Small dog
breedsbig differences

From dachshunds to Yorkshire terriers, small breeds offer an abundance of personality and companionship. There are many types of small dogs out there, but they all share the same unique needs.

What is considered
a small dog breed?

Small breeds are generally defined as dog breeds that weigh 21 pounds or under and can be found in almost every group. Famously classified as “Toy”, “Miniature” or “Companion” dogs, they have special needs according to their biology, breed and disposition.

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photo of small dog on owner's lap

Caring for a small dog breed

Small and toy dog breeds wrap all the diverse traits of larger breeds up into a fun little package, along with some unique personalities and characteristics.

About Routine Care

  • Many small dogs can be easily stressed

    The big world can be overwhelming for a small dog, but you can help by reducing common stressors and providing familiar human company.

    Common stressors include:

    • Separation: A predictable daily routing with regular feeding, walking and play times
    • Loud noises: Consider playing soft music to help mask the sounds
    • Changes in routine: Dogs love having a comfortable personal space to retreat to
    • Invasion of space: Children, especially, may need guidance on handling pets and letting them to relax

    DID YOU KNOW? A small dog should have their own space. A crate, carrier, basket or mat, where they can feel safe and calm.

  • Many small dog breeds need special grooming

    Small long-haired dogs — whether they’re fluffy poodles or silky-haired yorkies — should be brushed daily to keep in good condition and to prevent knots and tangles, which can be painful to remove.

    Good grooming habits are important for small breed dogs:

    • Be sure to use lukewarm water that feels comfortable to your pet
    • Use a specialized shampoo made for dogs
    • Use a detangler brush designed for long-haired dogs
    • Brush gently in the direction the hair grows
    • Rinse well to prevent skin issues
    • Dry your dog by snuggling them with a warm towel
  • Small dog breeds need playtime

    Playing with toys is a valuable time to bond with your dog and give them some physical and mental exercise.

    • Give the right size toy: Too big and toys are hard to hold — too small and they can be choke hazards
    • Watch for bigger playmates: Large dog breeds — especially puppies — can mistake small dogs for toys
    • Keep an eye on children: Make sure your kids know how to play gently with a little dog
    • There’s no need to baby them: Your little dog is still a dog, so give them lots of opportunities to run wild
photo of pet parent feeding toy poodle

Small dog breeds have their own nutritional needs

Small breed dogs have their own biology compared to large breed dogs, and the right food can help to promote balance for your little furry friend. Some nutritional needs to consider include:

Caloric intake

Small breeds, whose metabolisms are faster than those of large dogs, require 40 calories per pound per day, whereas larger dogs need just over half that amount.1 Ask your veterinarian what your dog’s ideal weight is.

Oxidative stress

Due to their longer lifespans, small dogs also benefit from food containing high levels of antioxidants, which can help neutralize free radicals during their long lives.

Science-led ingredients

Ingredients like omega-6 fatty acids help support a healthy skin and shiny coat.

Hill’s small breed dog foods are designed for lifelong health

At Hill’s, we go beyond kibble size to ensure that the nutritional needs of small breed dogs are met with every dedicated recipe. We formulate our small breed dry foods and wet foods for their unique calorie requirements and aging needs.

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Small Bites

Our small bites small breed dry foods are regular breed formulas that feature a smaller kibble size and shape designed specifically for small breed dogs.

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Small Paws

Small Paws formulas contain at least 8x more antioxidants than AAFCO requirements with vitamins C + E to help support a healthy immune system.

DID YOU KNOW? A healthy small breed dog can live up to 20 years of age. It is important to remember that your dog’s lifespan can vary widely depending on several factors.

3D rendering of small paws facility

Dedicated to your small dog’s livelihood

To better understand the nutritional, social, emotional and behavioral needs of small breed dogs, Hill’s has created a dedicated Small Paws center. Part of our global Pet Nutrition Center, or PNC, this new facility uses state-of-the-art technology to create specially-formulated nutrition developed for the unique needs of small dogs.

The Small Paws Center is home to 80 small dogs under 12 pounds — each receiving exceptional veterinary care and a variety of indoor and outdoor enrichment activities throughout the day, including an outdoor Bark Park.

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A step ahead for future generations

Being in the pet food industry since 1939, we understand the value of planning for long-term sustainability.

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Committed to good

Every part of our manufacturing process is designed to meet ethical, sustainable and responsible standards.

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A product you can trust

Learn how we ensure your pet’s food meets the highest benchmarks for nutrition, safety and taste.

1 Coates, Jennifer. “Nutritional Differences for Small, Toy, and Large Breed Dogs.” Petmd.Com, PetMD, 3 Feb. 2012, www.petmd.com/blogs/nutritionnuggets/jcoates/2012/feb/nutrition_differences_for_small_toy_large_breeds-12459. Accessed 26 Oct. 2020.