Adding a small breed puppy to your family is an exciting decision! With their compact size, portable stature, and lively personalities, little dogs make wonderful companions.
But before you take the leap, it’s important to understand how adopting and raising a small breed puppy differs from larger dogs. Properly preparing for their unique needs will set you both up for success.
This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know when adopting a small breed pup, from choosing the right puppy to providing optimal care. Read on for tips on breed traits, training, health considerations, supplies, and bringing home your petite new best friend!
Choosing the Right Small Breed
With so many options, how do you select the ideal small dog for your lifestyle? Here are the most important factors to consider:
Your Home Environment
- Is there enough space for a small, active dog? Small breeds adapt well to apartments.
- Do you have a securely fenced yard? Most small dogs shouldn’t be off-leash outdoors.
- Is your home tidy? Little dogs are lower to the ground so dangling objects or clutter can be hazardous.
- Are there stairs in your home? Tiny dogs may struggle with steep/numerous stairs. Install ramps or carry when needed.
- Are you very active? Higher energy companion breeds like Jack Russell Terriers may suit your lifestyle best.
- Are you more sedentary? Choose a lapdog like a Havanese or Cavalier King Charles that requires minimal exercise.
- Is your climate very hot or cold? Brachycephalic (smushed face) breeds fare better in temperate climates.
Time for Training and Care
- How much time can you dedicate to training and socialization? Small dogs need extensive positive reinforcement to learn good behaviors, especially if the puppy will be home alone often.
- Who will care for the puppy? Small dogs bond intensely so rehoming can be traumatic if you no longer can provide adequate care.
- Are you prepared to adapt your lifestyle to the puppy’s needs? House soiling accidents, chewing, and barking are common puppy behaviors you’ll need to manage. Consider how disruptive this may be.
- Is this your first puppy? Some companion breeds like Maltese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have more challenging temperaments for novice owners.
- Do you have experience with small dog behaviors? Their habits differ from larger breeds. Existing small dog ownership or fostering helps.
- Are other pets in the home small dogs? Introducing a new small breed is easier if your resident pets understand proper interaction.
- Does anyone in your home have pet allergies? Some small dog breeds like Poodles and Schnauzers shed less dander.
- Are you sensitive to high pitched barks? Small dogs tend to have shrill barks which not everyone tolerates well.
Once you reflect on your lifestyle, experience, and home environment, you can pinpoint suitable small dog breeds. Then contact reputable local breeders or rescue organizations to find your perfect match!
Selecting Your Small Breed Puppy
Whether adopting from a shelter or breeder, look for these signs of health in your potential puppy:
- Alert, bright, active temperament
- Clear eyes, nose, and rear end
- Smooth movement without limping
- Shinier, healthier coat
- Round belly signalling proper nutrition
- Confident interaction with litter mates
Avoid puppies that seem lethargic, isolated from the litter, have stool stuck to their coat, or whimper when handled. Also beware of:
- Signs of trauma like limping or flinching
- Evidence of past neglect like protruding ribs
- Soiled living conditions
- Timid, fearful, or aggressive reactions
- Excessive discharge from eyes or nose
- Diarrhea, vomiting, or coughing
While not all health conditions in puppies are evident on the surface, selecting the most vigorous and sound puppy possible is recommended.
Preparing Your Home For a Small Puppy
Before your new family member arrives, prepare your home’s physical space:
- Puppy-proof Put away choking hazards and cover electrical cords. Secure cleaning products and toxins. Remove plants, shoes, and valuables from reach.
- Containment Designate a safe area like the kitchen or bathroom when you can’t closely supervise. Use baby gates, partitions, crates, or an exercise pen to prevent household destruction and accidents.
- Sleeping spot Provide plush blankets and a snug bed they can burrow into for naps. Place it near family activity.
- Feeding station Set up an elevated bowl stand and water bowl away from high traffic areas.
- Potty zone Create an indoor potty spot with pee pads or synthetic grass if you don’t have a yard.
The more contained and cozy you make your home, the easier it will be to manage your energetic little pup! Just be sure to give them plenty of play time and affection too.
Stocking Essential Supplies
Having these basic supplies on hand will make your first days smoother:
- Food and treats: Purchase a small-sized kibble formula appropriate for puppy growth. Have tasty training treats on hand too.
- Bowls: Opt for stainless steel no-tip bowls sized for small breeds. You’ll need one for food and one for water.
- Comfort items: Provide stuffed animals, chew toys, or KONGs to ease anxiety and entertain them.
