20 Dog Breeds With Short Legs
Almost all dogs are undeniably adorable, but few are as cute as some of the many dog breeds with short legs.
Typically, former hound breeds, short-legged dogs often make for fantastic family pets as well as apartment dogs.
Easy to look after, with typically low to moderate exercise needs, and almost always great with kids - it's easy to see why short-legged dog breeds are so sought-after.
You may be thinking of a few breeds as you’re reading this, but to give you a few more ideas, below we’ve compiled a list of 20 short-legged dog breeds.
Some are exceedingly popular, while a few of the others are rare and quite underrated. We’ll also go over some of the health and history of these dogs to see what makes them special.
The Most Popular 20 Dog Breeds With Short Legs
There are a lot of short-legged dog breeds we could mention – much more even than the twenty we’ve listed below.
This becomes especially true if we count that nearly endless string of possible mixed breeds, crosses of mixed breeds, and so on.
Want a short-legged Labrador, for example? Have you heard of the Labrador and Dachshund mix?
Of course, a lot of these crosses aren’t recognized by most kennel clubs because of the risk of health problems that can appear.
Furthermore, it’s hard to make out specific breed standards as such crossbreeds can vary a lot in their appearance.
And, while you can find such crosses in a lot of breeders, making sure that the short-legged cross pup you get is going to be healthy can be complicated.
So, here we’ll talk exclusively about well-established, recognized, and generally healthy dog breeds.
We’ll mention a lot of the popular breeds, a few of which are categorized as “designer” or “toy” breeds, as well as some larger but still short-legged hound and working dog breeds.
The German “Badger Hound” as the Dachshund’s name literally translates as, is a lot of people’s favorite family dog.
Doxies have not only short legs but also a notoriously elongated body, which has also earned them the nickname “Wiener dogs”.
Affectionate, fun, and playful, wieners are great with kids and do very well in families of all sizes.
The Pom is an especially tiny dog, even when compared to the other dogs on this list. Officially a “toy breed”, Pommies rarely weigh more than 8 pounds or 3.5 kg.
These dogs do have enormous spirits, however, and are more than willing to bark up at and stand up to even the largest dogs in the dog park.
Gorgeous and cute, they are also relatively easy to look after, except when it comes to grooming.
The Pekingese is a Chinese royalty dog breed, and one of the oldest domesticated dog breeds in the world.
Pekingese dogs have sat by the side of almost every Chinese emperor for the past few millennia, and they’ve earned the nickname “Tiny Lions” thanks to their fluffy look, fierce personality, and loyalty.
They are heavy barkers, however, so you should train that habit out of them if you live in an apartment.
4. Pembroke Welsh Corgi
Another royal dog breed, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is the favorite breed of the English Queen Elizabeth.
A much more recent breed, Corgis are descendants of herding dogs. This gives them an especially social personality, high energy for their size, and impressive intelligence.
Like all herding breeds, Corgis get along well with anyone, including other dogs and pets.
5. Miniature Schnauzer
The Schnauzer’s legs aren’t as short compared to some of the other breeds on this list, but this dog does have a pretty athletic physique.
However, their legs are indeed shorter than “normal”, especially as far as mini-Schnauzers are concerned.
Historically a farm working dog breed, this dog loves to be around people, and loves to perform various tasks and tricks for you. Easy to train and social, this is one fantastic breed.
Pugs are the favorite dog breed of a lot of people nowadays, because of their adorably bizarre faces.
They do have some breathing issues due to their short snouts, however, which we’ll cover below when we talk in more detail about the Brachycephalic syndrome.
Nevertheless, if you take good care of your Pug’s health, these dogs make for awesome, cute, and playful pets.
7. English Bulldog
The English bully is unique both with its physique and its personality. These dogs are also a Brachycephalic breed, but have a very different character than the Pug.
English bullies are much more mild-mannered, friendly, and social, almost contrary to their name. These dogs make for great family pets and are fantastic with children.
8. Basset Hound
Bassets are actually on the large side of medium-sized breeds, which makes them different from other breeds on this list.
As a larger breed, they also need a bit more exercise, while still not needing as much as most long-legged dogs.
Bassets can still live in apartments, however, as long as there’s enough space for them to run around, chase toys, or play with you.
9. Dandy Dinmont Terrier
A lesser-known breed, the Dandy or Dandie Dinmont Terrier, has an elongated body and short legs. It is similar to the Dachshund.
Their snouts are terrier-like however, as is their short and wiry coat.
Hailing from Scotland, these dogs are very well-suited for indoor life and are fantastic family pets. They also don’t bark as much as other terrier breeds which is a great perk.
10. Skye Terrier
Another terrier breed from Scotland, the Skye has long and gorgeous coats that easily hide their short legs.
They do need a lot of grooming but are generally healthy.
They aren’t often recommended for rookie owners as they can be a challenge to train, however. That, plus their enthusiasm for barking, can present difficulties for first-time owners.
We rarely think of Chihuahuas as short-legged dogs, as they are just tiny overall. But they are considered short-legged, even if not as much as a few other breeds on this list.
