Prospective dog owners have many factors to consider when choosing the right breed. Small dogs are a popular choice, particularly in urban areas. They are generally less expensive and more practical to own than larger breeds. Most toy dogs were bred as companion animals and therefore make excellent lap dogs. Some of the most popular breeds in the United States are found in the toy group, including the Yorkshire terrier and the chihuahua.
The American Kennel Club recognizes 21 breeds in the toy division. Some, like the toy poodle, are the smallest version of a particular breed. Others, such as the miniature pinscher and Italian greyhound, were developed from their similarly named cousins, but are not miniature versions of the larger dogs. Some members of the toy group, such as the Pekingese, are unique to the toy group and were originally bred for their tiny stature. Popular breeds include the Maltese, papillon and Pomeranian.
Because of their small size and minimal exercise needs, toy dogs are ideal for apartment living. They can be trained to use indoor toileting areas, such as training pads, and some owners have even trained their small dogs to use a litter box. They require less food and in that sense are less expensive to own than larger dogs. They tend to shed less, and they are generally more portable than large dogs. Because anesthesia amounts are determined by weight, many veterinary procedures are less expensive for small dogs. Toy dogs often have small litters. Small dogs also have a longer life expectancy than larger dogs.
Toy dog breeds are not a good choice for active people looking for a running or hiking partner. Their short legs make extensive running difficult and sometimes dangerous. Because of their small circulatory and respiratory systems, toy dogs overheat quickly.
Many toy breeds do not get along well with children, though the pug is one notable exception. Toy dogs are just as prone to dominant or aggressive behavior as larger dogs, but because of their size, their behavior is not a major concern with many owners. Toy dogs can quickly become unmanageable if not properly trained.
Like all dog groups, toy dogs are susceptible to breed-specific health problems. Brachiocephalic problems, such as snoring, wheezing and snorting, are common in dogs with flat snouts. In the toy group, this includes Pekingese, pugs, affenpinschers, Brussels griffons and Shih Tzus. Other common health concerns among toy dogs are diabetes, heart problems and skin conditions.
Questionable Breeding Practices
Due to high demand for smaller toy dogs, some breeders engage in unsafe breeding practices in an attempt to produce undersized puppies. By breeding the smallest dogs, or runts, with other runts, these breeders are perpetuating serious health problems. The runts of the litter are often the weakest and most prone to illness. These traits are passed to their offspring.
Another breeding phenomenon among the toy dog group is the creation of "designer" dog breeds. For example, a Yorkshire terrier crossed with a poodle would produce "Yorkie Poos." These so-called designer dogs have gained popularity in recent years, but they are not recognized by the AKC or similar organizations. Most reputable breeders do not offer designer dogs.