Small breed dogs have a big appetite for life

The right food for small breed dogs has an optimized balance of ingredients and nutrition to meet their specific needs

Small breed dogs have a big appetite for life

Small and miniature breed dogs – generally those under 10 kg – are famously classified as "Toy", "Miniature" or "Companion" dogs. No matter what you call these furry little companions, you'll want to make sure they have everything they need for a happy, healthy life. For centuries they've been the favourite friends of humans everywhere, from Tibetan spaniel-loving Himalayan monks to Papillon-prizi European royalty. Other small breeds, like the terriers, were bred to toil tirelessly alongside their favourite humans. Whatever their original purpose, today these dogs are sure to win hearts wherever they go.

Yorkshire terrier looks over the shoulder of his owner.

Small breed dogs have special needs based on their biology and disposition

  • For small dogs, the big world can be overwhelming. Even everyday items like the vacuum cleaner loom large in the eyes of your toy-breed dog. Changes in routine – think traveling, a vet visit or meeting new people – separation from family, or loud noises can trigger stress.
  • Because of their size, small dogs live longer. However, this also means they face more prolonged exposure to free radicals, which can damage cells and DNA.
  • Your dog may look fine to you, but ideal weight varies by size and breed. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what your dog’s ideal weight is.

Everyday situations can be extra stressful for little dogs

We can help our pets by reducing stressors in their lives where possible, and ensuring they have plenty of reassurance and familiar human company. A dog should have their ‘own space’, a basket or mat, where they can feel safe and calm. The right food, such as Hill's™ Science Plan™ Calm & Happy, with calming ingredients like hydrolysed milk protein can also help to promote emotional balance in small dogs.

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You're a big deal to your smaller dog, so keep a predictable daily routine with regular feeding, walking and play times to help your dog feel confident.


Big noises can be shocking surprises, so consider playing soft music or other soothing ambient noise to help mask loud sounds during the day.


Little dogs love having a comfortable personal space to retreat to. A familiar blanket or old sweater makes a reassuring bed when traveling.


Little children aren't so little in the eyes of an anxious Chihuahua. If you have kids, you may need guidance on handling pets sensitively – and leaving your tiny dog to relax when they've had enough.

Black and brown terrier looks up intently.

Grooming is an important aspect for many small breeds

Many small and toy dogs have shaggier fur coats, but the grooming needs of each breed vary. Fluffy poodles and silky-haired Yorkies have coats that need rather more maintenance compared to shorter haired types like shiba Inus or miniature pinschers. For a little, long-haired dog, try to brush daily to keep the coat in good condition and prevent knots and tangles that can be painful to remove later. Always brush gently in the direction the hair grows and be sure to cover every part of your dog’s body. The right food can also make a big difference; ingredients like omega-6 fatty acids can help support healthy skin and a shiny coat for your small dog.

Good grooming habits are important for small breed dogs:

  • Be sure to use lukewarm water that feels comfortable to your pet.
  • Use a specialised shampoo that’s made for a dog like yours, never use human products.
  • Use a detangler brush designed for long-haired dogs.
  • Rinse well to prevent skin issues.
  • Use the towel-drying phase to fuss over and reassure your dog.
  • It’s possible to blow-dry your dog’s coat on the coolest setting; switch to a towel if your dog seems nervous.

Preparing for mini-sized playtime

Playtime with toys is an important opportunity for your dog to get some exercise, mental stimulation and bonding time with you. You can make the most out of your small dog's toys by putting out a selection and switching them every few weeks so that they toys stay novel and interesting to your dog.


Little dogs may not enjoy oversized toys, but objects that are too small can be a choking hazard if swallowed.


String, ribbons or elastic bands may be interesting to your mini-breed dog, but they can also cause dangerous digestive problems.


Certain houseplants, electrical cords, and other commonly overlooked objects can be deadly for all dogs, regardless of size.


Replace a dog toy whenever it begins to fray or fall apart. Bits of plastic and thread have no place in your small dog's stomach!

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