When people think of small dogs, often the image of a pampered lapdog riding around in a designer purse comes to mind. But not all small dog aficionados want a lap warmer. Well, at least not all the time. And for them, there is a wide selection of active small dog breeds. It’s true that many small dogs were bred purely for companionship, but there are some that were working dogs and to this day they are energetic, go-get-’em canines. You’ll also occasionally find a lapdog or toy dog that loves to run through the grass barefoot. But for the active person, it is wise to consider the small breeds that love to take long walks, chase squirrels and generally are up for everything. You should also note the level of activity of a breed – you don’t want to get a dog who is active once a week if you run 10 miles everyday and you don’t want a dog who wakes you up everyday at 6 a.m. if you like to be lazy until noon.
This group does not like to sit around the house all day. They need a good amount of physical and mental stimulation. There are many terriers in this group, as they were bred to hunt prey such as rats and rabbits and fox. Though their prey was often bigger than they were, these game dogs were fearless and tenacious. The strong, thick terrier tail was developed so that the owner could pull his dog out of a hole when he refused to give up the hunt. They encountered sharp teeth and claws and still managed to win most battles. Terriers today retain that gameness and are very energetic and curious creatures. Expect to have a dog who rises early and is always ready to go. A well-exercised terrier is a treat; a bored terrier is a terror. Some good terriers for the very active person are the Parsons, Cairn, Border, Australian, and Wire Fox terriers. Other small breeds that are high-energy dogs are the Basenji and the Petit Basset Griffon.
Moderate- to High-Activity Dogs
These breeds do not need high-energy activities, but they do need to let off some steam at least every other day. They were, in general, bred to be companion dogs but they naturally desire more activity than most lapdogs do. Because several are miniature versions of a larger dog, they retain the more active gene. But, since each dog is different, you’ll have to see how often it is necessary to do something active with them. If you come home one day to a destroyed couch, you probably need to up the time a bit. It is also important to mentally stimulate this type of dog. Giving your dog interactive toys will offer some brain fuel as will regular obedience training. Some breeds that fall into the category are the Bichon Frise, Miniature Dachshund, Miniature Pinscher, Miniature Poodle, Scottish Terrier and Silky Terrier.
The dogs in this category will be fine with two walks a day and plenty of playtime indoors. Though you’ll see several terriers in this group, they differ from the highly energetic terrier breeds in that they were bred for hunting vermin inside rather than for long trips through the fields to find their prey. Some were bred purely to be show dogs, such as the Boston Terrier, but retain the energy of their ancestors. Some moderate-activity small dogs are the Dandie Dinmont, Norwich Terrier, Chinese Crested, Miniature Bull Terrier and Norfolk Terrier.
When you own an active small dog, don’t feel you have to take them on a 10 mile run everyday. Two 30 minute walks a day will usually wear out a moderately active dog. Jogging is good for a dog with a moderate- to high-activity level and rollerblading or cycling with a high activity dog offers plenty of exercise.
There are also many other activities you can do with your dog that are energizing for both of you. Agility Training is an excellent form of exercise and any size or type of dog can do it. There are courses you can buy for your backyard and organizations in most parts of the country which hold meets. Playing fetch, Flyball or teaching your dog advanced tricks are also good ways to burn energy. Another activity, especially for those with terriers, is the Go-To-Ground competition in which a hunt is mimicked.
It’s a good idea to observe any puppy or dog you plan on buying or adopting to see what their energy level is, as it varies from dog to dog. If a pup is sleeping in the corner, you’ll likely get away with a walk a day. But if he’s jumping up and down on his siblings, be prepared to become a marathoner.