Top Health and Personality Traits of 6 Popular Small Dog Breeds

Welcome to part two of our summer series that reveals key characteristics of specific small dog breeds. In these pages, you’ll discover health and wellness info to help you better care for your fur friend. Whether you’re curious about key facets of their personality, potential health complications, or ways to support their diet and style their coat, read on.

If you’re thinking of adopting or could use a refresher about a small breed that’s already part of your family, these insights will help. Ahead is a collection of tidbits about six popular small dog breeds and what pet experts recommend to keep them healthy and happy.

Dachshund

dachshund

Temperament traits:

These iconic pups have an intellect as big as their plucky personalities. They enjoy making friends on occasion but prefer their owners above all else. Bred to hunt small game in tight spaces, they’re voracious sniffers who can’t help but explore their surroundings ‘nose-first.’ These expressive, curious cuties are brave with every bone in their body – sometimes to a fault! Their big-dog bark may belie their small stature, but not their heightened protective instincts. Kid-friendly and support dog-approved, adopt one and you undoubtedly have a true friend for life.

Grooming practices:

Coat care largely depends on the type of doxie you have. Short hair (known as smooth dachshunds) require little to no upkeep. That is safe for a few washes when their curiosity gets the best of them and they dirty themselves digging for adventure. Longhaired dachshunds have fine, silky strands that can easily tangle especially around the ears and joints, so daily brushing is recommended. Wirehaired weenies may need the occasional beard trim and a bi-annual stripping to stay dapper.

Dietary needs:

Because of their long backs and sensitive spines, weight gain can be extremely dangerous for dachshunds. Any extra fluff around their middle can result in slipped discs or, in extreme cases, paralysis. If your pup is outside the recommended weight range, consider a grain-free dog food to help them reduce safely and avoid any complications from weight gain. Also, make sure the food has protein as its #1 ingredient and consider one with anti-inflammatories like Omega 3’s to help with joint health.

Health concerns:

Again, their spines must be protected at all costs. In addition to their dietary considerations, make sure to support their backs when picking them up. Encourage them to use stairs or ramps instead of jumping off furniture to prevent tendonitis or back and joint injury.

Suggested Activities:

Walkers beware; you’ll spend most of your time indulging their sniffers, though they’ll love the change of scene. Hunt and find games will go over like gangbusters, as will reward-based obedience commands that get them out of their own heads.

West Highland Terrier

west highland terrier

Temperament traits:

Congenial, whip-smart, and headstrong, Westies are guaranteed to bring your family belly laughs. Their fun-loving personalities are as distinctive as their white coats and contrasting dark eyes. Expect them to faithfully play, and protect, any opportunity they’re given. Just don’t take it personally if they ignore you from time to time. Independence is their middle name.

Grooming practices:

Like with many terriers, plucking is a necessary practice to keep them looking fresh. Once the dead hairs are removed, you can extend the life of their cuts, repeating the process every 6-8 weeks. Keep bathing to a minimum so as not to disrupt the already coarse overcoat.

Dietary needs:

Westies require a high-quality dog food to help supply their high energy levels. At times, their digestion can be fickle, but you can entice them with a little coconut oil or chicken broth sprinkled on their kibble.

Health concerns:

IBD is not uncommon in some west highland terriers. As mentioned above, infusing quality kibble can help keep their appetite up. You can also choose a dog food that has prebiotic fiber in the ingredients list to help keep the balance.

Suggested Activities:

These agile creatures love to chase more than any other activity, so always keep them on a leash when outside of the yard. They’re also confident in performing tricks, but only when they want to.

Chihuahua

chihuahua

Temperament traits:

Chihuahuas are as confident as they are charismatic. They have the attitude of a big dog in a diminutive body that just barely keeps it all contained. These small sweeties are so beloved, they’re the national symbol of an entire country and ruler of many hearts. They’re clever, cute, and content to snuggle in your lap, especially as the temps drop.

Grooming practices:

Similar to Dachshunds, the Chihuahua coat comes in a variety of colors, lengths, and textures. Smooth, shorthaired short stacks won’t need much in the way of brushing and only the occasional bath. Long-haired lovelies need to be brushed at least once a week. The bigger concern is that their nails need to be trimmed or filed monthly. Because they weigh so little, even regular exercise may not be enough to ground them down.

