Tag Archives: small dogs

Dogs love their people. Others? Maybe not.

Dogs love their people. That’s a special and precious relationship. But it may not extend to the world at large. And it doesn’t have to. Dogs’ feelings matter.

Some dogs do love everybody. They love meeting new people and seeing new places. Anyone can say “Hi!” to them and they’re okay with that. But your dog isn’t wrong, or mean, or broken if they don’t. 

Dogs in society

The growth of things like dog parks and doggy daycare foster the notion that socialized dogs have “doggy friends.” And if your dog doesn’t like other dogs, or strange people, there’s something wrong with your dog. That’s not true. Among dog trainers, a well-socialized dog is one who is able to ignore distractions, be calm in unfamiliar circumstances, and pay attention to their person. It has nothing to do with playing nice with other dogs.

Another bizarre idea, probably spurred by internet video, is that dogs should let anyone take anything away from them. If the dog dares to object, either by keeping hold of the thing, or even growling, it’s a bad dog. What happened to the old saying “Let sleeping dogs lie?” Pestering dogs by taking stuff away from them, just to prove you can, may be one reason that dog trainers are seeing more dogs with issues of resource guarding.

Obviously, you have to be able to take things away from your dog. Especially if they’ve gotten hold of something dangerous or toxic. Knowing this, most dog owners teach their dogs some form of “Drop it!” and trade the dog for something they really like, like Chicken Heart Treats. We don’t just randomly reach for their food bowls when they’re eating.

Petting and greetings

We take our dogs many places, especially when we’re training. Our goal is to have that dog be able to focus on us, pay attention to us, and become accustomed to different sights and smells. Many times people charge up, hands outstretched, exclaiming “Look at the doggy!” They get offended when we step between them and our dog and say something like “I’m sorry, we’re training. I’d rather you didn’t try to pet him.”

A small white dog being held by a woman in an orange parka to illustrate Dogs Love their people.

It’s as if, just because we’re out in public, our dogs are public property. They’re not. And they don’t have to be. Even if your dog is a menace to other people, you’re allowed to be out and about together. Our 13-year-old Brussels Griffon Tango was just such a menace when Fran got him. Hope couldn’t even touch him without risking being bitten. But through training and patient persistence, he can now go anywhere and loves everyone. 

Fran was able to turn him around by carefully managing every single encounter with every single person and dog Tango met. No one was allowed to get near him without coaching and a handful of yummy treats. If you have a reactive dog, and you want to change that around, check out Fran’s book: Tango: Transforming My Hellhound

Small dogs more vulnerable

It’s more common for people to ask “May I pet your dog?” when you have a big dog. Little dogs seem to be magnets for hands. They’re little, cute, and hard to resist. And some small dogs enjoy the attention. But if yours doesn’t, it’s okay. It’s okay for you to block those reaching hands. Some may think you’re rude, but that’s okay. You and your dog get along just fine. Dogs love their people. Others are optional.

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Military dogs in size small

Making plans for Memorial Day got us thinking about the dogs who serve. And, because that’s how we think, we wondered if any small dogs have served as military dogs.

As far as we could find out, not officially. All branches of the military in the United States employ dogs. Most have “specific jobs, including: tracking, explosive detection, patrol, search and rescue, and attack,” according to the American Kennel Club. But all of the dogs currently serving in the military seem to be large breeds, with German Shepherds the most numerous. There is mention of Russell Terriers in scent detection, but we couldn’t find confirmation.

Unofficial mascots

However, two of the most famous military dogs of the 20th century were both little dogs. Neither one was officially part of a military training program. Although one, Stubby, was the only dog to be awarded the rank of “Sergeant” through combat.

Military dog Stubby was a Boston Terrier like our very own Booker
Our very own Boston Terrier, Booker

Stubby was a Boston Terrier who served in World War I. He was the unofficial mascot of the 102nd Infantry Division, and served for 18 months. Most of his duties were morale-related, comforting and entertaining the troops. But he also warned of mustard gas attacks. After being injured in one such attack, Stubby was fitted with a custom gas mask. His credits include finding and holding an enemy soldier by the seat of his pants until American soldiers caught up.

