Small puppy breeds are popular pets for many reasons. Their tiny size makes them well-suited for small homes and apartments. Small puppies are portable and easy to handle. Their cute appearance melts hearts. Despite their diminutive stature, small breeds make loyal companions.
However, their small size comes with some special considerations for optimal health and wellbeing. This guide will cover the unique needs of small puppy breeds in areas like nutrition, exercise, training, and veterinary care. Key health statistics for popular small breeds will also be shared.
Defining Small Breed Puppies
Small dog breeds are generally considered to be those that weigh 20 pounds or less as adults. Puppies of small breeds reach their adult weight between 9-12 months old.
Some of the most popular small breed puppies include:
- Yorkie (Yorkshire Terrier)
- Poodle (Toy and Miniature)
- Shih Tzu
- Brussels Griffon
- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Special Nutritional Considerations
Proper nutrition is crucial for any puppy, but small breeds have some unique needs. Due to their tiny stomachs, small puppies cannot consume large volumes of food. Therefore, their diet must be nutrient dense.
Small puppies should be fed a high quality puppy kibble formulated specifically for small breeds. Avoid bargain brands, as these often lack appropriate nutrition levels.
Below are some key dietary guidelines for small puppy breeds:
- Higher calorie – 30-40 calories per pound of body weight daily for small puppies vs. 20-30 calories per pound for large breeds.
- Higher fat – At least 18% of total calories from fat. Higher fat helps concentrated calories and aids brain development.
- Higher protein – At least 22% of total calories from high quality animal protein sources.
- Small kibble size – Pick kibble sized for small or toy breeds to suit tiny jaws.
- Multiple daily meals – Split daily food into 3-4 small meals to prevent hypoglycemia.
Here is a comparison of the calorie needs of small vs. large breed puppies:
Free-feeding dry food is not recommended, as your puppy may graze and miss needed nutrients. Instead, serve measured, scheduled meals based on your puppy’s age and weight.
Though small in stature, puppies need daily exercise and play for healthy development. Short, frequent activity sessions are ideal for small puppy breeds.
Aim for 30-60 minutes of total exercise and playtime daily, with active time split into multiple 10-15 minutes sessions. This allows adequate rest periods for growing bones and joints.
Appropriate exercises for small puppy breeds include:
- Short, relaxed leash walks
- Free play in a secure area
- Interactive games like fetch
- Gentle training sessions (5-10 mins max)
- Socialization outings
Avoid intense exercise like jogging or jumping until growth plates have closed, around 12-18 months. Take care handling small puppies to avoid injury. Give them ramps or pet steps to avoid falls.
Small puppy breeds can be more challenging to housetrain due to their small bladder capacity. They need to urinate more frequently. Close supervision and consistency are key.
- Take puppy out every 1-2 hours when active plus after meals, naps, and play.
- Use a consistent potty cue like “Go potty.”
- Reward and praise puppy for going in designated spot.
- Confine puppy when you can’t watch closely.
- Avoid paper training, as this delays housetraining.
- Thoroughly clean any accidents with enzyme cleaner.
Stay patient! Most small puppies can be reliably housetrained by 6 months with consistency. Consider indoor potty options like pee pads for very young puppies or when you’re away.
Socialization and Training
Early positive experiences and socialization are critical for any puppy. Give your small puppy regular gentle handling and exposure to new sights, sounds, people and other pets. Sign up for puppy kindergarten classes by 12 weeks old. Use only positive reinforcement training methods which work best with small sensitive breeds.
Small dogs have a reputation for being more prone to anxiety or fear issues. While genetics play a role, lack of early socialization is often the culprit. Invest time upfront into thoughtful socialization and training to raise a friendly, confident dog. Attending group puppy classes is highly beneficial.
Be aware of small dog syndrome, where owners coddle pint-sized puppies and allow poor manners. Though cute, even small dogs need structure, boundaries and training from the start. Otherwise, problem behaviors can develop. Set your small puppy up for success by teaching good manners right away.
Grooming requirements can vary greatly among small dog breeds. Short haired Chihuahuas and Brussels Griffons need only weekly brushing and occasional bathing. In contrast, Yorkies, Maltese, and Poodles require daily brushing and frequent bathing to prevent mats and maintain their long flowing coats.
Nail trimming is essential every 1-2 weeks for all small puppy breeds, as their nails grow quickly. Check and clean ears weekly. Brush teeth regularly. Handle feet often to prepare for nail trims. Find a groomer experienced with small breeds. Avoid shaving double coats like Pomeranians. Research your breed’s specific grooming needs.
Veterinary Care Schedule
More frequent veterinary visits are recommended during the first year for small breed puppies, as health issues can escalate rapidly in tinier dogs. Here are general guidelines, but follow your vet’s specific advice:
- Initial exam: 7-10 days after bringing puppy home
- Vaccinations: Every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks old
- Deworming: Every 2 weeks until 12 weeks old
- Spay/neuter surgery: Around 6 months old
- Annual exam: Yearly exams starting at 1 year old
Be vigilant about sticking to the vaccination schedule. Due to their size, small puppies are at higher risk for life-threatening parvo. Purchase pet insurance to defray medical costs. Look into wellness plan discounts for multi-pet households.
Common Health Issues
Though generally healthy, small breeds are prone to certain medical conditions. Be familiar with the common issues impacting your puppy’s particular breed. Here are several to watch out for:
- Collapsed trachea – narrowing of windpipe, causing coughing. More prevalent in Yorkies, Chihuahuas and Pomeranians.
- Reverse sneezing – rapid, wheezing inhales caused by irritation of throat or sinuses. Not life threatening.
- Overcrowding – misalignment and dental issues due to small jaw size. Can cause tooth decay and pain.
- Retained baby teeth – failure to shed puppy teeth leads to crowding. Must be extracted.
- Underbite – lower jaw extends past upper jaw. Contributes to dental issues.
- Luxating patellas – dislocated kneecaps, common in Toy Poodles and Yorkshire Terriers
- Legg-Calve Perthes – reduced blood flow to femur bone, causing limping or lameness. Seen most often in smaller breeds.
- Intervertebral disc disease – spinal disc rupture causing back pain, instability, or paralysis. Higher risk in Dachshunds.
- Hypoglycemia – dangerously low blood sugar. Higher risk in Toy breeds due to poor glucose regulation.
- Hydrocephalus – fluid buildup in brain, causing neurological issues. Some small breeds prone.
- Liver shunt – abnormal blood vessel flow in liver. Can cause toxicity issues. Most common in Yorkies.
Discuss screening tests with your vet. Purchase pet insurance to offset costs if inherited conditions are diagnosed. With proactive care, many small puppies grow into healthy adult dogs.
Bringing Home Your Small Pup
Selecting and preparing for a small breed puppy takes extra consideration. Do your homework on your preferred breed’s needs. Prepare your home with safe confinement areas and potty pads. Stock up on collar, leash, bed, bowls, puppy food and toys. Find a trusted veterinarian. Get ready for late nights soothing your new pup!
The work you put in now will pay off with a well-adjusted, happy puppy that brings years of companionship and joy. Shower your pint-sized puppy with good nutrition, training, socialization and medical care. Although small, these special puppies leave huge pawprints on our hearts!