Small dogs often act like big dogs, which is one of the things that makes them so cute. Even though they act like big dogs, our small dogs still have some needs that only small dogs have.
We see a lot of small dogs at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, and we’re happy to share some interesting observations about how they’re different from larger dogs and how that affects how they act and how they’re cared for.
What does Small Dog?
When compared to medium and large size breeds, a small dog’s size is the most obvious thing about it. Small dogs are those that weigh 22 pounds or less when they are at their ideal adult weight. This includes the Chihuahua, the bichon frise, the Boston terrier, the cavalier King Charles spaniel, the dachshund, the French bulldog, the pomeranian, the Maltese, the miniature pinscher, the miniature schnauzer, the papillon, the Pekingese, the pug, the Russell terrier, the toy poodle, the Welsh corgi, the West Highland terrier, There are also a lot of mixed-breed dogs in the small dog category.
How are they not the same?
Even though a small dog’s size is the most obvious difference from a larger breed, there are other things about small dogs that make their care different. Here are a few that might help you understand what makes small dogs different.
Always Looking Up
People often say that small dogs are “ankle biters,” which is not always true. But from their point of view, they always look up at their surroundings, at people, and at most other pets. When everything else seems bigger and taller, the world can seem scary, and shyness, fear, or aggression may be the result. Ankles are usually at the level of a small dog’s eyes, which is why they nip or bite them. Other actions that could be caused by fear of the environment are:
- Hyperactive, high energy
- Hypersensitive, fearful
- Pacing excitedly
- Jumping on people, other dogs, or higher places
- Barking or growling
- Biting when approached or touched
- Avoidance, such as hiding or ducking
- Resistance to or ignoring commands
A lot of power
Small dogs seem to have a lot more energy than big dogs, which is often true. This may be because their bodies and legs are shorter, which lets them move quickly, especially when they are young. Small dogs can move around furniture and other obstacles more easily than bigger or longer-legged dogs, which makes them faster, especially indoors.
The terrier’s temperament, which is often called “high strung” or “yappy,” is also linked to its high energy. Most small dogs have some terrier in their blood, so this trait tends to get stronger as it gets passed down.
Simple To Carry
Small dogs are easy to pick up and carry, but that doesn’t mean they like it all the time. Even though it’s important to show them that being carried isn’t bad, they also need to learn how to get around on their own. Exposing them to the world on their level helps them learn about their surroundings and boosts their self-confidence. It also lets them be physically active and take care of themselves.
We are small, but not weak.
Don’t think that your small dog is weaker than bigger dogs. Even small dogs can be incredibly strong and tough. This is where their “big dog” personality usually shows. They like to be physically active and are willing to try things that are hard and take a lot of perseverance. Make sure your small dog gets a lot of exercise and time to run around and play. Small dogs do especially well in sport classes like Agility, Scentwork, and Treibball, which are all part of our Behavior Training programme. These classes give small dogs the exercise and mental challenge they need.
Less Food, Smaller Kibble
Small dogs don’t have large dog calorie requirements. A small dog can go from being the right weight to being obese if it gains just a few extra pounds. Adjust how much food your small dog eats, whether it’s dry kibble or canned food, based on what your vet says. Look for dry kibble made for small dogs, don’t feed them too much or people food, and don’t give them too many treats.
Need to Make Friends
With all the personality traits small dogs have, it’s important to get them used to people and other pets as soon as possible. Small dogs can learn how to behave around people and other dogs by spending time with them and other dogs on a regular basis. However, they can still keep their spunky personalities. This can also help stop people from being aggressive and make it easier to handle people who are overactive or scared. Here are some tips to help your small dog be a happy and confident friend:
- Set up training for behaviour. Our Pet Behavior Specialist knows how to help small dogs feel more comfortable around people and other pets and in a variety of settings, both at home and in public. We have a lot of ways to help small dogs learn how to live well in our big human world, like behaviour classes, private lessons, group playtime, and sport classes.
