Originally published on ArlNow.com 

Small dogs are great for urban environments. They are generally easier to exercise than large dogs and take up less space with their small crates and small beds.

Small dogs are just as smart and trainable as large dogs. Small dogs get a bad rap because too often owners find it faster and easier to just pick up the dog rather than train it, something that is not possible with a large dog. It’s not until the dog is older that some owners realize they missed the boat in teaching their small dog manners.

Small dog training tip: As long as it is safe, put your small dog on the ground and let them walk! Just because you can carry your dog, doesn’t mean you should. Small dogs need the same socialization and life experiences as big dogs and they can’t get that being carried around. If you socialize and train your small dog, they can do everything a large dog can and more.

My biggest concern for small dogs is their safety. Small dogs are, well, small. That makes it much easier for them to get hurt in a world that is 10 times their size. And they seem to be getting smaller and smaller. I have recently seen a lot of dogs who are under 5 pounds! Dogs in the under-20-pound range need some extra protection.

Small dogs should not play with large dogs unless you know the larger dog extremely well. Tiny dogs should never go to a dog park unless there is a designated small dog enclosure. The chances that a tiny dog will be hurt or scared by a larger dog is much too high, even if the larger dog did not intend to hurt the small dog.

Have you ever heard of predatory drift? Predatory drift is something all dog owners need to be aware of and most have never heard about. Predatory drift is a situation in which a dog will suddenly view another, usually much smaller, dog as prey. This is often preceded by the small dog running away and/or yipping in a high pitch.

These prey-like behaviors flip a switch in the dogs brain and the larger dog will then attack and bring down the small dog as if it were a prey animal like a squirrel or rabbit. In the best case scenario, the small dog is terrified and traumatized. In the worst case scenario, the small dog does not survive. This happens so much more often than anyone realizes, and it has happened many times in the past few years right here in Northern Virginia.

If you have a very small dog, make sure you go out of your way to arrange safe, similar-sized play groups. If your dog goes to daycare, ask the staff if they know what predatory drift is and make sure that small dogs are put in appropriate play groups.

Small dogs are smart, trainable and fun. A little bit of caution can make sure they live a long happy life.