If you have never shared your life with a dog before, a small dog can be a terrific option – particularly if you live in an urban area. But before you decide upon the best small dog for your home and your lifestyle, consider the practical realities. Small dog breeds typically live longer than large breeds so your small dog could be your companion for 12 years or more.
Ask yourself how much time you have to give – small dog breeds may require less exercise than larger breeds, but it’s still very important to keep your small dog physically active and mentally stimulated. Your small dog will need one or two walks every day, and plenty of one-to-one playtime – many small dog breeds also need a firm hand and lots of patience during their early behavioural training. You should also think about your lifestyle and the holidays you take – will it be practical for your small dog to join you on day-trips and nights-out? Consider the cost of feeding, grooming and insuring your small dog, and the fees you’ll have to pay for annual vaccinations and regular veterinary check-ups.
Good-natured, friendly small dog breeds, such as the Bichon Frise and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, are great choices for first-time dog-owners and families. Energetic (and patient!) small dog-owners might prefer the lively character of a Fox Terrier or a Jack Russell Terrier, while small dog show enthusiasts may be tempted by a decorative long-haired breed, like the Shih Tzu or Pomeranian. Check here for our guide to the most popular small dog breeds.
To ensure that your small dog will be healthy and happy, always choose a reputable breeder or retailer. Avoid newspaper advertisements or local notices, and always ask to visit any prospective small dog or puppy in his existing home environment. If you’re happy to provide a home for a fully-grown small dog, you could also consider a rescue shelter or a rehoming charity.
If you’re buying a puppy, ask to meet your small dog’s mother to assess her personality and her physical condition. Puppies are normally viewed at around six weeks old so if there’s a particular small dog puppy in the litter that appeals to you, check for bright eyes, clean ears, a cool damp nose and a healthy coat. Your small dog puppy should also be responsive to sudden noises, and he should be alert and interested in the activity going on around him.
Once you have chosen your small dog or small dog puppy, ask if he will be vaccinated and treated for parasites and fleas before you bring him home. If, for any reason, this isn’t the case, make an appointment with your vet in advance. Your small dog puppy will be most receptive to socialisation up to the age of 15 weeks old. So, remember to schedule plenty of time in those early weeks to interact with your small dog – once he’s been vaccinated, you can take him lots of new places and teach him valuable new experiences.
Most small dog puppies can leave their mother between eight and 12 weeks old. Prepare an area where your small dog will feel comfortable and secure, and position his bed away from cold draughts or hot radiators. You’ll need a selection of toys specially designed for small mouths to safely grab and chew, small shallow bowls for food and water, and a supply of food specially designed for small dogs – you may want to initially buy both wet and dry recipes to allow for individual taste preferences. Finally, cherish the experience: many small dogs grow very attached to their owners as they grow up, and that bond will intensify as you get to know each other.