After the war, Sgt. Stubby was a celebrity. He met presidents and led parades all across the country. When his owner went to Georgetown, Stubby went along with him and served as the Hoyas’ team mascot. Stubby died in 1926 and is now part of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

Equal rights

The other notable little dog was a female Yorkshire Terrier named Smoky. Smoky was owned by an airman from Ohio who served in the Pacific in World War II. Her most notable exploit was running a telegraph wire through a mostly-closed conduit at the Luzon airfield in the Philippines. Smoky’s tiny size (less than four pounds) and willingness to learn new “tricks” saved the construction detail three days of digging that would have exposed them to enemy bombing. To Smoky’s credit are 12 combat missions and eight battle star awards.

Smoky is the first recorded therapy dog. In 1944 she started acting as a therapy dog when her owner was in the 233rd Station Hospital in New Guinea. She went on rounds with the nurses and doctors to visit their patients.

There is a life-sized statue commemorating Smoky, the “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” in Lakewood, Ohio.

Honoring War Dogs

There are other memorials to dogs that have accompanied the military into harm’s way. The National War Dog Cemetery is at Naval Base Guam. During World War II, Doberman Pinschers served with the Marine Corps during the Second Battle of Guam in 1944.

There is also a U.S. War Dogs Memorial in New Jersey, as well as other memorials around the country. In support of military dogs, both current and retired, there are several non-profit organizations. Former military dog handlers banded together to support their colleagues and their dogs.

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Most Nasty Little Dogs are Just Scared

Small dogs have a big reputation for being aggressive. “Nasty” little dogs is a pretty common phrase. But are small dogs actually more reactive than big dogs? Or are other factors at work that just make it seem that way?

Nature vs. nurture

A dog’s breed has a significant impact on their temperament. Most small dog breeds were developed for pest control. Designed by people to work independently, as hunters. The Yorkshire Terrier, now considered rather fancy, was developed to rid the Yorkshire fabric mills of rats. Not as elegant as they seem!

Many of the terrier breeds are expected to show their feistiness. Even these days at dog shows, judges will ask terrier people to “spar” their dogs – seeing how they react to each other. 

Many of the medium and larger breeds of dogs work closely with people. Calmly doing their jobs, whether that’s retrieving, tracking, pointing, herding, or guarding. Killing vermin didn’t really enter the picture.

So many small dogs are, by nature, readier to react to distractions in their environment. They’re always ready for the chase.

The nurture part

Of course nature is only part of the answer. How dogs are raised makes a huge difference, too. Most people with large, or powerful dogs know their dogs need to be trained to live successfully in society. Small dog people aren’t as likely to seek out manners or obedience classes. We know that, if push comes to shove, we can always pick up our dogs and leave. And, unfortunately, many puppy classes include play periods that may be unsafe for small dogs. It only takes one incident of getting bashed into or rolled over to make a small dog wary of their bigger cousins.

In addition to training, most larger dogs also have a need for more exercise than most people can typically provide in their homes. Even a tiny house is big enough for a little dog to play fetch. So we tend not to take long walks with little dogs.

Confession time

This is where we tend to fail. Even though we live in a very walkable, suburban environment, we’re not walkers. In our minds, there’s always something else that needs doing and taking the time to go nowhere seems like a waste. Of course that’s not really true. Walking has lots of benefits, for both people and dogs. 

Nasty little dogs may not be comfortable out and about.

As a result, our dogs lack the socialization they probably should have. They’re fine in training classes, dog shows, obedience and agility trials. They just can lose their cool when they see other dogs, or bicyclists in the neighborhood greenway.

It’s our fault and we know it. Real socialization of dogs means getting them comfortable in a variety of real life places, so they don’t react negatively. Dogs of any size who regularly get out and about in their neighborhoods are generally calm. Even the smallest dog will be comfortable in familiar surroundings.

Fear based

Most nasty little dogs don’t have a Napoleon complex. They don’t think they’re the kings of the world. They’re afraid, and showing how tough they are in hopes that the threat goes away. No surprise they act this way – fear causes most dog aggression. Even resource guarding behavior has its roots in fear – fear that something the dog values will be taken away.

