Toy and Small Dogs

They are so cute and are not much bigger than your hand.

So you're thinking about getting a puppy and you've seen some tiny ones in a pet shop window.

You have a rush of parental instinct and you just want to take one home and smother it with affection. Before you do there are some things you need to consider about small dog ownership.

Firstly, small dogs are not toys. They have the same needs as larger dogs for exercise, grooming, dietary control and obedience training, just on a smaller scale. They also have some needs that are specific to their size. Because they are tiny, they are very easy to trip over or tread on and when 70kg treads on 3kg the result can be devastating! Extra care needs to be taken, especially in the puppy phase when they tend to run around with little awareness of their surroundings.

Children can pose problems for small dogs. Children can inadvertently injure a small dog doing something that wouldn't bother a larger, more robust animal. Many little dogs quickly get sick of accidental rough treatment and develop defensive biting as a way to protect themselves. Once a dog has started to get snappy on a regular basis it might then become aggressive with children BEFORE they do anything wrong. It is really important that all children are taught to be very gentle with a small dog and are supervised until you are certain they won't do anything that frightens the dog- this includes making a lot of noise and rough housing near the puppy as it might mistake all the commotion for an imminent danger. Small dogs will often cower and get very stressed in rowdy households.

Many small dogs ARE lapdogs, but this doesn't mean they need to be carried everywhere. The time to carry them is in and out of the car and up and down on the sofa so that their joints aren't unnecessarily strained trying to jump. Many small dogs end up suffering from joint problems. Give them the love and attention you would any animal but remember they need to be properly trained and expected to comply. Many owners accept bad behaviour from small dogs because it seems 'cute' but turning a blind eye on a naughty little dog is a sure fire way to create a monster. Small dogs are notorious for developing Small Dog Syndrome, where they establish themselves as head of the household. The last thing you need is a miniature mutt calling the shots!

Finally, consider what overfeeding could do. Just half a kilo overweight is significant in a dog under 5 kg so you must avoid giving too many treats and make sure the treat size is very small- no bigger than a pea!

If you are willing to take on board the special needs of a small dog, you will be rewarded with a companion which doesn't take up much room, need to be run like an Olympian or cost much to feed.

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