Size is one of the first attributes prospective dog owners consider when trying to figure out which pet is right for them. Toy dogs, the smallest breeds, are rapidly growing in popularity, and it’s no surprise. These tiny, adorable canines tend to be easy to care for and can thrive in apartments and smaller living quarters. They’re also often allowed in public areas that may be off-limits to larger dogs.
What’s in Your Teacup?
Toy dogs may be small, but their personalities are not! Just like larger dogs, small dog breeds come with their own unique needs and characteristics that should be considered before making a decision. Certain breeds, like Pomeranians (originally bred to pull sleds!), require just as much exercise as larger dogs, while others are better suited as a lap dog. Be sure to research various breeds in order to find the one that best suits your lifestyle and living arrangements.
It may seem as though small dog breeds are easier to care for than larger dogs, but these breeds have special circumstances that owners should know about:
- Dental problems – Toy breeds often struggle with dental issues and may need to have more frequent dental cleanings. Daily toothbrushing is essential – the ideal time to begin a dedicated tooth brushing routine is when your dog is a puppy. However, with time and patience, adult dogs can also learn to accept teeth brushing.
- Hypoglycemia – Small dogs often need to eat more frequently than larger dogs in order to keep their blood sugar stable. Talk with your veterinarian about how often and how much to feed your toy dog breed.
- Collapsed trachea – This frightening problem results from the fact that toy dogs often have fragile necks. Neck and trachea injuries can result from using the wrong type of collar or leash. Discuss proper leash/harness usage with your veterinarian.
- Body temperature issues – Many small dogs have difficulty maintaining an appropriate body temperature and may need extra warmth in the form of sweaters, coats, or heated pet beds.
Toy Dogs and Kids
Regardless of how tough your toy dog acts, these animals are fragile and are easily stepped on or otherwise injured. Toy breeds should not be left unsupervised with young children, as it only takes a little bit of rough play or other rambunctious behavior to seriously hurt or kill a small dog. Begin early by teaching kids about “gentle touches” and how to appropriately handle and behave around toy dogs.
Know Before You Buy
It’s critically important to do your research before purchasing any dog, especially a toy breed. Their small size and large price tag make toy dogs a favorite among illegal breeders, and it’s not uncommon to discover that toy breed puppies being sold at pet stores have come from puppy mills. These large-scale, illegal breeding operations are not only cruel and inhumane, but they also tend to produce a higher percentage of puppies born with serious genetic defects.
Be especially wary of any dog labeled “teacup” since these are often bred to be smaller via malnutrition and c-section delivery. Always check references and ask to visit a breeder’s home to meet the mother dog before purchasing. Make sure any pet store you buy from has a strict policy against puppy mills. To truly put your foot down against illegal breeding practices and help pets in need, consider adopting from one of the many breed-specific rescue organizations in the United States.