Discover The World’s Strongest Small Dogs

Small strong dog breed

The Strongest Small Dogs — Proof Size Isn’t Everything

When it comes to a canine’s size, small doesn’t always mean weak. Compact canines are often underestimated — many of the strongest small dogs pack a powerful punch when it comes to strength, agility, and attitude.

These sturdy little fellas may be too heavy to be carried in the purse of a socialite, but they’re still small enough to be cute — just don’t belittle them too much. Small but strong dogs often have the personality of a big dog and will quite happily stand their ground when challenged.

How Do We Define a Small Strong Dog Breed?

Small powerful dog breeds, including those referred to as “toy” or “miniature,” are typically defined by their compact size. 

Yet, strong doesn’t just refer to a pup’s physical strength and whether they can bench press 20 kilos (that I would like to see!). It can also be used to describe their brawny build, levels of endurance, tenacity, or the agility and speed of the pint-sized pooch.

Muscular Build

Some of the smaller dog breeds boast a surprising amount of muscle mass relative to their size — contributing to their strength, agility, and ability to perform specific tasks. For example, the Mini Bull Terrier was originally bred as a fighting dog but was quickly adopted as a companion and show dog, using that muscle to excel in agility competitions. 


Small dogs might not have the same endurance levels as larger dogs, but instead are capable of short bursts of intense activity. Small strong breeds like the Dachshund for example may have short legs but exhibit remarkable stamina when they’re digging for prey.


As Mark Twain once said, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” Some small breed dogs possess an incredible amount of determination, refusing to back down even when faced with much larger breeds or strangers.

Agility and Speed

Many small dog breeds were originally developed for specific purposes — such as hunting, herding, or vermin control — requiring them to be nimble and quick. The agility and speed of small dogs can often be unmatched. Breeds like the Russell Terrier, with their lively nature, can run around with incredible speed — always up for a game of frisbee or fetch.

Pound for Pound The Top 10 Strongest Small Dogs

Some small strong dog breeds defy all expectations when it comes to their strength. They should really be big dogs — they just seem trapped in a small dog’s body. These canines are ideal for those who long for a larger dog but are limited by living in smaller spaces, like apartments.

1. Miniature Bull Terrier

Strongest small dogs

Height: 10-14 inches

Weight: 18-28 pounds

The Miniature Bull Terrier, a compact and muscular breed, stands out as one of the strongest small dogs in the canine kingdom. With their distinctive square-shaped heads and determined expression, the Mini Bull can often be as imposing as their larger relative, the Bull Terrier.

Originally bred for vermin control — as a ratter — the Miniature Bull is stocky, strongly built, and well-balanced who excels in athleticism and agility. For their size, they’re quite strong, although that heavier-than-fat muscle can often make them a slightly heavier small dog.

Upbeat and mischievous pups, they come equipped with that Terrier fire and fearlessness that makes them stand out as they take on challenges that may seem beyond their size. The Mini Bull makes a great family pet, they’re curious, intelligent, and outgoing but can be notoriously headstrong.

2. (Jack) Russell Terrier

small powerful dog breeds hypoallergenic

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: 9-15 pounds

Originally bred as fox-hunting dogs or baying Terriers, the Russell Terrier is a tough, strong, and super confident little work dog. With a body about as long as they are tall, this breed is small but sturdy — their neck slopes down to a shallow chest with strong front legs, and muscular hindquarters.

The RT is also quick and highly intelligent — one of the small powerful dog breeds just born to hunt. These dogs are fast enough to run with the speediest of animals while fearless enough to flush a fox from their lair. 

However, it’s not uncommon for Russells to become moody or destructive if not properly stimulated and exercised. Plus, their prey drive is also strong, so watch out if you have kitties. On the flip side, they’re brilliant frisbee dogs.

3. Pembroke Welsh Corgi

small powerful dog breeds

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: Up to 30 pounds

When you’re bred for herding, you have to be tough, especially if you stand only 10-12 inches tall. The muscular build of the pointy-eared Pembroke Welsh Corgi means they’re often said to look like a fox — they’re not so much a small strong dog breed but rather a big dog in a small dog body.

Highly trainable and intelligent, the Pembroke is a herder breed in an easily manageable size. Built long and low for more speed and agility, the Corgi has a strong body comparable to larger herding dogs many times their size.

