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I'm Just Little! – Important Reminders for Toy Dog Owners

Credit: Breanne Long

The world of a small dog is a very big place. People and dogs are bigger, many cats are bigger, and jumping onto the bed requires a running start! Dog owners who have only ever had medium or large dogs don't understand that there are a few fundamental differences in caring for a small or toy dog.

1.They get hurt more easily. Toy and small breeds have finer bones and thus can get injured more easily than a big dog. Additionally, their small size makes them hard to see, and they often get underfoot. Teach your small dog to go to their crate or bed while you're working around the house so you won't trip over her and accidentally hurt her (or you!).

2. Big dogs target them. Little dogs, especially those with a lot of hair, often look like toys to big dogs. The more quickly and erratically they move, the more likely it is that a big dog will give chase. Some small dogs are quick enough to outrun a big dog, but most are not, so for everyone's safety; don't allow a big dog to chase your little one!

3. The world is a scary place. When your big dog comes rushing up to a little dog, don't be offended when the little dog's owner scoops her up to get her out of harm’s way. It's not a personal insult to your larger dog. Indeed, your big dog may be extremely friendly, but a friendly invitation-to-play-paw-swipe from your well-meaning big dog can cause serious injury to a small dog.

4. House training is harder. Their bodies are smaller, so they're physically unable to “hold it” as long as their large-breed puppy counterparts. Additionally, their messes are smaller and easier to clean, so many people don't make it as much of a priority to house train their small dog. However, it is cleaner and more sanitary to house train your dog, even if you use a litter box or potty pads. Small dogs are house trained the same way as big dogs – with supervision and consistency. Just remember that your small dog will likely have to “go” more often than your big dog!

5. They don't have to be tiny terrors! The destruction that a small dog can cause, when left untrained, is far less than the destruction a big dog can cause. For that reason many small dog owners don't think it's necessary to teach their little dog to walk nicely on a leash or not resource guard food or toys. Just because they're little, doesn't mean the same rules shouldn't apply! Exercise and mental stimulation goes a long way towards remedying behavior problems. Little dogs may not need the quantity of exercise as their larger cousins so you can often exercise them indoors! Games of hallway fetch, hide and seek, and obedience and trick training can satisfy their mental and physical exercise needs!

How to Care For Extra-Small Dogs & Toy Breeds

Credit: Sassafras Lowry

Toy breeds might be the miniatures of the dog world, but their small sizes pack big personalities — and their needs are as big as any other dog. Small dogs aren’t accessories – they want to play, learn, and be active. While there are some safety considerations to think about with keeping very small dogs safe overall, they are the same as any other dog. Don’t let the small size of toy breeds limit the opportunities you provide them to learn, play and explore the world! Here are some things to keep in mind when owning and interacting with toy breed dogs.

Home Safety For Small Dogs

Toy breeds are often active and energetic but may need a little extra help to stay safe in the home. Baby gates to block unsupervised access to flights of stairs can help protect toy breeds. With toy dogs, it’s also a good idea to invest in doggie stairs and/or ramps to help these tiny dogs with safely getting on and off of high furniture such as beds and couches and avoiding big jumps which can lead to injuries.

Public Safety For Small Dogs

Socialization is extremely important for toy breed puppies to ensure that they develop into well-adjusted and socialized adult dogs. With toy breeds, you want to approach socialization and bringing your pup to dog-friendly public spaces the same way that you would with a larger dog. However, with toy breeds you do need to be a little careful — you’ll want to be particularly cautious in crowded areas. Unfortunately, the general public isn’t always attentive to the existence of very small dogs and in a crowd, so it’s easy for a small dog to get stepped on which can result in injuries. You may want to pick your dog up when navigating these tight or crowded these spaces. Attending pet-friendly places with your toy breed is easy and fun but it’s important not to attempt to bring them into places that are not dog-friendly. It might seem harmless but doing so can cause access challenges for legitimate service dog teams.

Greetings For Small Dogs

Seeing a bright-eyed little dog often draws a crowd, especially if your toy breed is demonstrating how well socialized and trained, they are. It seems like everyone loves a toy dog and people of all ages including children are likely to approach and want to pet your dog. Being leaned over and surrounded by people can be overwhelming and frequently people will attempt to pick up toy breeds when greeting. Being picked up by strangers can be frightening to dogs, but it also increases the risk of injury as someone could accidentally drop your dog. People have a tendency to forget our tiny dogs aren’t stuffed animals, so when walking a toy breed you may need to remind people about appropriate ways to greet dogs.

Because of their small size, it’s easy for toy dogs and puppies to be unintentionally injured when engaging or playing with larger dogs. If your tiny dog is dog social and enjoys greeting or having playdates with other dogs, be thoughtful about the size of your dog’s playmates. Don’t forget to closely monitor engagement between toy breeds and large dogs to ensure playtime is safe for everyone.

Training For Small Dogs

One of the most important things to do with small dogs is to give them the same opportunities to learn that you would a larger dog. Because toy breeds are small, people sometimes ignore their training needs, which sets these dogs up to have a much less balanced and enriched life. Sometimes people make the mistake of sheltering toy breeds, but they need the same level of socialization as any other dog. Register your toy breed puppy for puppy classes and be sure to continue your obedience training as your dog ages.

Doing It All

Almost anything big dogs can do toy breeds can do as well! From becoming service dogs to working as therapy dogs there are many small dogs doing very big jobs. Dog sports are great ways to channel your small dog’s drive and have a wonderful time together. Toy breeds excel at obedience and agility as well as scent work, tricks, and other sports. Don’t underestimate these pint-sized athletes— if given the opportunity, toy breeds can make great canine competitors in performance events.

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