Small Dog Breeds That Make Good Watchdogs

When you picture a watchdog, which breed comes to mind? Maybe a commanding Rottweiler? Or how about a muscular Doberman Pinscher?

Well, it's not just large dogs who alert their owners to strangers. Small breeds can get the job done, too! To find out which small dogs make the best watchdogs, we surveyed 2,114 veterinary professionals (including veterinarians, veterinary technicians and office managers). The 10 small breeds that received the most votes are listed in the gallery below.

Small Dog Breeds That Make Good Watchdogs

Rat Terrier Dog Breed

Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 10: Rat Terrier

Generally playful, silly and fearless, the Rat Terrier has a history as a ratter on farms and as an enthusiastic hunting companion. He's often calmer than many of his Terrier brethren and quite talkative with his people.

Apricot Toy Poodle in Grass

Tara Gregg, Animal Photography

No. 9: Toy or Miniature Poodle

The Poodle, which comes in three sizes (Toy and Miniature, as well as the large Standard), tends to be wickedly clever with a tremendous sense of humor. This hardworking breed is generally athletic and thrives on learning.


Karin Newstrom, Animal Photography

No. 8: Pomeranian

She's a fluffy, bright-eyed little pup, and she typically seems to know just how cute she is, but don't let those looks trick you into thinking the Pomeranian isn't also clever. The smallest of the Spitz breeds, Poms are usually only three to seven pounds but often have the courage and tenacity of a dog many times that size.

Salt and pepper Miniature Schnauzer standing on stairs

Karin Newstrom, Animal Photography

No. 7: Miniature Schnauzer

The Miniature Schnauzer has a larger-than-life personality that often carries over into his enthusiastic alerts when someone is at the door. He's generally very attached to his people, too, and will follow them all over the house... unless, of course, the doorbell rings.

Miniature Pinscher in Grass

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 6: Miniature Pinscher

She looks like a tiny Doberman, but the Min Pin is very much her own breed... albeit one that typically shares the Dobie's fearless, fireball personality. She's often spirited, endlessly entertaining and affectionate with her people, but her bold bark and big-dog attitude are likely to make intruders think twice.

Yorkshire Terrier dog breed

Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography

No. 5: Yorkshire Terrier

He's generally spunky and smart, and though he's a member of the Toy Group, the Yorkie is truly a Terrier at heart. This breed can be playful and affectionate but tends to lay down the law, even with larger dogs in the home, and typically offers a boisterous and determined alarm when someone new comes to visit.

Two Beagles

Sam Clark, Animal Photography

No. 4: Beagle

Anyone who's ever listened to a Beagle's "musical" voice will not be surprised to find her on this list! These scenthounds are ruled by their noses and will generally follow a scent just about anywhere, likely "giving tongue" as they go.

Dachshund dog breed

David Jensen, Animal Photography

No. 3: Dachshund

Doxies are known to be fiercely devoted to their families, but they've also earned a reputation for being bold, brave and even reckless, which makes more sense when you realize the breed was developed to hunt badgers. The small Dachshund usually doesn't hesitate to sound the alarm with his surprisingly deep bark.

Jack Russell Terrier Dog Breed

Barbara O'Brien, Animal Photography

No. 2: Jack Russell Terrier/Parson Russell Terrier

She was born to dig, and with her typically high intelligence and impressive activity level, the Jack Russell Terrier (or Parson Russell Terrier) is likely to get what she wants. She generally has an endless desire to investigate and — you guessed it — bark, and these are typical traits of the breed that shouldn't be considered bad dog behaviors.


Leanne Graham, Animal Photography

No. 1: Chihuahua

Generally small and sassy with an oversize personality (and little understanding of just how tiny he is), the Chihuahua earns the top spot on this list. He's usually not too fond of strangers of any species invading his territory and will be noisily vigilant about letting everybody know it — making him a small but surprisingly effective watchdog.

It's important to note that just because a breed made this list, it doesn't mean every member of that breed is guaranteed to bark like crazy when the doorbell rings. Remember: Every dog is an individual, and his or her behavior comes from a variety of things, including genetics, training and owner experience.

That said, many of these breeds are prone to barking, so consistent, positive reinforcement training should be used to teach these (and all) dogs about appropriate barking.

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