10 Best Indoor Dog Breeds: Finding Your Perfect Puppy Pal
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So you’re thinking about getting a dog but aren’t the outdoorsy type. So, what you’re looking for is a list of the best indoor dog breeds?
If so, you’ve come to the right place.
There are many breeds that are happy to hang out with you indoors.
Of course all dogs require some physical and mental exercise.
But some breeds don’t have a working drive that would require them to regularly be busy with tasks.
So I’m going to list some good choices of indoor dog breeds that can work for your lifestyle.
As a trainer, I’ve had a mix of working breeds with couch-potato dogs for many years.
Although I love having active dogs, it’s also nice to have some who are content to veg out and watch TV with me.
Considerations When Deciding on the Right Indoor Breed
In making your decision for the right fit for you, there are certain factors that you should consider.
After all, some dogs require more care than others. Some require more space or are cleaner than others.
And many smaller-breed dogs make great indoor companions.
Do you have children? How old are they?
Some dogs who are great indoor dogs are very small.
These tiny breeds can easily be inadvertently injured by toddlers. So they might be better for more mature children.
Conversely, if you choose a larger breed, some may knock over toddlers without meaning to.
Will you supervise interactions with children?
Of course no young children should be left alone with a dog.
But some smaller dogs can be injured by children even when they don’t mean to harm the pup.
Are you active or more of a homebody?
Many indoor breeds don’t require a lot of exercise and are happy to be couch potatoes.
But they do need some exercise such as short walks, romps in an enclosed area, and play.
How much grooming are you willing to do? Or are you willing to pay for professional grooming when needed?
Many breeds who thrive as indoor dogs require a lot of grooming.
Some may even need professional grooming because their hair grows and must either be kept in a puppy cut or groomed daily.
This can get quite expensive if you can’t groom them yourself.
Properly grooming your pup involves more than just a cute appearance.
Taking care of their coat and skin also helps keep them healthy.
I’ve had shih tzus and Lhasa apsos for over 30 years and have learned to groom them myself. This saves a lot of money.
Groomers and breeders who I know taught me what clippers, combs, and brushes to use to keep the dogs in top condition.
How will you house train the dog?
Some toy and other smaller breeds can even be trained to use potty pads.
This can be very useful if you’re in an apartment or for some other reason aren’t able to take the dog outside to potty all the time.
Are you willing to train and socialize the dog?
Even if you choose a smaller breed who is great indoors, he still needs to be properly trained and socialized.
Small dogs can get underfoot and get injured–or even trip you if they’re not trained to go to a place. Some are true “Velcro dogs.”
And, if not properly trained and socialized, some smaller dogs can develop a “Napoleon complex” and try to take over a household.
Can you meet the dog’s physical and mental needs?
Even breeds who are great indoor dogs need some physical exercise. And some, such as brachycephalic breeds with short muzzles, should not be over-exercised.
Also, they need to be indoors if the weather is extreme.
So, if you live in a climate with extremes of temperature and humidity, take that into consideration when choosing your next canine companion.
They can become overheated and need a cool environment, such as air conditioning, when it’s too hot outside.
Do you want a travel companion who you can take everywhere?
If you’re looking for a portable companion, a smaller breed might be a great choice. You can even take them along in various types of carriers.
My smaller dogs could accompany me in stores.
I would put them in a shopping cart on top of a fleece bed. And they would be my traveling companions.
I would go into a department store and people would pet them.
Do your family members prefer a small, medium, or large-sized dog?
Although many indoor breeds are small, some larger dogs do fine as well as their needs are met.
It’s important that everyone who will be living with the dog loves and participates in his care.
Some people prefer tiny munchkins who they can carry with them. But others would choose a larger breed to cuddle up with while relaxing.
Do you live in a detached home or in an apartment?
If you are in a condo, apartment, or an attached twin or townhome, you probably shouldn’t choose a dog who tends to bark too much.
