Small Dogs for People who Like Big Dogs

Small Dogs for People who Like Big Dogs

How often do you hear people say "I'm a small dog person"? 

Likely not very often at all.

But for some reason it's common for people to announce that they are strictly a "big dog person"... 

Maybe it's because they had a big dog as a child growing up.

Or maybe it's because they think small dogs are annoying and yappy.

Or maybe they simply can't get this image out of their minds....

Whatever the reason, these "big dog only people" in my opinion, are missing out. To show you why,  I have matched 6 popular big dog breeds with 6 smaller dog breeds who share some of their best traits.

Here we go...

The Classic Family Dog
There are certain dogs that have broad appeal due to their classic good looks, ease of trainability, sweet disposition and gentleness with children. A perfect example of this type of breed is the Golden Retriever. 

While Golden Retrievers are wonderful family pets, they can be overwhelming if you live in a small space. They also require a lot of exercise to meet their health requirements.

Why not consider a Beagle instead?
The Beagle is also a wonderful family pet, often described as a "happy go lucky dog". Although this dog is smallish in size, they are up for big sized family fun due to their gregarious nature.  While the Beagle does not require nearly as much exercise as Golden Retrievers do, they will be delighted to keep you company if you're in the mood for a jog.

Enjoy the cuteness...

Tough-Guy Dog:
Do you like bad-ass dogs? I think they're pretty cool too!

Generally we think of dogs like Rottweilers and Pit Bulls as being in this category. While many people find these breeds to be loving, wonderful pets, they can also be harder to train than many novice owners anticipate.   Pit bull terriers (mixes and related breeds) only made up 3.3% of the total US dog population in 2012  but they also represented a whopping 29% of the total dog shelter population in the same year.  This is, in part,  due to breed specific legislation that discourages new owners from taking them in.  

If you like the look of the "tough guy dogs" but are not experienced with these breeds, the Boston Terrier could be a great match for you!

Originally bred as a fighting dog, the Boston Terrier has evolved into the ideal family pet - gentle and easy to train. With their shared bull and terrier breed lineage, the Boston has a similar look to its larger counterparts but at a more manageable size and temperament.  To learn more about how this fighter became a lover, check out this article.

The Stately Sentinel
I consider German Shepherds to be one of the most impressive breeds around. They are a versatile breed who are fiercely loyal to their humans. So much so, in fact, that the German Shepherd doesn't think twice before throwing itself into the line of fire to protect its family.  While the German Shepherd was initially bread for herding sheep (hence the inclusion of Shepherd in its name), its intelligence and loyalty also makes this breed ideal for police and military work.   

While German Shepherds are incredible dogs, their drive to work and attachment to their family means they are happiest in homes where they have constant companionship and plenty of space to run. The Shepherd's thick double coat is ideal for warmth while working for extended periods in freezing temperatures... It is also ideal for constant vacuuming and brushing.

It was pretty tough finding a small breed dog who could hold a candle to the Shepherd... In fact, I needed to go all the way up to the Queen of England to do it!  Queen Elizabeth II's preferred dog breed is the Pembroke Welsh Corgi...

...And who could blame her? As with the Shepherd, the Corgi was originally bread to herd, thus, it shares many of the same characteristics. Corgis are highly trainable, fiercely loyal to their families and are polite but reserved with strangers.  As well, their protective instincts are far stronger than their sense of self-preservation and they will sacrifice themselves for their humans.

Unlike the Shepherd, Corgis are manageable for novice owners and can do well living in small spaces.  They are not as dependent on their humans and can be left alone for reasonable periods of time without getting into trouble. Finally, the Corgi is a moderate shedder.  At an average of 30 lbs. compared to the average Shepherd's 80, there will be far less fur flying around your home.

Here's a video with these two awesome breeds side by side! (ignore the title, they're just play fighting)

Athletic Einstein
Do intelligent and active breeds like Border Collies appeal to you?  Border Collies are known for their intelligence, in fact they are the smartest of all breeds, making them highly trainable.  Originally bred to herd, these dogs can perform complex tasks with or without your supervision.

Border Collies can be great family pets when their mental and physical needs are met. However, that is easier said than done considering they were bred for extensive physical and mental activity. When left to their own devices these dogs can become unruly, expending their energy by ruining your home.

Not far behind the Border Collie in intelligence is the Shetland Sheepdog, ranking 6th of 132 breeds. This makes them highly trainable and great at tricks.  Shelties may look like miniature Collies (think Lassie), but they are actually their own distinct bread.

This breed is also an active dog but not quite as much as the Border Collie.  Their smallish size (15-35 pounds) makes them better suited to smaller spaces (but not apartments since they can be vocal at times) and you won't need acres of back yard space to wear them out.

Call of the Wild
Do you like wolf-like dogs such as the Alaskan Malamute and Siberian Husky?  While these dogs are majestic looking, in my opinion very few homes are well suited to these breeds (the Siberian Husky being the more reasonable of the two).  Even Husky rescue groups encourage prospective owners to seriously consider the immense responsibility of owning this breed prior to taking one in. Check out this video for more Husky info.

Malamute on left,  Husky on Right
A great smaller version of the Husky and Malamute is one of Japan's best kept secrets (and their most common dog), the Shiba Inu. Shiba Inus' smaller size (15-35 pounds) and independent temperament make them far better suited to city life.

However, like the Husky and Malamute, they shed quite a bit and novice owners may find them challenging to train.   This site provides a fantastic outline of the breed.

Here is a video of a husky and a Shiba Inu in action...

Mr. Popular
Last but not least, we have the super popular Labrador Retriever. This breed has been consistently AKC's top Canadian breed during over the last two decades. Their popularity isn't surprising given that they are easy to train and have a wonderful, cheerful temperament.

While it is the Lab who's dominated this century, did you know that the Cocker Spaniel was our country's most popular breed in the 1940s and again in the 1980s?
The Cocker Spaniel has two sub breeds with slightly different looks but comparable personalities; English and American:

English Cocker Spaniel

American Cocker Spaniel
Similar to Labs, both the English and American Cocker Spaniels have ideal temperaments; they're easy to train, excellent with children and are friendly with other dogs. However, Cocker Spaniels only require moderate exercise and will do best in a home with at least a small yard to play in.  

Here's a great video for more information on this breed...

Final thoughts...
A great way to see if you can really give that big dog the exercise it needs, or to make sure that the small dog isn't too vocal for your apartment, is by contacting your local rescue group and volunteering as a foster pet parent.  These groups typically pay for all the food and medical care for the dog, while you are responsible to provide a temporary loving home until a permanent home is found.  

Foster homes are tough for rescue groups to find, so not only will you have the opportunity to "test drive" various breeds and sizes of dogs, but you will also be helping to save the lives of homeless dogs in your community.

- Peter

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