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Get To Know Toy Breeds

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A Yorkshire Terrier lies across a couch armrest.

Toy dog breeds are the smallest of all canines. These pint-sized companions are unique and lovable in many ways besides their incredibly small stature.

What Is a Toy Dog Breed?

When a dog is referred to as a “toy,” that’s a way to categorize them based on their size and weight—it’s the same as referring to a dog as medium or extra-large. Like other dog size groupings, each one doesn’t necessarily have a universally recognized specific weight, though there are ranges.

How Much Do Toy Dogs Weigh?

On average, dogs can be considered in the toy category whenever they weigh 15 pounds or less. Some of the most petite pups in the toy category can weigh as little as four pounds, even as fully grown adults.

Which Dogs Are Considered Toy Breeds?

Like any other weight-based dog category, though breed standards can technically predict which category dogs will fall in most every time, there are always outliers and exceptions. Some dogs who are normally considered toys may have a larger-than-normal stature and weigh more than 15 pounds. Conversely, there may be dog breeds in the small category that never quite get as big as their companions and stay unusually small.

That said, common toy breeds of dog include:

Although this isn’t an all-encompassing list, these dogs are among the most popular toy breeds—you may even have one of your own.

What Is the Difference Between a Toy Dog and a Small Dog?

A dog is typically considered to be in the ‘small’ category when weighing less than 30 pounds. While some people may define any dog under that weight limit into one broad group, others are defined more uniquely. For instance, once a dog is 15 pounds or less, many consider them part of the toy group.

Although technically part of the toy category, teacup dogs are purposefully bred to be as small as possible, often only up to five pounds. Though their tiny stature may be cute, unfortunately, these dogs often have many health issues.

There are also miniature (mini) versions of many dog breeds, such as Mini Poodles, Mini Dachshunds, Mini Schnauzers, and Mini Australian Shepherds. Miniatures are larger than the toy category but smaller than the breed’s standard size.

In addition to these terms, many people also like to define toy breeds as extra small, which is only fitting for their petite size.

Caring for Toy Breeds

Every toy breed is unique, and they each have their quirks and needs. However, there are many similarities when it comes to taking care of them. For starters, at their core, toy dogs are companion dogs. Although they enjoy spending time with anyone in the home who will give them attention, they commonly have one person with whom they strongly bond. This will be the person they follow around everywhere, always trying to sit in their lap, and typically demand the most attention from that person.

Due to their desire to be near their favorite people, it’s not unusual for toy breeds to experience separation anxiety. To help combat this, start teaching them from a young age how to spend time alone in their kennel and that it’s not a bad thing when you leave. That said, though it is helpful for your dog to be comfortable with being left alone from time to time, toy breeds are not the dog for you if you are rarely home. However, if you often go places where your dog can join, they would be ecstatic to be brought along as your plus one.

Compared to larger breeds, most toy dogs have a much lower daily exercise requirement—roughly 30 minutes. Whether a walk, a run around in the yard, or some play time inside, these dogs don’t require too much activity to be well-exercised. Toy dogs will happily go on a nice stroll and then curl up with you on the couch. If you’re looking for a canine companion who will join you for hiking and camping trips, you’ll most likely want to consider a different breed.

Extra attention may need to be given to your dog’s housetraining and general training. Smaller dogs often take longer to become fully housebroken but with patience, persistence, and a bit more time, the two of you can work out a system for communication and hopefully lower the number of inside accidents to zero.

Along with housetraining, remember to begin general training as early as the day you bring your pup home. Although they are much smaller, no one wants a poorly mannered dog. Plus, many toy breeds enjoy training sessions and the opportunity to exercise their mind.

Toy Dog Safety

Due to their unique size, there are some added safety measures toy dog parents should take, both inside and outside. Here are some top safety tips:

  1. Don’t leave your dog unsupervised when they are outdoors. Even with a fenced-in yard, they could easily slip through a tiny gap. More importantly, depending on your area, your little dog could be precisely what a scavenging bird or predator is looking for.

  2. Place a baby gate in front of open stairs. Some toy dogs may not be the best at navigating large staircases—the steps may be as big as them. To help avoid any accidental tumbles, it’s a great idea to leave basement doors shut, place a baby gate (one your dog can’t fit through) on any open staircase, and carry your dog on floating stairs.

  3. Carry your dog in crowded spaces. In bustling crowds, your toy dog could easily get stepped on—many people may be unaware that they’re even there. To help avoid any accidents of paws or tails getting squished, carry your dog until the space has cleared up and you feel confident that your best bud will be safe back on the ground. Keep in mind that restaurants can be incredibly busy, but dogs aren’t allowed to sit in your lap. Instead, have them stay underneath your chair or table.

  4. Be mindful of the big dogs. Socialization is an essential part of raising any dog. However, even if gentle giants mean well, one playful paw smack from a Newfoundland could cause any toy breed to take a tumble. Take time introducing your tiny pup to new dogs, and start with ones closer to their size. Work your way up to larger dogs, particularly ones you know are gentle.

  5. Purchase doggy ramps or steps. The world looks quite different from your 5-pound dog’s perspective. Even jumping into bed or onto the couch can be quite the feat—or impossible. To help your portable pup better navigate the world, stay independent, and avoid injuries, consider purchasing some doggy ramps or stairs to keep next to the furniture.

  6. Show people how to hold your dog properly. No doubt your adorable dog will draw the attention of others, and they may ask to pick them up. If your pup is comfortable being held by others (not all dogs are a fan of this), show the person how to keep your pal comfortable and safe.

  7. Purchase a well-fitted collar and harness. Due to their smaller-than-normal size, it’s crucial that you find a collar, harness, and leash that are size-appropriate. Anything too large and clunky could be uncomfortable for your dog. Plus, they could easily slip out of their gear, posing a safety concern.

  8. Find size-appropriate treats, toys, and food. When purchasing things for your dog to eat, play with, or chew on, look for a size recommendation on the packaging. Food or treats that are too big may be hard for your dog to chew and could pose a choking hazard. Toys that are too big may not be as easy for your dog to carry around, such as hard bones, but some canines may enjoy having a stuffed toy as big as them. This all depends on your dog’s preference.

  9. Keep floors clean. With foods that are harmful to dogs, the toxicity levels are based on a weight ratio. This means that the smaller the dog, the more dangerous a smaller amount of toxic food can be. With this in mind, it’s worthwhile to sweep your floors a few times a week or gate your pup out of the kitchen while you’re cooking.

  10. Try to be mindful of your dog’s whereabouts. Being extra small, there is a plethora of nooks and crannies throughout your home that your dog could accidentally climb into or get stuck in, so try to keep them away from those spots. Staying aware of your dog’s location can also be important when potentially dangerous things are going on, such as furniture being rearranged or a car moving in the driveway or garage.

Although toy dogs may require a few extra safety steps to ensure they stay their happiest and healthiest selves, don’t let this deter you if you want to adopt a toy dog breed. Dogs of every shape, size, color, and age need homes—all it takes is someone to open their heart and home to provide a loving pup with the life they deserve. Consider keeping in touch with your local dog shelter or humane society so you’ll know when any toy breeds arrive. You can also do some research online for breed-specific dog rescues near you.

No matter how you and your new four-legged friend meet, what’s most important is that you entered each other’s lives. Not only are you providing a dog with a home, but your new best pal will undoubtedly return their appreciation with unconditional love.

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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