"Mighty Minis” and the “One-Size-Fits-All Problem.”


Canis familiaris, or the domestic dog, is a species with an adult body weight that varies in the extreme.  Some adult individuals weigh 2 pounds while others weigh 130 pounds.  As with other things in which there is a lack of knowledge and understanding on the part of human caregivers, many myths exist about “mighty minis” or tiny dogs; myths that significantly compromise the welfare of these beloved little canines, myths such as: “Tiny dogs don’t need obedience training.”  “Tiny dogs don’t need to have behavioral limits.”  “Tiny dogs don’t need much exercise.”  “All tiny dogs are loving, approachable, and sweet, so what harm could they do”? 

The truth of the matter is that although a tiny dog is much smaller than other individuals of the same species, a dog is a dog, is a dog, and tiny dogs are no exception.  The brain in any dog is configured in the same way regardless of the size of the canine.  The canine sense of smell is 100,000 times greater than that of a human.  All dogs need physical exercise, cognitive stimulation, and social interaction with conspecifics (other dogs) and humans.  Dogs have lived with humans since the time of early Hunter-gatherer societies, some authors say as far back as 15,000 years ago.  Dogs, like humans, are social creatures therefore they tend to live well together, creating a reciprocal helpmate/friendship between the two species. 

With any human or canine living in close proximity to others, if that individual does not follow the rules of the society or becomes aggressive and threatening toward others, other individuals, both human and canine, will address the problem to restore harmony to the group therefore a dog, any dog including tiny dogs, must learn how to behave and live in harmony with the group.  This fact signifies the importance of obedience training and limit setting within the dog’s environment.  This training is akin to teaching a toddler the meaning of the word “no.”

The One-Size-Fits-All Problem

The tiny dog, due to its diminutive stature, has unique safety needs within the environment it inhabits.  Human caregivers of tiny dogs, especially those people for whom this canine is their first tiny dog, need to be aware of these safety factors to assure that their little dog has a safe but enriching environment.  The tiny dog, when getting into any type of altercation with a larger dog or even a cat, is at increased risk due to its size.  Even at play with a much larger canine, the tiny dog could accidently by bumped, stepped on, or even crushed by the much larger canine.  

In the neighborhood, if a 6-pound dog is hit by a car going as slow as 20 miles per hour, the end result could be a fatality.  Being stung by a few insects such as wasps could be life threatening.  Accidentally ingesting a small dose of human medication or accidently ingesting a small amount of poison such as anti-freeze, could prove fatal.  Some tiny dogs even have a reaction to being given several types of vaccinations at once.  Falling from a height of even five feet could result in broken bones, a serious head injury, etc.  Being left unattended in a large back yard with small holes in the fence or under it, could result in your tiny dog escaping from the security of your backyard and wandering out into busy traffic.  A tiny dog with short fur, accidently left outside all night in freezing temperatures, could succumb to hypothermia. 

Always be aware of the environment in which you keep your mighty mini.  Be aware of what is in your backyard that could hurt this little dog.  Birds of prey have been known to swoop down and scoop up a tiny dog from an open field. Assure that even tiny holes in your fence are patched.  It might be a good idea, when letting your tiny dog out into your back yard, to remain outside with your dog and supervise your dog’s behavior.  If you have someone care for your tiny dog in your absence, share this information with that person particularly if he/she has had no experience with tiny dogs. 

After raising several tiny dogs in my lifetime, my hope for you is to have a healthy, happy, safe, and long life with your beloved mighty mini. 

Katherine L. Zupancic, PhD