The trending of smaller dog breeds has been in progress for some time. As far back as 2005, an article from the American Kennel Club (AKC) cites the growing popularity of small dogs.
“Small dogs—those weighing less than 20 pounds—have held a steady place in the hearts of Americans over the past four years according to American Kennel Club registration statistics,” AKC staff wrote. “Since 2000, four of the top ten most popular breeds have been small dogs, indicating that while Americans may be gravitating towards bigger cars and appetites in the 21st century, they still appreciate the affection of a petite pooch.”
Of course, the small dog phenomenon has continued to present day, with AKC ranking several small breeds among 2015’s most popular.
According to the AKC, the last time smaller breeds made a strong showing in American households was the 1950s and 60s, particularly with the Boston Terrier, Dachshund, Chihuahua and Pekingese.
Between then and the 1990s, larger breeds had a stable hold on puppy popularity. Even in the 1990s, smaller breeds’ prevalence was inconsistent at best until the new millennium ushered in a new era in dog ownership.
In response to the continued popularity of small and toy-breed dogs, many manufacturers have turned their focus to creating size-specific treats, toys and more.
Exploring the Great Outdoors
Regardless of a breed’s size, the importance of daily exercise remains. However, the specifics of activity are in fact affected by the genealogy of a pet—namely, intensity and amount necessary.
According to an article published to PetMD, “though exercise needs are based on a dog’s age, breed, size and overall health, your dog should spend between 30 minutes to two hours on an activity every day.”
Luckily, several treats and toys specifically for small breeds can keep pets active and nourished during outdoor fun.
“We are strong believers in being active and exploring the world with our dogs,” said Chris Meiering, director of innovation for Zuke’s. “Whatever the dog’s size or breed, their love of adventure is huge and they need quality nutrition to fuel that passion.”
“While it’s great to reward often on hikes or while training, owners of small breed dogs have to be extra careful not to overdo calorie intake,” Meiering continued. “At less than one and one half calories per treat, Zuke’s Tiny Naturals are perfect for tiny tummies.”
Tiny Naturals are specially formulated bites for small breeds that are highly palatable, made in the USA and free of harsh additives and grain. They are available in three flavors.
West Paw Design is another company turning its attention to dogs of smaller stature. Several of their toys were made to meet the needs of dogs of all sizes and to “withstand gnawers, fetchers and every dog in between.”
Toys in West Paw’s Zogoflex and Zogoflex Air line are all free of latex and BPA, nontoxic and recyclable. They float and are easily visible because of their bright colors. From the customizable treat puzzle TOPPL to the extra-bouncy JIVE, West Paw Design creates toys that keep dogs of all sizes active and healthy.
For those seeking solutions to messy water bowl transfer while on outdoor adventures, there is Heyrex’s Torus. Portable and durable, it helps pet owners ensure companions are hydrated, even out of the home.
Torus is a portable water bowl available in two- and one-liter sizes, the latter of which is optimal for smaller breeds. Carbon-filtered water is stored inside its walls for automatic replenishment. For easy transport, lock the valve and secure water within its hollow circular ring.
“We call it ‘smart thinking for pet drinking,’” said Nathan Lawrence, Heyrex’s CEO. “In 2015 we introduced the one-liter specifically for smaller dogs and cats.”
Hand in hand with the active category is the travel category. Whether spending quality active time outdoors or running errands, pet owners often enjoy allowing their furry friends to tag along.
For those who love to travel but prefer two wheels to four, there is Solvit’s Wicker Tagalong Pet Bicycle Basket. Affording pets and their owners the ability to spend more quality active time together, the Wicker Tagalong Bicycle Basket comes with a removable sunshade to keep companions cool and comfortable in all conditions. The basket’s adjustable safety leash keeps pets secure and its sheepskin liner is removable for washing.
“At Solvit, our focus is on innovative products that improve pets’ mobility so pets and their owners can spend more quality time together,” said Patrick Hoffman, president of Solvit Products. “The Solvit Wicker Bicycle Basket is a perfect solution for active pet owners with small pets to get outside.”
For urban dwellers who prefer walking, Worldwise offers the Sherpa Metropolitan Tote from their Small Designer Totes line. The hybrid carrier and tote bag is built for ease and durability in urban living.
Car travel poses a unique dilemma for pet owners wishing to bring their companions along for a ride.
According to a survey sponsored by AAA and Kurgo Pet Products, 84 percent of respondents reported that they drive with pets. In addition, 29 percent admitted to being distracted by pets while driving and 65 percent indicated that they had participated in at least one “distracting behavior” while driving with a pet, ranging from petting, playing and giving treats to allowing their dog to sit on their lap.
Fortunately for travel-happy pet owners and their accompanying passengers—both human and otherwise—many products are available to mitigate these risks.
