These Pups Make the Best Lap Dogs When You Need a Good Snuggle

black pug puppy dog lying down asleep facing camera
The Best Lap Dog Breeds to Netflix and Chill WithBusybee-CR

Whether you're feeling low and need some comfort, or are just looking to curl up on the couch with a buddy while you get caught up on Bridgerton (or crack open that hot new beach read!), the best lap dogs will be right there when you need them. Dog lovers know that while big, beautiful poochies like mastiffs tend to be great guard dogs, small dogs that like to love up on their humans fulfill an equally important need: cuddly companionship. If you're thinking of adding a lap dog to the family, we've rounded up some favorite breeds, including pugs, Italian greyhounds, shih tzus, and more.

Some are wonderful with littles, others are a dream to train, but all share one trait in common—they're super-affectionate little sweeties that live for snuggles. For many, their adoring nature is actually by design, according to Embark Veterinary Geneticist Dr. Jenna Dockweiler, DVM, DACT. "Many smaller breeds, especially those in the AKC’s Toy group, were bred specifically for companionship," she says. "This means that, over many generations, these breeds have become excellent pets and cuddlers!"

Below, you'll find 17 of the best lap dog breeds to consider if you're looking for a new best friend, including important information about grooming and exercise needs, history, health issues, and personality traits. It's everything you need to know to help you zero in on a doggo...or two...or three. But before you start dialing the nearest breed rescue, be sure to head over to our dog adoption tips so you can make Rover's transition to your home as smooth as possible!

French Bulldog

Named the most popular dog breed in the U.S. for two years running by the American Kennel Club, "Frenchies" are low-key dogs that don't require much more exercise than a daily walk, according to Dr. Dockweiler. They're relatively easy to train (if a bit stubborn), require minimal grooming, and are loyal and loving, making them the perfect lap dog.

Playful and decidedly quirky looking, with their big bat ears and sturdy little bodies, French bulldogs hail from the country for which they're named. They've even been immortalized in paintings by such legendary Gallic artists as Edgar Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec. But as a brachycephalic (flat-faced) breed, "Frenchies are less likely to tolerate heat," Dr. Dockweiler cautions, so keep them indoors on days when the mercury climbs high.

french bulldog relaxing on back on bed with paws in the air facing camera upside down
Rox Dinulescu / 500px


"With a huge personality that defies their tiny frame, chihuahuas are known to be highly active and intelligent dogs," says Dr. Dockweiler. "They are the world’s smallest breed and offer a smart, fun-loving, and adaptable personality." Though energetic, this breed bonds intensely with its people and loves nothing more than a good lap session.

The chihuahua's ancestry dates back at least 1,000 years to the ancient Toltecs, who lived in what would become Mexico. More recently they've become famous as the stars of Taco Bell commercials and the movies Legally Blonde and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Averaging just 5 to 6 inches tall, these small but mighty pooches can live upwards of 18 years!

a chihuahua lying on a bed, on blankets
Anita Kot


Perhaps the cuddliest of all canine companions, pugs were bred to be lap dogs for Chinese emperors beginning as far back as 400 B.C. Often laid-back to the point of laziness, they require less exercise than many other breeds, but more attention and affection. Like Frenchies, they are brachycephalic, so when you do take your pug outside for walkies, make sure temperatures are moderate.

Health issues may include eye and airway problems, but in general this breed makes for an excellent family dog—especially for folks who like to laugh. "Sociable and gentle," Dr. Dockweiler says, "pugs are known as the clowns of the canine world because they have a great sense of humor and like to show off."

a black pug stands next to flowering daffodils outdoors
Anita Kot


According to Dr. Dockweiler, Maltese are "confident and friendly toy dogs, well suited to being lap dogs," as long as they get a daily, short burst of exercise. "Due to their intelligence and tendency to bark at strangers and other dogs, they can also make good watchdogs," she adds.

Nearly as pint-sized as a chihuahua, Maltese typically weigh between 4 and 7 pounds. Lore has it that the breed's roots go back to the ancient Phoenicians, who brought the dog to the small island south of Sicily for which it's named. Maltese are people-pleasers, taking well to training, and are also agile, making them a good fit for dog sports (when they're not curled up on their humans).

white maltese puppy dog lying a sofa, staring at the camera, in a living room


Like the pug and shih tzu, the Pekingese is another toy-sized pup with origins in Asia. "Bred for centuries to be the prized companions of the imperial family of China, Pekingese are known for their short stature, long flowing coats, and flat faces," Dr. Dockweiler says. And like the pug and shih tzu, she adds, "they have difficulty in extreme climates, especially heat."

