Top 10 Most Playful Small Dog Breeds
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.
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West Highland White Terrier
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
(Wow, that was a mouthful.)
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
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
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
Border Terriers are born to dig.
These friendly, yet strong-willed busybodies
were bred to burrow underground to chase rats
So, it’s only natural that their some of
their favorite playtime activities involve
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
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
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
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.
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
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,
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
What does your dog enjoy more?
Land-roving or water-based activities?
“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.”
Who has a long body and short legs, but is
as nimble and quick as “Jack” from the
The Corgi, that’s who.
The Corgi is a herding breed whose agility
was once essential to avoid being trampled
Today, that same mercurial mobility, fearlessness,
and alertness contribute to their playful
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.
The aforementioned “nursery rhyme Jack”
has nothing on our next breed, not even his
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
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
Just make sure that your pooch is acclimated
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
Like several other diminutive pups, they are
unaware of their relative size and the risk
they take when trying to boss around a larger
The foundation for a playful dog is a joyful
And no breed has the zest for life that the
There are several reasons for the Cockapoo’s
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
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
What are some creative activities that you’ve
come up with for your dog’s playtime?
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