Neighbors don’t appreciate a noisy dog.
Do you want a puppy or more mature dog?
If you want a puppy, choose a conscientious breeder who performs the correct health testing on their breeding stock. Some breeders even re-home adult dogs who they’ve raised.
Or you can contact a breed rescue of the breed you’re considering.
Many rescues have their dogs in foster homes. They get to know each dog’s temperament, needs, and personality so that the proper placement can be made.
So now that you’ve considered whether an indoor dog is best for you, let’s discuss some contenders for your affection.
10 Best Indoor Dog Breeds
In no particular order…
1. Shih Tzus
Shih tzus were the dogs of the Emperors of China. But you don’t have to be royalty to have one as your canine buddy.
They were bred purely as companions, not as working dogs. Unless you consider being a lap dog work.
So if you’re looking for a pup to adore you as you work from home, a shih tzu can be a good choice.
Sturdy toy breed dogs, they are lively, outgoing, and affectionate dogs.
A shih tzu (pronounced “sheed-zoo”) is content to be adored on his pet parent’s lap.
A short walk and some play will meet his exercise needs.
They bark only when needed and aren’t noisy dogs.
Shih tzus have hair that needs to be groomed regularly.
If kept in a long coat, they require daily grooming or their coat will become a matted mess. They are not big shedders.
If kept in a puppy cut, a quick brushing can be done.
Make sure that their beard and tail are combed and kept clean. Bathe weekly or as needed.
I keep my shih tzus in a puppy clip with a longer beard and tail to maintain the look of the breed.
They are notoriously difficult to house train. I can attest to this.
One of my shih tzus, China, came from an excellent breeder. But she took quite a while to fully get the concept of going to the bathroom outside.
In fact, I stayed home with her for a week to help move the process along.
Shih tzus are smart but somewhat independent.
They can be trained to high levels of obedience.
But they aren’t border collies and will usually take longer than some breeds to learn.
And they will tire of repetitive commands. So keep the training session short and fun.
If bred and raised properly, they should get along with everyone–human and canine alike.
Shih tzus don’t do well in temperature extremes and can quickly overheat. So be careful in hot or cold weather.
My first shih tzu, Cuddles, loved everyone and even won trick contests.
My second, China, was shown in competitive obedience and was a top obedience shih tzu, even learning scent work. And she was also a therapy dog.
My third shih tzu was a rescue. Trevor was a former breeder dog at a puppy mill. It took time for him to feel safe and trust people.
But his true shih tzu temperament came through and he became a therapy dog who visited and entertained hospital patients weekly. And he loved to work and became a top obedience and rally shih tzu.
Shih tzus stand between nine and 10.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between nine and 16 pounds.
They have an expected lifespan of between 10 and 18 years.
2. Yorkshire Terriers
Yorkshire terriers (also known as yorkies) may appear to be delicate.
But don’t mistake that as being laid-back pushovers. They are spunky, feisty terriers with strong personalities.
Yorkies have a lot of attitude in a small package.
They were originally bred at ratters who later also became lapdogs of Victorian ladies.
They will bark at strangers and can make great watchdogs.
So, if you’re in an apartment or condo, they might not be the best choice unless you work with any excessive alert barking.
Their long steel blue and rich tan coat is more like human hair than fur and requires regular, daily grooming so that it doesn’t become matted.
They are not excessive shedders.
Some people choose to keep their yorkie in a puppy cut for easier upkeep.
Yorkies are smart but won’t do well with repetitive training. So keep sessions short and fun.
I met one of my friends by training her yorkie.
Bella was a very intelligent, spunky, adorable dog. But she needed to think that training was fun to enjoy it.
I made training into a game. Round-robin recalls interspersed with sits and downs made the more boring stationary exercises fun.
My friend trained Bella to potty pads, which was a great alternative because of her irregular hours.
Yorkies can make great companions and lap dogs.
They’re portable and can accompany you basically everywhere.
