Small dogs were originally bred to be the companions of royalty. Their sole purpose was to bring their owners companionship, loyalty, and amusement. The types of small dogs that comprise what is now known as the Toy Group were genetically bred to not only be tiny, but to seek companionship from humans as well. The same qualities that made the small dogs a favorite of royals also make them a favorite of Americans today. In fact, according to American Kennel Club registration statistics, since 2000 four of the top ten most popular breeds in the United States have been small dogs.
Despite their rapid increase in popularity, many toy breeds are unknown to most Americans. Following is a list of six types of small dogs in the Toy Group and some information about their history and temperament.
The Pug originated in China around 400 BC. and became popular in Europe around 1027 when Prince William II of England, a long time fan of Pugs, became King of England.
The breed is known for having a big personality in a little body and for being even tempered, playful, and loving. The Pug's reason for living is to be near his family and his sturdiness makes him one of the few Toy breeds that are suitable for families with young children. Pugs are comfortable in apartments but can adapt easily to all situations. Pugs shed, but their short coats requires little grooming.
The Maltese breed was also a favorite of royalty, particularly in Malta. According to the AKC, the gentle, white dogs became known as "Ye ancient dogge of Malta". Now these small dogs are just referred to as "Maltese".
Maltese's are calm, entertaining, and generally great terrific family dogs. They mature at about 4-7 pounds and they require daily brushing to keep their fine coats from becoming matted.
3. Toy Fox Terrier
Toy Fox History
The American Toy Fox Terrier (TFT) Association states that "The Toy Fox Terrier is truly a Toy and a Terrier, and both have influenced his personality and character. "
While most terriers were bred in England the TFT was bred in the United States by enthusiasts that crossed the Smooth Coated Fox Terrier with various Toys including Chihuahua's, Min Pin's, and Italian Greyhounds.
Toy Fox Characteristics
The Toy Fox Terrier possesses tremendous life-long energy and an acute sense of hearing; characteristics that make him a great watch dog. Like all Toys, the TFT is fiercely loyal to his family. TFT's mature between 7-9 pounds, require little grooming, and are generally easier to potty train than most Toys.
The Havanese is the national dog of Cuba and the county's only native breed. The combination of the Havanese's study build and it's gentle but playful personality make it a great companion for children.
The breed requires slightly more exercise than most Toys and its non-shedding coat, while great for allergy sufferers, needs to be regularly groomed.
5. Brussels Griffon
Brussels Griffon History
The Brussels Griffon is one of the few Toys breeds that grew up with a working class history. Originally the breed was developed by crossing Pugs with sable colored Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This crossing resulted in two distinct types of coat: rough and smooth. The dog's sturdiness and affectionate temperament made them great companions for coachmen who used them as ratters in Belgian stables.
Brussels Griffon Characteristics
The Brussels Griffon is super-intelligent and sensitive but can be self-conscious and shy around strangers. Interestingly, a Brussels Griffon was featured in the 1997 hit movie, As Good As it Gets, starring Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt.
The American Kennel Club's web site indicates that "The breed's name originally came from the historical region of Pomerania (now present day Germany and Poland). Originally weighing nearly 30 pounds, the dog served as an able herder of sheep in its larger form. They were not well known until 1870, when the Kennel Club (England) recognized the so-called Spitz dog. In 1888, Queen Victoria fell in love with a Pomeranian in Florence, Italy, and brought the specimen back to England, influencing its popularity dramatically."
The Pomeranian is now a showy and animated little dog having been bred down to Toy size over the last century. An average adult Pomeranian weighs about 7 pounds. The breed does not require a lot of exercise but does require regular grooming to keep his coat from matting.