chihuahua dog on the lap of its owner
© Pixabay

'Toy' dog breeds: everything you need to know (and what to look out for)

By Nick Whittle Author

Updated on the

Let’s be realistic. Your toy dog is no less of a dog because of her small size. Read on to find out how, in truth, bringing up a toy dog is a job for a real dog lover.

Her toilet habits may be neater and her want for long walks less urgent, but in many ways she needs as much attention as her bigger cousins. In fact, your toy dog expects far more devotion and attention of you.

What is a toy dog?

A toy dog is measured as such by her weight. A one-year-old dog weighing between four and seven pounds (about the same as two large pizzas) is considered a ‘toy’. A ‘tea-cup’ dog is a colloquial term for an adult dog that weighs less than four pounds. Reputable breeders however do not breed teacups; a dog which weighs less than four pounds they usually call the ‘runt’ of a litter.

The word ‘toy’ may refer to either a very small dog or a breed deliberately downsized by selective breeding. Such breeds include the spaniel and the terrier. Most toy dogs are otherwise known as ‘lapdogs’ because of their size. They are the variety preferred of people who want their dog to be small, cuddly and affectionate.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Janie LeAnn (@vagabondingwithdogs) on

The stereotype of the small dog requiring less input than the big dog prevails; the toy is often treated as an accessory rather than a proud animal. But they need as much attention as larger varieties, and the same affirmation and affection.

Not having as much will cause toy dogs to exhibit the same types of antisocial behaviour witnessed of other dogs.

Why do people like toy dogs?

To some, a small dog is not a choice companion. But for others the size of the toy dog not only suits their living arrangements but also suits their emotional needs. Here are just a few toy dog advantages that their owners would gladly reveal in comparison with large dogs:

  • Cleaner, and more manageable and portable
  • More attractive
  • More affectionate and loyal
  • Cheaper to feed

What toy dog breeds are there?

Toy dog breeds were bred to be lapdogs but some of them may still exhibit traits more in common with the larger dogs of the breed. Here are 10 of the top toy breeds:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Mr. Kaiser (@kaiserjapanesechin) on

What is the personality of a toy dog?

The personality of a toy dog is defined to a larger extent by its breed. In essence, lapdog stereotypes can be applied as equally to a toy dog as they can to the breed’s standard variety.

The only notable personality quirk which seems to stem from its diminutive size is the toy’s fearfulness. Toy dogs are exceptionally wary creatures and can be made nervous by loud noises and raised voices; they can also be nervous around other dogs and strangers. Sometimes their nervousness may cause them to utter a defensive yelp or snarl.

Toy dog breeds are susceptible to loneliness © Pixabay

Do toy dogs have behavioural problems?

Toy dogs should be walked at least once a day, stimulated with games and exercise, and provided with companionship and interaction. They should not be left in small and enclosed spaces for long periods of time nor should they be manhandled or much berated.

According to some studies short breeds are more prone to beg for food and become anxious when they lose their attachment to their owner, even for a short time. Should you fail to look after your toy dog properly you will have to endure her antisocial and destructive behaviour.

Toy dogs need even more attention than large 'standard' dogs©Pixabay

Do toy dogs have medical problems?

Inbreeding across many generations has led to a variety of inherited malformations specific to the small dog. To make matters worse, toy dogs are prone to all of the diseases and conditions known to affect their breed.

Some of the more common health issues observed in toy dogs include:

  • Dislocation of kneecap causing pain and lameness
  • Diseases spinal disks lead to spinal cord compression and sometimes paralysis
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Breathing difficulties and airway obstruction (esp. pugs)
  • Inner eyelid infections and discomfort

Details of these illnesses (cause, diagnosis) can be found online. Some sources include homespun recipes and homeopathic treatments for these and other ailments. However, it should be remembered that most of these diseases are genetic malformations.

As such, the only treatments worthwhile to have are those which prevent further worsening of the disease or treat the pain and discomfort caused by the disease.

Buying a dog should not be an impulsive undertaking. Research first and ask questions of reputable breeders in order that you have sufficient knowledge of toy dogs. Toy dogs are ‘cute’ but they are also extremely demanding of your attention and love. You must also be prepared to devote time and patience to their training, just like you would a big dog.

Decide whether you are right for a small dog before you decide whether a small dog is right for you.

More advice on...

What did you think of this advice article?

Thanks for your feedback !

Thanks for your feedback !

Leave a comment
Connect to comment
Want to share this article?