Toy Dog Breeds

The Smallest Dog Breeds

A small fluffy toy breed, the Pomeranian.
A long haired Chihuahua belonging in the toy breed category.

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Table of Contents

What is a Toy Dog Breed?

The smallest of all dog breeds are often referred to as toy breeds.

These dogs may be tiny, but they can be very mighty and full of personality.

If you’re looking for a dog that can fit a small apartment in the city or even fit in your purse, a toy breed is the answer.

There are the toy breeds’ representative breeds:

List of Toy Dog Breeds

Two fluffy black Affenpinscher dogs sitting together next to decorative mushrooms.

Affenpinscher

A rare long haired toy breed, the Biewer Terrier dog.

Biewer Terrier

A small brown dog of the Brussels Griffon toy breed.

Brussels Griffon

A brown and a black King Charles Spaniel.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

A fluffy healthy long haired Chihuahua dog.

Chihuahua

A toy Chinese Crested dog who is half hairless and half long haired.

Chinese Crested Dog

The toy breed English Toy Spaniel, or King Charles Spaniel.

English Toy Spaniel

A white Havanese dog belonging to the toy breed group.

Havanese

The smallest Greyhound, an Italian Greyhound standing on a beach landscape.

Italian Greyhound

Japanese Chin

Maltese

A tiny Miniature Pinscher dog.

Miniature Pinscher

Papillon

Two small Pekingese dogs.

Pekingese

Pomeranian

A very small fawn colored Pug dog.

Pug

A fluffy toy breed, the Shih Tzu dog, with a white bow in its hair.

Shih Tzu

A Silky Terrier standing in a grassy field.

Silky Terrier

A Toy Fox Terrier dog against a blue background.

Toy Fox Terrier

A Toy Manchester Terrier Dog.

Toy Manchester Terrier

A toy Poodle dog wearing a red winter coat or jacket.

Toy Poodle

A toy Yorkshire Terrier dog lying down against a white background.

Yorkshire Terrier

What Makes a Dog a Toy Breed?

Dogs in the toy breed group are the absolute smallest of small dogs.

These dogs may always look like puppies, weighing less than 7 kg (15 lbs) as full-grown adult dogs.

How are Toy Dogs Different

From Other Small Dogs?

Most dogs breeds can vary quite a bit in weight, height, and length but toy breeds will always stay small enough to fit in a handbag.

Toy breeds generally have longer expected lifespans than other dogs. However, that doesn’t mean they are always more healthy toy breeds have other special needs and common health problems that differentiate them from other dogs.

Special Needs of Toy Dog Breeds

Toy breeds can be extra sensitive both physically and emotionally. They need more attention in the following areas:

• Harness

Using a back harness instead of a collar is essential for toy dog breeds.

Walking with a collar puts too much pressure on the throat of a small dog and can injure them permanently, affecting their ability to breathe. Additionally, small dogs may slip out of collars.

A properly-sized dog harness will keep your toy dog safe, comfortable, and healthy.

Using a back harness instead of a collar is essential for toy dog breeds.

Walking with a collar puts too much pressure on the throat of a small dog and can injure them permanently, affecting their ability to breathe. Additionally, small dogs may slip out of collars.

A properly-sized dog harness will keep your toy dog safe, comfortable, and healthy.

• Natural Diet

Food with minimal processing and additives is better for any dog regardless of breed.

However, a more natural diet is especially important for toy breeds because they are more sensitive to chemicals.

Always pay attention to the ingredients list of what you feed your dog. Wysong dog food is recommended for toy breeds.

Food with minimal processing and additives is better for any dog regardless of breed.

However, a more natural diet is especially important for toy breeds because they are more sensitive to chemicals.

Always pay attention to the ingredients list of what you feed your dog. Wysong dog food is recommended for toy breeds.

• Vaccine Sensitivity

Toy dogs have sensitive immune systems and can only handle one vaccine at a time.

It is recommended to separate any vaccines by at least three weeks and wait as long as possible between doses of the same vaccine (generally: 3 years for rabies, 5-10 for parvo and distemper). Confirm with your vet.

• Training

Though it may seem like a toy-sized dog breed can’t cause much trouble when left untrained, it is essential to train all dogs.

Similar to humans, dogs must be taught how to act in a way that is safe and appropriate.

Regardless of size or breed, training a dog helps them learn basic manners, understand the world, and experience less anxiety or other behavioral issues.

• Socialization

To prevent fear of bigger animals and people, it is recommended to take your toy dog outside on a leash and introduce them to people as often as possible. 

When socializing with other dogs, keep your small dog close to you and on a leash to prevent accidental injury. Be close enough to pick them up at any time. Even dogs with good intentions can mistakenly jump on or crush a smaller, more fragile dog while trying to play.

• Properly Sized Toys

It may seem tempting to get the most teeny-tiny toys for your toy breed but even the smallest dog in the world is still a dog, and will eat anything small enough to eat.

Pay close attention to the size of your dogs mouth to get them appropriately-sized toys that they can chew without eating. It should be small enough that they can put part of it into their mouth for chewing, but big enough that they can’t swallow it.