Dietary needs:

Keep them trim with a perfect balance dog food, preferably one that’s a crunchy kibble. This will help clean teeth and prevent tartar build up that could quickly result in decay.

Health concerns:

Heart issues can cut the lifespan of this otherwise healthy dog. Take them for regular checks and spring for any tests recommended by the vet. Also watch for epileptic seizures, which can be a common side effect of over breeding.

Suggested Activities:

All dogs need exercise to maintain their weight. Chihuahuas are no exception, but even small spaces usually provide plenty of room for them to roam and work off extra calories. Since their legs are so short, their walks can be, too. Pay attention and they’ll tell you when they’re overexerted or close to it.

Pomeranian

pomeranian

Temperament traits:

Pomeranians are a boisterous, bright, and bubbly breed. They make up for their small frame with the attitude and overall presence of a much larger breed. Their perky personalities make them ideal family dogs, and a quick wit enables them to learn tricks quickly. Did we mention they live to entertain?

Grooming practices:

Poms are dapper darlings distinguished by their double-layered coats. These babies walk in a room fur first. To keep it that way, they’ll need to be brushed thoroughly at least once a week – more if they’re super active outdoors. It’s recommended they go in for a full professional grooming every 4-6 weeks.

Dietary needs:

Since their fluffy coats are their defining feature, ask your vet about switching their kibble to an all-natural or grain-free dog food to prevent hair loss or skin irritations from food allergies. (Learn more about safely transitioning to a new dog food here.)

Health concerns:

Like other small breeds, collapsed tracheas are often the result of overexcitement. They’re usually self-correcting but worth your attention if they continue more than a minute or two. Thyroid issues and skin problems like alopecia also negatively impact some poms.

Suggested Activities:

Pomeranians can usually get sufficient exercise running and playing in limited spaces, but when you do let them out, keep a close watch. Their small size and furry tails can resemble woodland creatures that larger predators prey upon.

French Bulldog

french bull dog

Temperament traits:

If it seems like the entire world is in love with these alert angels, that’s because they are. French Bulldogs don’t get flustered by change and are affectionate even in the midst of chaos. They’re mostly quiet, but that doesn’t mean they’re not always listening. They make fast two and four-legged friends and usually operate as though they’ve never met a stranger.

Grooming practices:

Since they don’t really shed, they shouldn’t need much help with their coats, but make it a practice to regularly clean the folds around their face.

Dietary needs:

These squatty puppies are built stalky and muscular. All the more reason to make sure and fill their bowl with a high-quality dog food that lists meat as the #1 ingredient. Bonus points if you can find less common protein sources like rabbit or duck.

Health concerns:

Have your vet check for eye issues like cataracts and autoimmune disorders that can cause problems down the line. Also make sure to keep these poor swimmers away from even shallow bodies of waters, and don’t let them get overheated.

Suggested Activities:

Make a game of your training and you’ll quickly win over their stubborn hearts. Never let them get too overexerted in the heat and keep walks to a minimum in to prevent breathing issues.

Pugs

pugs

Temperament traits:

Pugs are little lovers who are known for stirring up a bit of mischief, but they’re so melt-your-heart huggable it’s hard, if not impossible, to stay mad for long. They wear their emotions on their little faces and seem to all but beam messages through their soulful eyes. They’re adaptable to a variety of environments from city dwelling to country living, full family to single-parent household.

Grooming practices:

You’re sure to find black or fawn fur as it inevitably sheds, but a rubber glove brush will help make for easy cleanup. Otherwise, they’re pretty low-maintenance.

Dietary needs:

Seems like pugs can gain weight just by looking at a big bowl of kibble. You can help them stay trim and avoid health problem with proper proportions and a high-quality dog food with plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Health concerns:

Sinus and breathing problems are par for the course when you have a squished face and shortened snout. Talk to your vet if you suspect asthma and always keep their weight under control to avoid heart complications and distressed joints.

Suggested Activities:

They may love yard time, but best to practice tricks and fetch their favorite toys inside when the weather gets hot. Their heat tolerance is lower than most breeds and can quickly complicate the breathing issues they’re so prone to.

In short, we have a big love for small breeds. Note these health and behavior tips to help you take special care of your special friend.