Small dog breeds in the AKC’s Toy Group are perfectly happy to curl up in your lap when you want to relax with a good book or watch TV. They were bred to be companion pets, but these seven small dogs also enjoy going outside to stretch their legs. Most also have the energy and ability to participate in dog sports or go hiking.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
This dog may be small, but he still retains his spaniel traits and is a true sporting breed that enjoys getting outside for hikes and walks, or participating in dog sports like flyball, agility and rally. Some have been trained to hunt small prey like rabbits and birds. This is an intelligent breed that loves being with people. The Cavalier can easily steal your heart with his cheery and sweet disposition, large round bright eyes and a tail that never stops wagging.
A favorite companion pet of Chinese royalty, this dog’s name means “little lion.” The Shih Tzu is one of the 14 oldest dog breeds. Archaeological discoveries of dog bones in China date the breed back to at least 8,000 B.C. This happy, outgoing and affectionate breed gets along well with other dogs and is a good family pet. Unlike the Cavalier, a Shih Tzu has no interest in hunting anything, but he does enjoy getting rid of excess energy by doing agility, rally, obedience and other dog sports.
From my perspective, I don’t care if a dog is purebred or mixed. I’ve had both over the years and cherished each for their unique personalities. Mixed breed dogs, however, can garner interesting debates about what breeds are in their makeup. You might be able to figure out a few by looking at the face and overall body type, but one of the best places to start is at the tail. The shape, size, length, how it sets and whether the tail is bushy, feathered or smooth can all give you clues about your mixed breed dog’s heritage.
A dog’s tail is an extension of the spine and consists of flexible vertebrae that give the tail movement up and down or side to side. Muscles located in the lower back are attached to the tail by tendons. The tail gives us information that can indicate a dog’s mood. Recently, scientists discovered a subtle movement to the right or left can mean your dog is feeling negative or positive.
Many of the breeds that are members of the Spitz family of dogs have a bushy tail that forms a sickle and curls up over the back. Some Spitz dogs, such as the Shiba Inu, Akita and Norwegian Buhund, have an extra curl at the tip of their tail. Spitz dogs closely resemble the original body type and look of the first domesticated dog, the Peat Dog from the late Stone Age era, and scientists believe the sickle tail held over the back helped people tell the difference between domesticated dogs and wolves. Chihuahuas are not part of the Spitz family, but they also have a sickle tail type.
The German Shepherd is hands down one of the most versatile dog breeds around. This is an intelligent breed capable of doing a wide variety of jobs. The original job of the dog was as a multi-purpose herder that could protect the flock, home and family, and be a companion pet at the end of the day. However, a split occurred that took the breed in two very different directions and created an American bloodline and a German bloodline.
Captain Max von Stephanitz is the German breeder who developed the German Shepherd dog. He wanted to create a smart, strong, courageous, protective and adaptable herding dog capable of doing his job and then returning home to his family to play with the children. Von Stephanitz was interested in the working ability of the breed, and everything he did was to preserve the characteristics and traits of the dog he developed.
In 1899, he mixed early versions of shepherd dogs to come up with the Deutsche Schäferhunde, the German Shepherd dog, and wrote the standard for the breed in 1901. Soon after, von Stephanitz created a test to evaluate each dog’s herding ability, and Schutzhund to measure their mental stability, protection ability, courage, willingness to work and obedience. Both tests determine if a dog is a good candidate to use in a breeding program. Any German Shepherd bred in Germany and Europe to this day must earn a Schutzhund I title or a certificate in herding in order to be used in breeding.
Many years ago I rescued a dog that looked like a mix between a yellow Labrador retriever and a Samoyed. Her coat was longer than a Lab and she had a dense undercoat, especially around her neck and chest. In fact, she looked (and acted!) like she had a lovely mane. Her ears were perky and triangular shaped and her tail was long and luscious, and curved over her back.
She was knock-down gorgeous. Out of all the dogs I’ve lived with, there’s never been another one that literally stopped traffic like this sweet pooch. Everyone we passed commented on her beauty and asked what type of dog she was. Upon learning that she came from an animal shelter, I was often told that she “had a lot of Spitz in her” or that she was a “Spitz type” dog.
At the time, I wasn’t clear on whether the term Spitz was an officially recognized dog breed, or if the designation was an umbrella term that referred to specific types of dogs. Turns out, Spitz is not an official dog breed. It’s more of an identifying term for a certain type of dog. Read More »
The Black Russian Terrier is one of the world’s youngest breeds, created in the 1940s. Nicknamed the Blackie, BRT and the Black Pearl of Russia, this breed was developed to fulfill a specific need for Russia and her people at a time of rebirth and reinvention. Because the history of the breed is relatively new, how it was created is well documented.
World War I and II had a direct impact on European countries that sustained major damage to the people, environment, wildlife and domesticated animals. Many purebred dog breeds were reduced to very low numbers and were only able to recover when breeders searched out quality dogs to use in rebuilding programs after WW II.
