Small dogs are different

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

Picture of a Shih Tzu illustrating that small dogs are different

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.

Puppies are awful, tyrannical beasts

We seriously dislike puppies. Puppies are awful, tyrannical beasts. They try to control every aspect of your life, demand attention 24/7, and try to maim you with their teeth. 

Puppies are awful, and also awfully cute.

After a couple weeks of getting up in the middle of the night to parade around outside in your jammies, going through an entire bottle of peroxide, doing innumerable loads of laundry, and mourning your favorite pair of shoes, you may wonder, “What was I thinking?”

And then you glance over to where the little dictator is napping on his back, having little puppy dreams with twitching, huge paws, and your heart melts just a little more.

Puppies are awful (ly) cute

We are actually blessed (we think) by having terrible recollection for bad stuff. It’s a mixed blessing. Because when we get ourselves back into a frustrating and exhausting situation, like raising a puppy, it comes rushing back after we’re already in the midst of it. 

And then we remember “Oh, yeah. That’s why we don’t like puppies!”

Let’s face it. If puppies weren’t so incredibly adorable, there’d be no excuse for them.

Like grandparenting

One of the great joys we have in the shop is outfitting new puppies – getting to meet them when their people bring them in. We get all the good parts, petting, cuddling, nuzzling adorableness. And then we get to hand them back to their people. Having a supply shop is like being a grandparent. You get the fun, play parts of being with the puppy. And then they go home and someone else does their laundry. 

Love dogs

On the other hand, we love dogs. Dogs are sweet, cuddly, fun roommates that never tell your secrets, never judge, and always willing to lend an ear. The best way we’ve found to wind up with an amazingly wonderful dog is to raise them up from puppyhood. 

We understand that there are countless wonderful adult dogs to adopt. For various reasons (other dogs in the home, dog sports training, etc.) we’ve always started with puppies. 

Not that we can prove it. There never seem to be enough puppy pictures. That’s probably because instead of taking pictures, you’re too busy chasing the puppy to grab something out of its mouth. Or peeling it off the other dog’s ear. Or stopping it grabbing the laundry and running off,  shredding the rugs, gnawing on the furniture, peeing on the floor, etc. Exchanging your sock for the toy you bought especially for the little darling.

The only time you can count on getting a good picture is when the puppy is sleeping. And how many sleeping puppy pictures does anybody need?

Remember to stop and enjoy

Puppies are awful, but puppyhood is a fleeting instant in the dog’s life. The misery is really acute during the teething period, starting at about four months. But we keep telling ourselves that the more “work” we put in when they’re little, the less we have to do later. And after all – we sort of wrote the book on “Puppy Basics.” 

Dogs love routine. Habit reigns supreme

Dogs love routine. Schedules are well inside their comfort zones. Don’t agree? Think about the last time you had a non-routine day off and wanted to sleep in. How did that work out for you? 

If your dogs are at all typical, not so well. If you were lucky, you managed to convince your dog to go back to sleep after a quick potty trip. Unless Fido insists on breakfast first. And then, maybe a nap. 

Habit rules the universe

Scientists will tell you that the driving force of the universe is gravity. It’s not. It’s habit. For the most part, we take advantage of its power. We get the dogs used to the morning schedule: potty break, breakfast, small nap (while people get morning stuff done!), morning chores (usually grooming), play training games, potty break, off to work.

Dogs love routine like this French Bulldog playing a training game.

Which is just ideal for work days, since we get everything done that we need to do, and still make time to smile and play with our dogs. Each one gets individual time. We get the gift of starting every day with some fun. 

What happens on days we don’t have to work? On Sundays, the only day the shop is closed, we have a different, regular routine. The dogs don’t love this routine, but they’re used to it, and it all gets done. Sunday mornings are nails – all the dogs’ nails. And, on occasion, the Bearded Dragon’s nails, too. 

It’s akin to a factory assembly line, each one in turn: nails, teeth, face, ears.  Nails, teeth, face, ears. Rinse and repeat, quite literally. It’s all quite exhausting (for them), so after lunch there’s vast quantities of dog napping. There’s nothing more peaceful than relaxing with your comfy, clean, napping dogs around you.

Glitch in the system

As much as dogs love routine, they’re totally thrown off by silly human things like holidays. And vacations in place completely throw them for a loop. It’s the same – but different. And they have absolutely no idea what to do with themselves.

Which means our hopes and dreams for a nice, relaxing day off are dashed. The morning starts at the same time. Because dogs’ internal clocks are eerily accurate. We do all the regular morning things. And then try to relax.

Which the dogs don’t understand at all. They either get crazy chasing each other around and playing. Or else they sit and stare at us. Booker, Fran’s very special 8-year-old Boston, is particularly discombobulated by schedule changes. 

Worth figuring out

In the last year and a half certainly, there’s been no getting away, no vacation, and only rare days off. Too few to develop an alternate routine the dogs can recognize and adapt to. In the olden days, pre-pandemic, we enjoyed some time away for vacation and usually the dogs came along. And they adapted just fine to the “anything goes” freedom of vacation days.

That may be the key – developing an alternative, holiday routine for the dogs. They’ll love it!

Dogs’ lives are too short

The longer you live, the more dogs you love, the more mourning you’ll have to do. As author Agnes Sligh Turnbull said: “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” 

Picture of a short-haired brown dog's face for the post Dogs lives are too short

A friend of a friend got some awful news this week – her dog has an untreatable condition that will soon take the dog’s life. “Coco” is small and only nine years old. The woman expected to have many more years with her best friend. And now has to reshape her vision of the future.

Dog bucket lists

In the last couple of years we’ve seen stories about dogs completing “bucket lists.” And if it helps the people cope with the impending loss of their dogs, that’s what they should do. But we’ve never been big fans of lists of “things to do before death.” 

If there’s a goal you want to reach, accomplish, attempt – make plans and go do it. For yourself and your dog. 

If you’re facing a similar situation, instead of projecting new stuff on your dog, do more of the stuff your dog loves. Not all dogs will enjoy, or even understand, a sudden change in routine. As we’ve said many times, most dogs are big fans of schedules.

Preparing for the day

Some people think it’s better to have time to prepare for a dog’s death. We’re not so sure. Over the years we’ve lost dogs in all different ways – none of them is “better.” Sudden is shocking. Slow is a constant ache. And, no matter how you try, you’re never prepared for the quiet emptiness when you come home.

Coco has been diagnosed with the same silent killer that took our dog Teddy a couple of years ago. That’s probably why the news is hitting us hard. We’ll never “get over” it, but we have learned to live with it.  

And, fortunately, the community of people who understand and sympathize is easier to reach and larger than it was before the internet. Back in the day, there weren’t social groups whose common interest was dogs. And non-dog people just don’t understand the impact. 

Sorry for them

Actually, we feel sorriest for people who have never known the love, and loss, of a dog. They don’t understand the selfless, unconditional love that dogs bring to life. As badly as it eventually hurts, loving a dog is never a mistake.  Their loss never overshadows the smiles they brought. We can’t let it. 

It’s advice we’ve given many times over the years. People, mourning their dog’s death, will say “I’m never getting another dog. It hurts too much.” 

Yes, it does. But to honor  your dog’s life, you can’t let their death be more important. Dogs’ lives are too short. The joy they bring is disproportionately large. Hug your dogs.