Small Dogs in a Big World

Small dogs are like small children. Some of them don't realize the limitations that come with being small. But while children eventually stop thinking they can fly like Superman, your spunky little dog may think he's a superhero all his life. If your tiny dynamo thinks he can take on the pit bull down the block, you need to protect him from his oversized ego. All small dogs need to be monitored in all interactions with larger dogs they do not know. They can't be allowed outdoors on their own unless the yard is securely fenced. Sometimes a tiny tyke can look like prey to his big dog buddies. Similarly, small dogs can feel overwhelmed by boisterous, fast-moving children or other household pets.

Small Dogs and Children

Very young children are unpredictable. Out of sheer curiosity, they may poke your dog's eye, yank its tail, or take a treat out of its mouth. While pet ownership is a wonderful way to teach a child kindness and responsibility, children need to learn how to safely pick up a small dog, and they need to take care not to frighten it with boisterous actions. They also need to leave it alone when it is sleeping or eating. Dogs communicate through body language as well as by barking. Teaching children to understand the dog's signals that it is feeling threatened — growling, lip-curling, stiffening, retreating, and hiding — will make the situation safer for all concerned. Well-socialized dogs only bite when they feel they have no alternative. The adults in the family must supervise interactions between small children and dogs. It's up to you to direct the teaching process so that children will understand that their dog is a living creature, not a furry toy.

How can I get my little dog to be comfortable around children?

By exposing your small dog to children in small doses, you can socialize it to little humans. Of course, just as dogs need obedience training, kids do too. Because they can drop a small dog and cause permanent injury or worse, teach them the correct way to hold a puppy and how to walk it on a leash without dragging it around by the neck.

Some breeds like the Lhasa apso, Pekingese, or Chihuahua are not comfortable with highly active children. The tiniest breeds — the toy poodle, toy fox terrier, Yorkie, and silky terrier — could easily be injured if stepped upon or mishandled. Some are afraid of children's loud, high-pitched voices and wild running around. All small dogs need a place of their own — a bed, a basket, or their crate — where they will not be bothered and can take a restful time out.

Small Dogs and Other Companion Animals

It's not true that dogs and cats are natural-born enemies. Most will accept each other after an adjustment period, usually a week or two. Constant supervision is required when you first introduce them, and you may need to separate them. In such a situation, the cat will usually take it upon itself to disappear and sulk for a bit. (It's easier to introduce a kitten into a household that already has a small dog.)

Keep in mind that terriers are ratters at heart. They were bred to hunt rodents, and they cannot distinguish between unwanted vermin and your pet hamster. Generally, if they can get hold of a mouse, gerbil, guinea pig, or bunny, they will. For this reason, terriers are not compatible housemates for these types of pets.

Dogs are pack animals, and it only takes two of them to make a pack. Many dog lovers would never keep just one because they know that dogs really do form strong bonds of friendship and keep each other company, playing together and curling up to snuggle and snooze when they get tired. If you are introducing a new dog into the home, you need to supervise the initial interactions. Feed the dogs separately, and show equal attention to each one. While some dogs have aggression issues and are better as “only children,” in most cases, having more than one dog means canine companionship for both you and your pets.

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