Small dog breeds are long on charm and cuteness. They also make wonderful family pets. But the same qualities that make small dogs wonderful companions can also put them at risk for undesirable dominant behaviors, health hazards and more. Here is what small dog owners need to know to keep their furry friends happy and healthy over a long, satisfying life.
Small Dog Syndrome
Dominant behaviors such as jumping, growling and pulling on the leash are intolerable and frequently corrected in larger breeds; however, small breed dog owners often let their furry companions get away with these undesirable habits because they appear harmless or cute. Unfortunately, what humans interpret as affection or love is often quite the opposite in a dog. A small toy breed that growls when a stranger approaches his owner is not providing protection; instead, he is claiming the owner as his own.
Establishing yourself as your family’s pack leader is essential for creating a healthy atmosphere your dog can understand. Never allow your small breed dog to pull on the leash, as only the pack leader should walk in front. Avoid letting your dog pass through doorways first for the same reason. Firmly correct jumping behavior, even if you know your six-pound Yorkie can’t possibly hurt anything. Avoid letting your dog go anywhere you don’t want him to go by firmly telling him “No.” If you’d like to share your chair or bed with your dog, make certain it’s you who invites him — don’t let him dictate his whereabouts.
The Consequences of Small Dog Syndrome
Are you inclined to let these bad behaviors slide? If so, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, these seemingly innocuous behaviors can make your dog uneasy and even anxious. Your dog expects you to be the pack leader; failure to put your dog in his place — no matter how cute and cuddly he is — can result in serious unwanted behaviors such as biting, food- and toy-guarding, as well as destructive chewing. Assert yourself unapologetically as the leader of your family, and your dog will feel more comfortable and relaxed, resulting in better behavior.
Health Matters Specific to Small Breed Dogs
Although smaller breeds typically enjoy longer lifespans than their larger counterparts, they are also prone to certain problems that can result in serious illness. Some suggest that limiting the number of vaccines per vet visit is important for small breed dogs, as their immune systems are more sensitive to chemicals. This immune system sensitivity can also result in allergies; check skin periodically for rashes as well as fleas and ticks. Avoid processed foods, keep household chemicals out of reach and take note of missing leaves on household plants. If you suspect your dog has eaten these items, contact your vet for advice.
In addition, certain breeds are more likely to suffer from problems with the spine, hips or knees. Make a habit of observing your dog on the stairs, during long walks and when standing after a long nap to watch for signs of stiffness. Dental hygiene is also important, so preventive care using canine toothpaste and rinse formulas is recommended.