Important Things You Need to Know About Small Dog Breeds

by Betty Lewis
    Breed and temperament have more to do with how much exercise he needs than size does.

    Breed and temperament have more to do with how much exercise he needs than size does.

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    The many benefits of small breed dogs include they're portable, take up little space and make great companions. However, a small dog isn't necessarily easier than a medium or large breed dog -- the challenges are just different. Buster's diet, exercise and training need to be considered and established with his size in mind.

    Even though all dogs have similar nutritional requirements, one size does not fit all. A small breed puppy has a higher rate of metabolism, burning through his meal quicker than a large breed puppy. If he doesn't get enough calories throughout the day, he may develop hypoglycemia, leading to weakness, lethargy and muscle tremors. These little pups should eat a calorie-dense food three or four times a day. Metabolism rate will decrease with age, but it still will be higher than a larger dog's; a dog food formulated for small breeds is a good choice to provide him energy and help keep him at a healthy weight.

    A small dog's physical stature may be suited to small quarters, but his energy level may be giant. Consider the Jack Russell terrier, a small spark plug of a dog: without enough exercise and attention, this smart, vivacious guy can become quite destructive. Not every small dog is a go-getter and you'll need to watch your pooch to learn if he's getting enough exercise. If he seems restless, wanders about constantly or is getting into mischief, Buster could probably use more exercise. A good, long walk at least twice a day will help him burn off extra energy, and if you have the space, a good game of fetch or tug will also help him channel his exuberance.

    A 15-pound dog is easy to control when he's leashed up, making it common to overlook training. However, training is particularly important for small dogs to keep them from becoming mouthy and overly sensitive to other dogs and people. Just like his larger relatives, a small dog should understand how to sit and come when directed for his own safety. As well, Buster should be housebroken and understand how to walk well on a leash. He shouldn't be allowed to jump on people, even if he weighs but 5 pounds. Of course, you need to be careful with a small dog. However, he won't break and will respond well to gentle, consistent training.

    It's convenient to pick up your pint-sized pooch, but generally, it's best to let him walk on his own. When Buster's in your arms, he's front and center, forced to interact with people and other animals he may not be comfortable with. It may seem to him, however, that you're protecting him. On the other hand, if he's on his own four feet on a leash, he can withdraw or engage to suit himself. You'll probably pick him up in certain situations, though, so teach him a warning cue, such as saying "okay" when you're going to lift him up. This gives Buster a heads up and he won't be startled to suddenly find himself aloft.

    Small dog breeds generally have longer lifespans than large breeds. Sientists aren't quite sure why, but large breeds tend to age quicker than small breed dogs. Small dogs have a few special vulnerabilities, including dislocation of knee joints, vulnerability to broken bones and sensitivity to rapid or extreme temperature fluctuations. Small breeds have narrow pelvic openings, making them prone to problems during birth. The brachiocephalic breeds -- or "smashed face" breeds -- such as pugs and Pekingese, are at risk for breathing problems, particularly in hot climates.

    When you shop for Buster, keep his stature in mind. He'll be more comfortable and easier to handle in a collar and leash suitable for his diminutive status. A jacket or sweater is useful for a small dog in a cool climate. If you give him treats, make sure they're little treats -- he'll pack on weight if you feed him regular-sized treats through the day. And though his bladder isn't an accessory, remember it's smaller too, so he'll need more potty breaks than a large breed dog does.

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    About the Author

    Betty Lewis is a writer and editor specializing in pet care, animals, careers and emergency management. She previously ran an animal shelter, where she also served as a kennel attendant and dog trainer. Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in journalism, an M.B.A. and a master's degree in professional studies.

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