Chihuahuas are also unique with their hyperactive and playful characters, as well as their feisty attitude.
They don’t tolerate cold temperatures, however, which is why they often need to get dressed before going out.
12. Lancashire Heeler
Another lesser-known breed, the Lancashire Heeler has a very signature look. These dogs are closely related to Corgis and are also a former herding breed.
They have even shorter legs and more elongated bodies, as well as an easily recognizable black and brown coat.
While not as popular as other breeds, they are very healthy, sturdy, and social, making them a very underrated family pet.
13. French Bulldog
The Frenchie’s legs aren’t as obviously short as those of the English Bulldog, but they are still shorter than normal.
Frenchies also have a more athletic physique than their English cousins, giving them a bit more stamina when playing.
Still, they are quite small and are also prone to respiratory issues, so you should be careful not to exhaust or overheat your Frenchy.
14. Tibetan Spaniel
These tiny dogs look a bit like the Pekingese and they do come from a similar part of the world.
Also called “Little Lions”, Tibetan Spaniels have fluffy coats, short legs, and an unrelenting personality that refuses to acknowledge their small size.
Bred in Tibetan monasteries, today these dogs can make for fantastic family and apartment pets.
15. Yorkshire Terrier
Named after an area in England, Yorkies are actually yet another Scottish terrier breed. Similar to a few others on this list, Yorkies are very playful, highly social, and very smart family dogs.
Their gorgeous coats require quite a bit of care, but that can easily be enjoyable for both you and your Yorkie.
As long as you teach your Yorkie not to bark too much, it can make a great apartment dog.
16. Shih Tzu
People rarely think of the Shih Tzu’s legs as they tend to be completely hidden under this dog’s long and gorgeous coat.
This is yet another Asian dog breed that’s often referred to as a “little lion”. But in this case, this is only because it’s the Mandarin translation of the breed’s name.
These dogs are much more mild-mannered than the Pekingese and the Tibetan Spaniel.
17. Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen
These French hounds were originally bred as rabbit hunters, as well as rat hunters, in the cities of Western Europe.
Energetic and playful, these dogs are also quite single-minded, just like other scenthounds. Therefore, training such a dog requires an experienced hand.
However, they do make for great family pets. They are also very sturdy and healthy which is fantastic.
18. Glen of Imaal Terrier
This tiny terrier breed comes from Israel and shares the same bold and spirited personality as most other terrier breeds.
They are significantly more docile, which makes them even better as family pets.
They are also very small and charismatic, which makes them great for apartments, as long as you teach your pup not to bark at anything that moves.
19. Lhasa Apso
These tiny dogs were bred as watchdogs in Tibetan monasteries, and they are related to the Tibetan Spaniel. While similar, these are separate breeds.
Lhasa Apso dogs are a little bit bigger, they have denser coats, but they also shed more. They do have significant grooming needs, but they make up for it with their loyal and obedient personality.
20. Bichon Frise
These fluffy dogs often look like toys – that’s how unique and adorable their white coats are. With a good groom, Bichon Frise pups can look as if they are made out of marble.
More than that, they are also very social and friendly, and they get along well with other dogs and kids. They are naturally curious and playful too, making them a lot of fun to be around.
Why Do Some Dog Breeds Have Short Legs?
The leading scientific theory is that all dog breeds today come from domesticated wolves, and not from their other wild relatives such as foxes and dingos.
If that’s the case, why are there dog breeds with short legs?
As with most other things relating to evolution – it’s a matter of accidental mutations coupled with selection.
Only, in this case, the selection wasn’t natural but was more a matter of selective breeding.
Simply put, short-legged dogs suffer from dwarfism, or, at least, their ancestors did. “Suffer” makes the situation sound more dramatic than it actually is, however.
Historically, there are multiple points in time when people in both Europe and Asia have “developed” short-legged dog breeds.
In every case, the initial cause of the condition seems to have been the genetic mutation known as achondroplastic dwarfism.
Of course, dwarfism does have a lot of unfortunate health side effects and we’ll cover them below.
However, thanks to the continuous efforts of breeders through the ages, many of these side effects have been bred out of the short-legged dog breeds.
So, while the initial pups who suffered from achondroplastic dwarfism likely had to deal with quite a few problems, their descendants today are quite healthier.
Why Did Breeders Go Through the Trouble of Developing Short-legged Breeds?
The accidental mutation is one thing, but the intentional and selective breeding of short legs as a feature can be a bit puzzling.
While today a lot of people look at short-legged dog breeds as cute pets, historically dogs were bred as hunting companions as well as herding and guard dogs.
And while short-legged breeds may not look like they’d fill any of these roles, they actually made for fantastic hunting dogs.
A lot of modern-day short-legged dog breeds come from former scenthound breeds.
These were dogs that aren’t meant to chase down pray the way sighthounds like the Saluki or the Greyhound do.
Scenthounds also aren’t used as retriever dogs, or as pointers that’d assist hunters.
Instead, scenthounds are meant to track down the scent of forest-dwelling prey such as badgers, rabbits, and foxes, and then get into their narrow burrows and flush them out.
