Man’s best friend is getting smaller: The trend for smaller dogs

Australians are choosing small dogs over larger breeds.Small dogs are becoming more popular

New research by University of Sydney researchers has shown that Australian pedigree dog lovers are choosing pugs and bulldogs over Labradors and German Shepherds.

The problem with small dogs

So just why are these smaller dogs in favour? After all, these brachycephalic breeds – with shorter and wider heads – are more susceptible to respiratory problems, skin and eye conditions, and digestive disorders! In fact, life expectancy among these popular breeds is an estimated four years lower than non-brachycephalic breeds. Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) is particularly prevalent, often resulting in mild to life-threatening respiratory problems. With increasing numbers, vets need to be prepared to treat these animals.

man's best friend is getting smaller

Why we love small dogs

There are many reasons that smaller dogs are becoming more and more popular. There may be practical reasons for downsizing dogs. There may be  bonding advantages in choosing lap dogs. And small dogs may be purely a fashion statement!

The study, coauthored by Professor Paul McGreevy from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science and PhD candidate Kendy Teng, examined changes in the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC) registration statistics between 1986 and 2013, looking at trends in demand for Australian purebred dogs of various height, size and head shape. 

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why we love small dogs

The preference for smaller dogs correlates with a trend towards more high density living, says Prof McGreevy. “Changes in the types of dwellings Australians are buying may indicate the space available for dogs has shrunk. Moreover, the purpose of dog ownership has continued to shift from the early days of domestication, away from duties such as hunting and guarding properties, for which dogs are more likely to be larger, to pure companionship, which can be fulfilled by a dog of any size.”

The researchers have suggested that their data may not be representative of the general dog population in Australia but may be better reflecting trends in Australia’s purebred population. I, however, suggest that this may be an accurate representation of the trend in dog ownership in many countries around the pet-loving world.

French Bulldog are becoming more popular

 We know that owners love the unconditional acceptance that dogs give us. Having a small dog sit on your lap and gaze into your eyes, can be a big drawcard for dog owners. Are they prepared to deal with the potentially accompanying small dog syndrome?!

About this research

Published in Canine Genetics and Epidemiology.

Professor McGreevy and Kendy Teng co-wrote Trends in popularity of some morphological traits of purebred dogs in Australia with Dr Navneet Dhand and Dr Jenny-Ann Toribio, also from the University’s Faculty of Veterinary Science.

Further reading

Original research paper

Small dog syndrome

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