Periods of distemper outbreaks took its toll on dog breeds. Russia also had to deal with the Revolution in 1917-1918 and economic issues. All of these events caused many purebred dogs in Russia to suffer immense losses, and many breeds in this country were on the verge of becoming extinct. But there was a need for working dogs, so a breeding program was developed to create a breed from the few purebred dogs left in the country, and from imports of other breeds.
The program was established at the Red Star Kennel in the 1930s. Colonel G. Medvedev of the Central Military School of Working Dogs was given the task of developing a working dog that would meet the needs of the military. His team included breeders and geneticists. Their goal was to create a working dog that was powerful, intelligent and adaptable to the harsh Russian winters.
Over the years, selective breeding has given cat and dog breeds a variety of sizes, shapes and abilities. You can’t help but wonder if a Chihuahua really does think he’s as big as a Great Dane. Cats and dogs have found their way into our hearts, though, and I wanted to share some fun trivia about the smallest, tallest, fastest and oldest of our four legged friends.
Smallest dog and cat breeds
Chihuahua – He may be the smallest dog breed in the world, but his ancestors were thought of in a big way. The Aztecs believed this little dog had mystical powers and could see the future, heal the sick and guide souls through the underworld. That might explain the Chihuahua’s stubborn streak. Despite his diminutive size, the tenacious breed is on a list of the top ten watchdogs recommended by security experts. The Chihuahua is no more than 5 inches at the shoulder and weighs 6 pounds or less. Average lifespan is 12 to 20 years.
Singapura – One of the sixteen natural cat breeds, this intelligent kitty is athletic, muscular, playful and curious. Native to the island of Singapore where she lived as a feral cat on the streets, her early existence is a mystery. The breed developed naturally, without human intervention. It wasn’t until the 1970s when the Singapura was developed as a breed. The cat weighs 4 to 8 pounds and has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years. You can learn more about the Singapura in this article from the CANIDAE RPO archives. The cat breed with the shortest legs is the Munchkin, with an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years.
Tallest dog breed
Irish Wolfhound – His name indicates a dog with a fierce demeanor, but this sighthound is a gentle soul despite his enormous size, and gets along well with everyone, including kids and other dogs. However, his fierceness as a hunter of large game is legendary. Native to Ireland, and old Irish proverb aptly described the breed as “Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked.” Standing 30 to 35 inches at the shoulder and weighing 105 to 180 pounds, their average lifespan is 6 to 8 years. The Mastiff is the heaviest dog breed, weighing 120 to 230 pounds, with a lifespan of 8 to 10 years.
Largest cat breed
Ragdoll – Developed in America in the early 1960s, the Ragdoll is a good natured, laid back kitty that loves to be with her people. She enjoys being held and has a tendency to go limp when she’s picked up. Some males weigh up to 35 pounds, but the average size is around 20 pounds. A Ragdoll can be three times larger than other breeds. This “dog-like” feline gets along well with the entire family. Average lifespan is 12 to 15 years.
Fastest dog and cat breed
Greyhound – One of the oldest dog breeds, the Greyhound originated in the Middle East and North Africa regions. Other sighthounds like the Whippet, Saluki and Afghan Hound aren’t that far behind, but at around 45 mph this speedy breed tops all dog breeds. The Greyhound is number 7 on the fastest land animal list, with the Cheetah holding the top spot. But when it comes to stamina, the Greyhound is far superior to the Cheetah who fizzles out after a short burst of speed. A Greyhound’s average lifespan is 10 to 13 years.
Egyptian Mau – This super intelligent kitty is the only domesticated cat with a spotted coat that occurs naturally. Originating in Egypt, the Mau was given high status and worshiped like a god. In Ancient Egypt, the word Mau means cat. The Cat Fanciers’ Association describes the breed as “something a little exotic, a little jungle, a little breathtaking and a little primitive.” This little beauty’s hind legs are longer than her front legs, and along with her spotted coat, she looks Cheetah-like. Not as fast as the Cheetah or Greyhound, the Mau has a top speed of 30 mph. Average lifespan is 12 to 15 years.
Oldest dog and cat breed
Saluki – Originating in the Middle East sometime around 329 BC, the Saluki holds the title as the world’s oldest breed. The Saluki was bred as a medium size sighthound to hunt gazelle and hare in the deserts. Highly prized, the Saluki was given noble treatment over all other dog breeds, sharing their owner’s food and tent. The Saluki may look elegant, but he’s an athletic, quick and unrelenting hunter, with stamina and speed to chase down his prey. Average lifespan is 12 to 14 years.
Egyptian Mau – Not only is the Mau the fastest cat breed, it’s most likely the oldest as well. Depictions of cats resembling the Mau are found on Egyptian hieroglyphics. These cats were so revered by their owners, after death their bodies were mummified and placed in tombs.
Chihuahua photo by Jose Antonio Tovar Singapura photo by Lil Shepherd Ragdoll by Steve Jurvetson Egyptian Mau photo by Nickolas Titkov Saluki photo by Renee Johnson
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