- Cleanup supplies: Stock up on carpet cleaner, paper towels, and stain/odor removal products to manage any accidents.
- Identification: Buy a basic collar with proper ID tag, and have a microchip implanted. You’ll add their license upon spay/neuter.
- Grooming tools: Invest in a slicker brush, comb, nail clippers, shampoo, and toothbrush for brushing and bathing.
Having these puppy basics in place ahead of time reduces stress and makes your first days run more smoothly!
Picking Up Your Puppy With Care
Since small breed puppies are so tiny, extra care must be taken when picking them up or handling:
- Support their chest with one hand, and bottom/legs with the other. Lift smoothly.
- Never grab roughly or suspend them painfully by their forelegs, tail, or scruff.
- Keep them low to the ground. Dropping from even one foot up can seriously injure toy breed puppies.
- Let them begin acclimating to your touch while still on the ground before lifting.
- Cradle them gently once lifted so they feel secure.
- Restrict handling by young children since they may accidentally be rough. Always supervise interactions.
With time, your puppy will become comfortable being lifted respectfully. But building trust through handling takes patience.
Transporting Your Puppy Safely
The trip home is exciting but can also be overwhelming for small puppies, so plan accordingly:
- Contain them en route in a properly sized carrier, crate or box secured with a seatbelt. Never let them roam loose in a moving vehicle.
- Bring pee pads, paper towels, and cleaning solution in case of motion sickness or bathroom needs.
- Consider bringing a snuggle toy or familiar blanket from the litter for comfort.
- Keep the ride smooth and avoid abrupt starts/stops or speeding.
- If air travel is required, consult your airline for rules on transporting small dogs in the cabin.
- Never leave your puppy unattended in a parked vehicle, where temperatures can quickly become dangerous.
With safe transportation and TLC, you’ll both enjoy the trip home and start bonding as a new family!
Adjusting Sleep Schedules Gradually
At first your new puppy will likely be restless at night in their new environment. To help them adjust:
- Provide a cozy but confined sleeping space like a crate or pen nearby. Avoid having them sleep in your bed at first.
- Mimic nap times for when you’ll sleep. Puppies need 18+ hours of sleep per day.
- Keep the space comfortable and dark during sleep times.
- Be positive but boring if they cry at night. Take them out for potty needs then put them immediately back to bed.
- Comfort with snuggles when you wake up, not during middle of the night outbursts.
- Accept accidents the first few nights until they learn to hold it through the night.
With dedication and patience, your puppy will get used to their new sleep schedule. Maintaining proper crate training is essential.
Socializing Your Puppy
Early socialization helps small breed puppies develop proper manners and relationships with new sights, sounds, people, and other animals.
- Start slow, positive introductions in familiar settings after a few days settling in.
- Use treats and praise to reinforce calm behavior around novel things. Never force interactions.
- Carry them gently when encountering new dogs or people if fearful. Allow approaching slowly.
- Invite friends and family over. Supervise children holding the puppy properly.
- Arrange controlled play sessions with puppy kindergarten or friend’s polite, vaccinated dogs.
- Use leashes, carriers, and vehicles for frequent short field trips to socialize with the outside world.
Frequent, structured socialization prevents shyness and reactivity over the critical first year. But take care not to overwhelm your puppy during this adjustment period.
Housetraining any puppy takes diligence, but toy breeds present extra hurdles:
- More frequent potty breaks are required due to small bladders. Stick to a strict schedule.
- Pick a potty cue like “go pee” and use it consistently before bringing them to their spot. Praise instantly after they go.
- Clean all accidents thoroughly with enzymatic cleaner to prevent repeats in the same spots.
- Limit access to areas of the home until fully housetrained. Use crates and pens when you can’t actively supervise.
- Rely on cues like circling, sniffing, or leaving the room so you can get them out before they go indoors.
- Be extremely patient and accept there will be many mistakes before they learn.
With constant supervision, confinement when unattended, and positive reinforcement, even hard-to-housebreak small breeds can learn bladder control.
Smaller dogs are unfortunately prone to guarding behavior and snapping when scared. Stop this serious issue before it develops:
- Socialize them extensively and use only positive training methods to build confidence.
- Never punish or startle them while eating, resting, or playing with toys.
- If early resource guarding appears, consult a trainer to intervene with counter-conditioning.
- Teach “drop it” and trade items for higher value treats so they learn to relinquish objects willingly.
- Provide their own bed and toys so sharing with humans isn’t required.
- Require children to leave small dogs alone when sleeping or eating. Supervise all interactions.
