Dogs were developed for many different purposes – mainly to benefit us humans one way or another. Not only are they trusted guard dogs, but also efficient trackers or skilled herding. Despite all these wonderful working jobs, plenty of toy and small dogs were bred to be lap dogs.
Yes, they were literally bred to sit on your lap and provide companionship. What better way to brighten the day than to have a cuddly dog warm up your lap? However, not all small dogs are considered good lap dogs. Read on to learn what actually makes a good lap dog breed, and which are the best.
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Table of Contents
- What Makes a Good Lap Dog?
- Why Dogs Sit On Laps
- Best Lap Dogs
- 1. Bichon Frise
- 2. Russian Toy Terrier
- 3. Shih Tzu
- 4. Bolognese
- 5. Pomeranian
- 6. Havanese
- 7. Chihuahua
- 8. French Bulldog
- 9. Tibetan Spaniel
- 10. Japanese Chin
- 11. Lhasa Apso
- 12. Pug
- 13. Cavalier King Charles
- 14. Affenpinscher
- 15. Brussels Griffon
- 16. Pekingese
- 17. Maltese
- 18. Chinese Crested
- 19. Toy Poodle
- 20. English Toy Spaniel
- 21. Dachshund
- 22. Yorkshire Terrier
- 23. Papillon
- 24. Miniature Pinscher
- 25. Lowchen
- 26. Bolonka
- 27. Miniature Schnauzer
- 28. Basset Hound
- 29. Boston Terrier
- 30. Italian Greyhound
- 31. Coton de Tulear
What Makes a Good Lap Dog?
The first criteria of a good lap dog is, without question, the size. While large dogs, such as the Saint Bernard, can make excellent lap dogs, it may not be the most ideal. After all, how would you deal with a 200-pound dog on top of you?
That being said, we’ve thought long about the perfect lap companion and narrowed our criteria for best lap dog breeds into the following:
1. Dog Breed Size – The dog must be able to comfortably fit into the laps of most people. This is what they are intended for. It’s important because it may not be comfortable lounging around or watching TV with a massive Mastiff sitting on you.
2. Enjoys Cuddling – The best lap dogs should enjoy the company of their owners. They’ll much rather prefer the warmth of your lap over the fluffy new bed that you had just bought. Without an eagerness to cuddle, they won’t want to come onto your lap.
3. Loving Temperament – A good lap dog should have an affectionate and loving personality. No matter the situation, they’ll come by your side because of love. And while most dogs tend to be affectionate, lap dogs are a whole new level.
It’s worth noting that not all lap dog breeds will be low-maintenance dogs, and vice versa. This is a common misconception that should be addressed. For example, many lap dogs will shed heavily, which requires quite a bit of grooming.
So before you pick a lap dog simply because of their perceived low maintenance title, I suggest you look more into their exercise and grooming needs. A good place to start is our list of the 55 best hypoallergenic dog breeds.
Why Dogs Sit On Laps
There are many reasons why lap dogs enjoy sitting on your lap. Some of which, are reasons you’d least expect. It’s not always about being comfortable and loving their owners, though those factors do play a role. Mostly, they do it to spread scents, establish dominance and because they were bred for it.
Dogs can be territorial, no matter what size. It’s why many dogs pee on mailboxes to “mark their territory.” But don’t worry – your lap dog won’t pee on you (hopefully)! Instead, they cuddle next to you to spread their scent onto you.
By doing so, they’re showing that you “belong” to them. They’ll start off with spreading their scent around the house, the couch and even your bed. If they still feel it isn’t enough, they will move onto your lap to spread the scent directly on you.
This will mostly happen if another dog visits the house or you interacted with another dog. Your lap dog can smell the scent of another, and they’ll likely be trying to cuddle with you in no time.
Small dogs don’t usually come to mind when people talk about dominance. However, they do show their dominance in other ways, such as sitting on your lap. By being physically on top, the small dog may be asserting his pack rank.
According to Animal Planet, domesticated dogs still inherit their wolf-pack instincts from their ancestors. Each member of the pack needs to fit into a hierarchical structure, where there’s an alpha that receives pack privileges.
However, small dog breeds are known to develop small dog syndrome, where they exhibit few dominant behaviors to compensate for their petite sizes. This can include barking, jumping, growling and sitting on your lap.
