A small breed dog may be the partner for you
Sweaters, strollers, pet pouches - the accoutrements of the small dog may make us giggle but they serve a valuable purpose for the less-than-20 pound citizens of the canine world. Small dogs are popular companions for people living in smaller homes or apartments. It's important to select the right dog for you and know how to provide for their special needs.
Depending on their breed (or predominant mix of breeds) the exercise requirements of small dogs can vary greatly. A 15-pound West Highland Terrier may look cute-as-a-button but they are also known for typical terrier traits such as high energy and stubbornness. In fact, the American Kennel Club says the following about the terrier group: "Many continue to project the attitude that they're always eager for a spirited argument." The always-charming 7-to-10 pound Papillon is unexpectedly energetic and athletic, which is why they can be spotted in the highest levels of agility competitions.
And then there are dogs like the Pekingese or Pug, who are happy in your lap and thrive with just one or two short walks a day. The American Kennel Club has this to say about the Pug: "The Pug's reason for living is to be near their people and to please them, and their sturdiness makes them a family favorite. They are comfortable in small apartments because they need minimal exercise."
Once you've made your decision on the right dog for you, take a look around your home and think about it from the perspective of a creature who lives low to ground and gets about on little legs. If your animal companion will be allowed on the furniture or in your bed then consider purchasing pet stairs so they don't injure themselves jumping up or down. Keep food, water and bedding relatively near each other so your dog doesn't have to travel too far to get from one to the other. Are you thinking about training your dog to use potty pads? If so, then make sure you place them in several locations around the house to ensure success.
Yes, little dogs are easier to handle than larger dogs but that doesn't mean you should forego training. All dogs benefit from basic obedience and for smaller dogs especially it can help increase their confidence, making them more assured in the big world. It's also important to help your dog be comfortable around strangers, as people find it hard to resist reaching out to pet your small dog (all of us should remember to always ask before petting).
So what about clothing for small dogs? Do they really need it? Small dogs lose heat quickly so it is a good idea to put appropriate clothing on them for the weather. Don't be embarrassed – buy that pink sweater!
If your dog's short legs tire quickly but you'd like to take longer walks then consider a pet stroller or hands-free carrier. Many small dogs quickly adapt to this and then you, and they, can enjoy more time outdoors. If your small dog likes to spend time in the great outdoors of your backyard then accompany them outside to ensure their safety. Dogs of smaller stature can fall prey to wildlife from coyotes to eagles.
With the proper forethought and ongoing care your small dog will bring joy and companionship to you for many years.
Laura Atwood is a public relations coordinator at Anchorage Animal Care and Control.