Understanding & Caring For Your Miniature-Breed Dog

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Seeing the World Through a Small Dog's Eyes

First, try to get down on your dog’s level – literally – and take a good look around. This is your dog’s environment, so it’s important to see things from his perspective and ask yourself a few key questions: Do things look a little scarier from down here? Does the sofa loom high overhead? Does the slippery kitchen floor seem to extend for miles? When people and household objects tower above you, things can get a bit intimidating. Imagine a vacuum cleaner that’s bigger than you are to get an idea of how your dog may feel!

  • How far away from primary rest or play areas are essentials such as the water dish? A short sprint or a marathon distance?
  • If your dog is allowed on the furniture, how far do they have to jump? Would your dog benefit from a step that leads up to the couch or bed?

Small Breed Dogs: All Shapes & Sizes

Small, miniature and toy breeds are a celebration of the wide variety of the mini dog form: Some are compact and sturdy, like Jack Russell Terriers, French Bulldogs or West Highland White Terriers. Others, such as Italian Greyhounds, Prague Ratters and Chihuahuas, can be quite sensitive and delicate, naturally requiring gentle handling and careful treatment. There are several breeds that have very distinct features, such as the iconic long-backed Dachshund, round-headed Japanese Chin, or the hairless Chinese Crested.

Whatever your dog’s breed, it’s important to take their needs into account when considering things like the size and shape of their bed, size and placement of food and water dishes, lead, collar and/or harness type, temperature requirements, and more.

Small Dog Syndrome

Being a small dog in a big world can be a challenge. However, small dogs very often get away with naughty or dangerous behaviours that would never be tolerated in their larger-breed counterparts (also known as "small dog syndrome"). These little Napoleons often first use these behaviours as a kind of defence mechanism, but it can quickly turn to habit if not corrected early on. Owners should keep in mind that pulling on the lead, running away when called, snarling or biting are all equally bad behaviours, whether coming from a tiny Chihuahua or a great big Rottweiler. In both cases, the right socialisation and training can work wonders. Learning and practicing appropriate behaviour in a wide variety of situations from an early age will help a dog of any size feel reassured and relaxed, helping to prevent undesirable or even dangerous behaviours. Seek help from a reputable trainer who knows your breed, or search for a local group obedience class. Additionally, there are many books available to help you decode and correct your dog’s behaviour. If you need a recommendation or some extra support, don’t hesitate to contact your vet.

Food Requirements: Less Means More

Small breeds have different calorie requirements than large dogs. Since they have more surface area per kg than large dogs, they typically expend more energy for normal body functions like keeping warm. They also spend more energy on simply getting around. Walking down to the end of the street may cost your neighbour’s Labrador 100 steps, while your Lhasa Apso may need 400 to cover the same distance.

Small dogs may need more calories per kg daily than large dogs do, but they should still be safeguarded against gaining too much excess weight. Obesity is just as dangerous for small dogs as it is for big dogs.

Special Considerations for Puppies

These tiny tots need more calories per ounce of bodyweight. And because they can’t stockpile energy reserves in the way larger-breed pups can, they require more frequent calorie-dense meals. Mini-breed puppies should be fed small meals frequently throughout the day to compensate for their small stomach capacity and rapacious need for energy. Read pet food labels for optimal feeding amounts and ask your vet for advice tailored to your individual little puppies needs. As with any breed, small pups should be protected, but not treated like babies. Although it may take a strong heart to look a fluffy little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy in its big brown eyes and say “No!”, it must be done. Early training for small-breed dogs sets the stage for a more relaxed, dependable and better-behaved canine companion later on.

Living Long and Well

Small dogs often live significantly longer than their large- and giant-breed counterparts. Maltese, Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers and Miniature Dachshunds are all known to live past 12 years old. The median lifespan for Miniature Poodles and Border Terriers is nearly 14 years, but many have been known to reach nearly 20 years of age – venerable, to be sure! However, their lifespan will depend on a lot of individual variability and factors like health care, nutrition and environment. With such a long lifespan, often combined with city dwelling, small dogs need extra protection to maintain good health well into their golden years. In between regular trips to the vet, small dogs can really benefit from extra antioxidants to help their bodies combat the effects of ageing and urban life.

Feeding the Right Food

Little dogs can also benefit from foods with smaller kibble size, making it easy for them to pick up and chew.

Look for a nutritionally complete food with antioxidants, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and, of course, a tempting taste to help give your canine friend everything he needs for a happy, healthy life. A wide range of Science Plan and Prescription Diet foods are available to provide optimal nutrition to small dogs of all breeds and life stages.