There are three main components of canine intelligence: obedience & working, adaptive and instinctive intelligence. While all three are important, instinctive intelligence explains why some dogs tend to be “better” lap dogs than others.
A dog’s instinctive intelligence refers to the special skillset, ability or role that the dog was bred for. For example, herding dogs are able to move livestock with little to no human training. For a top-tier lap dog, they were likely bred for companionship.
Pugs were bred to literally sit on the laps of Chinese royalty for many centuries. It is why they’re so good at their lap dog duties. They’ll naturally be inclined to sit on your lap if the situation calls for it. It’s just what they know and were bred for.
Best Lap Dogs
Given our criteria, here are the best lap dog breeds in no particular order. The truth is, all these dogs would make wonderful lap companions for all types of owners. And if you own one, let us know how great they are in the comments section below!
1. Bichon Frise
Highlights: Cheerful, Playful, Loving
The Bichon Frise first showed up during the Middle Ages as a descendant of the water spaniel originating from the Canary Islands. Adored by European nobility, this friendly and cheerful dog fell from grace for a short time.
Playful and curious, this breed loves attention. They make perfect lapdogs due to their superb social skills and small size. The Bichon Frise feels most content when surrounded by people, as they dislike being left alone and also do not leave you alone.
And like many lap dogs, puffy is how a Bichon Frise looks. That is, they’ll sport a dense white double coat that stands away from the body. Even so, they hardly shed. Though, you should brush them regularly to keep the coat from matting.
2. Russian Toy Terrier
Highlights: Elegant, Loyal, Friendly
Sometime in the 18th century, the English Toy Terrier came to Russia and became popular with all classes of society. But in the 20th century, their name changed to Russian Toy Terrier. Since then, the breed has branched into several varieties.
This toy dog can literally spend the entire day in your lap. Unless you put them down and play with them, they are content snuggling up to you for most part of the day. As such, they demand attention and value friendships.
The Russian Toy Terrier comes across as elegant and graceful due to its long thin legs. But they are also muscular and sneaky athletic. As a result, they can tick off a stranger when the situation calls for it.
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3. Shih Tzu
Highlights: Outgoing, Playful, Lively
This breed ranks among the 14 oldest dog breeds in the world. Tibetan monks raised the Shih Tzu and gifted them to members of the Ming Dynasty. Small, beautiful and lively, the Shih Tzu effortlessly won over their hearts and has since retained its royal status.
Traditionally, the Shih Tzu’s role has always been to provide company. So do not expect them to guard, hunt or retrieve like other dogs. Instead, settle the Shih Tzu down in your lap and let them shower you with plenty of affection.
Your lap serves as a throne for this dog breed. In fact, it’s where they feel the most comfortable. They enjoy every minute of attention. Seated on your lap, they see themselves as rulers over other animals and strangers.
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Highlights: Calm, Reserved, Loyal
The Bolognese originated in Bologna, Italy. Hence, the name. Due to their small size, people have always carried the Bolognese in their laps for centuries. And what you realize later is that they usually manage to get their way.
This cute little canine will turn out to be a constant companion. Their loyalty never wavers and they’ll stick to you. They’ll tag along for a walk, cuddle on your lap, or stay bed-side if you’re not feeling well.
A member of the Bichon family, the Bolognese can make you laugh too. But make sure to never leave them alone. Always keep them in your lap and around you. That way, you’ll earn a loyal yet well-mannered and entertaining companion.
Highlights: Playful, Sociable, Smart
Pomerania is where this German dog breed was born. However, the breed shot to fame when Queen Victoria displayed them during a ceremony for the first time. Since then, this member of the Spitz family has always been a popular family pet.
The furry breed with prickly ears loves picking fights. Their innate curiosity also leads them to go exploring beyond safe limits. So you may find that keeping them in your lap is the easiest way to monitor and protect them.
And given their 10-pound frame, it also prevents them from irking bigger animals. When the dark nose and round eyes peep out of a thick fur, they simply melt your heart. Add to that a plumed tail and you have a cute yet bold canine companion.
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Highlights: Loving, Gentle, Responsive
The Spanish arrived in Cuba with small-sized dogs, which eventually led to the Havanese. As derived from the Bichon family, these lap dogs sported long, thick silky coats. Shortly after, the Havanese made its way into the mainstream.
