, patellar luxation, and idiopathic epilepsy.

All dogs benefit from mental and physical activity. Daily walks or romps in the yard or parks will help keep them at an ideal weight and help work off excess energy. Providing them their meals in puzzle toys will help them learn to problem solve and keep them mentally active. Both mental and physical activity are very important for dogs of all ages and sizes but especially for our senior dogs. Daily or weekly training sessions will enhance the human-animal bond but also train a dog that is reliable and compliant.

Dr. Wailani Sung, Chewy Veterinary Behaviorist


No matter which breed you have or plan on bringing to your home, dog owners should treat their companion to a healthy diet, plenty of love and affection, ample exercise, and routine checkups to ensure their furry friend lives a long and happy life.

Not a fan of the smaller breeds? Check out our article about the Healthiest Mid-Sized and Large Dog Breeds.

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