How to Look After Small Dog Breeds

The information in this article was reviewed and approved by registered veterinary nurse, Beth Walker

Animed Veterinary Nurse, Beth Walker

For many dog lovers, a small breed is the perfect choice when it comes to getting a dog that fits in with their lifestyle and circumstances. With more and more people, particularly younger generations, living in smaller homes like flats and apartments, small dog breeds are the obvious choice. To mention a few, chihuahuas, pomeranians, shih tzus, and dachshunds all make wonderful companions. But, as with any pet, it’s important to make sure small dogs are looked after properly. In this blog, we’ll offer top tips and advice on how to look after small dog breeds.

Are Small Dogs Hard to Take Care of?

Small dogs and toy breeds are no more difficult to take care of than bigger dogs. In fact, they usually incur lower veterinary costs, eat a lot less, and often require a bit less exercise which makes them generally less expensive and lower maintenance than bigger dogs. However, this is not to say they are easy to take care of. Like any other dog, small breeds require plenty of attention, training, stimulation, and exercise. It’s very important to understand this responsibility as a small dog owner. Failing to look after them properly or treating them more like an accessory than a dog can result in behavioural issues.

How to Keep Small Dogs Healthy

Small dogs need the same level of care as larger breeds. However, the type of care they require (in terms of their diet for example) will differ. As well as explaining the nutritional and exercise needs of a small dog, we’ll go through the different accessories, toys and beds that small dogs need, including how to pick the right ones, and which will benefit them most.

Food for Small Dogs

All dogs need to have the right nutrition to stay healthy. However, the appropriate diet for each dog is specific to their individual needs, with breed, size and health conditions all playing a part. This means that small dogs have different nutritional requirements to larger breeds.

Most obviously, small dog breeds require smaller portion sizes to accommodate their smaller stomachs and lower energy requirements. Small dogs also have less powerful jaws, narrower throats and smaller teeth – so kibble size must be adjusted accordingly. So, what is the best diet for a small dog?

Hill’s, Royal Canin, James Wellbeloved and Purina are just a few of the brands that offer small breed specific diets. As well as tailoring the size and shape of their kibble, these dog foods for small breeds also take into account specific nutrient requirements of small dogs, balancing the optimal levels of vitamins and minerals for organ function, shiny coats, healthy digestion and more.

Dental Health for Small Dog Breeds

Smaller dogs have been found to be more prone to dental problems. This could be to do with the fact that their teeth tend to be more crowded, as fitting all 42 teeth into such small mouths is a challenge. Therefore, keeping on top of dental health is even more important for small dog breeds.

Regular teeth brushing, oral gels, dental chews and specialist dental diets can all help. Take a look at our blog ‘Dental Care Tips for Cats and Dogs’ for more advice on this.

Walks and Exercise for Small Dog Breeds

How Many Walks Does a Small Dog Need?

The Kennel Club recommends around 30 minutes of exercise per day for small dogs, but some small breeds may need up to an hour. It’s best to split this into two walks a day.

Activity levels differ from breed to breed so it’s best to check with your vet how much exercise your particular small dog needs each day.

Small breeds are more sensitive to extreme weather. The dangers presented to them by very hot or very cold temperatures outweigh their need for walks, so bear this in high summer and freezing winter. Indoor activities are best in these conditions.

Staying Safe on Walks

Walking in busy public spaces can be dangerous. Understandably, small breeds are not always seen by members of the public, and in busy spaces, they risk getting trodden on. While it’s still essential that small dog breeds are able to socialise and have plenty of walks, you’ll need to be mindful of the places you take them.

Socialisation is just as important for small dogs as it is for bigger breeds. However, be a little cautious if your dog comes across a bigger breed to play with in the park. While it’s likely to be unintentional, playtime between small and big dogs can sometimes result in injuries for the former. It’s important to closely monitor play between small and larger breeds to make sure everyone is safe and happy.

Small Dog Harness

You might want to consider getting a small dog harness to make walks safer and more comfortable for your pup. Small dogs can injure themselves by straining against their collar on walks – they are prone to a condition called tracheal collapse. Harnesses redistribute the pressure over a wider area of the body to avoid this. Harnesses are also more secure than collars, so your small dog is less likely to wriggle out.

Do Small Dogs Need Clothes?

Small dogs are a lot more susceptible to the cold. While they won’t need clothing all year round, many small dog breeds will benefit from a dog coat during the winter months.

It’s important to make sure the coat you choose fits your dog well. Most dog coats will come in a range of sizes, one of which should be suitable for small dogs, but make sure you measure your dog first. Read our blog, ‘How to Measure a Dog for a Coat’ for advice on this.

Toys for Small Dogs

As well as walks, small dogs need plenty of playtime. Play is not only important for physical exercise, but for mental stimulation too. Having a range of toys can help to keep playtime engaging and fun.

Dog toys for small dogs should be the right size for their mouth, which is particularly important for enjoying chew toys. Soft toys, tug toys and interactive games are all great for small dogs too. Just make sure that any toys you choose are small enough for your dog to comfortably pick up and get a good grip on with their jaws.

Watch out for small parts like squeakers, as even small dogs can choke on these.

How to Choose a Small Dog Bed

After all that play, your pup will need somewhere cosy to rest. A small dog bed that your furry friend can feel safe and comfortable in is very important. As we’ve mentioned, small breeds might need a little more help staying warm, and they’re particularly sensitive to cold floors and draughts. ‘Nest’ type dog beds with a roof are a great choice for keeping small dogs warm, as are beds with high sides.

All pups have different preferences when it comes to their bedding, so see what your pet prefers – just make sure they have adequate space, padding and support. Check out our blog, ‘What Type of Bed is Best for a Dog?’ for more advice on choosing the perfect small dog bed.

Small Dog Safety at Home

Small dogs may need a little extra help around the home. They may struggle to climb stairs and to get up onto sofas and beds. Baby gates and ramps can help ensure that small dogs don’t hurt themselves either by falling, or attempting big jumps. This is also important for protecting their overall joint health in the long run, as small dog breeds are prone to several joint conditions. On the flip side, if you don’t have stairs in your home and would rather keep your pup off your furniture, a small breed could be a good choice for you.

Wrapping Up

For many prospective pet parents, small dog breeds are the ideal choice, fitting in with their lifestyles more seamlessly than bigger breeds. Small dogs also tend to have a longer life expectancy, which means they’ll hopefully be by your side for longer. While they make fantastic companions, it’s important to understand the needs of small dog breeds, and be prepared to provide them with all the love, care and attention they need. Exercise, tailored nutrition, play and the appropriate toys and accessories are all essential to making sure your small dog lives a happy, healthy life with you.

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