In lots of ways, dogs are dogs. Their commonalities far outweigh their differences. But in a few significant ways, small guys differ from their larger counterparts. Some of those ways are purely physical. Others are more a matter of perspective.
Focus on the physical
Just in terms of the size differences – little dogs are prone to some specific maladies. Collapsing trachea is one of the most common, which is why it’s always a good idea for little dogs to wear harnesses instead of collars. Other specific issues common to toy-sized dogs include dental issues, hypoglycemia, and slipping knee caps.
Bigger dogs also have size-related physical issues, they’re just different issues. Joint dysplasia, bloat, and wobbler syndrome are all more common in giant breeds.
Every size of dog has something going on. As do we all. To put the physical in context – no one gets only the “best” genetics from their ancestors. There’s good and bad in everybody’s genes. Same for dogs.
Differences in outlook
Small dogs see the world from a different point of view. As a thought experiment – picture yourself walking through a forest of giant Redwood trees. Now imagine that all of those giant trees had two legs and were moving around. And you have no way of knowing which way they’re going. Not mentioning that those trees, with their long legs, are going so fast that you can barely keep up. Or get out of the way.
For a more realistic sample, get down on your floor. Not on your hands and knees. That would be a medium or large dog’s point of view. Get down on your stomach and see your surroundings from your little dog’s viewpoint. Be sure not to kick your dog while you army-crawl around to take a look.
Small dog issues
The world’s a different place when your sight line is less than a foot off the ground. It’s likely you’ve seen all kinds of nooks and crannies around the place you never noticed. And dust bunnies even the most meticulous housekeeper had no idea were there. Not to mention all the cords there are to chew. When you think about all the trouble your small dog could have gotten into, and didn’t, it’s marvelous she’s such a good girl.
Small dogs are often faulted for being hyper, or yappy, or jumping on people. But let’s face it. Behavior that people don’t tolerate in larger dogs, like jumping, is often not addressed with little dogs. Their jumping doesn’t hurt, and likely won’t knock anyone over, so small dogs aren’t trained not to do it.
Same with walking calmly by your side. Little dogs learn quickly how to avoid getting stepped on. And most people don’t care where their dogs are walking, as long as it’s not underfoot. Many little dogs are actually afraid of feet. We can’t blame them. Getting those tiny paws stepped on a couple of times would teach any dog that feet are scary.
Call for attention
Of course there’s no reason that little dogs can’t be trained to behave appropriately at home and out. But many people don’t bother, knowing they can simply pick up their dogs to get out of a difficult situation. It’s certainly more fun to bring your dog anywhere with you, knowing he’ll behave himself. But there is some effort involved in acclimating dogs to society.
We know one woman whose Chihuahua is a hostile, reactive menace. Both at home and, when she used to take it places, away. Offered all kinds of resources to help her dog become more comfortable with the world, this woman refused. She feels safer knowing that no one can approach her, or her home. That’s her choice. But we feel a bit sorry for the dog.
Go against stereotype
Small dogs are just as smart, trainable, and terrific as any other dog. Some are smarter than others. Some are absolutely brilliant. A few may have candlepower that only flickers. But all dogs deserve the chance to live up to their full potential. Understanding your dog’s unique view of the world may be a door to letting your dog unlock the best she can be. The view from under the couch may be different, but it doesn’t limit their lives.