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‘handbag’ Dogs- Why You Should Never See Your Pet As A Fashion Accessory

Tiny Chihuahuas, teacup Yorkies, Pomeranians and more... The popularity of toy dogs has been on the rise for some years now, leading to a modern phenomenon known as the ‘handbag’ dog- literally, a toy dog small enough to be carried in an oversized handbag, or a specially designed underarm pet carrier. This trend for ‘handbag’ dogs may have begun with celebrity dog lovers such as Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, but it didn’t take long to filter down into the land of us mere mortals too. The image of a woman (or man) carrying a small dog about in a handbag while they go about their business, something that would once have raised eyebrows, has become incredibly mainstream over the last few years, even within the UK. While it’s possibly still rather unusual in a lot of people’s minds to carry a dog of any size around in a handbag, is it actually a problem? Is there any reason not to do so? Read on to find out more!

Don’t buy a dog purely because it is fashionable

Having a toy dog that is the height of fashion and can be carried in a suitably trendy underarm carrier should always be a secondary consideration to actively wanting to own a dog, committing to caring for it for the duration of its life, and striving to fulfil all of its needs in the appropriate way. If you are considering getting a toy dog because you think they are fashionable or ‘cool’ or can be ported around in your bag and don’t require the same kind of care as larger dogs- think again! While undeniably small and cute, toy dogs are still dogs. They require a significant commitment of both time and money to their care and wellbeing, and live for well over a decade in most cases. If you see owning a toy dog a short term option, something to be discarded when fashions change- Walk away now. Battersea Dogs Home has reported an increase of over 40% during 2012 in the number of toy dogs coming into the shelter for rehoming, with Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers topping the list. This is the ultimate result of inappropriate or poorly thought out ownership of toy dogs as a fashion accessory- something which anyone who cares about dogs will be disappointed to hear about and wish to avoid. A great number of these ‘handbag’ dogs which are currently awaiting rehoming came into Battersea Dogs Home exhibiting a range of behavioural problems, caused as the result of being treated as a child surrogate, fashion accessory or disposable commodity. Owning a dog of any size is a lifetime commitment- Don’t be tempted to buy a toy dog for yourself or your child on a whim.

So, toy dogs in handbags- yes or no?

It’s important to note that while unusual, carrying a tiny dog about in a suitably constructed underarm pet handbag is not an issue in itself. Toy dog and other tiny breeds have correspondingly tiny legs, and may be unable to keep up with the walking pace of people for long periods of time, and often need to be carried to prevent tiredness or overexertion. It’s important to use an appropriate pet carrier to carry a toy dog within, however- plonking them on top of your mobile phone and purse in your regular handbag isn’t a good idea, either for your things or the dog, which will be uncomfortable and poorly supported.

Potential issues for prospective owners to watch out for

Battersea Dogs Home’s Head of Canine Welfare and Training, Ali Taylor, urges all potential toy dog owners to remember that although small, a toy dog is still a dog. Dogs of any shape or size need to be allowed to exhibit their natural behaviour patterns, be appropriately trained, and be cared for as a canine companion- not as a baby. Small dogs which are carried around at all times, fed treats, spoiled and not taught appropriate behaviour and good manners can soon turn into little monsters, behaving territorially, acting out and even becoming aggressive. For people who buy a toy dog on a whim or without fully researching all of the various aspects of dog ownership and responsible pet care, it can be easy to make the mistake of thinking that spoiling their pets and giving them everything they desire at all times is the best way of showing their love for their pet- when in fact they are doing the opposite. Small dogs don’t realise that they are small- but they certainly know that they are dogs! If they are consistently given their own way, mollycoddled and spoiled, not only are they as likely as any other dog to begin acting out in ways that can soon prove hard to manage- but their health might be at risk too. While it’s perfectly appropriate to carry a smaller dog when they are tired or on long trips, they still need to be allowed to exercise normally, and be able to walk alongside of their owner- and be trained to heel, have good recall and be able to deal with the outside world. Lack of sufficient exercise and overfeeding of treats and inappropriate foods can soon lead to a range of health problems, from obesity to diabetes to heart problems and many more.

Responsible ownership of ‘handbag’ dogs

If you’re considering buying or giving a new home to a ‘handbag’ dog, remember the rules of responsible ownership which apply to dogs of all sizes, as well as the specific issues faced by handbag dogs and their owners.

  • Ensure that you have thoroughly researched the breed or type of dog you are considering buying, and are aware of all of the breed’s advantages and disadvantages and any potential issues.
  • Make sure that you have both the time and money to spend on the care of your new dog- both in the short term and for the duration of its life.
  • Consider if your living environment is suitable for the type of dog that you‘re thinking of getting, and ensure that all of the family are on board with the decision.
  • Prepare to make a commitment to the ongoing training and control of your dog, however small, and learn about what it takes to do this.
  • Never lose sight of the fact that handbag dogs are real dogs- not toys and not children, and must be treated accordingly.
  • The ‘handbag’ part is strictly optional- Don’t let preconceptions put you off!

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