Raising Small Dogs in the City – Challenges and Solutions

Small Dogs in the Urban Environment – By Dr. David Rosenblatt, D.V.M

Urban dogs sometimes suffer from sensory overload (the sight of a tall building, sounds from sirens, industrial odors, hard asphalt surfaces, etc.) that may cause physical or emotional stress. Tiny dogs have a more challenging time adapting to the urban environment since they experience all these stimuli from a miniaturized physical space.

Small dogs experience every smell, sound and sensation more intensely than large dogs. In addition, these dogs are often carried by their owners and therefore suffer more from being overweight and from problems associated with lack of exercise.

If we were to arrange all the domestic dogs in the world next to each other according to size, on one end we would have huge beasts weighing around 70 kg, and on the other end tiny little creatures weighing around 1 kg. This is a massive range, especially considering the fact that they are all descendants of wolves weighing 35-40 kg.

It all starts and ends with nutrition

This situation creates a significant challenge for veterinarians and nutritionists, who need to meet the health needs of each dog. On the one hand, they’re all dogs, while on the other hand, you cannot overlook the physiological differences between them. For example, life expectancy increases as the size of the dog decreases, nutritional efficiency increases as the size of the dog increases, etc.

The relationship between the dog’s size and the environment he lives in

Demographically, it’s no surprise that there is a relationship between dog size and habitat. The average weight of urban dogs is much lower than dogs that live in rural and suburban environments. Not that there aren’t any huge dogs in the city or tiny dogs on the farm. It’s simply a statistical fact, and it makes sense. When a person lives in the city, for the most part his living space shrinks and he will prefer a small dog. Small dogs need a smaller space to live in, it’s easier to get around with them on public transportation and even to carry them if necessary.

Any trainer or behavioral specialist will explain to us that inside every dog, regardless of his size, is a wild wolf. Many behaviors are remnants of primal behavior. For example, dogs’ tendency to walk around in circles a few times before they lay down is a primal behavior that is no longer necessary, and the house dog has no idea why he does it. Most experts agree that wild dogs circle around to flatten the surface and to select the best position relative to the direction of the wind. Obviously, as we get farther from nature, adaptation requirements increase.

Physical and emotional stress among urban dogs

There are many physical and emotional stressors that affect the urban dog, such as sensory overload (exposure to unnatural environmental stimuli common in cities: the sight of tall buildings, sirens, loud noises, industrial odors, strange tactile surfaces, and more), overload on joints resulting from ascending and descending stairs, wear of paw pads due to excessive walking on paved surfaces, inadequate exercise, exposure to air pollution, and more.

When you are a tiny dog in the city, adapting to all of this is much more challenging, because you are experiencing this environment from a miniaturized physical space. A small dog that weighs 3 kg experiences every sound and smell about 10 times more intensely than his German Shepard or Labrador counterpart. Every step is 10 times higher; the urban landscape is more intimidating… Because of their small size they walk a lot more slowly and often their rushed and busy owners prefer to carry them by picking them up, putting them in a carrier, or even in a baby carriage. Therefore, small urban dogs suffer more from being overweight and from problems associated with lack of exercise.

How can I make it easier for my dog to cope with the urban environment?

If you have a tiny furry friend in the city, be considerate of him. You can make it easier for small dogs in the city to cope with most of the difficulties they face by doing a few simple things:

• Ensure they get enough exercise, at least half an hour a day, preferably an hour. If you can’t manage to do this yourself, hire a dog walker.

• Choose a food for small urban breeds that is fortified with zinc to strengthen paw pads, medicinal plants to protect from oxidative stress, and soothing plants.

• Make sure your dog is regularly vaccinated and treated for fleas, ticks and worms.

• Never let your small dog wander around on his own. Most cities have dog parks where your dog can meet friends and run around.

To summarize, raising a dog in an urban environment in general, and a small breed dog in particular, includes numerous challenges and we, as dog owners, need to find appropriate behavioral, medical, and nutritional solutions for them and so they can live a healthy and enjoyable life.

Make the smart choice