The breed may develop breathing problems and eye issues, and their thick double coat means Pekingese parents will need to groom their dogs regularly. In return, you can count on receiving loads of love from this strong-willed, smart little bundle of devotion. In fact, this dog can grow so close to his people, he may suffer from separation anxiety without proper training.

pekingese dog sleeps on its owners lap the woman is petting the dogs head
Anita Kot

Bichon Frise

White like his cousin the Maltese but infinitely floofier, the bichon frise requires regular brushing to prevent matting and keep his glamorous good looks. But folks who don't mind keeping up with the grooming will discover the breed to have a "charismatic and cheerful temperament, with an alert nature that makes them good watchdogs," says Dr. Dockweiler.

Thought to have developed centuries ago in the Canary Islands, bichon frises can live to about 15 and, thanks to their sunny demeanor and intelligence, make great first-time dogs for inexperienced pet owners. But be aware: These little lapdogs do not take well to being left alone for long periods.

two white, well groomed bichon frises with round fluffy heads sitting outside
zhao hui

Tibetan Spaniel

Also called "Tibbies," Tibetan spaniels guarded monasteries in the Himalayan Mountains some 2,000 years ago, warning Buddhist monks when strangers approached the gates. The breed, one of the rarer ones on our list, has retained its watchful, alert personality, though they crave attention from their humans.

Intelligent and independent, Tibbies need plenty of mental stimulation to be happy. They're also known to be able to tune in to the moods of the people around them, providing comfort when their humans are down. "They can be vocal when bored and need a bit of grooming to maintain their silky coat," Dr. Dockweiler says. But she calls them "relatively low-energy dogs"—in other words, great for cuddling.

small tibetan spaniel with a black, white and brown coat and a long haired tail lying on the grass


A frequent subject in Renaissance art, the Bolo (as he's also known) is said to have been bred centuries ago for companionship by Italian nobility. Nowadays, they are a much rarer breed than their close cousins, the bichon frise and the Maltese. They live from 12 to 14 years and weigh anywhere from 6 to 10 pounds, so they're an ideal size to fit on the laps they so enjoy snoozing atop.

According to Dr. Dockweiler, this breed is both "intelligent and eager to please," so they're usually easy to train. Bolognese also tend to be "calm, reserved and serious little dogs who make excellent apartment dogs," she adds.

three white, curly haired bolognese dogs standing on grass outside

Brussels Griffon

Few doggos could do it, but this playful and confident little scamp famously stole the 1997 movie As Good As It Gets away from Jack Nicholson every time he was onscreen with his co-star. Blessed with what Dr. Dockweiler calls "big personalities," Brussels griffons can, however, be "stubborn," she warns, "so positive reinforcement-based training at an early age will help them become great family pets."

Averaging only around 8 to 10 pounds, the breed, which is named for its hometown, makes a wonderful pet for people living in apartments or small homes. But they do like action, both mental and physical, and take well to agility training. Most of all, they want nothing more than to be by your side every minute of every day.

black brussels griffon dog with funny teeth visible looking at camera


The national dog of Cuba, the Havanese is descended from the bichon Tenerife (the same ancestor of the bichon frise), which was brought to the island by Spanish colonists centuries ago. Count on brushing this breed's long, silky, double coat daily to prevent tangles—unless you get it cut short. Your pup is also likely to need extra patience during house-training.

Otherwise, families will likely find this dog a nearly perfect addition to the household. "Entertaining, affectionate, and loyal companions," Dr. Dockweiler says, "the Havanese is an energetic and lively people-oriented breed that can go beyond the lap dog role to a therapy dog or even a circus performer. They’re often referred to as 'Velcro dogs,' which means they can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone."

white longhaired havanese with a stars and stripes kerchief around his neck in field running toward camera in mid air
Matthew Ippolito / 500px

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

There are both major pros and cons to this native of the United Kingdom, according to Dr. Dockweiler. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "loves people and is beloved for its sweet temperament," she says. "They quickly become attached to anyone who gives them attention. Unfortunately, cavaliers can suffer from heart and neurologic conditions, making selection of a reputable breeder a must."

Companion animals with a sporty lineage, this breed is descended from the toy spaniel, a favored pet of royals like Mary Queen of Scots. Nowadays, they befriend just about everyone and everything they meet, excepting sometimes birds and small animals, which may activate their hunting instinct. Their beautiful, silky coat will need a good brushing about every other day, and they require moderate exercise. But if their health is good, this pup is relatively low maintenance.

cavalier king charles spaniel head held by woman's hands standing on sandy beach looking up during daytime
Iuliia Burmistrova


This feisty and mischievous little Ewok-faced terrier was originally developed in Germany to hunt rats in shops and homes. But thanks to his considerable charm and intelligence, the affenpinscher was eventually bred down to lap size to make him more suited to life as a companion animal. The typical "big dog in a small body," he's both protective and a bit of a barker, making him an excellent watchdog.

