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Just to be clear, this article is aimed at people who are considering buying one of the smaller breeds of dog, rather than a cuddly toy! The dog breeds that are referred to as ‘toy’ dog breeds are varied and numerous, and exactly what dogs make it onto the list will vary depending on who you ask; more information on this can be found in our earlier article, all about toy dog breeds. In general terms and normal usage, a ‘toy’ dog is one that is diminutive in size and can be picked up easily and carried around. These dogs are also sometimes known as handbag dogs or lap dogs, and have been popular within the UK for many years, a trend that if anything is growing rather than on the wane.
If you are considering buying a toy dog, it is important to address your reasons for wanting one, and ensure that they are good reasons and not based on a poor understanding of the care requirements or the commitment involved in keeping a smaller dog. Battersea Dogs and Cats home reported in 2012 a significant increase in the number of toy dogs coming into the shelter for rehoming, and highlighted the fact that these pint-sized canines often brought a range of behavioural, socialisation or training issues with them.
While a toy dog may be cat sized or even smaller, this does not mean that they should be regarded as in some way easier to care for than a larger dog. A common mistake made by people considering owning a small dog is assuming that due to their size, they will have different care requirements or fit more easily into a busy lifestyle. No dog should be left alone all day while their owner is out at work, and toy dogs are no exception. Also, while toy dogs may be cheaper to feed than large dogs due to the volume of food they require, nevertheless they must be fed a complete and balanced diet, and not simply be given table scraps and treats. Small dogs and lap dogs also require daily walks, just as larger dogs do. Depending on the breed, they may not be able to walk as far as bigger dogs and may need shorter walks and less time out walking, but this does not mean that their walks can be forgone altogether, or that they should be carried everywhere! Some smaller dog breeds such as terrier type dogs are actually full of energy, and can compete with many larger dogs in terms of their exercise requirements and how long they need to spend running around each day.
Some small dogs have a reputation for being snappy, or being much more tyrannical than their larger counterparts! This is sometimes known as ‘small dog’ syndrome, and while dogs such as terriers are plucky and outgoing and require strong and clear training and directions, bad manners should not be considered as something that goes hand and hand with owning a small dog. Often, the diminutive build and cute faces of small dogs lead to their not being handled or trained effectively, as it is all too easy to think that an animal that is small and cute is a different type of animal from a larger dog, and does not require such clear direction and handling! A small dog is just as likely to prove unruly, snappy or disobedient as a larger dog, and will generally have no problems placing themselves in the alpha role in your relationship if you do not establish yourself firmly as the boss. Re-homing an adult dog of one of the smaller breeds can be a great way to help a small dog that needs a home, but remember that they may come with their own established ideas on their role in the pack, and may require re-training in order to fit into your household happily.
If you live in a small house or a flat, then a large dog might simply not be a viable pick for you due to the amount of space they need in order to be comfortable and able to move about freely. Getting a small dog in this situation can prove to be the perfect solution, but do make sure that you are enthused about your choice of dog and find a small breed that fits your requirements in terms of temperament and personality. Don’t just view a small dog as a poor second choice because you are not equipped to take on a larger dog.
Finally, always remember that regardless of the size of your dog, your dog is a dog, not a child and not a toy. Small dogs can be carried around easily and may enjoy this, but make sure that your dog spends plenty of time on their own four feet as well, and walks on the lead effectively as well as having good recall and manners outside of the house. Many people choose a pet over having children, and a toy dog can prove great company and good companionship for owners of all ages. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but however much you love your small dog, don’t be tempted to spoil them and go overboard with expensive gear, treats and being overly fussy with them; in the long term, you will be doing your dog a disservice.
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