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by Pat Ellison
Toy dog breeds might be tiny, but as any owner of a toy dog can tell you, their personalities are huge. The AKC's toy group consists of 21 dogs ranging from Affenpinschers to Yorkshire Terriers, though small breeds can be found in every group.
The AKC advises every potential dog owner to at least consider a small breed, since these diminutive dogs also have s maller problems when it comes to shedding, messes and veterinary care.
Entertaining Toy Dog Breeds at Home
Toy dog breeds like to run around and usually get enough exercise on their own, which makes them ideal for apartment dwellers.
They might have short legs, but they still need to use them. I don't think it's a good idea for people to carry them around everywhere, because then your dog risks becoming overweight. It's far better to let your toy dog get its exercise first, and then carry your dog when it's tired.
Toy dog breeds like toys, so make sure they have enough to keep them occupied. Consider anything that makes noise or swings around. Kong toys are great because your dog gets rewarded with a treat after play.
Feeding a Toy Dog Breed
Sometimes toy dogs are picky eaters. You might want to buy small bags of food until you find a kind your dog likes. I mix some wet food with the dry kibble I feed my dogs. They're nibblers. I think most toy dogs get their exercise from going back and forth to their dishes.
It's important not to over-feed your toy dog breed, so use your best judgment about how much food to offer. I feed mine about 3 tablespoons per dog at mealtimes.
Good Dogs ... for the Right Family
Chihuahuas usually pick out one person in the family as their "person."
If you have children age 10 or younger, consider a toy dog breed carefully and always supervise both the child and the dog. Because these dogs are so tiny, some children might think they're actually toys and unintentionally hurt them. If that happens, some dogs snap.
With other dogs, toy dog breeds might act ferocious -- even if the other dog is older or bigger. However, the toy runs away as soon as the other dog moves. The toy dog breed's bark is often much worse than its bite, and unfortunately, I mean that somewhat literally. The worst part about any toy breed is they're barkers. For that reason, most make excellent watchdogs.
Toy Dog Breed Health
Beware of the tiny 2- and 3-pound Chihuahuas. I breed mine between 5 and 10 pounds. Everybody wants that little "pocketbook" dog, but I think it's cruel. The smaller dogs are prone to more health problems. For instance, they can seriously injure their knees or legs just from jumping off a chair.
Toy breeds don't suffer from the hip problems that plague larger dogs, but they're at risk for what's called a collapsing trachea, a congenital condition that causes a coughing or barking sound. The condition isn't life-threatening, but it can impact the dog's quality of life.
Toy Dog Breed Training
Start early with toy dog breeds. They're ready to start paper training as soon as you bring them home, at about 8 weeks. Socializing is very important too.
Because they are such pampered dogs, you want to let them know right away what you expect out of them. Be consistent. Otherwise, they'll take over your home.
We always say, "We live with our dogs," because sometimes that's how we feel. But all dogs are trainable; it just takes some perseverance. Just remember: You're the owner, and they're the pet.
Exceptional Canine expert Pat Ellison operates Patz Dogs, a Chihuahua breeder in Southern Oregon. She has been breeding dogs for six years.
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Pets | Dogs: Is a Toy Dog Breed Your Best Match?