Kurgo offers the Skybox Rear Booster Seat, designed to “give your smallest passenger the best seat in the car.”
The Skybox Rear Booster Seat comes with low padded walls for added comfort and just enough boost for short dogs to see out of car windows and into the front seat. The product folds out fast and security is ensured by a seat belt system and tether. It conveniently doubles as a travel bed for furry road trip companions.
Kurgo’s Rover Booster Seat similarly allows smaller dogs to have a comfortable view of the front seat and windows. The soft window seats keep pets and owners safe by providing a secure place for riding.
For smaller canines, toys are another category in which size-specific products are important. Many manufacturers have started making pint-size playthings—whether completely redesigned for small mouths and paws or smaller versions of toys made for their larger counterparts.
“From our research, we know that small and toy dog breed ownership is on the rise,” said Ron Bagley, vice president of design for Petmate. “A recent survey indicates that approximately 52 percent of dog households have a dog weighing under 25 pounds. This fact remains a focus for us during our product development process.”
The JW Hol-ee Bone with Squeaker Small and the JW SillySounds Spiral Bone are two offerings from Petmate born out of that line of thinking. The Hol-ee Bone holds a squeaker ball and has offset balance which allows the bone to wobble. Each SillySounds Spiral Bone, on the other hand, comes with a unique sound: spiral balls tweet, and spiral bones twist and squeak.
At Worldwise, tiny breeds now have their own selection of toys. The company’s goDog Durable Plush Toys with Chew Guard Technology brand recently launched a line called JUST FOR ME. The toys are built with “tiny tough chewers” specifically in mind.
Ethical Pet Products provides smaller breeds and puppies with a line of properly sized plush toys. The range of characters includes features like stretchy bungee material, stuffing-free blankets, floppy arms and legs for tugging and and plush rings made to be picked up by small mouths.
Little Bellies with Big Appetites
Food needs also differ between small breed dogs and those of a larger variety. From metabolic rate to common diseases, the health histories and potentials for dogs vary among breeds.
It may surprise pet owners that while smaller dogs do consume much fewer total calories compared to larger dogs, their rate of calorie intake per pound is in fact higher. Even further, small and large breeds are commonly affected by different ailments, requiring distinct health regimens.
“Small breeds of dogs can live a very long time and high dietary levels of antioxidants can help prevent free radical damage over such a long life span,” wrote Jennifer Coates, DVM, in an article for PetMD. “On the other hand, it seems like almost every older, large breed dog suffers from some degree of arthritis. Of course, small dogs can also benefit from glucosamine [for joint health] and large dogs need antioxidants, but their diets can be tweaked to address their most common health concerns.”
Solid Gold has a range of foods formulated for toy and small breed dogs. The newest of the bunch, Might Mini, is a grain- and gluten-free recipe high in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Many of Solid Gold’s products match well with small breeds or even puppies, including Lil’ Boss, a grain- and gluten-free small dog kibble made with turkey and a hearty vegetable blend, and Wee Bit, a whole grain bit-size kibble recipe formulated with brown rice, barley, and a base of bison protein and healthy fats. Solid Gold also offers three easy-to-serve wet cups for smaller breeds that can act as stand-alone meals or compliments to dry foods.
In an effort to provide dogs of all sizes treats with a focus on limited-ingredient formulas, Scout & Zoe’s have produced new chicken, duck, venison and vegetable products made with human-grade raw ingredients.
“We’re very conscious of trends in food regulation that are aimed at hiding the origin of products or misleading consumers about the location of where their foods are being processed,” said Cindy Dunston Quirk, owner and developer of Scout & Zoe’s. “Everything we create is USA-sourced and USA-produced.”
Recently showcased at Global Pet Expo was Merrick’s new meals for small breed dogs: Merrick Lil’ Plates. The grain-free recipes come in dry and wet varieties and are formulated to “offer big nutrition to small dogs.”
“Small breed dogs now account for 47 percent of today’s dog population,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick Pet Care. “With the growing interest in small breeds comes a demand for high quality dog food specially formulated to meet their particular dietary needs. Merrick Lil’ Plates cater to the big appetites of these small dogs.”
Lil’ Plates contain probiotics and prebiotic fiber for optimal digestion, and “industry-leading levels” of glucosamine and chondroitin, which help promote healthy joints. Smaller dogs will find it easier to pick up and digest the smaller kibble size.
“Like all Merrick recipes, Lil’ Plates start with deboned meat, fish or poultry as the first ingredient and include fresh fruits and vegetables,” Brace said.
As more Americans choose to bring toy- and small-breed dogs into their families, the need for size-specific pet products continues to grow. Pet store owners have both the opportunity and the responsibility to educate owners on dogs’ unique needs and products that serve them.