Petite Pooches

By Maggie Reed

January 18, 2008 7 min read


Tiny breeds prove a big hit with many dog owners

By Maggie Reed

Copley News Service

They pack a punch for the pound.

Toy dogs exhibit just as many varying traits, temperaments, degrees of maintenance, care and training as large dogs only in a smaller package.

"The No. 1 reason people choose a small dog is their size," said Rob Dann, a veterinarian with Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. "They are easy to pick up at 5 pounds and can easily become a part of our mobile society. It's not like trying to get into an elevator with a big dog."

Toy temperaments range from outgoing and boisterous to shy and cautious, although most lean toward the active side.

"They are kinetic," Dann said. "They are much more active than a large dog and much less likely to lay by a fireplace for six hours. They have playful, fun personalities."

While not recommended for families with young children, toy breeds are ideal for the elderly.

"It's rare to see a giant dog trained to go on newspapers while small dogs can easily be trained to go on newspapers or pads," Dann said, making them easy to take care of.

Exercise also presents no problem. "They can run from room to room for their exercise without you having to do anything," added Dann.

And they love being with you, being bred primarily as companion animals. "They become incredibly attached to their owners," Dann said. "That's another reason why they are so special.

"Plus, it's just how darn cute they are ... sitting there wagging their tails just waiting for you to pick them up and cuddle. I think that says it all."

So, there are numerous reasons to choose a small dog - and a few why not to. Here are some things to consider, according to Louise Louis of

- Size matters. From the smallest (the Chihuahua, Yorkshire terrier and toy fox terrier at about 5 inches high and 4 pounds) to the largest (the pug at around 12 inches high and 18 pounds), toys are just the right size for small households. These days, many condominiums, rentals and retirement communities will only allow dogs of a certain height and weight.

- Exercise. Toys are perfectly happy with one daily walk or a good romp around the house. They are also easier to control during exercise time than a larger breed.

- Liability. Some homeowner policies and rental agreements will charge more for large dogs than small ones. Also, if your papillon happens to nip someone, it's unlikely to cause the damage of a pit bull - which may make the difference between a sincere apology and a lawsuit.

- Friendly factor. Chances are you'll meet more people while you are out walking a Shih Tzu than a Rottweiler. However, don't forget that toys are also great watchdogs and will alert you if they sense danger or a stranger approaches.

- Cost. On a daily basis - food - care for your toy will obviously be cheaper, but in the long run - vet bills - the cost difference may not be substantial.

There are also some reasons not to choose a toy breed dog, according to Louis and the AKC, including:

- Small children. Small children and small dogs do not go mix. While many toy breeds enjoy rough-and-tumble play, many do not. Children may not realize how delicate toys can be and can injure them unintentionally during playtime.

- Exercise. If you are looking for a jogging partner, a toy is not your dog.

- Grooming. Many toys, such as the Maltese, Yorkshire terrier and Pekingese, require daily grooming. Many also need their eyes, ears and behinds cleaned daily.

- Health concerns. Some toys have fragile hips and legs that are easily injured by such things as jumping off the couch or running up and down stairs repeatedly.

Some of the diseases toys are prone to include hypothyroidism, patella luxation (slipped kneecaps), liver problems, tracheal collapse and seizures.

Due to their smaller body weight-to-size ratio, they have a harder time regulating their body temperature, which is why they shiver more in the winter and pant more in the summer. Those with flat faces have a particularly hard time staying cool in the summer since there isn't much room for air to circulate through their nose and mouth.

Toy breeds can bring a world of happiness to their owners ... just make sure you do your research before you bring Fido home.

Two great sources of information from Barron's Educational Series, Inc. are: "The Encyclopedia of Dog Breeds" by D. Caroline Coile and "Dogs From A to Z."


Choosing the right breed

Copley News Service

Maybe you have allergies, other pets or you work all day long. Here are some tips from Louise Louis of to help choose the right (and wrong) toy breed dog for you:

- If you have allergies: Chinese crested, Italian greyhound, Maltese, Shih Tzu, toy poodle.

- If you have cats: Havanese, Japanese chin, Maltese, pug, Shih Tzu, toy poodle.

- If you want an active companion: Affenpinscher, Brussels griffon, miniature pinscher, silky terrier, toy Manchester terrier, toy fox terrier.

- If you are a family with older children: Cavalier King Charles spaniel, English toy spaniel, Havanese, papillon, pug. (Avoid: Chihuahua, Italian greyhound, Pekingese, Pomeranian.)

- Looking for a lapdog? Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chihuahua, Chinese crested, Japanese chin, papillon. (Avoid: The active companion list above.)

- For the novice owner: Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chinese crested, English toy spaniel, Havanese, Japanese chin, Maltese, papillon. (Avoid: affenpinscher, miniature pinscher.)

- Other pets in the house: Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chinese crested, English toy spaniel, Havanese, Italian greyhound, Shih Tzu. (Avoid: Chihuahua.)

- To keep Shedding to a minimum: Chinese crested, Havanese, Italian greyhound, Maltese, toy poodle. (Avoid: Pomeranian, Pekingese, pug.)

- Watchdog: Chihuahua, Chinese crested, miniature pinscher, Pekingese, silky terrier, toy poodle.

- Work all day: English toy spaniel, Pekingese, pug. (Avoid: affenpinscher, Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Chinese crested, Maltese, Yorkshire terrier.)

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