It seems these days dog breeds are getting smaller and smaller, from teacup chihuahuas to miniature dachshunds. Just because they are tiny, should you carry them everywhere?
Spoiler: The answer is no. Carrying your pup around all day can actually be causing both psychological and physical harm. Let’s take a closer look at why you shouldn’t carry your pint-sized pup everywhere you go.
One of the most important lessons your fur baby should learn at a very early age is how to get along with not just different people, but other animals as well. By carrying your cute little bundle of love around you are hindering their ability to socialize with everyone else, including other dogs. Furthermore, being carried all the time never allows your little one to experience important social interactions that help build confidence and self-assurance. Sure, you will always be there when they really need you, but sometimes it is best to learn a lesson the hard way. A his from a cat or growl from another dog can really help your pup be better prepared to pick up on those small ques in other situations in the long run.
Another potential problem you may face is when your little dog is always in your arms is territorial issues. You run the risk of having your small pup get aggressive when someone else wants to pet your little pup or just get closer to you. When being carried by their human all the time, dogs feel like you are their safe place, and it is not alright for anyone or anything else to enter. This can lead to family members or friends being bitten. Even a small dog can inflict a serious bite to someone including you. If you have another pet that may want some cuddle time while you are holding your furry baby, things can get out of hand if the little one is overprotective. A dog fight in your lap is not a fun situation to be in and may lead to a hospital visit for you and your pets.
Dogs, like humans, need to be immersed in their environment to stay healthy. You may not realize that by carrying them all the time they are not building immunities to things like grass and pollen and may develop serious skin issues because of it. Skin allergies are incredibly common in small dogs mostly for this reason. When dogs run in the yard and play in the grass and leaves, they are actually allowing their body to build up a tolerance to microscopic fungus and molds that would otherwise make them feel bad.
Furthermore, issues such as IVDD (intervertebral disc disease) can be extremely painful and can even cause paralysis (loss the use of their legs). Dachshunds are especially susceptible to this disease, and sometimes require very painful and expensive surgery to correct it. By carrying them, especially at a young age, you are not allowing their bones to develop properly and can lead to these conditions.
A small dog to becoming obese due to a lack of physical exercise is extremely serious. Being small also means that extra weight puts so much more strain on little joints and underdeveloped muscles from being held too much. Obesity affects more than joints and muscles though, other diseases like diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), asthma, and heart disease often occur from the lack of proper exercise.
When you hold your small dog a lot, they may actually feel safer in your arms than running around. Sometimes it's just not a good idea to have your small pup in your arm. Holding your dog in your arm when driving is dangerous on many levels. First, it's a distraction for you the driver. Second, most cars today are equipped with airbags, which if deployed put your dog in a very dangerous situation. Holding your cute little Pomeranian while you’re cooking dinner is another bad idea. You run the risk of burning your little dog, not to mention fur landing in the food. Holding a fluffy dog that sheds a lot over a gas stove is just a recipe for disaster.
Don’t think that never holding your pup is the best thing for its health either. When you hold or snuggle with your little fur kid, they are receiving one of the best interactions they may ever receive. This bonding time is extremely important to their mental well being as much as anything. Small dogs actually enjoy the warmth of their human companion, but it is something that should be shared among everyone, not just yourself. Let your pup meet and cuddle with everyone you know, so they can feel safe in a multitude of situations and events.
Also, if there are bigger dogs running around, for example, a pet park, then holding your small dog may be a better decision, as sometimes bigger dogs not meaning to be malicious, may harm a little one simply because they didn’t notice it before it was too late. The same can be said if they are in a crowded room where your family and friends may be gathered. It’s easy not to notice a small dog, and they might be accidentally stepped on.
There are pros and cons to holding your pet, and certainly, there is a time place to do it, but as the old adage goes, “all things in moderation”. Small dogs are very cute, and it may be hard not to want to hold them all the time, but keep in mind all the things we’ve discussed and use your best judgment. Running and playing teaches your little one so many lessons that they just can’t learn by being held in your arms. So, remember if you hold your small dog all the time you may actually be doing more harm than good, so love them as much as you want but a little freedom can go a long way.
Article by Sara Ochoa, the veterinarian consult for DogLab. When Sara is not practicing, she is passionately writing articles on animal husbandry and pet care.