They have some Issues of their Own but are Better in some ways than Large Dogs

Question:

A couple of weeks ago there was an article in the Journal about all the “negatives” of adopting “very small” dogs because of their teeth and other health problems.  I’ve been thinking about adopting a small one but this article has put me on hold. I like Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus.

 

Dr. Nichol:

It got my attention too. It’s true that small and toy dogs face special issues. On the flip side there’s a long list of large breed problems only rarely seen in the little guys.

 

Those miniature mouths do have their own brand of dental disease but with regular care most will reach their golden years with a healthy set of choppers. Dislocating knee caps, some cardiac diseases, and hydrocephalus are more common in small dogs but they are healthier in other ways, which is why they live longer.

 

I take issue with the “yappiness and nippiness” complaint in that article. Plenty of dogs of all sizes bark too much, usually because they don’t get enough social stimulation and exercise. The great majority of small dogs go completely unnoticed by neighbors and passersby because they are calm and well behaved. And you have my permission to disregard those warnings about house breaking and mixing small dogs with children. Lots of dog owners screw up basic training; a dog of any size can turn out horrible or become the companion of a lifetime.

 

People who malign small dogs really set my little teeth on edge. Why, it’s enough to make me nip and yap. One of the best dogs I’ve ever had was 15 pound “Orange Bob”. That little guy backpacked the Rockies and forded the Gila River dozens of times with me. He fit neatly into my tent and took up almost no space in the car. Go ahead and adopt a Chihuahua or Shih Tzu. Just take your time and pick the calm one.