Monday, July 28, 2008

Choosing a Dog for a Smaller Home

"Buddy" our dog

For me a house becomes a home when you add one set of four legs, a happy tail, and that indescribable measure of love that we call a dog. - Roger Caras

I grew up with dogs and love most breeds - big and small, high energy dynamos and calm couch potatoes. But even though my children begged for a dog, we did not get one until my older son was twelve. Why not? Smaller homes and dogs are not always a good mix. When space is already limited, how do you squeeze in a dog? Where will it sleep, where do you put the dog crate, food and water bowl and doggie bed? And what about those muddy paws during bad weather, the shedding fur and the commotion a dog causes? My dogs growing up were big lovable mutts that ran around outside all day and flopped down in front of the fireplace at night. This would never work in a smaller home with a tiny backyard and neighborhood leash laws.

In the end, I could not live without a dog. So after many years of research and countless visits to dog shows and breeders, we adopted a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is a quiet, calm smaller breed that is both a good family dog and nine-to-five dog; so he is perfectly content at home while we are away at work and school.

What I found out along the way to bringing Buddy into our lives, is that there are several dog breeds - big and small - that fit beautifully into a smaller home. The key is to find a breed that is calm with low to moderate exercise needs. These dogs tend to be comfortable in smaller spaces and less likely to do damage to your home. Some breeds to consider are:
  • English Cocker Spaniels - These dogs are 15-17 inches in height and weigh 26 to 34 pounds. Because they are not as popular as cocker spaniels, inbreeding problems have mostly been avoided. This dog is a wonderful family companion that is eager to please.
  • Greyhounds - This is a big dog weighing 60 to 70 pounds and measuring 26 to 30 inches in height. Quiet, clean and sweet, this is a lovely dog for people who want a larger breed. And surprisingly, the exercise requirements for this breed are more than manageable, a twenty minute walk once or twice a day is often enough. Another plus is that many greyhounds are available as rescue dogs from racing tracks.
  • Pugs - This is a great all around dog. A very manageable size, 10-11 inches and 14 to 18 pounds, this breed is a charming companion that loves adults and children alike. Underneath that wrinkled face is a heart of gold.
Why aren't labradors and golden retrievers on the list? Both breeds are great dogs, but these are high energy animals that demand a great deal of exercise and likely will find a smaller home confining. Of course, if you have the time for at least one two hour run a day, by all means consider either of these breeds.

A wonderful resource for choosing the right dog is Paws to Consider by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson.

Until next time,



  1. I just found your blog & I am so glad that I did!! We have a
    Cavalier King Charles named Buddy as well!

    I can't wait to explore more of your site.

  2. Aren't Cavaliers wonderful dogs! Thanks for telling me about your Buddy. Ours is beloved in the neighborhood. Children come over to ask him on play dates!



  3. Can I add "papillons" to your list. We find that our little guy fits beautifully into our less than 800 square foot condo and he's even litter trained. He makes our small space a lot brighter!!

  4. Hi there, I found your blog from The Inspired Home. When I saw this post about dogs, and Cavaliers, I thought you might enjoy my blog and website - I paint and photograph dogs, and have done some Cavaliers. I'm realizing 3 of my friends have Cavaliers! They are so sweet and adorable. I also have long-haired dogs but mine are quite a bit taller : ) What a joy it is to love and be loved by a dog or 2!

    Violet (

  5. Oops, I meant to say I found your blog from the Inspired Room blog!

    Have a great day!


  6. Hi Joan,

    Papillons should definitely be added to the list of great dogs for a smaller home! They are lovely dogs with charming personalities. And because they can be litter trained, they are perfect for high rise buildings where 'taking a walk' is not always as easy as opening the front door.

    Thanks so much for writing Joan!


  7. I just found, and bookmarked, your blog. I want to put in a good word for Akitas.

    I live in a small house (just under 1000 sq/ft) and we have a 95 pound Akita dog, who we sometimes call Smokey the Compact Akita. She is totally an indoor dog, quiet unless someone comes up the walkway to the front door, and far more mellow than my friends who have Pugs and Jack Russells.

    We do walk her at least twice a day, but not for hours at a time every day. I realise that dog personality is pretty variable, but sometimes a big dog can work out just perfectly. (I wouldn't try this with any retrievers, they do need a lot more activity)