So, for that particular task, the short legs of many scenthound breeds made them excellent hunters.
Another thing short-legged dogs were bred for is rat hunting in farms, shipyards, and cities.
A lot of terrier breeds, for example, were specifically bred to have strong front paws and shoulders, powerful jaws, and short legs.
This allowed them to chase down rats in places humans can’t reach.
This presented a much better alternative to cats, who we also typically tolerated because of their rat-hunting capabilities, but were much harder to train.
Dwarfism in Dogs
While many of the side effects of achondroplastic dwarfism have been - either entirely or at least partly - bred out of these short-legged breeds, keep in mind that this mutation still occurs in new pups from time to time.
This doesn’t just include today’s short-legged breeds, but dogs of all breeds.
So, if you see a particularly short-legged and big-headed Dalmatian, German Shepherd, or Husky, keep in mind that it wasn’t necessarily the result of crossbreeding – it may just have dwarfism.
Additionally, dwarfism is passed hereditarily. So if someone bred a dog with dwarfism, the result would be even more short-legged pups.
This is generally frowned upon however, as is the breeding of all other types of genetic problems.
Fortunately, most traditional short-legged breeds don’t fall into this category, at least not anymore. Instead, they are being bred to be as healthy as possible.
Do Short-legged Dog Breeds Have More Health Problems?
No dog is immune to health complications, and that goes for all short-legged dog breeds as well. As that is a pretty diverse group of breeds, so are their health problems.
Some of these breeds are considered exceptionally healthy and have just a few common complications. Others are viewed as “moderately healthy” instead.
Similarly, some of their problems come from their dwarfism past and their atypical skeletal structure, while other health issues are completely independent of that.
For example, the Dachshund’s proclivity for Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD) is directly related to this breed’s short legs and elongated body.
The same issue can occur in other breeds such as Bassett Hounds, Lhasa Apso, Beagles, Shi Tzus, Bichon Frise, Pekingese, and more.
On the other hand, some of the breeds on the above list such as the Pug and the English Bulldog suffer from Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which is completely unrelated to their skeletal structure.
Instead, it’s due to their short snouts and is arguably a much bigger health problem for these breeds.
What’s more, a lot of the unique physical traits of some breeds aren’t connected to their dwarfism-related short legs.
For example, the English Bulldog has a very “unbalanced” body, with most of its weight being concentrated in the front half of its body.
This also leads to some complications, including the English bully’s complete inability to swim.
This isn’t due to the bulldog’s short legs, but is because this breed was purposefully bred to be able to take hits from raging bulls, without getting tossed in the air.
In short, the short-legged nature of these dog breeds is unique and is connected to some of their health risks.
However, each breed is very different from the rest and we can’t put them in the same health category.
If you’re interested in the health risks and specifics of a breed, research it independently of what you may have read about other short-legged breeds.
And, more importantly – always get your pups from reputable breeders who offer health certificates.
This is infinitely more important for the health of your future pet than its breed. Many of these breeds are quite healthy overall, and are even healthier than the average dog.
And since a lot of them are quite small, they tend to have above-average lifespans too. So, as long as you make sure to get a healthy pup, everything should be fine.
Exercising a Dog With Short Legs
If you’re looking for a jogging companion, short-legged breeds like the Pug or the Dachshund are obviously bad choices.
This isn’t to say that these breeds aren’t energetic and playful – some of them are impressively energetic for their size.
However, they are also quite small so you won’t get the same amount of stamina as you would from a Husky or a Retriever.
That makes most short-legged breeds excellent for indoorsy-type people and/or apartment dwellers.
If you’re looking for a dog to get you to get some steps in every day, but you don’t want to have to spend two hours in the dog park every afternoon – short-legged dogs can be ideal for you.
The exact exercise needs of these breeds vary a bit, but most do well with just a couple of 30-40 minute walks outside per day.
That being said, make sure you are careful not to exhaust your dog too much. This is especially true if you want to take your dog on a hiking trip somewhere.
A lot of tiny dogs tire easily, while also having near endless enthusiasm to chase you and spend time with you.
Be especially careful with Brachycephalic breeds like the Pug or the English Bulldog. Their low stamina coupled with their breathing difficulties can be a nasty combination.
Final Thoughts - Should You Get a Short-legged Dog?
If you want an adorable four-legged pal that’ll do well in an apartment and need no more than two 30-40 minute walks outside a day, then most dog breeds with short legs will be perfect for you.
Thanks to their small size and low exercise needs, these dogs don’t really need yard space, making them great for apartment dwellers.
A lot of these breeds are social, friendly, and gentle enough for families with kids too.
If all this sounds like you, and if you’re well prepared to research and address a few possible health issues – a short-legged pup may be great for you.
Do note that a lot of these small breeds are also a bit too affectionate, meaning that they are prone to separation anxiety.
This makes them ideal for people who work from home, or for households where there’s always someone home.
However, if you want a dog you can leave home alone for long periods of time, short-legged pups are not the best choice.