Due to their velcro personality, the Havanese makes the perfect lapdog. While they love being the center of attention, they can’t stand being alone. For them to truly thrive, involve them in all aspects of your life to earn their devotion.
Firm and consistent training is needed though. Otherwise, a Havanese will take charge, which spells bad news for the owner. The Havanese loves all kinds of games. They also love to shred paper, so keep an eye on them in case they form any bad habits.
Highlights: Loyal, Brave, Alert
Named after a Mexican state, the Chihuahua actually hailed from Spain or China. They love accompanying their owners everywhere. So, do not be surprised to find them peeking out of tote bags or slings like a baby.
Despite being lapdogs, Chihuahuas love to explore. They manage to squeeze out of smallest of gaps, which puts them in danger with bigger dogs, coyotes and hawks. The Chihuahua does not back down from a fight. So try not to let it out of your sight.
This lap dog breed tends to shiver. It might be due to cold, or even when they feel scared. So at the slightest shiver, wrap them in a warm blanket or simply hug them close to your body. And if you live in cold climate, Chihuahuas aren’t ideal.
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8. French Bulldog
Highlights: Playful, Friendly, Easy-going
The French Bulldog was first reared in England. Later on, the breed traveled to France with its English owners and earned the nickname “Frenchie.” But when the canine arrived in the USA, they became one the most popular dogs.
French bulldogs look unique with their short coat and wrinkled skin. They remain quiet most of the time, but make noise when they need attention or see a stranger. You’ll need to be patient when training Frenchies, as they can be independent and stubborn.
Daily walks ensure that the French Bulldog remains content and healthy. But they can’t stand extreme heat, so be careful not to over-exert them. Also, shedding and drooling all around the year might pose a cleanliness challenge.
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9. Tibetan Spaniel
Highlights: Willfull, Happy, Aloof
Tibetan Spaniels or “Tibbies” originated from the mountains of Tibet, where they served as top watchdogs for Buddhist monks. The toy breed still serves this purpose even now. With their vigilance, Tibbies bark at anyone who looks doubtful.
A Tibetan Spaniel resembles a little lion. And like lions, they enjoy company and are proud yet brave. To win them over, get down to their eye level and let them snuggle. Take them out for the daily walks, but always use a leash as they can wander.
When a Tibetan Spaniel climbs up your furniture, it is to find a vantage point. Sometimes they’ll keep watch from the comfort of your laps. From there, they keep an eye on everyone and all things, which keeps them feeling needed in the family.
10. Japanese Chin
Highlights: Loyal, Independent, Loving
Many believe China is where the Japanese Chin is actually from. The breed traveled to Japan when the Chinese royalty gifted a few to the Emperor. It soon embraced the Japanese culture and became popular for its grace and good manners.
Japanese Chins share their sense of hygiene with cats. They will clean themselves by licking paws and wiping heads, but also like to climb. For most part of the day, they scale furniture or simply run about. But when calm, they’re great lap dogs.
However, in spite of dashing around, they are mindful not to disturb anything. The Japanese Chin takes pride in being sensitive towards the family and also heat. So, shower them with extra care and attention on a hot day.
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11. Lhasa Apso
Highlights: Obedient, Fearless, Lively
As you can tell by the name, Lhasa, Tibet, is where this breed evolved. Monks bred the Lhasa Apso to guard against strangers, much like the Tibetan Spaniel. As such, the nobility treated them as lapdogs, which is what they still are today.
Their Tibetan origin explains why the Lhasa Apso sports a thick coat. Given the high-altitude region of Tibet, it helps them to withstand extreme cold. And although they are hypoallergenic, brushing is needed to prevent matting.
The Lhasa Apsos may be small, but they easily forget that they’re not as large as lions. They’ll want to take charge of everyone, so don’t allow him to take the lead. In addition, the Lhasa also takes longer to mature than other breeds.
Highlights: Comical, Charming, Playful
Pugs were practically made for the lap dog job. Breeding began sometime during the rule of the Han dynasty and was encouraged by the royal emperors. Apart from China, the ancient Pug also lived in Japan and Tibet in luxurious settings.
