Although we at La Pawtite care for pets of all kinds and sizes, we sometimes need to explain why we focus on small dogs. The answer is pretty simple – because our babies are small and that’s what we’ve grown accustomed to ever since adopting them. Me, I’m simply a “dog person” not a “big dog” or “small dog” person. Every time I see a pupper face, I go a little crazy. Even when watching TV, if a dog is on a walk in the background, I’ll turn to my husband and ask “Did you see that puppy?!”
When we bought our first home, the first order of business was to adopt a puppy! I hadn’t had a dog in years due to rental restrictions in most of the apartments I lived in and I couldn’t wait to share my life with a pup once again. We both had such wonderful Rottweilers in our families which fueled our decision to adopt one. I remember when we first saw the post on Adopt a Pet with little 5 week old Sampson’s face. It was love at first sight. Although, as my mother-in-law says, “You fall in love with every dog”, there was something in his face that just said “I need you”. The rescue had him labeled as a Rottweiler/Lab mix and predicted he would be at least 60 pounds when fully grown. So as soon as we got home, I filled out the application to adopt him.
We bought everything big…he was only going to be a puppy for a short time and needed room to grow. And, as time went by, we realized he was not going to get to that 60 pound mark and started downsizing on his chew toys and Kong balls. When he was fully grown, he weighed about 30 pounds. But we didn’t care one bit. He was our baby boy and he was perfect. When people ask what kind of dog he is, I have to admit that I have no idea. Certainly not a Rottie, though he has the right markings. His face is too narrow, his body too slim and his legs too long and lanky for that. Manchester Terrier mix? Miniature Pinscher in there somewhere? Who knows. He’s a Sam.
Then we decided a couple of years later to add another pup to the family. We knew all of Sam’s best doggie friends were small puppers and that’s who he was most comfortable socializing with. So our search for his sibling brought us his baby sister, Thisbe, at 17 pounds. Her rescue labeled her as a Jack Russel/Chihuahua mix. Again, not sure if that’s totally accurate, but we were less concerned this time with breed and were more focused on how she would get along with Sam. Upon meeting her, he gave the paws of approval and they are now inseparable.
Over the last few years of being parents to small guys, we had to make a few adjustments. If their toys were too big, those would get ignored in favor of more manageable chewies. Small pups can easily get trampled by the bigger guys when playing, which can cause all sorts of injuries. While many small dogs are big in personality (our Thisbe is the queen of the play yard and will put pups of any size in their place!) many times these small guys get bullied by other pets in the home or when out playing with other dogs. And the smaller breeds like Chihuahuas and Yorkies are prone to getting stepped on or accidentally kicked at home. Thisbe sticks to us like glue, so we always have to be aware of where she is so she doesn’t get underfoot.
Small breed dogs also run the risk of getting injured simply getting onto or off of furniture. If you have a pup that likes to jump on the back of the sofa, or falls trying to get onto the bed, you may need to consider getting some puppy stairs so they can get to these higher places safely.
And who can resist the urge to pick up a small pupper and cradle him like a baby?! Because small dogs are so easy to handle, they also run the risk of getting dropped, especially when held by children. Always teach kids the proper way to interact with a dog, no matter the size, but be extra cautious when your kid picks up your mini Schnauzer.
Even the way small dogs are fed is different. Because of the size of their stomachs, they do better on a few small meals throughout the day than one or two big meals. They are also more prone to periodontal disease because of their compact muzzles and teeny tooth size. Tooth brushing is important for every dog, but especially for these little ones.
Almost all puppies have very high energy levels, but small breeds tend to hang on to that higher energy level as they grow up. There is a common misconception that small dogs don’t need as much exercise and are perfectly happy being lap warmers or that they get enough exercise running around the house during the day. Because small dogs are a great fit for smaller spaces like apartments, they often spend the majority of their time indoors. Parents of small dogs need to make sure to give their pups daily walks and playtime outside, too. And while outside, these small guys tend to lose body heat more rapidly (especially the short haired breeds), so make sure they have their sweaters on colder days!
There are also some concerns about walking a small dog with a collar instead of a harness. Any dog can slip his collar or harness, but those small guys can take off pretty fast and can be more difficult to locate let alone retrieve. Using a properly fitted harness can keep your pup safer especially out on adventures where they’re busy trying to chase squirrels. I prefer to use harnesses in general because the pup’s weight is more evenly distributed to the leash and causes less damage to the throat and neck. But since the small pups have smaller necks, they can be more prone to injuries from pulling on the leash.
Smaller breeds also tend to have a longer life expectancy, therefore may require longer term care for their aging bodies. I wish dogs lived to be 100 years old, but that is the most heartbreaking part of being a pup parent. You’ll want to make sure you have the ability to care for your aging pup no matter what size or breed they are, but that care can be extended and perhaps more costly for puppers who live longer. Of course, that shouldn’t stop you from offering your heart to any dog who needs a loving home.