I was so excited. I told all my friends I was getting a Pomeranian. The response I got from all of them went something like this: “I always thought of you as a large breed person. I can't imagine you with a small dog. Why do you want a small dog?”
I had wanted a Pomeranian for 15 years. The problem was getting a breeder to sell one to me. At the time I had bigger dogs -- Wheaten Terriers. The breeders all said “The big dogs will hurt the little dog." I couldn't understand it.
Fast forward to four years ago. My big dogs had died. I found a Pomeranian breeder but she had no puppies. Then… the sale of one of her puppies fell through -- and she was willing to sell the puppy to me! “Tot Man” came to live with us. Never having had a small dog, I didn't know what I was in for. When I went to visit “Tot Man” for the first time, the breeder threw a towel down on the floor and Tot pee'd on it. I knew I was in trouble. Like most toy breeds, Tot was not house broken nor did he have any respect for humans. Owners of toy breeders will understand this phrase very well: “Toy breeds expect humans to wait on them.”
What happens with a toy dog is that owners begin to treat them like ornaments for their purses. Their feet do not need to touch the ground; the only talk they hear is baby talk. You can forget about taking them for a walk. It doesn't happen. People stop me all the time when they see me walking my toy breeds. The usual comment is “I didn't know you could take these little dogs for a walk.” The operative word here is “walk.” These are dogs, not cats. Dogs of any size need exercise and stimulation.
As I have mentioned in past blogs, one of the strongest bonding exercises you can do with your dog is take them for a walk. The walk is mental as well as physical exercise. The dog learns that you are the leader, and that you are in-charge, and the dog learns to follow the leader. Sounds simple? Ask yourself this: Does your toy dog get upon in the morning and start running around the house? Does it jump from chair to sofa and zoom around and around the living room?
If so, this is for you: Take five minutes in the morning to walk your dog. You don't have to start with a long walk. Just up and down the block. Your little dog will begin to look forward to this routine. You will find less anxiety when you leave the house in the morning. No more using your living room as Daytona Speedway. Fewer accidents in the house when you come home. For the adventurous, try an evening walk when you are done with work. The results will be: your dog sleeps better; your dog eats better. Your dog sees and meets other dogs and learns how to relax in public.
What does “Tot Man” do now? Tot Man has had many jobs in his four years. His first job was in agility training. If you want to have a lot of fun with your toy breed, agility is the exercise for you. Often the height these little guys can jump is 4-8 inches. The height of the jump is determined by the height at the dog's shoulder. If you have questions about the dog's physical condition, please have the dog checked out by your vet. Some physical problems may be the result of a luxating patella which affects the dog's knees.
This condition ultimately affected Tot Man. His new job is to be a "demo" dog in my dog training classes. Tot demonstrates the exercises before other class members try them with their own dogs. For fun, he goes on two walks a day – a total of three miles. He also enjoys rides in the car -- in his own car seat and seat belt. He is also the official greeter at home when anyone visits.
Tot Man is a dog who thought people existed to serve him. He was not an exception -- but eventually he learned to be a dog who can enjoy many activities -- and a dog who loves people.
Julia Levitt owns In Harmony Dog Training and she teaches dog classes at the Ann Arbor Animal Hospital.