And, if properly bred, trained, and socialized, they can do well in any setting because they are confident, bold little dogs.
Yorkies stand between seven to eight inches at the shoulder and weigh about seven pounds.
Their life expectancy is between 11 and 15 years.
3. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were originally a toy, sporting spaniel referred to as “comforter spaniels” who literally warmed an aristocratic owner’s lap.
Their soft, regal expression exudes a sweet temperament. The sweet, gentle, melting expression of their large, round eyes is a breed hallmark.
Cavaliers are known to be very peaceful dogs who love everyone. They do great with gentle children and other dogs.
A friend of mine has two children who are now teenagers.
They got their cavalier when the children were young. And the dog proved to be a sweet, gentle playmate of the youngsters.
Cavaliers are very amenable to training and relish the time with you.
Despite their royal history, don’t mistake cavaliers for frail dogs. Very adaptable, they are up for a fun frolic or chasing a squirrel and can be athletic or couch potatoes depending on your lifestyle.
They are not barkers and will bark only when necessary.
Regular brushing and bathing when needed are required. They are not excessive shedders.
Cavaliers stand at 12 to 13 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 13 and 18 pounds.
They have an expected life expectancy of 12 to 15 years.
These are tiny dogs with giant personalities. If you’re looking for a larger-than-life “purse dog,” look no further.
Chihuahuas are one of the oldest breeds of the Americas.
Their “apple” head is a hallmark of the breed, and they have an alert expression with erect ears and bright eyes.
They come in a short and longer coated variety.
The short coat requires little more than a quick brushing and bath as needed. Even the longer coat just requires brushing a few times a week.
Chihuahuas can make great lap dogs and traveling companions because they’re so portable.
These are not shy, retiring flowers. Instead, Chihuahuas have a high estimation of themselves.
They are highly intelligent and alert and need a firm but fair owner.
If not trained, they can easily take over a household and have a Napoleon complex.
So use positive reinforcement. But make sure to do regular sessions in which the dog knows what’s expected of him.
Teach him all the basic commands as well as impulse control exercises.
Remember: a chihuahua doesn’t think of himself as diminutive.
Chihuahuas have a somewhat terrier-like, independent temperament. But they are very playful with their families.
Because of their tiny size, they aren’t the best choice for very young children as they may easily be injured.
They don’t do well in extremes of temperature.
Short walks and play sessions are enough to satisfy his need for exercise.
Chihuahuas need to be socialized throughout their life, because they aren’t naturally welcoming to strangers or to dogs. They tend to be protective of their family and can be barky.
A friend of mine has had chihuahuas and chihuahua mixes for years. And they do tend to be guardians of her home and will alert her to strangers at the door–even before the doorbell rings.
Chihuahuas stand at five to eight inches at the shoulder and weigh no more than six pounds.
They have a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years.
If you’re looking for a medium-sized, sturdy breed who is great indoors, look no further than the bulldog (also sometimes called the English bulldog).
A bulldog will be happy to be a homebody with you.
They are low-slung, muscular dogs that are known as symbols of courage.
Bulldogs are adaptable to the country and city and don’t require a lot of exercise.
But a few brisk walks and play sessions are required as well as measured food so that they don’t gain too much weight.
Bulldogs are docile and playful and affectionate with their family. And they are friendly with strangers.
They can be good with respectful children and other dogs.
Bulldogs are sweet dogs who want to please their owners, so training should go well.
Train using positive reinforcement and in short sessions so that the dog doesn’t become bored.
As they love to tug, make sure they’re trained to give things up on cue. And work with a bulldog from puppyhood so that he doesn’t guard food.
Their short coats require just 10 minutes of brushing a few times a week.
And they need to have their facial wrinkles checked regularly to ensure that they remain clean and dry.
Bulldogs do tend to overheat easily because of their short muzzles. So be sure that they’re inside in air conditioning when it’s too warm out.
They can also suffer from breathing problems if they are overheated.