- Always watch your dog play with another dog or do anything else with another dog. Even though these interactions can be fun and help your dog make friends, keep an eye out for too rough or aggressive behaviour, which can hurt your dog, especially if it’s with a bigger dog. Small dogs can learn a lot from group play, but if they have bad experiences with other dogs, it can defeat the purpose of socialisation and make them afraid. Our Behavior Training programme teaches both young and old dogs how to interact in ways that are positive and build their confidence.
- Introduce your dog to a sweet, friendly older dog if you know one. Gentle older dogs can really calm down small dogs and puppies and teach them how to act around other people. As was already said, you should always keep a close eye on things and step in if they start to get rough.
- Make sure that everyone in your home is on board with training your dog and takes part in it. This is important to keep your dog from getting confused and will help him learn your cues, commands, and tone of voice better.
- Always watch a small dog when it plays with children to make sure neither the dog nor the child gets hurt. Small dogs can get hurt easily if they are stepped on or dropped, and a child may not know when a dog is upset or going to bite.
- Set rules and limits for your dog and remind him of them when he needs to.
- Be consistent, because dogs need structure and routines that they can count on.
- Instead of punishing the things you don’t want, reward the things you do.
Trying to keep them healthy
Even though all dogs can have health problems, small dogs are more likely to have some that can get worse quickly if not treated. By taking your dog to the vet every year or every other year for a checkup and making sure he or she gets enough exercise and food every day, most problems can be avoided or taken care of early on before they get worse and harder to treat. Here are some possible trouble spots:
Dental disease: Small dogs have the same number of adult teeth as big dogs, but their teeth are smaller and tend to crowd together. If this isn’t taken care of, it can lead to gum inflammation, infection, tooth loss, and other health problems. Taking care of your pet’s teeth every day at home and getting them cleaned when your vet tells you to can help prevent these problems. Check out our blogs on oral health in pets to learn more about dental disease and how to avoid it.
Luxating Patella: Small dogs are more likely to have luxating patellas, which happens when the kneecap moves out of place on the groove on the femur bone. This is often called a “trick knee” because it can happen at any time and make the person walk in an odd way. When the patella moves back into place, the person’s gait goes back to normal. The kneecap can move out of place. This usually happens in both knees and can be fixed permanently with surgery that we do at our facility.
Heart Disease: Diseases of the valves in the heart are more likely to happen in small dogs. It is called valvular disease, and it happens when the heart’s valves weaken and can’t open and close properly. This makes the valves leak and puts stress on the heart as it tries to work right. Over time, this can cause the heart to stop working.
Allergies: Small dogs are close to the ground and are more likely to be exposed to allergens that cause sneezing, itching, and licking, such as grasses, residue from landscape chemicals, parasites, and other allergens. Allergens can also cause skin problems that are hard to treat and should be checked out by your vet. If you see these signs in your small dog, don’t ignore them. They can cause a lot of pain and become chronic or hard to treat.
Sensitive Trachea: Small dogs are more likely to get collapsing trachea, which is a weakening of the cartilage in the windpipe. Since the trachea is made up of a series of cartilage rings, when they are damaged or collapse, a dog will have trouble breathing, coughing, gagging, and other breathing problems.
Even though tracheal collapse may have a genetic cause, it is such a common injury in small dogs that we usually advise against using neck collars. Pulling on a small dog’s collar while walking on a leash can make a tracheal problem worse over time. Most of the time, you should use a harness that fits well and doesn’t go around the neck.
We usually recommend the Wonder Walker harness, which you can buy in our lobby store. However, there are many other harness brands that come in small and extra-small sizes for small dogs. Make sure your dog’s harness is the right size and fits him well. If you have any questions or need help, our Pet Behavior Specialist will be happy to help you.
Do Small Dogs Live Longer?
It depends. We’ve seen both big and small dogs live well into their teens. But as a group, small dogs tend to live longer than dogs that weigh 50 pounds or more. It’s not clear why this is the case, but it may have something to do with genes and how quickly smaller dogs age. No matter what, a healthy lifestyle and regular preventive care can help you live longer. You can help with both of these things.
If you want to know more about how to take care of your dog, don’t be afraid to look at other posts on our blog page or give us a call to make an appointment. We’re always glad to be of service.