Ultimate Guide to Small Dogs | Pupford
March 1st, 2023
Filed under Lifestyle + Stories
There are so many reasons why people choose small dogs for their families. Some want lap dogs to cuddle with, some want dogs suited for apartments or small yards, and some were inspired by Bruiser Woods in Legally Blonde.
Whatever brings a small dog into your life, we want to help you keep them as happy and healthy as possible.
That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide to small dogs, which tells you everything you need to know about caring for a small breed dog.
Things we’ll be covering:
- Small dog basics – definition of “small dog,” small dog breeds, pros and cons of having a small dog
- Training small dogs – training tools, focus behaviors, treats, and more
- Small dog lifestyle – physical activity needs, activity ideas, food and medication, and grooming and care
Along the way, we’ll share even more tips to keep your small breed dog living their best life!
SMALL DOGS: THE BASICS
Words like “big” and “small” can be relative, so it helps to give some definition and background of what is classified as a small dog breed.
WHAT DEFINES A SMALL DOG?
There isn’t one single definition, but it’s generally agreed upon that dogs that weigh less than 25-30lbs as an adult are small dogs.
Within the small dog category, there are more specific classifications:
- Small dogs: 2 to 22 pounds
- Miniature dogs: 3 to 12 pounds
- Toy dogs: 5 to 12 pounds
- Teacup dogs: 4 pounds or less
Keep in mind that these weights represent full-grown adults within a given breed – and of course, there will be some room for variation from dog to dog.
WHAT BREEDS ARE CONSIDERED SMALL DOGS?
There are more than 60 breeds that are considered small breeds. While we’re not going to list them all out, here are ten of the most popular small dog breeds.
While these are not all the small dog breeds you’ll find commonly in families, it gives you a good idea of common breeds and their sizes/temperaments.
PROS AND CONS OF LIFE WITH A SMALL DOG
Part of having a dog in your family is taking the good with the bad. Understanding the pros and cons of having a small dog can help you figure out if it’s right for you, and better know what you are getting yourself into.
And keep in mind that this is a generalized list, and some small dogs may not fit within these parameters.
Pros of small dogs:
- Less dog = less food, less hair to groom, etc. which means their routine maintenance is less expensive
- Small dogs are typically lap dogs and good for cuddling if that’s something that’s important to you
- It’s significantly easier to transport a smaller dog for grooming, veterinary care, and outings
- With a few exceptions, smaller dogs require less physical activity and space than larger dogs so are better suited for apartments or less active lifestyles
Cons of small dogs:
- Some small dogs can be less sociable or get jealous when their family’s attention is somewhere other than them
- Smaller dogs tend to bark more than larger dogs
- Illness and injury is more common in smaller dogs because they are more fragile and susceptible to germs
- Since they tire out more easily due to their smaller muscles and higher heart rates, small breed dogs are less likely to participate in strenuous activities like long walks, hikes, jogs, and
If none of the cons on that list are deal breakers for you, then a small dog should fit perfectly in your lifestyle.
TRAINING SMALL DOGS
Training your dog is one of the most important things you can do to keep them safe, happy, and engaged. While most training principles apply to dogs of all sizes, there are some specific things to keep in mind when training small dogs.
TRAINING TOOLS FOR SMALL DOGS
You may think that because a dog is small, they don’t need much in order to be trained – but that’s not the case. Having the right tools on hand makes training easier and more effective.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- A harness designed for small breeds (we even carry an )
- A crate that does not allow for too much freedom
- Short and long leads
- High-value training treats
- A resource, like the , that provides training guidance from certified experts
Psst – you can get many of your training tools in one place. Check out one of our favorite training tool bundles .
WHAT BEHAVIORS TO TRAIN
When it comes to training your dog, having a well-rounded training routine is the best bet. A strong training foundation starts with mastering the basics, like potty training, crate training, recall, leash walking, sit, down, stay, etc.
But when it comes to small dog breeds, there are some behaviors that are beneficial to focus on. These include:
- Potty training – small dogs have small bladders, so establishing a potty routine early on is important for preventing accidents.
- Using a potty bell – this is also a great way to reduce accidents
- Manners around guests – since small dogs can bark a lot, proactively teach your dog what to do when visitors are at the door or someone passes by the house, instead of punishing them for barking.
- Leash walking – Some people make the mistake of using their size advantage over their small dog to skip leash training. But this usually causes your dog to pull and react more, so proper leash training is very important!
- Jumping – Again, given their small size, most people don’t think that small dogs jumping is an issue. But if left unchecked, it can turn into a really bad habit.
It’s also a good idea to train at your dog’s level, especially when they are puppies. You may need to kneel or crouch down to get closer to eye level with your dog, which will keep them from feeling intimidated especially at the beginning of training.
For more on training small dogs, check out this video ?
BEST TREATS FOR SMALL DOGS
The foundation of any successful dog training is positive reinforcement. High-value training treats are an effective tool for rewarding behavior.
Plus, who doesn’t love something special once and a while for being the goodest boy or girl?
But you have to be cautious about treats when it comes to small dogs. Their small bodies typically only need a few hundred calories per day, treats can often push them way over their limit and cause unhealthy weight gain.
We recommend using treats that are full of flavor, yet low in calories and filler ingredients.
For example, are made from three or less ingredients, are less than one calorie per treat, and contain natural ingredients.
That way, both you and your dog can feel great about the treats they’re getting!
SMALL DOG LIFESTYLE AND NEEDS
Now let’s dive into some of the day-to-day details of caring for your small breed dog.
HOW MUCH PHYSICAL ACTIVITY DOES MY SMALL DOG NEED?
On average, small dogs have fewer exercise needs than their larger counterparts. However, this isn’t to say that exercise is not an important part of their daily routine.
Most small dogs will require about 30 minutes of exercise per day, paired with mental stimulation and playtime.
A moderate-length walk alongside training sessions and play sessions is typically sufficient for small dogs.
WHAT ACTIVITIES DO SMALL DOGS ENJOY?
Small dogs thrive with activities that are , but shorter in duration. There are plenty of activities to entertain and engage your small dog, including:
- Neighborhood and trail walks
- Tug of war
- Food puzzles and brain games
- Nose work, like finding hidden treats
Finding activities that nurture your dog’s instincts (prey drive, food motivation, etc.) is a great way to provide physical and mental exercise at the same time without overexerting your dog.
FOOD AND MEDICATION FOR SMALL DOGS
It’s extremely important to be mindful of your dog’s size when it comes to food, medication, and supplements.
As mentioned before, it’s very easy to exceed a small dog’s caloric needs. Choosing food designed for small breeds specifically can help them get the nutrients they need without overloading them with calories.
And when it comes to supplements and medications, their small bodies make them more sensitive and reactive than larger dogs. Always follow your vet’s guidance for medication dosage and consult them about supplements if you are unsure how much to give them.
GROOMING AND CARE FOR SMALL DOGS
Small dogs have less to groom, but it doesn’t make grooming any less important. They need routine grooming care, including:
- Trimming for long-haired dogs
- Nail trimming
- Teeth brushing
- Ear cleaning
It’s a common misconception that small dogs are lower maintenance than large dogs. While they definitely have less hair to deal with, their basic care needs are still high!
SMALL DOG, BIG LOVE
Don’t let their little bodies fool you – small dogs have so much love, companionship, and fun to offer.
What’s your favorite thing about small dogs? Let us know in the comments below!