Should You Carry Your Small Dog?

The Dog Trainer discusses whether or not small dog owners should carry their small dogs. Is your mini dog an accessory?

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read

Should You Carry Your Small Dog?

Many people who have tiny dogs carry them everywhere. Other people scoff at the idea. Old-school dog training books were full of honking about how carrying small dogs “elevates” them and gives them delusions of high rank. That Chihuahua on the back of the sofa thinks he’s king of the mountain!

Let’s get that last one out of the way. The underlying assumption seems to be that if you carry your Mini Dogalini, you amount to a litter-bearer carrying Cleopatra onto her barge. But it’s a big, big leap from the significance human beings ascribe to carrying, to what a dog might experience when being carried.

Consider how much involuntary handling people impose on small dogs. We swoop down on them and scoop them up, we pull them around on leash instead of teaching them to walk with us, we hold them out for other people to pet and for dogs to sniff. It’s a good bet that being carried is often unpleasant at best, and sometimes scary. No need to be surprised when tiny dogs look for high ground (where we can’t loom over them) or that they may growl and snap at our grabby hands.

Mostly, you should let Mini Dogalini walk. Yes, she’s super cute and you love feeling her warm little body in your arms. However, she’s a dog; like other dogs, she needs exercise and she investigates the world by sniffing it. Please let her choose whom she interacts with: no restraining her for random strangers, canine or human, to sniff and paw or pat and pinch. If you both enjoy cuddling, that’s what your sofa is for. Go to it!

Should you ever carry Mini Dog? Sure. Being small can present physical risks. A small dog may be badly hurt if somebody steps on her in a crowd. Same goes for big-dog bowl-overs – 60 pounds can break 6 pounds without trying. Some dogs respond to small dogs as if the small dogs were prey.

Pick up Mini Dogalini if you think Maxi Dogalini has squirrels on her mind; a few good shakes, and Mini D. is history. Finally, take ground-level conditions into account. If it’s 90 degrees out, then the air just above the pavement is scorching hot (to say nothing of the pavement itself!). The reverse applies in wintertime. Snow and slush that cover Maxi Dog’s paws will be up close and personal with Mini Dog’s belly, and tiny dogs have a harder time maintaining body heat anyway.

In short (ha!): Mini Dog has the same behavioral needs as bigger dogs. Don’t treat her like an accessory, but do help her out when size matters.

 Woman Holding Dog photo from Shutterstock


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).