I was seriously considering scrapping this blog post entirely. I normally veer away from negativity. I don’t want to make anyone feel bad, especially if they’re doing their best.
But it’s important for you to know about these things that small dog owners really need to stop doing.
Some of these are things I’ve done in the past. If you’re doing them, you’re not alone. And you’re not a bad dog owner.
If you’re here, it’s no mistake – you want to make good choices for your dog, and for that, you’re a good dog owner. Yes, even if you disagree and decide to do the opposite of what I advise.
1. Letting their dogs sit in their lap while driving.
Very few dogs are small enough to fit on the drivers’ lap behind the steering wheel. But Chihuahuas and other Toy breeds seem perfectly sized to fit.
If you’re an anxious driver, your dog may even help ease your nerves.
But… she shouldn’t have to.
The small amount of comfort or enjoyment you get from letting your dog lie in your lap while you drive is not worth the risk to her life.
Have you heard stories of airbags killing babies, even toddlers, who were in the front seat? An airbag almost definitely will kill a 5-10 pound dog.
If the airbag doesn’t go off, but your dog is not strapped in, she will become a projectile. She can hit the windshield, and even slam into (and possibly kill) you or your passengers – and it’s unlikely that she’ll survive the physical trauma.
Even if you’re a great driver, and don’t expect to get into an accident (who does?) your dog is a distraction. What would you do if she jumped down in the footwell while you were merging?
Look, I’ve done it before. I’ve driven with Matilda on my lap years ago, when I was suffering from driving-related anxiety. I’ve also ridden as a passenger in the front seat with her in my lap.
I thought she’d hate riding in her Sleepypod carrier, unable to look out the windows. But with very little training, she gladly hops into it, and she’s quiet the entire ride. She’s calmer than she ever was before we had it.
2. “Spoiling” their dog with home-cooked food that offer little nutritional value.
I see this a lot in Facebook Groups – someone will post a photo of some beef-and-potato stew or chicken-and-rice dish that looks just like something they’d feed a human, and proudly announce that this is what they feed their dog every day, because they love them sooo much.
These special meals are okay on occasion, but if you feed your dog these unbalanced home cooked meals each day, she’s going to end up with a vitamin deficiency.
Giving your dog fresh food is not “spoiling” her, it’s treating her like a living, breathing animal. All dogs need fresh foods in their diet. They need variety. And they deserve flavor.
You can use fresh food toppers to boost your dog’s dry or canned food, or as treats.
But please, leave out the rice or potatoes. If your dog normally eats kibble, she doesn’t need even more carbohydrates.
Real meat, fish, eggs, and certain fruits and veggies can be wonderful for your dog. Just make sure you know what you’re doing, and consult a holistic vet if you need help formulated complete, balanced raw or cooked recipes for everyday feeding.
3. Letting their dogs get or stay obese.
Chihuahuas and toy dogs whose ideal weight is 3-8 pounds, only need 150 to 300 calories per day. It doesn’t take much for them to start gaining too much weight.
Though tiny dogs are especially good at squeezing into spaces to find hidden crumbs, they don’t get obese on their own.
We’re in (almost) complete control of what they eat, so when they become overweight, it’s usually our fault – though certain health conditions like hypothyroidism would be an exception.
Your own personal relationship with food is just that… personal. You may have grown up with the belief that food is love. You may, for whatever reason, feel an urge to indulge your dog, or allow her to weigh more than she should.
Reducing weight doesn’t have to mean cutting back portions and letting your dog go hungry. In fact, because Chihuahuas and other toy dogs are so small, they need to eat enough food to cover their nutritional needs.
Switching to a nutrient dense weight loss food can mean your dog still feels full after meals. You can replace treats with lean meats, fish, and even veggies cooked in broth.
For your dog, losing weight can actually taste pretty good, make her feel much better, and add years to life.
4. Sneaking their dogs everywhere.
A small dog is easy to stow in a purse-like carrier, a covered stroller, or even in a heavy coat. And it’s better than leaving your dog in a hot car, right?
But public places have rules and laws against bringing your pets inside for very good reasons.
Bringing your dog to an indoor restaurant or a grocery store can compromise the sanitary conditions in which people (rightfully) expect to purchase food.
If you must do it, keep them in their carrier… avoid sitting your dog at the table or letting them ride in the shopping cart.
The biggest trouble with pet dogs in public places is how hard it makes life for service dogs and their handlers. If your dog distracts a service dog, they may miss an important cue, and fail to alert their handler of a seizure, for example.
Bringing pets into stores and letting other customers play with them can also give the public the impression that service dogs are okay to interact with.
If you have a good relationship with a small business owner, who says it’s okay, or you just smuggle your dog around in a really discreet, responsible way… go for it, you’re not bothering anyone.
5. Letting Others Put Us Down.
People can have weird attitudes towards small dog owners.
They make all sorts of judgments based on their beliefs.
For example, if you use a dog stroller on walks because your dog is elderly, injured, or prone to getting stepped on in crowds, sure enough, someone is going to tell you to stop treating your dog like a baby.
If your dog, god forbid, barks at a stranger who abruptly walks up to them, sure enough, they’ll tell you how they raised Rottweilers on choke chains, implying that it’s a shame that people nowadays don’t choke their dogs like they used to.
People assume our small dogs are untrained, spoiled, and need to be trained with the same heavy hand that they use to train their larger dogs (who, just like our dogs, do not need or deserve harsh punishments.)
Don’t let people talk down to you, but don’t let them bother you, either.
It’s up to us to train our dogs well, set a good example when we can, but most of all, keep learning.
You’re the best owner your dog could ever ask for, and being willing to learn and grow is what makes you so incredible. Keep up the great work!