One of the first things that catch your eyes are the Pug’s facial wrinkles. The Chinese valued the wrinkles because the folds formed a good luck sign. As such, royalty would search for a Pug whose face bore the Chinese symbol of the word “Prince.”
Present-day dog lovers describe the Pug’s face as a fist, and it’s easy to see why. But while in the home, the Pug is truly loyal, but can also be just as stubborn. Things they cannot stand include heat and long separation from owners.
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13. Cavalier King Charles
Highlights: Social, Patient, Adaptable
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniels get their name from the ancient English monarchs. These dogs trotted alongside their royal masters while catching the eyes of the famous painters from the era. This spaniel retained its popularity throughout the centuries.
While they were hunting companions, they’re now attractive lap dogs. They tend to follow you everywhere, including the washroom. They also end up chasing smaller animals thanks to their prey drive. So you need to monitor them during their daily walks.
These lap dogs cannot stand being separated from their owners. Though it’s worth noting that a King Charles can get distracted. The only way you can change this habit is by training them. Reward them with a treat and a hug and they soon learn to obey you.
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Highlights: Curious, Playful, Adventurous
Bred in Germany, Affenpinschers quickly became one of Europe’s top ratting dogs. Along the way, the ladies took a fancy to them and they eventually evolved into lap dogs. That being said, their instincts to chase rats (or small pets) still remains.
Being small and energetic has earned the Affen the nickname of “monkey dog.” They not only behave like clowns but can also be creative. So, whether you are at home or traveling, expect the Affenpinscher to keep you entertained.
While they can be stubborn, they’ll soon come round to accepting you. The Affenpinscher does not lack courage despite the petiteness. On feeling threatened, they readily take on strangers. But when they get excited, they bark their heads off.
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15. Brussels Griffon
Highlights: Sensitive, Watchful, Companionable
Brussels Griffons can be traced back to the era in Belgium when people rode horse carriages. The sole purpose of this breed was to keep the stables free of rats. But thanks to their loving personalities, they evolved into lapdogs.
The Griffon sports two types of coat – rough and smooth. It’s very easy to get along with the Griffon, but they tend to cling to one member of the family. For that person, they’ll become life-long companions and can even throw a tantrum to demand attention.
Some Griffons love to eat while others can be picky eaters. In either case, you must portion out their meals to keep them healthy and fit. And while they can be active and playful, they’re willing to spend an afternoon in your lap.
Highlights: Sassy, Loving, Good-natured
The legend in China claims that Lord Buddha once shrunk a huge lion into a tiny dog. Thus, the Pekingese was born much to the delight of the Chinese Imperial rulers. That explains the lofty attitude of canine – often going on a hunger strike to get their way.
Pekes choose one member of the family to latch on to. That being said, they still get along with other members, but cannot stand strangers. At the slightest hint of threat, they bark and can even bite out of fear.
This lapdog also snores throughout the night thanks to their short snout and facial structure. But because of their long and flowing coats, Pekes require plenty of grooming. They also tend to overeat and put on weight very quickly.
Highlights: Calm, Affectionate, Easy-going
Being one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, the Maltese boasts of a two-millennium old history. The breed was very famous amongst artists, poets and writers, with a lineage that has been traced back to Rome, Greece and Egypt.
The Maltese has a distinct white and silky coat that falls to the floor. For the most part, they’ll be very affectionate with their family, making them superb lap dogs. The Maltese is also a very intelligent breed, despite their stubbornness.
They don’t drool much, however they do require proper obedience training. And while a Maltese doesn’t shed much, their long and silky coat requires a lot of care and grooming. They’re really the perfect combination of a family and show breed.
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18. Chinese Crested
Highlights: Sweet, Cheerful, Loving
This breed did not originate is China as the name suggests. Rather, the Chinese Crested first evolved in either Africa or Mexico. Their history dates back to the 18th century when they accompanied Chinese sailors on their voyages.
Chinese Crested are of two types, including a “hairless” type with fur only on the head, tail and feet. The other type sports a full coat. But because they’re not aggressive at all, Cresties make great lap dogs that can adapt to apartment living.
Overall they are friendly, enjoy great health and don’t drool much. Their positive vibe can be a bit contagious, easily brightening the smiles on faces around them. However, they still require regular grooming to prevent tangles despite being low shedding.
