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From the Affenpinscher to the Yorkshire Terrier, toy breeds might be the miniatures of the dog world. But their small sizes pack big personalities and their needs are as big as any other dog. Small dogs aren’t accessories – they want to play, learn, and be active. While there are some safety considerations to think about with keeping very small dogs safe overall, they’re the same as any other dog. Don’t let the small size of toy breeds limit the opportunities you provide them to learn, play and explore the world! Here are some things to keep in mind when owning and interacting with toy breed dogs.

Home Safety for Small Dogs

Toy breeds are often active and energetic but may need a little extra help to stay safe in the home. Baby gates to block unsupervised access to flights of stairs can help protect toy breeds. With toy dogs, it’s also a good idea to invest in doggie stairs or ramps to help these tiny dogs with safely getting on and off of high furniture such as beds and couches and avoiding big jumps which can lead to injuries.

Chihuahuas standing on a window seat.
©pixbull -

Public Safety for Small Dogs

Socialization is extremely important for toy breed puppies to ensure that they develop into well-adjusted and socialized adult dogs. With toy breeds, you want to approach socialization the same way that you would with a larger dog. That incudes bringing your puppy to dog-friendly public spaces. However, with toy breeds you do need to be a little careful. You’ll want to be particularly cautious in crowded areas. Unfortunately, the general public isn’t always attentive to the existence of very small dogs. When in a crowd, a small dog could get stepped on, which can result in injuries. You may want to pick your dog up when navigating these tight or crowded these spaces.

Attending pet-friendly places with your toy breed is easy and fun but it’s important not to attempt to bring them into places that aren’t dog-friendly. It might seem harmless but doing so can cause access challenges for service dog teams.

Greetings for Small Dogs

Seeing a bright-eyed little dog often draws a crowd, especially if your toy breed is demonstrating how well socialized and trained they are. It seems like everyone loves a toy dog and people of all ages including children are likely to approach and want to pet your dog. But being leaned over and surrounded by people can be overwhelming.

Frequently, people will attempt to pick up toy breeds when greeting. Being picked up by strangers can be frightening to dogs and it also increases the risk of injury as someone could accidentally drop your dog. Unfortunately, people have a tendency to forget our tiny dogs aren’t stuffed animals. When walking a toy breed you may need to remind people about appropriate ways to greet dogs.

Because of their small size, it’s easy for toy dogs to be unintentionally injured when playing with larger dogs. If your tiny dog is social and enjoys greeting other dogs, be thoughtful about the size of your dog’s playmates. Don’t forget to closely monitor engagement between toy breeds and large dogs to ensure playtime is safe for everyone.

Miniature Pinscher, two Chihuahuas, and a Pomeranian sitting together outdoors.
©cynoclub -

Training for Small Dogs

One of the most important things to do with small dogs is to give them the same opportunities to learn that you would a larger dog. Because toy breeds are small, people sometimes ignore their training needs. This can set these dogs up to have a less balanced and enriched life. Sometimes people make the mistake of sheltering toy breeds from other dogs. However, they need the same level of socialization as any other dog. Register your toy breed puppy for puppy classes and be sure to continue your obedience training as your dog ages.

Small Dogs Can Do It All

Almost anything big dogs can do toy breeds can do as well! From becoming service dogs to working as therapy dogs there are many small dogs doing very big jobs. Dog sports are great ways to channel your small dog’s drive and have a wonderful time together. Toy breeds excel at obedience and agility as well as AKC Scent Work, tricks, and other sports. Don’t underestimate these pint-sized athletes— if given the opportunity, toy breeds can make great canine competitors in performance events.

Related article: The Most Popular Dog Breeds of 2023
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