If you are having trouble picking out something of the right size, bring your dog with you to a pet store to compare toys to your dog in-person. You may also choose to bring toys with you to the vet to ask your vet’s opinion before letting your dog play with it.

It may seem tempting to get the most teeny-tiny toys for your toy breed but even the smallest dog in the world is still a dog, and will eat anything small enough to eat.

Pay close attention to the size of your dogs mouth to get them appropriately-sized toys that they can chew without eating. It should be small enough that they can put part of it into their mouth for chewing, but big enough that they can’t swallow it.

If you are having trouble picking out something of the right size, bring your dog with you to a pet store to compare toys to your dog in-person. You may also choose to bring toys with you to the vet to ask your vet’s opinion before letting your dog play with it.

Toy Dog Breeds Common Health Issues

The following health problems and conditions commonly affect the smallest dog breeds:

• Allergies

Skin, flea bite, food, and contact allergies are more common in toy breeds as a result of their sensitive immune systems.

To learn about your dog’s specific allergies, consider conducting a dog allergy test with your vet.

• Tracheal Collapse

Toy dogs are prone to breathing issues such as COPD and tracheal collapse. Tracheal issues are more common in dogs who are overweight or live around smoking.

If your dog appears to have shortness of breath or other difficulty breathing, contact your vet, who will monitor your dog’s airways.

• Patellar Luxation

A luxating patella is a kneecap that sometimes slips out of place, causing discomfort and difficulty walking.

Unfortunately, patellar luxation is fairly common in small and toy dog breeds. It is said that about 7% of small dogs are affected by this condition.

    • What to do:
      If you notice your small dog limping or walking with only 3 of their legs, contact your vet immediately.

Professional physical therapy may help in some cases, while in others, surgery may be recommended. Once a dog gets surgery to correct a luxating patella, it solves this problem without complication about 90% of the time. If luxation does occur again, it is much less severe and may be remedied with simple exercises you can do with your dog.

• Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

This is another condition that commonly affects the hips and legs of small and toy dogs. A dog with this condition can lose mass in their leg bones, muscles, and joints.

Your vet will help you identify and treat this condition if necessary.

• Hypoglycemia

Toy dog breeds can experience sudden drops in blood pressure due to stress or an improper feeding schedule.

Feed a toy breed more often than you would other dogs, and do your best to give them a quiet and comfortable lifestyle.

• Mitral Valve Disease

Mitral Valve Disease usually affects senior dogs. A valve in the dog’s heart begins to deteriorate and cause difficulty breathing over time. 

The best thing to do is let a vet regularly monitor your dog for conditions like this. Aging dogs should get check-ups at least twice per year.

Other Things to Consider

• Fragility

A very small dog is more prone to accidentally being injured by bigger creatures like us humans, other dogs, or even cats. This combined with their relatively weak skeletal structures can be a recipe for disaster if people get careless.

Always know where your toy breed is and make sure they are safe from accidental injury such as being sat on, kicked by walking feet, or an object falling on them. If necessary, dog-proof your house by moving things that may fall down away from where your dog walks around.

It is not recommended to take a toy-sized dog to a dog park or allow them to mingle with other dogs who may have good intentions but end up hurting them while trying to play.

Always keep your small dog on a leash and close enough to you that you may pick them up if danger seems close.

• Emotional Sensitivity

Tiny dogs who can’t even reach the knees of a human are more likely to be fearful and anxious. Everything is bigger than they are, and there are many things that they can’t see or smell to understand.

When a toy dog’s fear turns into aggression, it is likely because they are trying to protect themselves from all of the big, scary things around them. Toy breeds need extra help from their humans to feel safe and protected in the world.

• Temperature Regulation

Very small dogs might always seem cold, and at the same time might be more sensitive to hot temperatures. This is because due to a homeostasis imbalance, they have a harder time managing their body temperatures.

    • What to do:
      When it’s cold outside or around the house, keep your toy breed warm with a dog coat or jacket. In the heat, provide them plenty of water and access to cool and shady areas.

If it seems hard to help your dog manage a comfortable temperature, contact your vet for help.

• Dental and Urinary Issues

To prevent dental disease, brush your dog’s teeth with a dog toothbrush and dog toothpaste once per week.

Toy breeds are also prone to urinary tract infections. Offer plenty of fresh and clean water every day — it’s best to provide a dog water fountain which will keep water filtered and moving around to encourage your dog to drink.

Additionally, take your dog outside to urinate as often as possible, and eliminate stressors in the household to prevent accidents indoors and keep your dog healthy.

Toy Dog Breeds Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Perfect for cities and apartments
  • Cute
  • Usually very docile when they feel safe
  • Great lap dogs
  • Can fit in bags and be brought to many public places

Cons

  • Fragile dogs that can be easily injured
  • Emotionally sensitive
  • Not recommended with small children or bigger dogs
  • Need natural food and less vaccinations
  • Need help regulating temperature and blood sugar
A small fluffy toy breed, the Pomeranian.
Pomeranian
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