Bulldogs stand at 14 to 15 inches at the shoulder. Females should weigh 40 pounds and males 50 pounds.
They have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years.
6. French Bulldog
The French bulldog is now the most popular American Kennel Club breed in the United States, unseating the labrador who held that honor for decades.
Being so popular has, unfortunately, led to many puppy mill and back-yard breeders joining the band wagon and breeding poor specimens who may suffer from physical and behavioral problems.
So make sure that you get a French bulldog from a good breeder or a rescue who understands and cares about the breed.
They are adorable dogs with large erect bat ears and a relatively flat muzzle.
So make sure that they don’t overheat and are in air conditioning if it’s too warm out.
As is true with other flat-faced breeds, they can suffer from breathing problems–especially if they overheat.
French bulldogs are adaptable to most settings and can happily live in an apartment or house.
Although they can be a watchdog, they are not excessive barkers and bark only when necessary.
Playful, alert, even-tempered dogs, French bulldogs are friendly with people and dogs alike.
Their smooth, short coat requires only weekly brushing. But make sure that their facial wrinkles are kept clean and dry.
French bulldogs don’t require a lot of exercise. A few short walks when it’s cool out and indoor play sessions should keep them fit.
Make sure that they aren’t overfed as they tend to easily gain weight.
They can be stubborn and independent as far as training is concerned. Just make training fun and a game so that they want to learn.
I have trained many French bulldogs. They have a fun, playful personality.
When I train a French bulldog, I make sure that I make the training fun! I use treats and games.
When we do recalls, I may hide and play “find me” or run a few steps in the other direction to build drive and make the dog want to come.
Some of the French bulldogs I’ve trained have even gotten their Canine Good Citizen or Trick Dog titles with me.
French bulldogs stand between 11 and 13 inches at the shoulder and weigh under 28 pounds.
They have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years.
Havanese are doggie extroverts who haven’t met a stranger. They love people and other dogs and are great with respectful children.
Havanese are adaptable to the country or city.
Although they are excellent watchdogs, barking can be kept to a minimum. Make sure to teach them a quiet command when they are young.
Havanese are playful, lively dogs who are great with respectful children.
Although they don’t require a lot of exercise, they are energetic small dogs. So they should have a few walks or romps each day to stay fit.
Their luxurious, silky, double coat needs regular–even daily–grooming if kept in a long coat.
But they can be kept in a puppy cut so that they can be groomed a few times a week and still be kept in tip-top shape.
Very trainable, Havanese love to learn. They make great trick dogs and can be exceptional therapy dogs because of their love of people and stable temperaments.
A friend of mine used to volunteer with her Havanese at a hospital to do therapy dog work.
The dog would dance on her hind legs, sit pretty, and shake hands–all to the delight of the patients and hospital staff.
Havanese stand at 8.5 to 11.5 inches at the shoulder. They weigh between seven and 13 pounds.
Their expected lifespan is between 14 and 16 years.
The small but sturdy, muscular pug is a comical dog with a quizzical expression on his flat-faced muzzle.
They were the mischievous companions of Chinese emperors and later the mascot of Holland’s House of Orange.
A pug’s face has many human-like expressions and can look curious, surprised, and happy. They are clowns of the dog world.
Pugs love everyone and are great companions to respectful children.
They love to play and join in any games. But take care that they don’t overheat.
A few walks when it’s cool out and indoor play sessions will help keep your pug trim.
Just also be sure not to overfeed him as they tend to put on excess weight pretty easily.
They are happy to be snuggle buddies on the sofa while you watch your favorite Netflix programs.
Bred to be companions, they have an even, stable temperament.
But they also have a sensitive nature so training should never be harsh or over-bearing. They love to be with and please their people and enjoy training that uses positive reinforcement.
I used to travel to dog shows with a friend who showed her pug in competitive obedience.
Rosie the pug loved participating in the activity with her owner. They made quite a team.