With short but powerful legs, muscly thighs, and a deep chest the Corgi is known for their stamina and boundless energy, thriving on physical activity. Their playful and affectionate demeanor and adaptability make the Pembroke Welsh Corgi a loyal companion to active dog lovers and families.

4. Rat Terrier (Miniature)

Rat Terrier

Height: 10-13 inches

Weight: 10-25 pounds

Available in two sizes, the Rat Terrier (RT) is a compact, yet tough exterminator dog with the larger standard size often reaching 18 inches in height. This strong small dog breed is said to have been given their name when US President Roosevelt’s own Terrier solved the rat infestation at the White House during his tenure.

From a lineage of skilled farm dogs and vermin catchers, the Rat Terrier exhibits remarkable strength and agility. Although small in size, they’re robust dogs bred for efficiency in hunting. With boundless energy and a high IQ, they’re also quick learners and easy to train, making them adept at various activities. 

As a family pet, the Rat Terrier is a happy-go-lucky kind of pooch, always willing to play and extremely portable for owners who travel a lot. Most will get enough exercise from indoor playtime but they also love walkies — just don’t let them off the leash — they have a deep-rooted desire to chase.

5. Miniature Schnauzer

small breed dogs

Height: 12-14 inches

Weight: 11-20 pounds

The smallest of the three Schnauzer breeds, the wiry-haired Miniature Schnauzer is a stocky, robust little dog bred down from their larger cousins, the Standard Schnauzer. Developed as all-around farm dogs and ratters, Mini Schnauzers are resilient and fearless without being too overly aggressive.

Recognizable by their bushy eyebrows and beard, underneath that coat lies a surprisingly muscular frame for their compact size. And, as a bonus, the Mini Schnauzer is one of the small powerful dog breeds that’s hypoallergenic. They shed very little, so they’re ideal if you suffer from allergies.

However, what sets the Miniature Schnauzer apart, is their unwavering courage and tenacity, they will fearlessly defend their territory, making them great watchdogs and loyal companions. Beyond their hard-working nature, these small dogs are affectionate and sociable, and form deep bonds with their human family.

6. Jagdterrier

small dogs

Height: 13-16 inches

Weight: 17-22 pounds

In their native homeland of Germany Jagdterrier translates as “hunt Terrier.” Although they may be one of the taller small strong dog breeds we’ve looked at, they’re excellent at driving out hunter’s prey from burrows and dens underground. 

Compact, and well-proportioned the Jagdterrier was bred to be strong, sturdy, and a little feisty. Yet, they’re courageous dogs, enduring, full of spunk, sociable, and easily trained, always taking pleasure in their work.

A fearless worker, yet also affectionate, the Jagdterrier is not only the perfect choice for hunters — but also makes a great loyal companion for more active families.

7. French Bulldog

French Bulldog

Height: 11-13 inches

Weight: Under 28 pounds

The popular French Bulldog may be lovable and cute but this compact pooch is also beefy. Instantly recognizable by their distinctive bat-like pointy ears, the Frenchie doesn’t have the imposing presence of larger breeds, but it boasts a unique strength in both physical and emotional form.

Physically, French Bulldogs have a solid build and sturdy muscle structure to carry all that brawn. The low center of gravity of this well-proportioned pup contributes to their stability and power. These dogs aren’t built for endurance but their strength can be in short bursts of energy and agility.

As a pet, the Frenchie is adaptable and resilient. Comical and entertaining, they possess an affectionate nature and form strong bonds with their human families. Plus, their emotional strength can provide comfort and companionship to their owners, making Frenchies ideal candidates for therapy dogs.

8. Boston Terrier

Boston Terrier

Height: 10-12 inches

Weight: 12-25 pounds

Another of America’s most popular small powerful dog breeds is the Boston Terrier. They share the same broad brawny chest and short strong limbs of the Frenchie. But, they’re better known for their tuxedo-like coat. Often nicknamed the American Gentleman, this Bostonian is a gentle and well-mannered yet playful chunky dog.

Originally bred as ratters, Bostons showcase a tenacious spirit that goes beyond their charming appearance. Their strength lies in their adaptability, excelling in various environments and bonding closely with their owners. Boston Terriers are also smart and eager to learn, making them trainable pups for first time dog owners.

Don’t be fooled by all that muscle, there’s nothing a Boston Terrier loves more than spending time with their owners. They walk with a jaunty rhythmic step and enjoy going for short brisk walks to the local park or cafe where you can show off your affectionate tuxedo-jacketed furry pal.

