A Complete Guide to Small Dogs

With their large eyes, tiny paws, and compact stature, it’s no surprise that small dogs have become one of the most popular pets to have.

They were once a prized possession of the nobility and ruling class, and for hundreds (even thousands) of years, small dogs have been revered as companions and watchdogs.

They’re ideal for both small and large living spaces, and their compact size makes them easier to travel with.


small dog breeds

Despite their small stature, these dogs have plenty of courage and a lot of love to give, making them perfect for both young and elderly pet owners alike.

Whether it’s your first dog or your fifth, there are plenty of things to consider before you make the commitment of owning a small dog. From temperament to hygiene to nutrition to health, they certainly differ from their larger counterparts.

Small Dog Breeds: A Basic Run Down

Although each dog is unique, there are common traits that one cannot ignore when it comes to small dogs.

A small dog is any dog that ranges between four to 30 pounds in weight, and can live up to 12 to 16 years.

Many small dog breeds are brimming with energy and can become easily bored if not given proper exercise or enough time to play. Because of their size, they are ideal for being indoor companions rather than outdoors.

Small dogs require more calories per pound, which means that they need to be fed at least two small meals per day. They have a short digestive transit time and need to be let out more often.

Their jaws are small and fragile and their teeth are large relative to their jaw, so dental issues may arise.

Small Dogs vs Large Dogs

Other than the obvious difference in size, there are major differences between large and small dogs.

Small dogs tend to live longer than large dogs. Although this is a benefit to those who want more time to spend with their pups, small dogs will likely end up with complications linked to old age (such as arthritis, tooth loss, muscle weakness, etc.).

Despite their high energy levels, small dogs need less exercise than large dogs. This makes them perfect for living situations where a backyard or park is not easily accessible.

Although you can get away with not walking your small dog every day, you should give them enough exercise and play for them to remain happy and healthy.

Because of their size, small dogs eat less than larger dogs; however, they need to be fed small amounts of food throughout the day.

Small dogs are perceived to have more behavioural issues than large dogs, but this can be remedied with training.

They will need just as much training as is required for a large dog, and they must be properly socialized.

Persistent, humane training techniques will turn any rambunctious pup into an obedient, respectful partner.


Caring for Small Dogs

Small dogs require a great deal of love, attention, and care, and will need an owner who is attentive to their needs.

Training

Training and socializing are just as important for small dogs as they are for large dogs.

No matter how adorable and small the dog is, it still needs to learn self-control and how to properly interact with other dogs as well as humans.

Training and socialization need to begin in puppyhood for the best results, but if you are planning to adopt a small dog who is past this stage it wouldn’t hurt to take them to a trainer.

Patience, consistence, and yummy treats will work wonders on even the most unruly.

Take a look at this short video on pug training:

Food

The kind of food and the amount of food you give to your small dog makes a big difference.

Though there is nothing wrong with getting affordable food for your budget, it’s better to invest in foods formulated for your dog’s development and overall health.

Brands like Royal Canin have food designed for specific breeds that provide the nutrients your dog will need for healthy muscle growth and retention, as well as healthy eyes, and a healthy coat.

Dry food that comes in little pellets is ideal, but you can also switch it up with moist food.

Be careful as some dogs tend to overeat and gain weight, so monitoring portions is a must.

Health

Though they may be more compact, small dogs have a list of health complications that need to be prevented or tended to.

Regular veterinary visits and dental cleanings twice a year are key to them living a long and happy life. Be sure to buy insurance or else the costs will resemble that of your own.

Take heed to your vet’s advice and suggestions – they want what’s best for your dog just as much as you do.

Grooming

Grooming and washing your small dog, no matter the coat length or the amount of shedding, shouldn’t be avoided. This is also something to begin at puppyhood so it won’t become a nightmare in the future.

Frequent grooming can lead to less baths and less money spent at the groomers. Look into buying brushes, combs, shampoos, and conditioners so that their coat will remain vibrant and beautiful.

All of this being said, it’s very important to consider that care greatly depends on your dog’s breed and personality.

Specific Small Dog Breeds

Each small breed is special in its own way, and no one breed is the same.

