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Small dogs—those weighing less than 20 pounds—have held a steady place in the hearts of Americans over the past four years according to American Kennel Club registration statistics. Since 2000, four of the top ten most popular breeds have been small dogs, indicating that while Americans may be gravitating towards bigger cars and appetites in the 21st century, they still appreciate the affection of a petite pooch.

Three members of the Toy group — the Yorkshire Terrier, Shih Tzu and Chihuahua — as well as the most diminutive member of the Hound Group, the Dachshund, have held their territory in the AKC's top ten over the past four years. Meanwhile, the popularity of lesser-known small dogs has also progressively risen over the past decade. Breeds showing the most significant rise since 1994 include the French Bulldog (increase of 252%), Brussels Griffon (234%), Chinese Crested (134%) and the Papillon (122%).

A steady showing by smaller breeds has not been seen since the 1950's and 1960's, when the Boston Terrier, Dachshund, Chihuahua and Pekingese held proud positions among America's favorite breeds (with an occasional Pomeranian or Miniature Schnauzer barking its way into the top ten). From 1972 forward, our love affair with larger breeds took over, giving rise to the popularity of Doberman Pinschers, Chow Chows and Rottweilers in the 1980's and 1990's. Throughout the 1990's, small breeds showed inconsistent popularity year after year, holding anywhere from one top ten slot to four. However, as the new millenium approached, it was clear that Americans' love of small dogs was here to stay.

As the trend toward owning small, portable pets continues, it's crucial that first-time owners be aware of the kind of care a petite pooch requires.

Breeds in the Toy Group were developed specifically as companions. “This means they crave being near their owners and don't do well if left along for long periods of time,” cautions Lisa Peterson, AKC's Director of Club Communications. “Just because they are small doesn't mean they need less exercise or mental stimulation than other breeds. Anyone interested in buying a small dog should research the needs of the breed and talk to reputable breeders to see if that breed fits their lifestyle.”

“While it's easy to understand the appeal of these small, puppy-like companions, potential owners should be wary of choosing a breed for the wrong reasons. Getting a certain breed of dog because you've seen it on TV or in a movie, or because a celebrity has one is not the best way to choose a family pet,” added Peterson. “All dogs are living, breathing beings, who require care and love.”

Some additional tips for Toy dog owners:

  • Housetraining a toy dog requires patience and perseverance. Many times they feel vulnerable in the great outdoors. Provide a quiet safe place for them to eliminate.

  • Sleeping with your toy dog can leave you vulnerable to inadvertently smothering it with sheets, blankets or your body.

  • Don't be fooled into thinking toy dogs are less expensive to own. They live longer, so any savings on food is likely negated by their longer lives. In addition, every dog needs annual veterinary checks.


For more information on dog ownership.