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The Behavior Department: Dealing with a Small Problem

Little dogs in shelters can present big behavior issues

  • Few shelters were built with small dogs in mind; a cage that’s fine for a shepherd or a Samoyed can create hazards for littler pooches. (Shelter staff moved this little fellow as soon as they noticed the dangers of this cage.) DIANE CALKINS/CLICKPHOTO-CONNECTION.COM

People who’ve met the occupants of my household are always surprised when I tell them that I am not really a small-dog person. With the smallest of my six dogs weighing in at 3 pounds, and my current “giant” topping out at 26, I seem like the epitome of a little-dog guy. But once upon a time, I was a big-dog person—not so much into Labs or golden retrievers, but more independent dogs. My last big dogs were a 90-pound husky and a wolf mix.

So how did I go from that to having six munchkins in my home?

I blame it on working at animal shelters. In my first job as an animal control officer, my boss—one of my most influential mentors—had a thing for little old dogs who came into the shelter. At the time, these dogs seemed like aliens to me; everything I knew about dogs and dog behavior did not seem to translate into these little creatures. I found them baffling to read.

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