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7 Small Dog Myths: Know Your Breed

Before we get into Small Dog Myths, behavioral or instinctual, I should prepare you. You might not like what our research findings claim. Yes, small dog breeds have unique characteristics, but most myths seem to be chalked up to behavioral issues…and not your dogs, yours! Yes, most of the common small dog myths, however bad or good, seem to be human issues, not dog traits. Let’s take a look, one myth at a time…and please don’t shoot the messenger.

Small Dog Myth #1 Small Dog Breeds are Aggressive.

Here is a direct quote from Animal Medical Hospital & Urgent Care. “There’s no scientific evidence to indicate that smaller dog breeds are genetically predisposed to be aggressive. The likely reason behind this common dog breed myth has more to do with owner behavior than the dogs themselves.” Ouch, there it is, an aggressive small dog might be stimulated by the leader of their pack, and that’s you. While we did find reasons as to why a small dog breed might act out more than a bigger breed, and size did factor in, the evidence also pointed to aggression being a trainable issue.

Fun fact, all dogs have an innate desire to protect their pack. Even if your dog does not act on this instinct, it’s part of wild dog behavior, an ancestral trait within them. To ensure the longevity of the pack, each dog is prepared to do their part. Your little pooch is just preparing. But if the leader of the pack signals, “Good job, but this is not a threat.” Your pooch should learn how to fall back in rank. Here’s a helpful hint for small and large breeds alike, if you notice your pup is getting overly aggressive, a good learning curve is socialization. Your dog needs to learn how to fall into rank, and how to understand a clear threat from simple socialization. For a better understanding of aggression, as it can be linked to instinctual behavior, read Relieve Your Dog's Separation Anxiety: The Nature of the Beast. While this article is focused on separation anxiety, a lot of research points to ‘dog aggression’, as an anxiety trigger as well. Once you get a better understanding of your dog's triggers, you will have a better understanding of your dog's need to de-escalate the behavior.

Small Dog Myth #2 Small Dog Breeds are Easy to care for.

To decipher this myth first we have to define what ‘easier to care for’ means. Let’s break down all that encompasses caring for dogs in general, the BIGS & the Littles.

  • Food Cost

  • Veterinarian Cost

  • Training

  • General Attention

  • Lifestyle

  • Needs of the Breed

The above bullet list is one of the general categories most dog owners have to take into consideration when taking a dog into the family.

The first two bullets are financial responsibilities. Is it more cost-effective to have a smaller dog breed than a larger dog breed? When it comes to food, sure. Common sense says size matters in feeding schedules and meal planning. But, there are other factors when it comes to feeding. Many dogs, in this day and age, have their fair share of food allergies and intolerances. Chalk that up to environmental issues, not size or breed, but that's a topic for another article. Should your dog suffer from this issue, meal planning can become more costly regardless of breed or size.

When it comes to veterinarian costs the standard issued appointments from a pup, through old age, seem to be consistently the same. The same required visits and the same costs for both small and large breeds. There are however ‘breed-specific’ health issues that all dog breeds can fall victim to. So as far as health care, it seems the chances of further out-of-pocket costs depend on the breed of the dog, not the size.

The one issue we did come across that small dog breeds seem to have, as the big breeds did not, was teeth issues. Another fun fact: Small dog breeds have the same amount of teeth as the bigger dog breeds. Only the Littles have to accommodate all of these teeth in a smaller jaw. This causes crowding, which causes issues, which can mean more financial obligations.

So when financial obligations are compared, smaller dog breeds might need extra care when it comes to teeth, making smaller breeds a little more ‘attention required,’ an opposite standpoint than ‘easier to care for.’

If you think your dog has a food allergy try a 5Strands test kit. The Beach Dog highly recommends and is affiliated with 5Strands. I have two large breeds, both with food allergies, and 5Strands helped me to find the foods to avoid, most importantly, they helped me find a menu that is safe for both of my dogs, making feeding and meal planning easy and tolerable for both my dogs. Use Coupon Code: TheBeachDog to get 10% off.

The next two bullets are training and general attention and seem to focus on all breeds in general. Some breeds need more attention because they have higher energy levels. Don’t be fooled into thinking small dog breeds just want to snuggle, we will address that in Myth # 3 & 4. The truth is there are 20-plus small dog breeds that are classified as ‘high energy.’ Because we decipher these issues in Myths 3-4, we can skip the details here. Just know that not all small dog breeds are cute and cuddly. It’s important that when choosing your breed you choose by needs, not by looks. Looks can be deceiving. Some small dog breeds might crave attention and training. These breeds are considered ‘working breeds.’ Yes, small dogs can be classified as working breeds. (Just don’t tell the big dogs). Working breeds are driven by intellectual and physical stimulation. Most small dog breeds that fall under the ‘working breeds’ categories are bred for herding, hunting, and retrieving. But they thrive on energetic activities, so are they easier to care for, no, not so much. If you're looking for a small dog breed that is easy to care for, make sure to study the breeds.

Small Dog Myth #3 Small dog breeds don’t need exercise.

It’s only fitting that we segue into the question of exercise after finding these 20-plus small dog breeds that are feisty and energetic. Not all small dog breeds are cute and cuddly, some are bred to work. They are mentally stimulated to learn and their biggest priority might be to impress their pack leader. They are built for stamina and want to be on the go. So don’t let the size fool you when it comes to these small dog breeds. If you want to cuddle and watch a movie most Terrier breeds might not let you. They might prefer to play in the backyard or go out for a hike. Some of the smaller dog breeds love to exercise. So if you're looking for a small dog breed that dislikes exercise as much as you do, it’s important you know your breed.