Here are a few to consider:

Miniature Husky

Don’t let its size fool you! The Miniature Siberian Husky has the same pedigree as a regular Siberian Husky, the only difference being that it was selectively bred for its small size.

It’s not considered a different breed by any means. It’s an energetic dog that is very loving and enjoys spending time with family.

Most mini huskies can reach heights of about 14 to 17 inches and weigh about 35 pounds, but this weight can vary.

It’s an intelligent breed that responds well to training. Mini huskies have the same coat coloration as a regular husky, ranging from black and white, red and white, all white, grey, copper, or agouti.

Their coat is very thick and is prone to shedding, so regular brushing and grooming is required.

With its high energy and playful curiosity, it’s best to give this breed a lot of exercise and playtime or else it will develop behavioural issues like digging, chewing, or barking (though this breed prefers to howl).

It does well with other pets such as dogs or cats, but socialization is necessary.

Although this dog is small you shouldn’t give it a small breed dog formula – instead give it an active breed dog formula suited for a normal husky.

The traditional husky and the mini husky share the same health issues, which include but aren’t limited to: seizures, laryngeal paralysis, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy. Fortunately, their size makes them less susceptible to hip dysplasia.

Chihuahua

The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world and is also one of the most popular.

It has a confident, bold personality resembling that of a terrier. They are very loving and loyal toward their owners, but without proper socialization, they can become timid and wary of others.

small breed dogs

This is not a dog to have around toddlers or children under the age of eight due to the potential for the child to cause harm to this fragile breed.

They tend to have personalities larger than their size and will often go toe-to-toe with larger dogs, so early socialization is key.

The average Chihuahua can reach a height from six inches to one foot and weighs between three and six pounds, though a Chihuahua can weigh up to 12. They live up to 18 years.

Chihuahuas are surprisingly energetic and enjoy playing outdoors; however, they should never live outside.

Chihuahuas are easy to train as puppies, so consistent training and reinforcement is needed. Crate training can help this dog to be less destructive and will teach it to control its bladder, leading to less accidents in the house.

A half cup or quarter cup of dog food per day will do.

The Chihuahua’s coat comes in two types: smooth and long. For both coats, regular grooming is necessary.

With regular grooming, a Chihuahua will need a bath every month or two.

Their coats come in a wide array of colours like black, fawn, white, chocolate, grey, tricolour, or silver and can display a variety of markings.

Like most small dogs Chihuahuas are prone to dental disease, so it’s best to brush their teeth daily or every other day. Their claws grow quickly and require regular trimming.

Although they aren’t prone to disease, Chihuahuas can suffer from the following: hydrocephalus, collapsed trachea, open fontanel, pulmonic stenosis, patellar luxation, and heart murmurs.

Pomeranian

The fluffy Pomeranian, much like the Chihuahua, is a small dog with a big personality.

It’s smart, boisterous, alert, and interested in whatever is going on around it. They are loving but also love being the centre of attention.

This is another small dog that is not suited for children under the age of eight, not only because a child could unintentionally hurt it, but also because it can become resentful if the child takes too much attention away from it.

These dogs are known for barking…a lot. This breed requires plenty of patience and attention, so it might be difficult for first-time dog owners.

small dogs that stay small

The Pomeranian is between seven and 12 inches tall and can weigh between three and seven pounds, but can grow to up to 14 pounds.

Pomeranians can be difficult to train because they can be very bossy and like getting their own way.

Consistency, patience, and early training during puppyhood are ideal to make this pup an obedient companion. Socialization is important for this breed because they can be standoffish or even aggressive toward strangers.

Although they are suited to be lap dogs, it’s best to give them exercise and playtime. Because they can bore easily, it’s best to give them plenty of toys and engage them in activities they love.

A half cup to a quarter cup of food should be given to a Pomeranian twice a day.

The Pomeranian’s claims to fame are its poofy double coat and plumed tail. Regular brushing and grooming cannot be avoided with this breed.

You can wash the Pomeranian as often as you like with a mild doggie shampoo and conditioner. Make a habit of brushing this dog’s teeth and clipping their nails, which they need to be introduced to when they are puppies.

The Pomeranian’s coat can come in many colours such as black, tan, blue, chocolate, cream, sable, orange, red and white (or combinations of these colours).

