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Toy Breeds: They’re Not as Easy as You Think!

August 18, 2013

So you’re thinking about getting a dog and you just can’t decide which breed is right for you.  You know you don’t want a large dog because you don’t have the room and you’re nervous about walking it.  You know you don’t want a dog that sheds a lot.  You know you want a dog that you can take anywhere without a lot of problems.  You know you want a dog that’s “easy”.  So you decide a small dog is the way to go.  What can go wrong with a tiny 10-15 pound little fuzz ball? After all, they don’t need a lot of exercise and you can carry them shopping with you!

I have a lot of experience with tiny dogs.  For starters, I have two Maltese under 10 pounds.  My sister has an equally tiny Yorkie.  My close friend has a Maltese Yorkie mix…I could go on.  As a trainer, you wouldn’t believe the flack I get from my colleagues! They love to tease me about the fact that I should get a “real” dog- one that will actually challenge me to flex my trainer muscles.  Let me be the first to tell you that having a small dog is no cake walk.  My trainer muscles are so flexed that sometimes I feel like I’m getting a trainer cramp in my trainer brain. So before you decide to take the plunge into toy dog territory I’d like to let you in on a few secrets about them that you may not have considered.  Keep in mind that I’m painting “toy dogs” with a broad brush here. I realize that there are lovely qualities (obviously, or I wouldn’t own them), but it’s important to be aware of the good and not-so-good qualities of any dog you decide to choose.

1) Housetraining Can be a B@*ch

papillon toilet 150x150In my experience, housetraining is very much a proximity thing.  If your dog can grasp the idea that “this is inside, that is outside”, then it’s all fine and dandy.  For some reason, this seems to be much harder with toy breeds.  They move from one room in your house to another room and they’re in a whole new world! Surely this plush carpet must mean I’m outside! Mom and Dad are lightyears away in that other place…this can only be logical!  Not only that, but small dog owners are much more willing to let accidents slide.  After all, what’s a dime-sized amount of urine really going to do to my floor? Well those dime-sized amounts add up really quickly, so treat your small dog like a big dog when it comes to housetraining.  Institute very strict schedules and don’t allow your little dog to wander out of sight (which can be hard when he’s the size of an apple).

2) Playtime Can be Risky

big dog little dog 150x150For little dogs, play time is often treacherous.  At any moment they risk being trampled, rolled, stomped on, or flung into the air. Even the most confident small dogs can, over time, become a tad hesitant, and for good reason. My dogs, for example, are extremely wary of large puppies.  To me this makes total sense.  Can you imagine a fifteen foot-tall two year old trying to play with you? I think even the bravest souls wouldn’t risk being crushed by a giant baby fist or being squashed by that giant, unsteady diaper bum.  Puppies have no manners. They haven’t learned them yet.  Unfortunately small dogs are ill-equipped to discipline them the way a bigger dog would.  As a result, they’re constantly being terrorized by puppies whose owners don’t know enough to intervene on their toy dog’s behalf.  So before you write off all small dogs as nasty and miserable, imagine what it would be like to navigate a social life with that kind of size differential every single day.  Exhausting right?

3) They Still Need Exercise

small dog carrier 300x300A lot of people get little dogs thinking they won’t need to walk them.  Big mistake.  Not only do you lose out on exposure to their environment, but you also end up with a dog that is a LOT more agitated.  Walks are as much about mental stimulation as they are about physical stimulation.  Even though your little guy may not need an hour-long jog through the trails, he still very much needs to get out and enjoy his life! My dogs are lucky enough to have a dog walker/trainer for a mum, so they get to go off-leash on the trails every day for an hour.  I realize for most small dog owners that’s excessive, but please don’t keep your dog cooped up inside.  You’ll thank me when he’s fast asleep on your couch instead of yapping at the window. 

The best advice I can give to all you owners of pint-sized pups is to treat them like dogs.  They are not accessories.  They are not Barbie Dolls. They are living, breathing canines with a desire to run, smell, roll, fight, and romp just like any other dog you see.  Provide them with friends their size to play with and advocate for them when bigger dogs are coming on too strong.  Above all, don’t forget to train them.  Even the littlest dogs can become very BIG problems.

Written By

Danielle Hodges, CPDT-KA

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