Care Tips for Small Dogs

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on October 19th, 2023

From sassy Chihuahuas to happy-go-lucky Havanese, there’s something so special about having a small dog! And no matter whether they’re purebred or a lovable mutt, there are a few things you can do to give your little guy or gal a happier life.

In this article, we’ll talk about some key care tips for small dogs!

Make your home small dog friendly
The world outside can be an intimidating place for your small dog! But, there are a few simple changes that you can make to ensure that home is their sanctuary:

  • Ramps and stairs. Instead of picking your pooch up to put them on the bed or the couch, consider getting ramps or stairs instead. This will give your small dog more autonomy and keep their bones and joints safe. 
  • Baby gates. Baby gates can keep your dog out of areas of the home that are potentially dangerous, such as the stairs or loft.
  • Window perch. Large dogs can often peep out of the window by looking over the sill or standing on their back legs. And this allows them to check in on the neighborhood and know what’s going on outside. You can give your small dog the same sense of security by installing ledges or placing dog-safe furniture under the window.
  • In the car, install BreezeGuards! Just like your little dog wants to see the world outside at home, they’ll also be tempted to gaze at their surroundings in the car. You can keep them safe while they enjoy the wind in their face with BreezeGuards.

Start training from day one
Because they’re so easy to pick up, many small dogs are not given the full training process that larger dogs go through. Add that to the fact that these little guys often have a natural fear of bigger dogs and strangers, and it’s no surprise that small dogs develop certain behavior problems. There’s even a name for it: Small Dog Syndrome.

But, training can turn things around. Training builds your dog’s confidence, strengthens the bond between the two of you, and gives them an outlet for their anxious energy. Here are a few training areas that are especially helpful for small dogs:

  • Socialization. Providing your small dog with positive interactions with new people, places, and pets will make them less fearful of (and thus aggressive toward) the world.
  • Resource Guarding. One common problem with small dogs is resource guarding, again, because they feel like the lowest dog on the pecking order. So, make an effort to counter this habit, whether it comes in the form of growling when they’re eating or guarding the couch or bed.
  • Leash walking. This is an important skill for all dogs, and small dogs tend to get the least amount of training in this area. After all, their strength is no match for ours, so it’s easy to simply manipulate them to do what we want. But we would encourage you to spend time really training your small dog to walk on a leash. It will make them feel more in control of their movements while lowering their risk for injury.

Be an advocate for your small dog
One of the positives of having a small dog is that they get a lot of attention. And your dog may love the “oohs!” and “awwws!” they get from strangers.

On the other hand, many small dogs feel uncomfortable when a stranger’s hand invades their space. They may defend themselves by barking or snapping.

Instead of punishing your dog or whisking them away, which will worsen their anxiety about strangers, try taking a different approach. 

First of all, don’t allow strangers to touch your dog in a way that your dog doesn’t like. But, if they do want to approach, teach them how to say hi to your dog in a non-threatening way, such as getting down on their level and holding out their hand with a treat. That way, your small dog has the option to engage or keep their distance. 

Don’t neglect those pearly whites
Smaller breed dogs have a higher risk for dental problems such as periodontal disease. So, make sure that dental hygiene is a part of your regular grooming routine!

Again, brushing a small dog’s teeth should never be about forcing a brush into their mouth. Instead, work on gradual exposure and tolerance-building so that tooth brushing time doesn’t feel like an attack.

Remember that all doggos need exercise
There’s a common misconception that small dogs don’t need dedicated exercise. Those little legs mean that walking around the house is exercise enough, right?

The truth is though, providing your small dog with more intentional exercise is important. Taking them for walks outside of the house or playing fetch in the backyard will ensure that they’re actually getting the exercise they need. Plus, the fresh air and opportunity to sniff around is essential to their mental wellbeing! 

Not sure what kind of exercise is right for your dog? Breed plays a big role. Terriers, for example, are considered high energy small dogs, and should receive at least 30 to 60 minutes of playtime per day. Other low-energy small dogs, like Pugs, only need about two to three leisurely walks of about twenty to thirty minutes.

Throw in some mental stimulation
Mental stimulation is another important way to give your small dog a happier, more fulfilling life. This can be in the form of puzzle toys, their favorite chew, interactive playtime, playdates with other dogs, or adventures to new places. If it gives your doggo the chance to use their ears, eyes, sense of smell, and taste in new ways, it’s mental stimulation! And your pupper will love it. 

You’re doing great by your small dog!
The fact that you’re looking for ways to improve your small dog’s life is a sign that your dog is already in a loving, supportive household. Keep showering them with affection and incorporate some of these tips to make them even happier and healthier!

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