Rosie always pranced about in the ring and greeted all people who wanted to make her acquaintance outside the ring. She was quite the social butterfly.
A pug’s short glossy coat requires minimal maintenance. Weekly brushing should suffice and should be bathed when needed. But they are year-round shedders.
Pugs stand at 10 to 13 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 14 and 18 pounds.
They have a life expectancy of 13 to 15 years.
9. Bichon Frise
Bichons are known for their exceptional personality and outgoing nature.
Great with adults, respectful children, and other dogs, they are adaptable to many living situations.
They never met a stranger and can’t wait to make new friends.
Bichons love to be with their people and can develop negative behaviors if left alone too long.
They have a poodle-like coat that is relatively hypoallergenic. Bichons are not shedders.
Their large, dark eyes convey that they are bright, alert small dogs.
A bichon’s coat requires brushing two or three times a week. And a bath and clipping at least once a month.
So, unless you learn to do this yourself, a bichon needs to be professionally groomed.
Bichons are a somewhat active breed and need regular, daily walks and play sessions.
They would love a fenced-in yard too where they can romp but it’s not required if they are otherwise given a sufficient amount of exercise.
They love to run and should be taught a reliable recall so that they don’t run away.
Bichons love to learn and can make great trick dogs.
One downside is they can be difficult to house train. But, with consistency, they will be house trained.
They can be barkers, but can be taught to curb their noise.
Bichons stand between 9.5 and 11.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 12 and 18 pounds.
They have an expected lifespan of 14 to 15 years.
Dachshunds are bold, outgoing, vivacious dogs.
They are friendly and can be good companions who can be playful or settle down while you work on your computer if given some exercise.
They can be companions for gentle children.
Care must be taken when picking them up because of their long backs.
Even though they don’t appear to be athletic dogs, they still require regular exercise so that they don’t gain weight and put excess weight on their backs and legs. And proper exercise will also strengthen their backs.
Care must be taken that they don’t injure their backs jumping on and off furniture or going up and down stairs.
You can get ramps and stairs for the dog to get on and off furniture to protect his structure.
Dachshunds are intelligent and love to learn. But they are somewhat independent yet sensitive and need to be trained with a gentle hand.
Bred as badger dogs, they love to dig and will want to chase prey.
So keep them on-lead and teach a “leave it” command and reliable recall.
Of course, teaching an attention cue is crucial so that their noses and prey drive don’t take over when you’re attempting to train them.
Unlike some smaller dogs, they house train easily.
They can be good watch dogs and have a “big-dog bark.” So they don’t usually make good apartment dogs or dogs in attached housing.
Dachshunds come in two sizes: a standard and a miniature size. And they come in three types of coats: smooth, wire-haired, and long-haired.
Smooth-coated dogs have easy coat care and long-coated ones require brushing a few times a week.
Wire-haired dogs require professional hand-stripping or plucking a few times a year.
Standard dachshunds stand at eight to nine inches at the shoulder and miniatures at five to six inches.
Standards weigh between 16 and 32 pounds and miniatures 11 pounds and under.
Both sizes have a life expectancy of 12 to 16 years.
I am thinking about getting a dog who will mainly be inside. I don’t want one who requires more than a walk and some play a day. Will a shih tzu or havanese be a good choice?
Yes. They are both dogs that don’t require a lot of exercise and should do fine with a walk and some fetching to exercise them.
I live in an apartment and am thinking about getting a dachshund. Would this be a good choice?
Probably not. They can be good watchdogs and tend to bark more than some other breeds.
I want a small house dog who doesn’t shed. What can you recommend?
Dogs who have hair rather than fur generally minimally shed. Shih tzus, bichon frise, yorkies, and cavalier king charles spaniels can be good choices.
There are many breeds that can make great house dogs.
Just research the breeds that you’re interested in to see if they meet your living situation to be good indoor companions.
Are you thinking about getting an indoor dog? Tell us about it in the comments section below.
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