In Defence of Small Dogs
Quite often, people will come to me looking for dog breed recommendations. I am always happy to give advice on breeds that are a ‘good fit’ for people and discuss training tips. What I’m much less fond of, is the following exchange:
Friend: I’m not really interested in having to do a lot of training and the dog would only be able to get about a half hour walk a day.
Me: Oh well, there’s still plenty of breeds that could suit you. What about a Maltese or-
Friend: Ugh, no! I don’t want one of those annoying yap yap dogs.
And this is the point where I sigh and nod politely while the person goes into length about how they would prefer a Siberian Husky even though their care commitments would be better suited to a Chihuahua.
The perspective that little dogs are somehow “not real dogs”, “rats” and “yap yaps” is all too common and needs to end.
So I want to dispel a few myths about little dogs and highlight some of the great things these little creatures bring to the table.
Myth 1: Small breeds aren’t ‘real’ dogs
This one is ludicrous considering the Lhasa Apso (of which Halo is half) is considered to be one of the most ancient breeds, with origins dating back more than 4,000 years. To put this into perspective, the German Shepherd Dog dates back to the 1850’s. So, Halo could be more closely related to the ancestral wolf than your average German Shepherd Dog. Something to think about.
Myth 2: Small dogs are poorly behaved
While more owners tend to report small dogs as being less obedient, this is more so a reflection of selection bias than anything else. The linked study found that owners of smaller dogs reported to engage in shared activities, exercise and training a lot less than the owners of larger dogs. As such, the ‘yap yaps’ are a product of poor dogmanship, not an intrinsic characteristic of small dogs themselves.
Based on the above (debunked) myths, it is clear that little dogs are still dogs and thus the principles of dogmanship still apply. Simply put, treat them like a dog, attend to their needs and you will have well behaved animal, from Yorkie to Rottweiler. Having said that, there are some unique benefits that come with owning a little dog:
1. Lower exercise and training requirements
If you prefer snuggling on a couch compared to running 5-10km every morning and participating in canine agility, then a small toy breed is for you! After a short walk and a couple of minutes of trick training, a lot of toy breeds are content to be couch potatoes. An important thing to note here is lower requirements does not mean none, these dogs still need dogmanship to help them thrive.
While I’m not advocating using your dog as a handbag accessory, there certainly is some benefit to being able to get your dog out of danger fast. It also means that their, ahem, leavings are likewise easier to dispose of.
3. They’re so damn cute!
While this perspective isn’t necessarily scientific, there is something to be said for the immediate surge of dopamine that look at and interacting with a dog can provide. Little dogs are often a lot easier to keep inside, so this maximises your oxytocin and dopamine doses. Who can argue with that!?
In summary, PLEASE stop thinking of little dogs as poorly behaved ‘yap yaps’ and instead see them for what they are: dogs that (due to their ease of care) too easily end up in the wrong hands. If you’re looking for a dog yourself, why not consider getting one on the smallish side? If your dogmanship is on point, you won’t regret it 😉