You know them, you love them: the toy dog breeds. They’re the smallest dog breeds in the world and have some of the largest personalities. From a short-faced pug to a wavy-eared Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, toy breeds are extremely diverse in all but size — of the 21 different breeds, most are under 30 pounds!
Let’s take an in-depth look at this group of dogs.
Toy breeds are usually affectionate, sociable, and adaptable to a wide range of lifestyles. They’re extremely smart and loyal, and can get territorial as well. They’re small, but mighty!
Speaking of small, their size makes them perfect for city living, as many prefer to lounge in the sunlight instead of taking long walks through the wilderness.
Popular toy dog breeds:
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
- Toy Poodle
- Shih Tzu
- Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie)
Toy Dog Personalities
Toy dogs are vastly different in their personalities, but most of them have one thing in common: they are extremely loyal to their owners. Whether the dog is playful and assertive, or independent and aloof, many of them will be slow to open up to strangers and will get vocal when approached.
This is not because they’re mean dogs! They’re simply territorial of their home and owners and are trying to protect what they know. In most cases, a toy dog’s bark is worse than its bite.
When with their chosen human(s), many toy dogs are lap dogs, stubborn, and not afraid to show off their personalities.
Take the Pekingese for example: believed to have been created by Buddha, the Pekingese was favored by Chinese nobles. This background in lavish royalty has led the breed to develop an opinionated personality that is independent and fiercely loyal to their favorite human.
However, other toy dogs were specifically bred to fit common lifestyles. The Toy Poodle, for instance, was adapted from its duck-hunting ancestor to thrive in cities and apartments. They’re loving lap dogs who are extremely intelligent, territorial, and love being pampered.
How to Choose the Right Toy Dog
Toy dogs were bred to fit any lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean they’ll fit every home. When it comes to picking the right toy dog breed, it’s all about their personality and maintenance required to take care of them.
A lot of toy dogs are not the most approachable at first. They do warm up to new people, but it can take time. You need patience and a calm, but firm hand, to train them to like new people or to be okay with strangers approaching the door.
Toy dogs are typically very vocal too. They’re more prone to barking at small noises or seeing people than other breeds, so keep this in mind too! If you’re not ready for a talkative pup, then a toy breed may not be for you.
Firstly, their size does not mean they’re easier to take care of. A smaller dog does not necessarily shed less than a larger one. In fact, because they’re so small, it’s easier for them to get swamped by their fur!
Grooming is a huge thing for toy dogs. Think of it like this: toy dogs are smaller and close to the ground, making it easier for their fur to drag on the ground, get matted, and cover their eyes.
In other cases, some pet owners like to dress up with dogs, style their hair, add bows, and many toy dogs were made for this pampering. But if you’re not in love with the idea of a poof of fur with eyes, toy dogs often require regular grooming. The big exception is pugs and other short-haired breeds — they still shed though!
Common Health Problems
Toy dog breeds aren’t without their health problems, unfortunately. They are prone to having a genetic condition called luxating patella. Essentially, it’s a dislocated or an out-of-place knee cap caused by a genetic abnormality. It usually causes limping and mild discomfort, but is not severe.
Many toy or small breed dogs have a genetic predisposition for a luxating patella. This includes
Maltese and Chihuahua.
Chondrodystrophy is a degenerative disease that affects your dog’s spinal disks. It often results in compression of the spinal cord, spinal nerve, and/or nerve root. This disease can lead to paralysis, so it’s important to catch it early if you notice your dog’s back seems hunched, if they’re walking funny or refusing to jump, or seem like they’re in pain.
Toy dogs prone to this disease are Shih Tzus and Pekingeses.
Smaller dogs are naturally prone to becoming obese due to their personalities. Many of them prefer to be lap dogs, which is okay! Diet and getting them moving with size and breed appropriate exercises are key to keep them healthy. This can mean a short walk every day, mixed with play time, or running around the apartment with a toy.
Just remember that some breeds can’t do things that others can. For instance, a pug can’t run as far due to its short-nosed face.