9. Dachshund

strong small dog breed

Height: 8-9/5-6 inches (standard/mini) 

Weight: 16-32/11 pounds (standard/mini)

Believe it or not, despite their almost comical appearance the Dachshund was originally bred for hunting. Meaning “badger dog” in German, they were used for flushing out these feisty animals. 

Dachshunds' lean sleek bodies are made up mostly of muscle with very little extra fat on their frame. And, they’re found in both standard and miniature. Yet, regardless of size, they’re strong and fearless with the skill and instinct to hunt. 

Again due to their size and build, Doxies don’t like long distances or swimming, but otherwise, they’re always up for playing with the kids. However, trained as independent hunters, if they catch the scent trail of something interesting, they may not listen to you — walkies on leash are best for this hound. 

10. Miniature Pinscher

Miniature Pinscher

Height: 10-12.5 inches

Weight: 8-10 pounds

Often affectionately called the Mini Pin, this small strong dog breed is one of the smallest we’ve looked at. But, make no mistake, they have the might to back up their big dog personalities.

Originally bred as ratting dogs and small game hunters, these canines are incredibly agile and fast-paced. Their sleek, smooth coats accentuate their impressive well-defined muscles that contribute to their physical strength. 

With an ever-alert nature, the Mini Pin makes just as formidable a watchdog as their larger look-alikes, the Doberman Pinscher. When combined with their agility, intelligence, and confidence, the affectionate nature of the Mini Pin makes them not only strong working dogs, but also delightful and loyal little companions.

Final Thoughts

Although none of these pups are going to make it into the top 10 strongest dogs in the world rankings — you may be surprised by the strength of some small powerful dog breeds.

Despite their diminutive statures, the strongest small dogs can exhibit remarkable strength, whether it’s their muscular build, agility, or tenacity. Smaller pups are not just companion dogs but they can be little powerhouses — proving sometimes mighty things do come in small packages.

Strongest Small Dogs FAQs

What Is the Most Aggressive Small Dog?

Strength is a quality to be appreciated in small dog breeds. However, if not trained properly, any dog, regardless of size, can be dangerous. 

For example, Dachshunds can be fearless dogs who won’t give up on a fight — they were badger hunters after all. And, Russell Terriers have a reputation for being cranky.

What Is the Most Fearless Small Dog Breed?

With strength, bravery often follows. The Dachshund is one small pup who is fiercely protective of their owners and family and enjoys a reputation as being bold, brave, and sometimes even reckless. The Doxie won’t usually hesitate to alert their owners to any perceived threats with their surprisingly deep bark before giving chase.

What Is the Fastest Small Dog?

While a large Greyhound is one of the fastest dog breeds in the canine kingdom, Russell Terriers are known to be the fastest of small dogs. Check out where your pup ranks, small or large, on our fastest dog breeds list.

Russell Terriers are playful small working dogs who are amazingly nimble on their feet despite their short stumpy legs. Bred to hunt foxes they can move at speed over varied terrains and enjoy burning up that energy with a game of fetch or playing with a frisbee.

What Small Dog Has The Strongest Bite?

Small dogs, such as the Russell Terrier, have a bite force of up to 200 PSI, which is around the average for canines. Other strong small dogs, like the French Bulldog, can muster a bite of approximately 180-230 PSI if needed.

The Mastiff is considered the strongest dog in the world, but they are no small dog, often weighing up to 230 pounds and reaching a height of over 30 inches. They have an impressive bite force of 556 PSI. To learn more, check out our guide on dogs with the strongest bite.

How Long Do Small Dogs Live For?

Typically, small dogs are the longest living dog breeds. Some can reach almost two decades before they near dog end of life stages. For example, the Rat Terrier’s lifespan is 12 to 18 years and the Miniature Pinscher and Dachshund live up to 16 years.

What Is the Smallest Dog That Stays Small?

If you’re looking for small dogs that don’t grow too much — remaining forever puppy-like in stature — the Chihuahua is officially recognized as the smallest dog breed in the world. Some are so small, even a standard can of soda will dwarf them.

However, although tenacious, you wouldn’t call the Chihuahua a strong small dog, they can be quite delicate especially when faced with the roughhousing of some younger children. The Miniature Pinscher is a similar size to a Chihuahua but with a more robust build.