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Toy dogs - size does matter!

Updated on March 10, 2015
Melody is a two-pound, five-month old Chihuahua being fitted for a harness at our shop.
Melody is a two-pound, five-month old Chihuahua being fitted for a harness at our shop. | Source

Downsizing the dog - and the problems!

Toy dogs, as a group, have almost nothing in common aside from size. Among the most versatile of the American Kennel Club groupings, toy dogs range from elegant Italian Greyhounds to burly Pugs.

While the breeds may have had varied original functions, from ratters to watchdogs, now they all share the same job - being wonderful companions to their human families.

In an increasingly urban society, where space is at a premium, toy dogs have plenty of space in apartments, and a walk around the block can be enough exercise for most of them. While a trip to a safely-fenced park is a bonus, a vigorous game of fetch down a hallway is enough for most. Toy dogs fit on couches, in laps, in carriers, and under the covers.

There's a perfect toy breed for just about every dog-loving lifestyle - it's just a matter of which set of puppy-dog eyes you find impossible to resist.

Breeds in the American Kennel Club Toy Group

Brussels Griffon
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Chinese Crested
English Toy Spaniel
Italian Greyhound
Japanese Chin
Manchester Terrier
Miniature Pinscher
Shih Tzu
Silky Terrier
Toy Fox Terrier
Yorkshire Terrier
Roc, my own 12-year-old Brussels Griffon.
Roc, my own 12-year-old Brussels Griffon.

Taking size into consideration

It's generally true that "the smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan." Toy dogs can live well into their teens, actively, happily, and in good health.

The health problems that toys are prone to include: dislocating kneecaps; dental issues; and (the most serious) collapsing trachea. The last, which is characterized by coughing or choking, can be avoided entirely by using a harness for walking your toy dog, rather than a collar. More and more veterinarians are recommending harnesses - especially for small dogs.

As a lifelong small dog owner, finding a properly-fitting, secure, and comfortable harness was a problem - and one of the reasons my family started our shop,, which specializes in small dog accessories, including dozens of different harnesses.

Yorkshire Terrier puppy Farrah
Yorkshire Terrier puppy Farrah

Yorkies are tops in popularity

Yorkies are the most popular of the toy breeds, according to the AKC's 2013 registration statistics. For good reason - Yorkies are bright, energetic, and true terriers; always ready for a new adventure, or a cuddle on the couch.

When we picture Yorkshire Terriers today, most of us have a sleek, elegant little dog, perhaps with bows in her fur, peeking from the crook of her owner's arm. But the Yorkie's origins are anything but upper-class - tradition says that the breed was developed by workers in the fabric mills of Yorkshire, England to catch rodents in the factories.

Affenpinschers are among the least known

Most people haven't heard of Affenpinschers - ranked at 143 among the 177 recognized AKC breeds. We have a feeling that if more people knew about Affens, their popularity might skyrocket.

One of the oldest of the toy breeds, Affenpinschers were developed in central Europe and their original job was, like many small breeds, to control pests. Affenpinschers (in German "Monkey Terrier) are one of the foundation breeds for both Miniature Schnauzers and Brussels Griffons.

Where to get a puppy

Once you've decided on the best breed of dog for your lifestyle, the next step is finding the perfect puppy.

Don't go to pet shops! All puppies sold in pet shops are puppy mill products and should be avoided.

Don't buy on the internet! All puppies sold through websites and shipped to you are products of puppy mills and should be avoided.

You're probably wondering how I can make such a blanket statement indicting all pet shops and all websites.

The answer is simple. Good breeders, and there are many, many good breeders out there, invest their hearts, souls, and a good chunk of their finances into producing healthy, happy, puppies who are outstanding examples of their breeds. Good breeders know the whereabouts of every single puppy they ever produced, and, chances are, consider their "puppy parents" to be good friends and members of their extended family. They almost always lose money on every litter because of the extensive health testing they do before a litter is even conceived, and the continuing medical expenses throughout pregnancy, whelping, and the first few weeks of the puppies' lives.

So where do you go to get your puppy? All breeds have a national breed club with referrals to responsible breeders in your area. When you contact these breeders, expect them to ask lots of questions - about you, your living situation, your family, etc. They're giving you the "third degree" to make sure their puppies are going to the best possible families and will be cared for throughout their lives.

Would a rescue, or older dog be right for you?

Not all dogs in shelters or rescues are mixed-breeds. There are many reasons dogs wind up in foster or shelter care and their circumstances shouldn't stop you from considering adoption.

With luck, you'll spend more than a decade with your dog - there's every reason to look for a dog you love, in looks, personality, size, and breed. Almost every breed club has a rescue division, so if your head is telling you that you "should" adopt, you can still get exactly the breed you want.

Acquiring the right dog for your family may take a little time and a bit of research, but it's worth it!

National Breed Clubs

Toy dog breeds in brief

What's your favorite toy breed?

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