Five things all small dog owners should know

Just because he's less than 20 pounds doesn't make your tiny dog any less of a challenge - or loveable companion - than a behemoth Newfoundland.

Small dog owners should ensure their pets, such as this Yorkshire Terrier, have particular care because of their diminutive size.

Although tempting to carry them, small dog owners should ensure their pets get plenty of walking.

Small dogs, just like big dogs, come with their own array of habits, issues, and quirks. It's not merely that sharp little bark you may have to worry about. While a dog is always a worthy financial and emotional investment, if you're looking into adopting a small dog, or maybe want a refresher on caring for your pint-sized pooch, keep these reminders close at hand.

  1. Purebreds can be more susceptible to certain maladies. This is a general fact among all dogs, but small dogs, in particular, can suffer from the effects of purebred inbreeding and small gene pools. Illnesses and disabilities can range from blindness to cancer to premature hip dysplasia. Especially common in small breeds is Legg-Calvé-Perthes syndrome, a disease beginning in the hip bone that can lead to arthritis, hip collapse, or even death. But a small dog can also have advantages that a larger dog doesn't. For example, smaller dogs tend to be very alert, and eager to know what's going on around them. They're often friendly and personable and make great traveling companions, with a good leash. Make sure to have your small dog, from puppyhood to old age, regularly checked out by your vet.
  2. Don't carry them everywhere. It's really, really tempting to pick them up often - and knowing the way lap dogs love attention (thus the name), it's probably a blast for them - but little dogs need their exercise too. Small dogs make for great apartment dwellers because they don't have the same metabolism or stride as big dogs, but they still need to do plenty of walking. Keep an eye on your little guys to make sure they're getting the necessary exercise and not over-indulging in the kibble.
  3. Research your purebred's or mutt's breed mix, and then train appropriately. Some small dog breeds, such as Terriers, Poodles, and Chihuahuas, can be hyper-territorial and yappy despite their non-threatening size. While you might have a hard time imagining your princess-like poodle biting at the ankles of a visitor, small dogs can be very protective of their owners. Be certain to go through training routines with your pet that are specific to its breed. Check out PetMD’s list of the top 10 small breeds.
  4. Dress them up! Just not so they're uncomfortable. Small dogs don't always have the extra padding and coat of their larger cousins. If it's a blustery winter day and you're taking your Yorkie for a walk, set him or her up with a comfy dog sweater. Just remember that the clothes should fit comfortably and not restrict movement.
  5. Feed them right! Small dog breeds have very different nutritional needs than large dogs. They have faster metabolisms which mean they require more food relative to their body weight and they burn through energy faster. It is also far easier for a small dog to get dehydrated due to its metabolism. The digestive systems of small dog breeds are not very efficient at digesting certain types of grains, most of which are regularly included as fillers in more inexpensive dog foods. Too much of these grains can lead to a number of health problems. The size of the dog food is also very important, as they cannot properly chew pieces that are too big for their little mouths.

This content is provided by the pet wellness experts at Hartz.