The cure for nasty little dogs isn’t to punish them or yell at them. It’s to get them comfortable in new places, new experiences, and new encounters. Even if it’s just getting out to the local greenway to practice calmly watching the world pass by. Which we promise to do – as soon as the weather gets warmer. 

The truth about teacup dogs

The truth about “teacup” dogs is: there’s no such thing. It’s a deceptive marketing name for unhealthy, poorly-bred “runts.”

Our shop specializes in stuff for small dogs – up to 30 lbs. We had some trouble finding dog gear to fit the tiniest dogs, but we did it. Supporting all small dog owners is our mission, and we know that mission includes telling the truth about all dogs. The truth is, “teacup” dogs, produced on purpose, are a scheme to take money from people who make emotional decisions.

The pictures are adorable – tiny puppies posed in actual tea cups. It’s probably how the trend started. We know several reputable breeders who take pictures of new puppies in cups and post them. It’s just darling. But it’s a moment captured in time. These particular puppies wouldn’t fit in the cups a week later. And no healthy adult dog should be able to.

Truth hurts

Humans are genetically programmed to like and protect cute little things. That’s why babies are taken care of. They’re a lot of work, without much return. Especially at first. It’s why we all say “Awww, so cute” when we see pictures of tiny little puppies. And our love for small, cute things makes us want them to stay small and cute forever.

Teacup with a dog in it

The problem is that most cute, small puppies grow up to be dogs. We have neighbors that fell for a cute little Husky puppy in a pet store. The kids carried him around, doted on him. And then he grew up into a Husky and has lived in their backyard, howling, for years. 

So while we understand the attraction of a cute little dog that stays little, how little is small enough?

How small is too big?

The smallest of the toy dog breeds are probably the Chihuahua and the Yorkshire Terrier. According to their U.S. breed clubs, which are the guardians of their breeds, the optimal size for a Chihuahua is under six pounds, for a Yorkie the standard says not bigger than seven pounds.

Isn’t that small enough for anyone? Especially when you consider the health risks associated with dogs under two pounds:

  • Hydrocephalus (water on the brain)
  • Liver shunts
  • Heart defects
  • Collapsing trachea
  • Seizures
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Broken bones

Veterinarians will also tell you that treating a tiny dog is more difficult. Imagine the size of the needle to give a “teacup” dog an IV. Not to mention finding a viable vein. 

Don’t leave them

One of the reasons people want teeny dogs is so they can take them wherever they go. As too many “teacup” owners have discovered – the dog has to come along. If they miss a meal, they can pass out and die from hypoglycemia. They’re too small to store the nutrients they need. It’s one thing to want a companion dog. It’s another to be permanently tethered to a dog 24/7.

We mentioned that no reputable breeder is deliberately producing “teacup” dogs. Every breed of dog varies in size, and some puppies are unusually small or large. Just like people. Even within a family, height varies among siblings and cousins. A responsible breeder will make sure that unhealthily tiny puppies are never part of their breeding programs. And that these pups find pet homes aware of the possible issues these dogs may have, and are prepared to deal with them.

Buyer beware

If you’re wealthy and have staff, like a celebrity we can think of who seems to have a new tiny dog often, you can cope with the demands of a “teacup” puppy. 

If you’re a real person, beware. There’s no such thing as a “teacup” dog. It’s clever marketing to drive up prices for the runts that used to be given away. And anyone who is breeding “teacup” dogs on purpose doesn’t care about the health of the puppies they produce. They know that suckers will buy them. By the time health issues crop up, those buyers love that puppy. That’s why these unscrupulous breeders’ “Health Guarantee” often includes a clause that allows return of an unhealthy dog for consideration in a future litter. Return? Most people couldn’t do it. 

Truth about teacup dogs

The truth is that some dogs are small. Some are tiny. And while every dog deserves a loving home, we cannot encourage people to open their hearts to a teacup dog. Wouldn’t a six pound dog be just as wonderful?