When I was a kid, everyone but me had a small dog. There was nothing extraordinary about them. They were small, annoying, and underfoot. The Chihuahua was always humping something, and directly under you when I visited my brother. My childhood best friend had a Cocker Spaniel I never saw, because it was a fashion accessory. It died of heatstroke, so her parents got her a Poodle who stayed in his crate all day, barking nonstop. I felt so bad for the dog I would take him out to give him some attention, and after 10 minutes, my friend would shove him back in the crate he was just small enough to fit into. As an adult, I know a crate is a good place for a dog to sleep, but as a 24/7 prison? I understood even then that it was not okay. I guess that experience with her made me think poorly of a lot of other small-dog owners.
I tried to own small dogs, I really did, but my dad didn’t approve of them. Not because they were small per se, but because they required more care, and probably wouldn’t survive outside on the farm. He didn’t think a Shih Tzu could warn us that people were on our property, which was more than 100 acres. Instead I picked up larger stray dogs off the street and took care of them the best way I could. I’ve had many “dangerous breed” mixes and I can’t really say any of them were dangerous. Some of them were aggressive toward people, but they never hurt anyone.
I had a large Akita who lunged and pinned the aforementioned friend who used dogs as fashion accessories. He didn’t hurt her, but I watched him snarl at her. I still can’t decide whether he was a bad dog for that. I always found that the people he was aggressive toward also tried to hurt my family or me in some way. I’ll leave that to you to decide. All of these dogs were very powerful, and I had trouble with them, but I loved every single one of them.
When I fell in love with Jonah the Shih Tzu, it was pretty amazing. I judged him for being a small dog, but being older, he was gentle and very well trained. I begged to keep him. Once again, he was a small dog that simply couldn’t be taken care of should we decide to take a vacation. At least the outside ones could be fed by a family member without having to go into our house — it was easier if they didn’t need our security systems. We ended up giving Jonah back to the breeder, since the family member who got him for free decided he wasn’t the dog for her and she couldn’t unload him on me. Better than him ending up at the pound, I suppose.
But without another excellent small-dog experience like that, I can’t help but judge a bit. I have a Pit Bull mix and a Siberian Husky, and I get judged all the time. Yet it’s the small dogs that tend to get the feistiest, I’ve found. I’ve watched as a poodle snapped at my pit mix and I’ve seen her run with a Boston Terrier attached to her face. And all I can think is “small dogs.” I can’t shake my prejudice. And while I’m fighting to tell people my dog is not going to rip their or their dog’s throat out, I’m trying not to tell them that I’m more afraid of their small dog starting something with me or one of my big dogs.
I guess I won’t be able to get over it until I find another dog like Jonah. I’ll foster him/her, and try to keep my prejudice at bay. I can’t see myself with a dog less than 35 pounds to be active with, though. And the people I see walking them, I can’t help but think of them as people with fashion accessories, who are already judging me and my dogs. It’s a part of the dog-owner experience, I guess, and something we all have to work on.
What’s your experience? Are you impatient with large or small breed dogs? Have people judged you for your choices?
Naomi is a tree-climbing, canine-adoring girl who spends way too much time online and at the dog park. North Carolina is home to Naomi and two female dogs, Honey — a Pit Bull mix — and Lady — a Siberian Husky.
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