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Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

This article was written by TOBALIE in cooperation with Nathalie Sari - Tiertraining & Verhaltensberatung

Small dogs are dogs too…just smaller. What distinguishes them from large dogs? What do you have to pay special attention to when keeping them? Which equipment is suitable for small dogs? Here you will learn everything important and some tips for the keeping of small dog breeds.

Particular dangerous situations for small dogs

Because of their size, small dog breeds are more often overlooked or misunderstood, which can become more of a danger in everyday situations.

– Crowds: Pay special attention to your sweetheart among many people. If possible, take him in your arms and avoid such places.

– Dog interactions: Small dogs are more “fragile” and will hurt themselves more quickly if a large dog jumps on them, for example. Unfortunately, their body language is also often more poorly recognized and misunderstandings occur. In play, they become the hunted more quickly, which becomes a danger as soon as the game tips. More info here: When big dogs play with little ones.

– Cold: Because of their proximity to the ground, small dogs freeze more quickly and should wear dog clothing when it is cold.

– High Meadows/Snow: Where others can easily look above, small dogs quickly get stuck. Running is much more exhausting for them here, they get off the trail more easily, possibly get lost, and are simply exhausted more quickly.

– Falling things: Things that fall on them can hurt them more easily.

What should you pay special attention to with small dogs?

– Go to eye level: Small dogs have a different perspective, everything seems big and sometimes scary. Be careful not to lean over them.

– Play only with small or very cautious dogs who are considerate and can back off.

Why small dogs often have a hard time

Unfortunately, smaller dogs are often not taken seriously, treated differently and ridiculed. The lack of respect often leads to encroaching actions, such as when we pick them up on a whim, dress them up, only take them for walks in a child’s scale, or pet them against their will.

They are simply perceived as less dog-like. Growling small dogs are laughed at, with a Rottweiler probably no one would laugh, but what is the difference? Right, the size only, because it is a warning. Of course, it hurts less to be bitten by a small breed of dog, but it is unfair not to respond to their communication because of it. This creates the stereotype that small dogs are barkers. This is because they have learned that their body language is overlooked and they can only achieve success (usually more distance) by barking, threatening, etc.

Their needs are those of a dog. Even small dogs want to go for a walk, explore the environment, etc. A litter box at home or only being carried by the arm is not species-appropriate and prevents them from acting out their natural behaviors. They are not (only) lapdogs, even if some of them are happy about cuddling hours, just like big dogs.

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Why education is often lacking.

On the education, unfortunately, not always so much importance is attached, because the behavior is perceived as not disturbing. If a small dog jumps up it is rather sweet, if he pulls on the leash it is hardly noticed, etc. But not only is it more comfortable for small dogs to walk on a loose leash, to stay with the example, they are also very eager to learn and enjoy training time with you. Without clear boundaries and predictability, dogs are often unsettled and don’t know what to expect. In addition, listening to recall, for example, is also relevant for safety.

Behavior always serves a purpose. So always ask yourself: How is my dog doing with the behavior and why does he show it? Help him in unpleasant situations and train with him. More about training later.

What equipment is suitable for small dogs?

The right accessories are important in dog keeping. For smaller dogs, pay special attention to use light equipment that is adapted to the size.

– Carabiner: This should be as small and light as possible, so that it is not uncomfortable for the dog.

Leash: Make sure the leash is as light as possible. Flexi leashes are not optimal for small dogs, because the permanent pull is very uncomfortable for them and there is a risk of injury with the plastic housing. Attention: Please do not pull your dog upwards by the leash!

Harness: This should also have a good fit and narrow belts. Even though step-in harnesses, for example, are easy to put on, make sure they are not too close to the armpits so that the dog is not restricted when walking.

Muzzle: If your pet needs a muzzle, make sure it is the right size and made of a lightweight material.

– Stairs: A dog ramp or pet stairs can make life easier. With this, even small dogs can make it to the sofa, car or anywhere else on their own. Because when trying to jump up or down, they can sometimes injure themselves.


We can make life more pleasant for small dogs by training some things with them. This way the dog learns how to react in certain situations. Being helped strengthens trust/bonding and feeling safe gives him a bit of self-determination.

– Hands from above: Very important, because this often happens in everyday life. That’s why it’s good if your dog likes it and is not afraid of it.

– Signals for predictability: In order not to be frightened or to find it particularly embrace are signals for such as lifting, leash on/leash off, etc.

– Coming to you: Your dog should be able to rely on you. If he is overwhelmed in a situation, he should come to you and be protected (safety zone).

– Loose leash: It is not necessary to walk permanently close to you, because looking up to you brings health problems. However, walking on a loose leash is in turn good for health and makes the walk more relaxed.

– Brushing teeth: Since small breeds are especially prone to dental problems, it is important to teach them to clean their teeth in a positive way.

– Self-determination: Small dogs do NOT have to endure everything. Ask your dog more often what he wants. Teach him to do things on his own, such as putting on a harness, moving to the side, etc.

– Dog Interactions: Bow walk to avoid collision, barking is ok to get attention before being run over.

Tricks & Tips: Catch treats or let them eat off the floor so you don’t have to bend down so much. Another option is to put the treat in a ladle or spread liverwurst on a wooden spoon.

A good tool is also the target stick.

What are common diseases of small dogs?

Typical health problems of small dog breeds are: Misaligned teeth, patella luxation, teary eyes (narrowed tear ducts), open fontanelle depending on the breed, syringomelia (congested cerebrospinal fluid), brachycephaly (short snout, airways narrowed), short legs-long back-back problems, etc.

Some of the small dog breeds belong to the so-called torture breeding dogs. Unfortunately, nowadays not only miniature breeds but even teacup dogs are bred. In Toy dogs, many health problems worsen even more, which is why the life expectancy is lower.

Even though the medications for small dogs are usually cheaper, unfortunately, in many cases you have to visit the vet more often.

Treat small dogs like big ones?

Yes and No. The important thing is to understand your dog’s language and take him seriously, so size doesn’t matter. But of course with very small dogs you have to pay more attention to certain things or think a little differently than with big ones.


Small dogs often have a harder time in life. If you have a small dog ask yourself again and again the question: Would I do the same with a big dog? Be there for your darling, pay attention to him and take him seriously! Even a small dog is a dog and has the right to be treated as such.