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Tiny dogs need their training and exercise, too

If you have a "Tinkerbell" or a "Bit Bit" in your home, you may find this helpful. Paris Hilton and Britney Spears are not the only ones with itty bitty woofers. Tiny dogs are everywhere, and they are wonderful companions, too. Little ones are interesting, unique and portable. And that's the problem. From "tea cups" to miniatures to toy breeds, these little wonders are too portable, and they can be carried anywhere and anytime. Woe is me. This leads to carrying little dogs all the time. It also fosters a host of problems for both dogs and owners.

First and probably foremost is the mistaken notion that little dogs don't need to be trained. If you want them to do something or stop doing something, you can simply pick them up. You carry them to the food dish, to the door when you answer it and to bed. Some owners of tiny dogs even carry them when they go for a walk. So what's wrong with this? Let me count the ways.

If you don't train your little dog, you and your pooch lack the communication that leads to a more wonderful dog's life. Your dog never has the opportunity to maximize his potential, and you are constantly on edge protecting and worrying and carrying. For safety reasons alone, you need to be able to communicate and stop your lovable little one from running out the open door, dashing into the street or getting in harm's way at every tiny turn.

With training comes problem solving including housebreaking. I can't tell you how many times I get phone calls from owners of little dogs that take potty breaks on the carpet. "How long has this been going on?" I ask. They often reply that perhaps it has been a problem for six months, a year or several years — but they usually tell me that it doesn't happen all the time and it's only a teaspoonful or some such imaginary amount. If a little dog piddles on the floor only once every other day, that's about 3 1/2 times a week, 15 times a month and 182 times a year. That's an expensive, not to mention stinky, bad habit. I've known marriages to break up because of this little dog syndrome.

Little dogs that are carried everywhere and not trained become spoiled, more possessive than usual and often develop obnoxious personalities. They are frequently excessive barkers and annoying to family, friends and neighbors. The lack of training and constant babying can also foster aggressive behavior. A little dog with a nasty disposition and a propensity to growl and even bite can be a real threat. Little dog bites can require stitches and plastic surgery, too. Imagine a toy dog biting a baby in the face or tearing into an elderly person's arm. A bite is a bite, and liability comes with tiny breeds just as it does with larger ones.

And what about health? They frequently don't get the exercise they require for good health and a longer life.

If you have a little dog or are thinking about getting a small breed dog, don't do so because you think you won't have to train the dog and that raising a little one is much easier than raising a big one. Regardless of size, all dogs need to be temperament tested. They need training. And they need lots of love, praise and affection.

Regarding my recent columns about liability issues for dog owners, getting homeowners coverage is a problem from coast to coast and border to border. If you are an insurance agent or broker who deals with homeowners and renters policies, please let us know if you can help dog owners in your state. If you had difficulty getting insurance or have found coverage, we'd like to hear about that and the name of the insurance company. Please e-mail dearuncle@unclematty.com, and include details and how to reach you. Or write to us. We are so grateful for your input in our efforts to help dog owners and insurance companies. For helpful information, please visit www.unclematty.com/woofpub/articles/areyouliable.htm.

WOOF!

—Uncle Matty


Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Read all of Uncle Matty's columns at the Creators Syndicate Web site at www.creators.com, and visit him at www.unclematty.com. Send your questions to dearuncle.gazette@unclematty.com or mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619. © Creators Syndicate Inc.