Little Dogs Rock! See a small dog trotting along and most people react. Ahhhs and oohs can also be ewws and ughs. Here in the UK people shout ‘Yappy!’ and award them the nicknames ‘Armpit pets’ or ‘Handbag dogs’.
So I confess to you all now. I accidentally have two of them. I adore all dogs of course. As a trainer I am image-bound to own a massive mutt. But I now think little dogs rock!
Size isn’t everything in a dog
As a dog trainer and behaviourist, my daily dog diet consists of big, beautiful, strong, out of control dogs. I have lost count of the times I’ve taught handling techniques for comfort and kindness to owner and dog teams. A friend described me recently as ‘The Dog Wrangler’ which made me laugh aloud (I am 5ft 2). I have persistent hip and knee ache from re-training lunging mighty mutts. I empathise. I have been that owner.
I have owned a great big galumphing gorgeous collie and regularly look after pretty sizeable dogs, with usually 4 or 5 in the house. If you own a collie you will see my eyes mist over in anticipation of my collie ‘fix’… but don’t yell at me when I tell you, one of my absolute pleasures in life is to look down and see my tiniest dog Bonnie sitting patiently wanting a lap to curl up in. She high fives with my finger. Her bark and play noises can only be heard by bats.
The tiny dog has seen a rise in popularity and celebrities are much criticised for using them as accessories, giving a false image of the responsibilities of dog ownership. To be fair, we all make choices based on attraction don’t we? The problem arises when we don’t look beyond this. The celebrity tiny dogs I look after are probably better socialised, more tolerant and better behaved than most.
Little dog, big heart?
A small dog can have temperament ‘spikes’ in the same way as a big dog. My adored terriers throughout my life always have the kind of steely edge that would make an Akita quake (I love that about them, by the way). Little dog, big boots, sometimes a bit too big for those boots…
The tiny dog, like all dogs, need to be well socialised. But the tiny dog also needs to get used to the fact that most other living organisms they will meet will tower above and loom down at them. The tiny dog will be suddenly hoisted aloft for a waiting snuggle, or be surrounded by cooing folk. The tiny dog may need to tolerate a breathtaking and ever changing array of costumes, coats and dog clogs.
Little dogs in history
It’s not a recent phenomenon. A recent genetic study has found that small domestic dogs probably originated in the Middle East more than 12,000 years ago. Melissa Gray and Robert Wayne, from the University of California, Los Angeles, led a team of researchers who surveyed a large sample of gray wolf populations. She said, “The mutation for small body size post-dates the domestication of dogs. However, because all small dogs possess this gene, it probably arose early in their history. Our results show that the version of the gene found in small dogs is closely related to that found in Middle Eastern wolves and is consistent with an ancient origin in this region of small domestic dogs.”
Visions of ancient bling collars are marching through my head at this point…
Little dogs and their loved ones
The tiny dog owner, on the other hand, has to steel themselves for an onslaught of non-attention with the dog striking up more conversations than they ever will. Every venture out in public takes three times as long with echoes of ‘Look! Sweeet!’ ringing in their ears. And the tiny dog owner-professional trainer/behaviourist (me) has to endure a never-ending stream of mickey-taking from her German Shepherd owning colleagues. Good job I am well socialised.
So, my point? If I take into account the training that still has to be done, the housetraining issues that seem to accompany the small dog household, the choosing of temperament, the social experiences that ALL dogs need… I still love going home to them. My little dogs rock.