Keeping Toy Breeds Safe

Small dogs can face unique dangers because of their size. Here’s what you need to know.

Toy breeds need special care. By: Eva Marley

Let’s face it, toy dogs are irresistibly adorable. They look like puppies their entire lives, so they never lose the cuteness factor.

They have clothing lines, accessories, stylish carriers and are welcome in more places.

However, a toy dog is also fragile. There are many dangers that can affect small dogs. Here are some tips for keeping toy breeds safe.

Whether to Sweater

Putting some of those stylish clothing lines to good use depends on the weather.

Toy dogs are smaller and get cold more often, and some hairless breeds are incredibly susceptible to weather extremes, frostbite and sunburn. Consider the outdoor temperature and always bring a sweater or outfit in case your dog gets cold or the weather changes.

Hot weather requires shade, water and sunscreen. Sunscreen designed for people should not be put on dogs. Human sunscreens contain ingestion warnings and may contain chemicals toxic to dogs, such as zinc oxide. Find an appropriate sunscreen that is non-toxic, hypoallergenic and designed for use on canines, such as Epi-Pet.

Be sure to read the label and apply as directed. Lotions are recommended over sprays since the dog may inhale the sunscreen while it is being applied. Any areas of exposed skin, shaved or hairless areas, parting of fur and the belly should be covered.

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If you live in an area where it snows you should take precautions to protect your dog’s paws. Besides ice and snow being cold and getting lodged between the paws, many public roads may be treated with salt or other products to melt the snow.

Keep the fur trimmed between the paw pads, always clean your dog’s paws once inside and use dog shoes or booties if possible. Remember to clean your own shoes so you don’t track salt and chemicals throughout your house.

Choosing a Carrier

Ventilation is an important factor in pet carriers, if not the most important factor.


Cute for toys but not for dogs since there’s no ventilation. By: Pet Ferry

If a carrier does not have holes or enough breathable fabric in its design, it becomes a stifling hot oven for your dog. Always check potential carriers before buying to ensure they are a safe haven for your dog. Look for air vents, holes or breaks in the fabric on the sides and top of the carrier to ensure air can flow through and up.

Size is another important factor when choosing a carrier. Your dog should have enough room to stand up, turn around and easily lie down inside the carrier regardless of the position of the carrier.

Fabric carriers can crumple or fold when placed on a flat surface, so make sure they edges are sturdy enough to retain its shape.

Watch Where You Walk

This may be a given when it comes to toy breeds, but it bears repeating: Tiny dogs can get in tiny places, and sometimes this happens to be under a rug, tablecloth or darting out across the room just as you head to the kitchen.

A responsibility of having a small dog is knowing where the dog is at all times. Use caution to avoid stepping on your dog, a move that could cause serious injuries, broken bones or death.

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This safety concern also applies to visitors in the home and children. You may remember to check for your dog before jogging across the living room, but everyone else might not. Always inform visitors when they arrive that you have a small dog. Active and playful children might easily forget to look for the dog, so remind them to keep an eye out for your canine tiny tot.

Speaking of children, they are also mentioned on my list.

Not a Child’s Toy

Even if your small dog was acquired with the understanding that the new pet was to be their responsibility, there is still a lot of ground to cover.

In addition to training the dog, you need to train the kids! Obviously we’re not talking about making kids play fetch or drinking water out of a bowl, but they need to know the proper ways to feed, handle, play and clean up after their dog.

Kids who are not taught the proper ways to play with or handle a small dog can irritate or injure the animal.

For example, little Sally places her Chihuahua on her top bunk thinking it would be cute to take a nap with the dog. Sally falls asleep and in an attempt to get down, the Chihuahua leaps and breaks a leg. Talk with children about safe places for the dog and areas in which the dog is not allowed, especially high areas.

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Irritating a dog is never a good idea. And there is some speculation that irritating a tiny dog brings swifter reactions or that they might be more defensive because of their size. Teach your children the correct way to interact with the dog to keep it safe for all. Pulling the tail, ears, legs, pinching, hitting, kicking or placing their faces in the dog’s face can cause a dog to react.

While some signs may be minor, such as licking the lips and looking away, these are warning signs and deserve recognition. Ignore those and you might have a bite situation on your hands. Keep your children and your dog safe by reiterating proper interaction.

This video offers some tips about dog bite warning signs and what kids can do to ease the dog:

Ground-Level Dangers

Your toy dog is much closer to the floor than larger dog breeds, and this means fitting in tiny spaces such as under the dining room chair or under a sofa. Check your floors, accessible spaces and even appliances to ensure your dog won’t get stuck. Close off any open areas or crawl spaces you don’t want the dog to access.

Spills and dropping food are a concern with any dog, and there are many foods that are toxic to dogs. Make sure you educate everyone about which foods are definitely off limits, such as grapes, raisins and chewing gum.


Your dog’s tiny legs already work overtime, and an obese toy breed will have difficulty moving. The extra weight puts on a strain not only on movement but also the dog’s heart, breathing and other internal organs. Obesity can also cause additional health problems for your pet.

Feeding treats is a habit we all have, and it can be difficult to say no with those cute puppy eyes pleading for a nibble. Try to limit the treats to small bites, low-calorie snacks and healthy vegetables.

Choose a quality dog food designed for toy breeds. Check with your veterinarian if you have any concerns about the brand or quantity of food to provide for your dog. Measure your dog’s food or use a cup or bowl that fits the appropriate serving of food each day to prevent overfeeding.

There are many dangers for toy dogs, and these should be discussed with everyone in your household.

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, has been researching dog and cat breeds for nearly a decade and has observed the animals up close at dog shows in both the United States and the United Kingdom. She is the author of the book One Unforgettable Journey, which was nominated for a Maxwell Award from the Dog Writers Association of America, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. In addition, she was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. Kristine has researched and written about pet behaviors and care for many years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology, another bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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