I got a request a little while back to make an even smaller tug than the smallest size I previously offered. There are teeny-tiny dogs how like to tug but had a hard time picking up even the smallest of my tugs. So now I make an even smaller tug that is about 2/3’s the size of a small for the little pooches out there! What this made me think about is that dogs are dog, regardless of their size.
I do not mean to generalize but, based on my experiences (particularly in NY where purse dogs were so very abundant), many small dogs are allowed to live a life with little to no expectations or rules. They are allowed to jump all over people, rush up to big dogs snapping/growling, run off-leash out of control, and act aggressively toward people with little to no repercussions. These are not confident dogs who are content in their lives–these are often dogs who are very fearful and I feel so bad for them because it must be awful to live a life full of fear. It is frustrating to see dogs like this because I know that, if those dogs were given some rules and expectations (and more properly socialized) not only would their lives be better, but they would be safer to have in public.
Just because a dog is 8lbs doesn’t make its aggressive tendencies cute. Think about the ‘Funniest Home Video’ style videos of the small chihuahua growling and snapping at a hand coming near them… people laugh and think it’s cute pestering the dog like this. Do you think they would feel the same if it were a 120lb Rottie growling and snapping at them? No. To me that behavior is unacceptable, regardless of the size of the dog. It makes sense that the owners of larger dogs are more concerned with things like jumping up because there is real risk of injury, but the almost complete lack of rules for some small dogs is a bit scary.
Contrary to the purse-dog mentality, small dogs are still dogs (*GASP*!). They are absolutely capable of working, tugging, thinking, and problem solving. Although small, these dogs still have drives and instincts…it’s okay (and should be encouraged) to allow them to fulfill those drives and explore those instincts. I was absolutely blown away by a 15lb Boston Terrier who came to a frisbee event and made three 40yd+ catches in a row! This dog was amazing! Totally not typical but awesome none the less! I saw a 4lb min-pin/chi go out and do his best on a frisbee field as well–his only down fall was if he missed the Frisbee he had a hard time finding it because his short stature didn’t give him a good vantage point over the height of the grass! There is a 4lb poodle who is an AMAZING lure coursing dog… it may take her a while, but her short legs don’t slow down the entire trip around the oval course!
This isn’t to say there aren’t some special considerations for tiny dogs, but they are ALL absolutely capable of following rules. Some are even driven enough to work with their handlers in agility, rally-o, obedience, nosegames, and musical freestyle (to name a few). Just because they are small in stature doesn’t mean they are somehow less of a dog. I’m also not saying small dogs are the only dogs who live without rules… but I feel like people don’t tolerate some of the same things from large dogs (since it’s much scarier when a 150lb dog snaps or is aggressive)–so the dogs are either dumped a shelter, rehomed, managed, or actually worked with.
Now, I must be upfront and admit that Bandit is not the obedience champion of the house by any means. He can sit, down, and respond to his name…that’s probably it. But he is under control in public, very friendly with people, is very rarely reactive, and is really well socialized. He’s been treated like a dog since the day we got him–he’s had to sit for his dinner, has had to learn to feel comfortable in a variety of places, has learned to like all types of people, he’s learned that reactivity doesn’t get him anywhere but looking back to his handler earns him cheese, etc. He may not know many cues but he’s had rules and expectations placed on him in other contexts and is a really awesome small dog (and is ridiculously pampered–he gets carried to bed every night, starts demanding his night-time cookie at exactly 7:55, and gets cooked chicken or cheese on top of his premium kibble every night).