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Insight Into the Small Dog

By Pia Silvani, CPDT-KA, CCBC

Small dogs can exhibit a variety of behaviors that are quite different from those of their larger counterparts. Many small dogs tend to be excitable, sometimes noisy and often energetic. Owners of small dogs tend to be drawn to them for several reasons:

  • they are more easily managed by many since they don’t have the weight and strength of a larger dog.

  • they might jump on people and pull on the leash, but those inappropriate behaviors are less of a problem when the offender is so small.

  • they are easy to travel with because their small crate will fit in most any car.

  • they may be allowed in more public places than big dogs because they can be held or placed in a soft carrier slung over the owner’s shoulder.

  • they are perfect for apartment and condo living since their crates, beds, toys and food supplies are smaller and, if necessary, they can be trained to use a large litter box eliminating some trips out from upper floor residences.

  • they may, depending on the breed, require less exercise.

It’s important to recognize, though, that even a very small dog requires good training. And, being small does not guarantee that a dog will get along with children any better than another size.

While small dogs might look very much like sweet, cuddly toys they are indeed dogs, just like the bigger ones. They go through the very same developmental stages as large dogs. Despite their size, they go through a juvenile period and grow up to be adult dogs. They need to be treated just like other dogs to maintain a healthy, respectful relationship with you.

Even though the dogs can be picked up and snuggled in one arm, remember that they still must listen and obey. All dogs require a social structure and a benevolent leader. They will feel more secure with a proactive leader and less likely to take matters into their own “paws.”

When owning a small dog, one should have a clear understanding of what life is like for them. While you do need to be more cautious and protective of them due to their size, this doesn’t mean that they should be carried everywhere you go, sit on your lap at the dinner table or sleep under the covers at night. A dog that is used to being carried and constantly held can turn into a quivering bundle of fur when you attempt to put her down or insist that she sleep in a crate or dog bed. Think of the stress that could occur when your dog may need to be crated at the veterinarian’s office or stand on the groomer’s table without you. Carrying a small dog everywhere is not only physically unhealthy for them (legs need to be used), but behaviorally unhealthy as well. Sometimes the attachment can become too strong, to the point of being detrimental. All dogs need to be able to “stand on their own four feet.”

Of course you need to be proactive when the dog is in public so as to avoid injury or cause extreme fear. Some human’s feet are as big as a dog so you may not want to have her walk (depending on the breed) around a crowded city street.

Even though you may own a “fearless little wonder” you must continue to remind yourself that her size isn’t as big as her ego! She’s dependent on you to keep her little self safe when greeting people or other dogs:

  • Greeting people – To help build your dog’s confidence with new people, request that people squat down next to your dog when greeting her as opposed to bending and looming over her. This can be quite disconcerting for small dogs. If you are going to have guests over for dinner, you may initially want to pick your small dog up until everyone gets settled. The foyer area can get quite busy during the holiday hustle and bustle. And, no one is thinking about little “Tinkerbell” under their feet.

  • Greeting other dogs – If you are unfamiliar with approaching strange dogs, it is recommended that you stay clear or pick your dog up. You shouldn’t take chances. If a dog is barking at your dog from a house or car windows, pick him up. If your neighbor’s dog suddenly runs out into the backyard and your dog is outside with you, pick him up. Big powerful dogs, sadly, have killed little dogs. It doesn’t happen that often, thankfully, and doesn’t mean you need to panic every time you see a dog. Just use common sense and don’t take obvious chances.

Yes, small dogs are different in stature, but with proper training and continued socialization, your tiny companion will reap the same benefits as her larger cousins!

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