For the Love of Small Dogs – G.W. Little

For the Love of Small Dogs

Vintage photo of woman with small dog in lap

The Praise of Small Dogs

In an age when "bigger is better" is the rule of thumb, and gargantuan is the size of choice from cars to houses, a certain breed of dog lover is bucking the trend—they know that great things come in small packages. The small dog aficionado is today's fastest growing cultural phenomena—outnumbering even yoga devotees and Boston Red Sox fans. Let others be dragged around by wooly mammoth canines—small dog lovers swear smaller is better!

Small dogs have an illustrious history. Like all dogs, they earned their way into human society as working dogs—proving themselves indispensable at a unique task. While their canine brethren were out rounding up sheep or tracking the hunt, the little lap dog was performing as, well… a lap dog! Small dogs were found to be perfect warming devices in those drafty, cold castles. Royalty from Marie Antoinette to Queen Elizabeth kept a pack of dogs for precisely this purpose, as well as footwarmers, bed warmers and the like. For the less regal masses, small dogs also proved a worthy flea and tick magnet. Small dogs proved invaluable as ratters, herders, and even guard dogs. As dogs evolved from purely work animals to companions, they entered into new strata of the public's consciousness—symbol/icon. Small dogs have been a popular subject matter of artists and pitchmen, from the art of Manet to Hockney to Madison Avenue; one discovers a wealth of Yorkies, Dachshunds, and Chihuahuas. The appearance of the small dog breed in painting and the modern arts heralded a shift in society—the rise of the leisure class, a trend that continues today— as evidenced by the obsession with Paris Hilton and Tinkerbell.

Sociologists might suggest that the increased popularity of small dogs is due to the masses imitating the lives of the rich and famous, but most small dog lovers are not small-doggy-come-lately's. Small dog devotees have long appreciated the unparalleled companionship afforded by pint-sized pups. They understand: it is a dog's world. Canines are everywhere—in the workplace, schools, even in hospitals. Traveling has been made easier with the influx of dog-friendly hotels, airlines, and shops. And while large dog owners struggle with weight and height limitations, the small dog owner breezes by with a fashionable canine carrier swung smartly over their shoulder. Evidence that nothing makes a better companion, for either work or play, than a small dog.

A dog that's feeling poorly may also report in -- much like that one friend who always calls to complain when she's down with a cold, in hopes that you'll bring over some magazines and videos.

All of this results in behavior that is, from the human point of view, incomprehensible, and even a little nuts: running around in excited circles when Madeline the Shih Tzu pads into the elevator; aggressively barking at that seemingly sweet little Scottish Terrier who looks like he wouldn't harm a flea; straining madly at the leash to go and meet the Dachshund primly seated beside her human companion; suddenly stopping in mid-trot to touch noses with a seemingly depressed Beagle.

There's a method, then, to so much apparent doggie madness: namely, the nose knows. While our own pitifully inadequate muzzles might sometimes leave us in the dark -- how's that for a mixed metaphor? -- the information our four-legged friends glean through theirs is nothing to be sneezed at, which leaves one last question: do dogs Google?

- Bark editors
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