Pomeranians can suffer from a variety of health concerns such as: epilepsy, hip dysplasia, allergies, eye problems, collapsed trachea, patellar luxation, and Legg-Perthes disease.

Bichon Frise

Resembling large cotton balls with eyes, the Bichon Frise is a sweet, affectionate dog perfect for cuddling.

They are alert and curious, making them great watchdogs as well.

This is another dog that isn’t suited for small children or rambunctious kids as it could potentially be harmed.

The Bichon Frise is between nine and 11 inches tall and can weigh between 10 to 15 pounds.

This breed is highly intelligent, so training can be easy with patience and persistence. However, this breed is notoriously difficult to house train.

They are prone to bursts of energy that will send them dashing around the house if they don’t get enough play and exercise.

They don’t like being left at home alone and can be prone to separation anxiety, so you might want to look into getting a companion for it.

A quarter to half cup of food twice a day should be sufficient for a Bichon.

The coat of the Bichon Frise is very soft, curly, and isn’t prone to shedding. Despite the lack of shedding, it isn’t a hypoallergenic dog because it still has dander.

Though you don’t have to groom as often it is still a good idea to do so, and start early.

Their ears need to be cleaned regularly to avoid stains, smells, and infections. Keep the hair around the dog’s eyes trimmed to avoid irritation and infection.

Dental hygiene and regular trimming of the claws is ideal. The Bichon’s coat is known for its snowy white hue.

The Bichon Frise can be prone to eye diseases like cataracts, but other health concerns include: hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, Legg-Claves-Perthes disease, allergies, and genetic disease.

Pug

Known for their big eyes and wrinkly squashed snouts, Pugs are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.

They were originally bred to be lap dogs and thrive on human companionship.

They aren’t quite as active as other breeds and enjoy sitting on your lap or being by your side. They are playful, comical, and love being the centre of attention.

Pugs are stocky and thick, reaching a height between 10 inches to one foot and can weigh between 14 and 18 pounds.

Because it is a sedentary dog it doesn’t need as much exercise, but it still needs time to play. Socialization and house training are still key to it becoming a well-rounded pooch.

This dog needs a half cup to a whole cup of food twice a day. Pugs love to eat and are prone to obesity, so be careful not to overfeed it.

Though their coats are short Pugs have a double coat that is very prone to shedding. Daily brushing is necessary to keep their coat clean, shiny, and less likely to shed.

These dogs only need to be bathed about once per month. Because they aren’t as active their nails need to be clipped regularly. The wrinkles in their face need to be cleaned often to avoid grime and infection.

The Pug’s coat comes in black or tan.

Though the Pug may look tough it’s susceptible to many diseases, which include but aren’t limited to: allergies, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, Cheyletiella Dermatitis (walking dandruff), Pug Dog Encephalitis, nerve degradation, yeast infection, hemi vertebrae, and Legg-Perthes Disease.

Because their eyes are so large the Pug can suffer from eye issues such as dry eye and corneal ulcers.

Corgi

Best known as Queen Elizabeth II’s royal companions, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi is a smart, athletic, and kind breed originally bred as a herding dog.

They are great with kids and make good watchdogs, though they tend to bark and can be very stubborn if they want to.

This is another stocky small breed that can reach a height between 10 inches and one foot, weighing up to 30 pounds.

small dogs

As thick as they are, the Corgi is surprisingly athletic and requires plenty of play and exercise.

With their short legs and long backs, they shouldn’t be expected to jump very high, which can cause fractures. Socialization, training, and house training are key for these doggies to thrive.

Corgis need three quarters of a cup to a cup and a half of food twice per day. Like the Pug, they are prone to overeating and obesity, so be careful not to overfeed them.

The Corgi has a double coat that sheds continuously so regular grooming is required. You don’t need to bathe them as often if you keep up with frequent brushing.

Brush their teeth at least twice a week and keep their nails trimmed. The Corgi coat is fluffy and can come in red, sable, black, tri-coloured, or fawn – usually with some white markings.

Though these dogs are generally healthy, issues include but aren’t limited to: cataracts, retinal dysplasia, Von Willebrand’s disease, progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, intervertebral disk disease, and hip dysplasia.


What are your favorite small dog breeds?

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