Dr. Dockweiler calls affenpinschers "affectionate and entertaining," noting that "they make great apartment dwellers, where they can get all the exercise they need by running around the house. However, it’s important to keep their minds busy, too!" While they love their families, they are not the biggest fans of small children and would be best suited to a household without them.

black affenpinscher puppy with medium length hair standing on grass looking at camera
Yvonne Van der Horst


Believe it not, this tiny bundle of fluff (the Pomeranian tops out at about 7 pounds) is the descendent of hulking Spitz sled dog breeds like the Alaskan malamute and the chow chow. They get their name from Pomerania, a Baltic Sea region where the breed was born, and make ideal dogs for older folks in particular because they don't need a lot of outdoor exercise.

Should you choose to bring one of these fox-faced cuties into your home, you'll find him an "animated companion with an extroverted personality," says Dr. Dockweiler. "Pomeranians are independent and bold dogs with minds of their own." Keep in mind that your new best friend's long, dense fur will make trips to the professional groomer a must, with plenty of brushing by you necessary in between.

small fluffy white pomeranian dog sleeping laying on pillow on the floor in living room

Italian Greyhound

Said to have originated nearly 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Greece and Turkey, this breed was "a favorite companion of noblewomen in the Middle Ages," says Dr. Dockweiler. "The Italian Greyhound had the speed, endurance, and determination to hunt small game," but it's important to note that nowadays, "their slim build and short coat make them somewhat fragile, and injury can result from rough or careless play with children."

Despite their athleticism, the Italian greyhound doesn't need an excessive amount of exercise—some play and a leash walk a couple of times a day is fine for them. They are by nature sensitive, sweet, and deeply devoted to their people, even needy. But that doesn't mean you can ever allow them off-leash in unfenced areas. No matter how much they love you, his breed will do what they were made for and run.

thin gray italian greyhound with thick collar in profile, standing on road
Jus O / 500px

Japanese Chin

Intelligent and people-focused, this adorable little breed, which is related to the Pekingese, has an interesting history. "Though they originated in China, Japanese chins were brought to Japan to serve as the companions of Japanese dignitaries," Dr. Dockweiler says. "They’re spunky dogs with cat-like behaviors—coy and mischievous at times—but also relatively quiet with low exercise needs."

Japanese chins are easy to care for in other ways, too. They're single-coated and only require a good combing about once a week; they get along well with other pets and kids; and they are relatively healthy. However, Japanese chins are notorious for suffering from separation anxiety, so if you're out of the house more than in it, this might not be the dog for you.

japanese chin dog with soft red hair with a white face and paw and a patch over the head wrapped in a purple towel
Katharine Rutland

Chinese Crested

You can go one of two ways with the Chinese crested. The powderpuff variety features a coat of long hair that needs regular brushing, while the more well-known hairless option has hair on his head, feet, and tail only and requires a skin care regimen. The Chinese crested, which, strangely enough, is most likely native to Mexico, has low exercise requirements. But despite his couch potato habits, this pooch lives as long as 18 years.

"Chinese cresteds are funny little dogs that like to please their owners," Dr. Dockweiler says of the breed. Like the Japanese chin, they exhibit some behavior that can be described as cat-like. "They enjoy sitting on the back of the couch or the arm of a chair, and spending quiet time with their family," she adds.

hairless chinese crested dog with tufts of long white hair around face, on ears, front paws and tail lying outside on a big step
Ekaterina Gorokhova

Shih Tzu

With a luxurious double coat that grows continuously, long-haired shih tzus require a serious commitment to upkeep that includes weekly baths, daily brushing, and trips to the groomer every few weeks. Shih tzu parents can avoid this maintenance by keeping their dog's coat clipped short. But keep in mind, like pugs, Pekingese, and Frenchies, shih tzus are a brachycephalic breed, "so they are likely to struggle in hot climates," shorn or not, Dr. Dockweiler says.

Happily, the shih tzu's unique anatomy hasn't affected his lifespan: this easygoing breed can live up to 18 years. They'll likely spend most of that time perched on their humans, especially children, whom they adore. Developed by imperial breeders in China 1,000 years ago, the shih tzu's name means "lion dog."

long haired shih tzu with hair pulled into a ponytail above its face sitting on chair against black background
jo rutherford / 500px

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