17 Best Small Athletic Dogs [with Photos]

All dogs benefit from regular exercise, but, just like humans, not every type of dog is meant for every style of activity. If you are considering breeds for a new companion, remember to consider the kinds of activities you like to do and the type of dog that might thrive alongside you. 

If you have an athletic lifestyle, it is essential to consider whether or not your new best friend can keep up. You might be considering larger breeds with the idea that long legs will have an easier time with exercise, but matching a dog’s energy and activity needs to a human’s can often result in selecting a small dog breed. Small athletic dogs can be excellent companions for active living.

Athletic Small Breed Dogs

Many small dogs would love to be your running buddy or spend the day in the park playing frisbee. Make sure you understand how to run or exercise with your pet safely and how to encourage your dog to join in the run without pain or worry. 

Alaskan Klee Kai

alaskan klee kai puppy
The Alaskan Klee Kai is a small sized but every energetic dog

The Alaskan Klee Kai is family-friendly, affectionate, and good with children and other dogs and are great dogs for an athletic lifestyle.

They are trainable and have a high energy level, which keeps them eager to please on their next adventure. They exist in Toy, Miniature, and Standard, which typically maxes out at a weight of 25 lbs. Expect to see these companions for 13-16 years. 


beagle dog smiling outdoors
A Beagle smiling in the park

Suppose you are comfortable dedicating considerable attention and mental stimulation, along with high energy and an easy kind of company. In that case, a Beagle might be the dog for you. They are known to be good family dogs, provided your family can handle a charming alert when your dog finds something important. There are two main breeds, but some are found naturally under 20-30 lbs. 

Cairn Terrier

Cairn Terrier
A Cairn Terrier

 The Cairn Terrier breed is typically under 15 lbs. and is known to play well with others (both other children and other dogs). Like other terriers, they are incredibly trainable and playful companions. Initially bred for fox and small game hunting in the rocky countryside, their natural curiosity and alertness make them great on a trail. 

Chinese Crested Dog

chinese crested puppy
The Chinese Crested is a beautiful and unique breed – but surprisingly energetic!

The Chinese Crested dog is an alert and active toy breed expected to be around or less than 12 lbs. There are hairless varieties known for their ‘crested’ hairdo, and if you are known for your funky style, they might match you in more than athleticism.

The coated variety is known as the ‘powderpuff.’ Whether hairy or hairless, Crested dogs are playful and devoted companions. 

Jack Russell Terrier

jack russell puppy
If you adopt a Jack Russell puppy, expect a ball of energy and lots of play

If you are looking for an athletic, lively, and curious dog under 15 lbs, a Jack Russell Terrier might be a good fit. They are quick to master tricks and develop loyalty to their loved ones. Jack Russells are known for their gait, which can come in handy on a good walk. 

Miniature Australian Shepherd

mini Australian shepherd dogs
A Mini Australian Shepherd is a lively and athletic small dog

These eager to please and highly trainable shepherd dogs are energetic, bright, and good with children. Their Australian Shepherd background has helped them develop bodies that can maintain agility on rugged terrain. The Miniature American Shepherd is a dog that can keep up in energy and most places you might want to go.

Miniature Pinscher (Min Pin)

mini Pinscher athletic dog
Your typical Mini Pinscher is lively and not afraid to vocalize.

At an agreeable 10 lbs, Miniature Pinschers are the “King of Toys.”

‘If you are looking for a small dog that requires lots of interaction for burning energy and mental stimulation, the Min Pin might be for you. They are high energy and not afraid to vocalize and express themselves. 

Miniature Poodle  

mini poodle vs mini labradoodle size
Mini Poodles and Mini Labradoodles are similar in size

If you are looking for an elegant athlete, you can find a companion in the Miniature Poodle. Poodles require much activity, and they like being kept busy, even a mini under 15 lbs. If you are a swimmer, hunter, or runner, poodles are just generally excellent partners for your routine. Long walks and a good game of toss will keep your Poodle athletic, active, and happy. 

Miniature Schnauzer

gray schnauzer
A gray Schnauzer puppy

The cultivation of Schnauzers started for their skills in helping around the farm. They are muscular and rugged but still being bright, friendly, and trainable. Their standard size is around 20 lbs or less, but they are sure to be sturdy and playful watchdogs. Schnauzers are known for their human-like expressions and ability to get along with kids and other animals. 

Norfolk Terrier

cute norfolk terrier
A super cute tiny Norfolk Terrier

Terriers are considered working-class, and the purpose of Norfolk Terriers remains the same. They are known for being good travelers and up for any adventure, but be mindful that they can protect their owners and friends.

Long walks and fantastic games of fetch will help keep your terrier stimulated and at or under a healthy 12 lbs weight.

Norwegian Lundehund

norwegian lundehund
The fox like Norwegian Lundehund

If you love daily exercise at a medium or high energy level, then the Norwegian Lundehund may be a dog that easily fits into your life.

Daily short walks or play sessions will keep this breed happy and fun-loving. Despite being known for their shyness, they can reach up to 30 lbs and are very affectionate pups. 


Papillons are tiny and cute pups! But they are ENERGETIC

A Papillon is a dog sure to please anyone looking for a fancy and upbeat athlete. Known for their generally positive attitude and friendly demeanor, these dogs are comfortable in a wide variety of climates, home styles, and family dynamics. Their agility is a positive trait when training them to come along for whatever ride you have in store. 

Pembroke Welsh Corgi  

happy short legged corgi
A super happy short-legged Corgi. Lots of energy despite their stature!

Many people are surprised to find that Corgi dogs were herders of cattle and other livestock. They love physical activity and need daily exercise to maintain their health. Their short legs limit their ability to run, but they are obedient and love helping in more physical tasks. 


two schipperkes
Two Schipperkes enjoying a sunny day out

If you like to keep busy and active, Schipperkes might be a good match for you. Their playful personalities and energy level require an owner with some patience and love of zoomies. At less than 16 lbs, they are easy to handle while out on long walks. 


a yorkie puppy
Even super cute Yorkie puppies can act hyper

Yorkies are an excellent match for people who enjoy consistent but light exercise. If you need a walking partner for twice-a-day outings that may or may not conclude with fetch, consider a Yorkie for your new companion. At 7 lbs, they are straightforward to manage on a leash and full of personality.

Lifestyle Aspects to Consider

Humans have bred different types of dogs to utilize their skills for various purposes. Whether on a hiking trail or throwing a frisbee in the park, knowing your companion has a good time can make that time even more enjoyable. 

The type of exercise you do, frequency of your activity, the climate you live in, and terrain to cover all factor into the kind of breed you should select if integrating a small dog into your athletic adventures is crucial to you. Different species have different health risks, so make sure the breed you think of can handle your favorite activities. 

One fantastic thing about small dogs is that when they are tired of exercise, and you are too, they are easier to carry the rest of the way. No matter what type of dog, though, it is essential to remember that puppies need time to grow before they aren’t at risk for injury during a good workout. 

Breeds to Avoid

If a breed is prone to knee or joint issues, like some miniatures, they may not be able to move at your speed. If joints and muscles are still growing or healing from an injury, extreme exercise could cause problems that show later.

No matter the breed, the dog’s age, and health will factor into whether or not they can keep up with your activity level. 

Find Your Breed

If you would like an idea of breeds that would fit your specific lifestyle, check out our guide to which dog breed is right for you.

No matter what breed you select, fostering a relationship of love and respect will only encourage your dog’s desire to join you in everything you do. There is always a risk of unknown conditions or injury with exercise, so learn your dog’s specific behaviors and report anything unusual to your vet.