Skip to main content
small dog in carrier

Tips for Adopting a Small Dog

Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, pet adoptions in the U.S. have increased dramatically. Adoptions have increased among all dog breeds and sizes, but none so much as the demand for small-breed dogs. Small dogs offer some pretty compelling advantages—they’re easy to handle, fun to cuddle, and make smaller messes than their large-breed counterparts.

If you’re among the many considering offering a forever home to a small-breed dog, here are a few helpful care tips to keep in mind.

Dog-Proof Your Home

Dogs are naturally curious creatures, so you’ll want to keep any potential hazards out of reach from your new pet. All hazardous household products should be stored securely, as should any prescription or over-the-counter medications. Also remove any potentially toxic plants from the home, garden, or places your dog is likely to frequent—remember that small dogs are more sensitive to even tiny amounts of toxins in the environment. The ASPCA offers a detailed list of over 1000 plants that are potentially harmful to dogs.

Create a Safe Space

Dogs are den animals by nature, and small breeds are no different. To prevent night-time accidents, you may want to crate your new dog at bedtime, at least until it learns its house manners. Overnight crating isn’t cruel, and in fact often gives a new dog a sense of comfort and belonging. Feel free to add a favorite soft blanket or sweatshirt and some plush toys to keep your new pup comfy. Also, create a space to which your pet to retreat when the hustle and bustle of family life becomes overwhelming. Even a cardboard box lined with a t-shirt in some out-of-the-way section of the home will do nicely. The important thing is to provide a space where your pup can feel is safe.

Purchase Size-Appropriate Supplies

If this is your first small-breed adoption, you’re likely going to need a few basics, such as a dog collar, ID tag (or have your pet microchipped), walking leash or harness, food and water bowls, and of course toys. Most pet supply stores have these items in sizes appropriate for small-breed dogs. Check your pet’s weight and measurements to ensure proper sizing. Collars (or harnesses) should allow freedom of movement and should NOT impede breathing.

Don’t Skimp on Potty Training

Smaller dogs mean smaller messes, but still need to learn their house manners. A good supply of training pads should be sufficient to catch any “accidents” until your adoptee learns the house rules.

Make Introductions to Other Pets Slowly

If you already have other pets in the home, it may be a good idea to introduce your new dog slowly. One way is to confine your new pet to one or two rooms of the house and let the other pets come sniff around the door. Try slow, gentle introductions, with one pet at a time meeting the new arrival. Dogs are territorial, but they’re also pack animals. So once your new pup is integrated into the pack, any potential conflicts should ease.

Be Aware of Height Hazards

Small dogs do not have the jumping ability shared by cats and larger breed dogs, so even a leap from bed to floor can be hazardous, especially to some smaller breeds like Dachshunds, which are prone to back injuries. Obviously, you can’t fall-proof every part of your home, but you should be aware of your pet’s physical abilities and limitations.

Find a Small-Breed Friendly Dog Park

Socializing your pet id important. It provides an opportunity for play, exercise, and bonding with other dogs. If you’re adopting a small breed, check online for dog parks in your area. Many provide a section exclusively for dogs under 40 lbs, so small or more delicate breeds (like the Italian Greyhound) can play and socialize safely.


Cecily Kellogg is a pet lover who definitely has crazy cat lady leanings. Her pets are all shelter rescues, including the dog, who is scared of the cats. She spent eight years working as a Veterinary Technician before becoming a writer. Today she writes all over the web, including here at Figo.

Small dogs cuddling with a girl

Whether from home or an office, many...

Black Cane Corso dog

Described by breed enthusiasts as...

cute dog lays on dog bed

Does your pup need a new bed? You could...

people in office with dog

Americans spend $16 billion annually on...

Advertisement for pet insurance.

More From Figo Blog
Labrador Retriever retrieving a blue frisbee from the yard

One of the best things about owning a dog is...

Cat scratching on a cat post

You may have heard the phrase, “Cats can’t...

Kristin Levine with dog

We recently had the opportunity to interview...

small dog playing with toy

Your dog won’t come up to you and say, “I’m...

Puppy crate training in progress

There are many tools I utilize when training...

Dog and pet parent listening to music in front of speaker

Whether you’re rocking out to your favorite...

Woman drinking coffee and holding small cat near

On any given day, between 50 and 70 million...

Woman with two dogs checking her phone

Technology has changed almost every aspect...