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19. Toy Poodle
Highlights: Loyal, Obedient, Intelligent
The Poodle owns the title of being the national dog of France. However, France is not the true country of origin according to some historians. In actuality, this dog breed evolved in Germany and with an history of over 500 years.
Toy Poodles are renowned for their off-the-charts intelligence and long curly coats. They tend to have a full covering of fur on their heads and sport long, silky and curly locks. Carry them with you and they’ll draw plenty of attention as lap dogs.
Because they respond well to positive training, people find their mannerisms quite impressive. They take pride in being active, energetic and fun-loving, but also love their lap dog duties. To ensure good health, keep them busy at all times.
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20. English Toy Spaniel
Highlights: Playful, Gentle, Reserved
The English Toy Spaniel originates from Britain. As such, this spaniel breed had been a long-time obsession to the royals. Due to their connection with two generations of kings, they earned the nickname ‘Charlie’ or ‘Charles.’
English Toy Spaniels are small and square bodied and sport short heads. They have a long and silky coat, big dark eyes and long ears with the iconic spaniel curls. As royal companions, they have a laid back personality and don’t need much exercise.
Although quieter than their Cavalier cousins, they do share a spark of mischief. But if you can handle their charming personalities, this canine can adapt to any lifestyle. However, they tend to chase birds and run in front of cars if left on their own.
Highlights: Brave, Lively, Clever
Dachshunds were developed in Germany to be some of the best badger hunters in the canine kingdom. In fact, “dach” means badger and “hund” means dog. Their dog job is practically how these dogs got their name!
The Dachshund’s elongated back and short legs set them apart from other dog breeds. Being dolichocephalic, they also have a long face. By nature, Dachshunds are bold, courageous and loyal. Thus, they believe in being true to their families.
Because this dog breed does not like to walk much, smaller spaces work well for them. And as lap dogs, they don’t drool much, thus saving you the trouble of cleaning up. Despite their petite size, they can be good watchdogs, but do love to bark and dig.
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22. Yorkshire Terrier
Highlights: Bold, Spirited, Confident
Yorkshire Terriers emerged out of England more than 100 years ago. They were initially bred to chase away rats from mines. It’s believed that they’re the descendants of the waterside terrier, though they evolved into lap dogs over the years.
Yorkies love being loved.As a result, make perfect companions. Expect them to be on the move for most part of the day. Also be prepared to be pranked by this feisty little canine. But when they settle down, they’re some of the best lap warmers.
Intelligent that they are, Yorkies are easy to train. They’re also bold and confident enough to confront strangers. They may be one of the smallest breeds, but they don’t actually believe that. It’s why you should keep a close eye on a Yorkie.
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Highlights: Intelligent, Alert, Friendly
The Papillon can be traced back to the 1500s, in an era where famous artists enjoyed painting these dogs. They come from Europe and like many lap dogs, have historic ties with royalty. As such, most historians believe they originate from Spain.
The breed does not weigh much and is small enough to snuggly fit into your lap. Their small yet upright ears usually do not miss a sound. As a result, you can expect the Papillon to react to strangers and alert you of their presence.
Papillons are also known as continental toy spaniels and are very kid-friendly dogs. They’re highly intelligent and are very quick when it comes to learning new tricks. In fact, they’re among the 10 smartest dog breeds!
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24. Miniature Pinscher
Highlights: Energetic, Playful, Outgoing
The Miniature Pincher is several hundred years old. They were bred in Germany in the 19th century, though they were not well known. People began to take notice only after they took part in dog shows, which made them popular lap dogs.
Members of the breed are quite confident, very intelligent and alert. With their high-energy, a Min Pin will always enjoy play time. However, their loving personalities will eventually draw the dogs into your laps – where they can relax.
Always ready for action and vigilant by nature, they make great watchdogs. This truly amazing breed manages to be smart and friendly in spite of being strong. What sets them apart is their attitude, which is rather unique.
Highlights: Cheerful, Positive, Friendly
This breed has many possible points of origin, like the Mediterranean and Tibet. They survived extinction to become one of the most popular lap dogs today. Thanks to their high adaptability and positive attitude, they’re attractive companions.
They’ll start off feeling timid and take time to open up. But after having settled, they become affectionate and love to curl up in your lap. Make sure to set them down in a cozy little box and always involve them in family matters.