Small Dog Myth #4 Small Breeds are Lap Dogs

Again, keeping in mind the 20-plus small dog breeds that are built for training, hunting, herding, working, retrieving, and love exercise, small dog myth number 4 seems to be nothing more than a false fact. Not all small breeds are suitable lap dogs. If you pick any one of these small dog breeds and think a lazy Sunday with your dog snuggled up on your lap is going to be the best day ever, think again. You might end up with a very disruptive lazy day indeed, making it more chaotic than chill. Opposite from a lap dog. Some breeds just can’t sit still. This doesn’t make them a nuisance, it just makes them better suited for the active pet owner.

Small Dog Myth #5 Small Dog Breeds are Hypoallergenic.

Before we address myth number 5, which states small dog breeds are hypoallergenic, let’s backtrack. What is hypoallergenic? Healthline defines hypoallergenic as “a product that contains few allergy-producing substances known as allergens.” Therefore a hypoallergenic small dog breed is a breed that causes fewer reactions to allergies. To further backtrack, what is a dog allergy? VCAAnimal Hospital defines a dog allergy as being triggered by “protein particles.” Stating that “Some people are allergic to the proteins found in canine saliva and dander.” Dogs lick fur, thereby contaminating fur with saliva. Dogs also shed, thereby transferring fur around the house. Skin is also shed, in humans, we call it dandruff, in dogs we call it dander. Both saliva-contaminated-shedded fur, and dander, contain the protein particles that stimulate allergic reactions and symptoms in some humans. So some humans are allergic to dog fur and dander, not the dog.

So myth number 5, small dog breeds are hypoallergenic. There is no scientific evidence to confirm that any dog breed, BIG or little, is 100% hypoallergenic. There are, however, breeds that shed less than other breeds, thereby causing fewer allergic reactions in humans that are stimulated adversely by the protein particles that trigger symptoms. Therefore, once again, if you feel you could have a dog-triggered allergy, it’s important to research breeds. Some breeds that shed less might be a suitable pick for you. Research small breeds like, poodles, bichon frise, and whippets, if you think you need a more hypoallergenic option. The research shows that not all small dog breeds are hypoallergenic.

Small Dog Myth #6 Small Dog Breeds are Yappy

Okay, back to the human factors in the equation, remember…don’t shoot the messenger. Once again, there is no researched evidence to confirm that small dog breeds are prone to bursts of barking, aka yapping. The Union Leader states “Dog behaviorists list three things that tend to produce a barking dog — lack of obedience training, lack of shared activities with their owners, and the use of punishment.” They say punishment, we choose ‘discipline.’ A lack of discipline can lead to a Yappy dog. Agree or disagree there are studies that indicate a barking dog tends to be alerting to something. Again we can track barking to our dog's ancestry. Wild dogs communicate through barking. It is the pack leader's responsibility to acknowledge the communication and respond so as to close the line of communication. Again, a barking dog isn’t a bad dog, and neither is a non-stop barking dog, which can occur in both large and small breeds. A yapping dog is mostly blamed on the owner and training of the dog. If your dog is yappy or prone to barking outbursts, acknowledge what your dog is communicating and teach him or her how to move on from the communication. Yappy dogs are a direct result of human behavior, not the dogs. You're the leader of the pack. There are many training techniques that work on Yappy dogs, both big and small breeds.

Small Dog Myth #7 Small Dog Breeds Poop in the House

I’ve literally heard people say “I’ll never get a small dog, they poop in the house.” Well so would a big dog if you don’t train them. This is a longer and more complicated myth than most. Honestly, I think it deserves its own article altogether. The excellent news is Companion Animal Psychology states “ 67% of small dogs and 95% of large dogs were completely house-trained.” So it’s a smaller percentage of small dog breeds that seem to have trouble with pooping in the house. The bad news is, once again, the research appears to blame the pack leader, yes you, as the main culprit. Lack of specific training or follow-through could be the reason your small dog breed is pooping in the house.

The research shows a plethora of reasons why a dog might not be poop training appropriately. For article length purposes I’ve added a bulleted list.

  • Small dogs need to ‘go’ more frequently

  • Small dogs produce less mess and smell so training ‘mishaps’ might be lax

  • Small dogs are more likely to live in apartment buildings, making trips out more complicated and time-consuming.

  • Small dogs are more baby-like and harder to discipline.

  • Small dogs are given pee-pad access, much like a cat with a litter box

There are other factors such as health and anxiety issues as well. But the takeaway here is not the small breed as much as the small breed owner. No judgment. If you have a small breed pee pads are easier because you live on an 8th-floor apartment building and 9 trips a day is just beyond your scope. No worries. The important point here is if you don’t want your small dog breed to poop in the house, it’s a trainable offense, not a small dog breed trait. But small dog breeds typically need more trips out due to faster metabolism and smaller organs. If you want training to be a successful event, then you have to maintain discipline, no matter what. This includes reprimanding and bringing your dog out, each time they break the rules no matter how cute and innocent they might look. If your dog has health issues or anxiety issues, you must accommodate their needs. The Beach Dog and The Little Beach Dog, always recommend consulting your veterinarian. But truth be told, pooping in the house is not a small dog breed trait. The training may be harder and more complicated due to the nature of the beast…even if that beast is pint-sized and wicked cute.

So there you have it, 7 small dog breed myths debunked. Most of these myths can be accredited to simply knowing your breed, and some can even be due to human behavior above and beyond small dog issues. The good news is, if any are adverse issues you are having, there are training assets readily available that can debunk any small dog breed myth you might be up against. Likewise, if any of these myths are a deterrent in adding a small dog breed to your family unit, know that they are not facts. But you must take into consideration the breeds that accommodate your lifestyle, and know that training is key, as you are the leader of the pack.


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