Article © Darlene Arden.

How To Raise A Healthy, Well-Adjusted Dog:
10 Tips For Small Dogs 20 lbs and Under

Cassie (Pug - aged 4 yrs) and Jasmin (Lhasa Apso also 4 yrs)My courtesy Susann Hills

You can have a happy, healthy, well-adjusted little dog. Keep in mind that he's a real dog but he does have special needs!

  1. Your little dog views the world differently. Everything looks gigantic to him. Stop and think about things from his perspective then try to see things from his point of view.
  2. Housetraining is a big issue for little dogs. You must be gentle, patient and consistent, rewarding him when he does the right thing in the right place. Little dogs feel vulnerable outdoors. Be sure he has a safe place to relieve himself.
  3. Your small dog has feet. Be sure he uses them! Exercise is important to keep your little dog healthy.

    Italian Greyhound puppy is Lovesong Rainero di la Scala, call name Jacob;
    the Maine Coon is 13-year-old Wesley. Photo courtesy of Judith Jerome

  4. Little dogs, like big dogs, have to be socialized. Take your little dog to all sort of places and let him meet new people as well as experience new sights and smells.
  5. Be aware of your surroundings. Little dogs can be injured by big dogs that are running loose.
  6. Small dogs and small children are not a good mix. Toy dogs can be accidentally injured or killed by small children. Never leave them alone unsupervised and never let a child pick up a small dog. The dog can be accidentally dropped causing injury or even death.


    Cocooning: a Chihuahua puppy living the good life. Photo by Una Valanski

  7. Use a harness instead of a collar when walking your dog. Toy dogs often have a collapsing trachea and you don't want to put pressure on that area.
  8. Enroll your little dog in an obedience class. Just be sure that the instructor uses positive reinforcement only - no choke collar! - and that all puppies are sorted by size for play period. You don't want your little puppy inadvertently injured or traumatized by a larger breed puppy during play.
  9. Play gentle games with your small dog. Don't play tug of war - not only is it the beginning of aggression training but a small dog can be swung around on a tug toy and injured.
  10. Ask your veterinarian to teach you to brush your small dog's teeth. Little dogs have crowded mouths and terrible dental problems. Dirty teeth can cause other health problems. Only use the flavored toothpaste that's made especially for dogs. Human toothpaste can cause digestive upsets if it's swallowed.

    Darlene &  Pilot, Texas book signing. Photo courtesy of Pam Martin