The Lowchen dislikes being left alone and are prone to developing separation anxiety. But on the bright side, they’re fantastic with children and make top-tier play mates. Because they do not shed much, just brush the coat daily for them to look neat.
Highlights: Playful, Loving, Charming
The Russian Bolonka dates back to 18th century Russia. At the time, the French king had gifted this toy breed to the Russian head. Since then, the Bolonka evolved in Russia and have always retained their Russian identity.
The social butterfly Bolonka does not feel shy and can easily make friends. As lap dogs, they avoid conflict, even while playing with other dogs. Even so, they can just as easily be vigilant or protective of their territory.
In spite of their small size, the Bolonka tends to remain alert and give away strangers. These dogs love to play and also look forward to their daily walks. Make it a point to brush them daily to avoid tangles on their curly coats.
27. Miniature Schnauzer
Highlights: Trainable, Fearless, Spirited
Miniature Schnauzers were originally bred in Germany as a smaller substitute for the Standard Schnauzer. Population of the breed suffered during the wars, though they soon recovered and became popular the on the international stage.
The Miniature Schnauzer trains easily thanks to their high intelligence and obedient nature. In the home, they need plenty of mental stimulation though. On the bright side, they’ll love their families and demand lots of affection.
Energetic that they are, daily walks keep them happy and in shape. But do keep an eye on the Mini Schnauzer as they can be mischievous and wander out of curiosity. This cute canine with bushy eyebrows and long beard can irk other animals too.
28. Basset Hound
Highlights: Devoted, Calm, Sweet-tempered
Basset Hounds may have the best noses in the dogdom. These French tracking dogs were the best at their jobs and still continue to participate in tracking tasks. However, plenty of Bassets have found life on laps much more pleasant.
As far as lap dogs go, the Basset Hound is a little bit on the big side. They’re roughly 13 inches tall and can weigh up to 50 pounds. However, they’re one of the calmest and most gentle dogs that actually enjoy lounging in your lap.
With an even-temper and a good-natured personality, Basset Hounds make decent companions for all types of owners. It’s just that they tend to get sidetracked with their noses. So, make sure you keep a close eye on them at all times.
29. Boston Terrier
Highlights: Friendly, Lively, Cheerful
The Boston Terrier came into the picture during the 1800’s. However, there are several theories as to how they were bred. They started off as fighters, but ended up as lapdogs. Today, Boston Terriers are some of the calmest and most docile dogs.
A book describes the canine as high-built and well-stationed. They are friendly, but are also very sensitive, so positive reinforcement is needed. Because they do not have an aggressive bone, they’re a top choice for lap dog breeds.
They also train easily, the breed is a perfect option for first time owners. Plus, a Boston Terrier will rarely bark, making them well-suited for an apartment. Though, they don’t react well to extreme climates. Ideally, moderate temperatures work best.
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30. Italian Greyhound
Highlights: Loving, Agile, Mischievous
Italian Greyhounds come from Europe, specifically from Turkey and Greece. In spite of being more than 2000 years old, this breed never lost its glory. They remain a popular choice for a lap dog, even though they were originally small game hunters.
These greyhounds stand tall with sleek lines. They appear distinct due to their long fine boned legs. Shedding as per season, they don’t require much grooming. In addition, apartment life will suit them well, as they don’t bark much.
For the most part, they respond well to training. The Italian Greyhound doesn’t like being cold or wet. So make sure you can provide warmth and perhaps sunbathing. And when it is cold, expect them to snuggle up to you underneath the bed covers.
31. Coton de Tulear
Highlights: Affectionate, Playful, Smart
Part of the Bichon family tree, the Coton de Tulear comes from Madagascar, an island located south of Africa. In the past, they accompanied women on long voyages and thus earned the reputation as the perfect lap dogs.
Members of this breed are small and love attention. In fact, they’re the happiest when they’re the center of human attention. They bark only when they see a stranger and speak to you by grunting a growling. Cotons love communicating.
Use treats while training them and don’t leave them alone for long. The soft long hair of Coton de Tulears resemble cotton – hence the name. However, you’ll want to brush them several times during the week to avoid tangles.
So tell us in the comment section below. Which lap dog breed is your favorite?
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