While chihuahuas and other tiny pups have a reputation for nipping, setting them up for success prevents guarding before it becomes a serious behavioral problem.
Gaining Trust Through Handling
Frequent gentle handling teaches small puppies to accept restraint for activities like bathing and grooming:
- Pet them gently but examine every area – ears, teeth, paws, belly, etc. Praise and reward cooperation.
- Lightly restrain them on your lap for brief moments before feeding treats and releasing.
- Gently hold their muzzle closed for a few seconds then give kisses and snacks.
- Touch and rub their paws, then reward with a treat.
- Lift and carry them briefly before letting them run off to play.
- As they accept handling, gradually increase how long they are touched before getting a treat.
By associating restraint and touch with good things, your puppy accepts handling without fear. This builds a great foundation for future grooming, vet exams, and injury treatment.
Maintaining Proper Weight
Puppy diets must provide all the protein and nutrients needed for small breeds’ rapid development. But overfeeding leads to obesity.
- Choose a high-quality kibble specifically for small or toy breed puppies. Follow label portions carefully.
- Weigh them weekly and keep track of projected growth. Consult your vet if gaining too quickly.
- Switch to adult small breed food around 6-12 months old. Again follow label portions.
- Limit unhealthy treats and people food which pile on empty calories. Use tiny training treats.
- Account for dental calories from chew toys like bully sticks.
- Ensure they get adequate exercise each day to help burn energy and calories.
Monitoring intake, providing the right diet, and avoiding obesity sets your puppy up for better long term musculoskeletal and digestive health.
Key Takeaways for Adopting Small Puppies
Here are some of the critical points to remember:
- Pick a breed that suits your lifestyle in terms of activity needs, environment, and experience level.
- Select the most vigorous, healthy puppy from a responsible source.
- Puppy-proof your home and set up a containment space, bed, feeding station, and potty area.
- Have essential supplies on hand for training, cleanup, identification, and grooming before adoption day.
- Transport them properly in a secured carrier, limit handling by children, and take socialization slowly.
- Use confinement, supervision, and positive reinforcement for successful housetraining.
- Discourage guarding and build confidence through extensive socialization and handling exercises.
- Feed a proper small breed puppy diet and monitor their weight closely.
With the right prep, these clever little companions will bring you years of devotion, entertainment, and love in a compact furry package!
Frequently Asked Questions About Small Dog Adoption
If you’re considering adding a small dog to your family, you likely have lots of questions! Here are answers to some of the most common inquiries:
How long can small breed puppies be left alone?
Puppies less than 6 months old shouldn’t be alone more than 2-3 hours. Build gradually up to 4-5 hours for adults. Consider a dog walker or daycare for longer work days.
What’s the best way to train a little puppy?
Positive reinforcement works best. Use treats, praise, and affection to reward good behaviors. Keep sessions under 10 minutes for puppies and always end on a positive note.
Do small dogs need less exercise than big dogs?
Incorrect! Little dogs need 30-60 minutes of vigorous daily exercise tailored to their abilities. Shorter walks and indoor active play fit their smaller bladders and stride.
How can I curb barking and separation anxiety?
More socialization, mental stimulation, and scheduled alone time helps minimize barking and crying. Never comfort crying pups. Instead, reward calm behavior before leaving them briefly alone.
Is it okay to let my small puppy use pee pads forever?
Continued pee pad use makes full housetraining more difficult. View pads as a backup option only during the training process, not a permanent potty solution.
What health issues are common in tiny breeds?
Luxating patellas, collapsed trachea, hypoglycemia, dental disease, and eye conditions are more prevalent in small dog breeds. Be vigilant about symptoms and see your vet for well visits.
Should I buy pet stairs or ramps?
Yes, small dogs are prone to injury hopping on and off furniture. Provide access stairs/ramps to beds, couches, and cars. Handle them carefully whenever lifting up or down.
Will a small breed puppy get along with my resident cat?
Early socialization and rewards for calm behavior around cats helps. Provide escape routes for kitty, and always supervise initial interactions until the puppy matures. Some chasing is inevitable at first.
Can small dogs eat regular dog food?
No, small breeds should eat a formula designed for their nutritional needs with smaller kibble size. Avoid foods with large chunks that could present a choking risk.
How can I find a responsible small dog breeder?
Seek referrals from trusted vets and owners of the breed you want. Thoroughly research breeders and visit facilities in-person. Verify health testing and screen for puppy mills red flags.
Whether you’re bringing home your very first pint-sized pup or rounding out your pack, following these tips will set your small fry up for health and happiness as your loyal little sidekick!