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Dog size classification

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Some dogs fit conveniently into a size category — they’re tiny or massive, and it’s pretty easy to see where they belong in terms of classification. Other dogs present more of a challenge, especially if they’re of the rescue variety. Knowing where your dog fits in terms of size classification is important — it has an overall impact on his health and day-to-day care requirements, lifespan, activity requirements and the cost of owning him. His size determines whether he’ll be suited to certain environments, lifestyles and purposes. Aside from this, it’s just cool to know. In this two-part series, we’ll take a closer look at our more diminutive friends, the small and medium breed dogs.

How are dogs classified?

We assume size classifications are just for our purebred four-legged friends, but in fact, dog breed sizes are determined by a dog’s weight and height. Dogs are divided into four main categories — small, medium, large and giant. Small dogs can be categorised further into teacup, miniature and toy breeds.

A note: As dog sizes are determined by their weight, it’s worth noting that these classifications are based on a healthy dog. An overweight or obese dog may weigh more, but he doesn’t fall into a different category.

As a rule of thumb, dog size classifications based on weight are as follows:

• Teacup: 1.8kg or less

• Miniature: 1.3kg – 5.5kg

• Toy: 2.2kg – 5.5kg

• Small Breeds: Less than 5.5kg – 10kg. This classification encompasses the previous three classifications as well.

• Medium Breeds: 11kg – 26kg

• Large Breeds: 26kg – 45kg

• Giant Breeds: 45kg or more

Weigh your dog

This might be a bit more challenging if you have a large or giant breed, but you can weigh your dog at home with this simple method:

1. Hop onto the scale and jot down your own weight.

2. Grab your canine friend and hop on the scale again. Write this number down too.

3. Subtract the first number from the second, and voila, you know how much your dog weighs.

Size does matter

Whether you’re looking to add a dog to your family or already have a canine companion, determining his size is helpful, as it gives you an indication of his requirements. Size classification is not a hard and fast principle, and there are exceptions. Great Danes, for instance, are giant breeds but docile enough to cope with apartment living as long as you give them enough exercise. Small breeds, like Jack Russels, will need a large garden to run and play in. So, while size does matter, breed characteristics are just as important.

In general, small breeds have a longer lifespan, but teacup dogs are often bred from litter runts and, as a result, can come with health complications. In this regard, smaller isn’t always better. Toy breeds, such as the indomitable Chihuahua, can live for up to 20 years, so it’s important to realise that if your dog falls into this category, he’s going to be around for a long time. Be sure you’re up for that commitment, and the two of you had better get along and play nice!

Small breed dogs – small, toy, miniature and teacup

Small breed dogs make great companions and are super cute and cuddly. They are easy to look after and don’t need much space or exercise. They also eat less, which makes them more cost-effective to feed in the long term.

Our small breeds are versatile — they are easy to handle for children and older adults. The flipside, however, is their fragility. It doesn’t take much to injure them. They can be dropped, sat on, loved too roughly by children, or simply jump off a bed or couch that’s too high for them.

Teacups are the smallest of the small dogs; miniature and toy are roughly the same size; and anything under 5.5 kg is classified as small.

Pros of owning a small breed dog

• They make great apartment pets, especially in highdensity areas, due to their small size and minimal exercise requirements.

• They’re relatively easy to handle.

• They make great companion dogs for elderly folks.

• They are easier to transport. You can take them almost anywhere.

• More public places are becoming tolerant of small breed dogs.

• Small dogs make great cuddle buddies, and many breeds love to dress up and get pampered.

• Feeding and general veterinary procedures are less expensive.

• They don’t take up much space, so you can have more of them.

• The life expectancy of smaller dogs is generally longer.

• Their accessories and apparel are cheaper.

• They’re alert and make excellent alarm systems.

Cons of owning a small breed dog

• Smaller breeds can be extremely vocal, which can cause problems if you live in apartments or close to your neighbours.

• They can be challenging to train and house train. On the plus side, their messes are easier to clean while they’re learning, but that’s not an excuse to neglect proper house training.

• Small breeds can display resource-guarding behaviour. They can be overly protective of their space and belongings. They often challenge larger dogs if their space is invaded, which can land them on the wrong side of a set of much bigger teeth.

• They require training, which can be neglected because they’re so cute, but letting unacceptable behaviour slide results in problems down the line.

• They have exercise limitations. Comparatively, they need less exercise than bigger dogs and dehydrate easily. If you are an active person that likes to go on long walks or runs, consider getting a larger breed to accompany you.

• They are delicate and don’t know their own size. Toy and teacup breeds are especially susceptible to injury. You’ll have to monitor them around children and larger dogs, as one misstep can have tragic consequences.

Common small breed dogs

• Maltese Terrier

• Chihuahua

• Yorkshire Terrier

• Jack Russel Terrier

• Pug

• Pomeranian

Medium breed dogs

Medium-sized dogs are great for families or active individuals who enjoy lengthy outdoor trips and active pursuits. Most were bred as working dogs who assisted in herding, hunting, and guarding property. They tend to be very active and robust, so they’re a good choice if you have children. Many medium breeds were bred to do a job, so they’re often intelligent and easy to train. They make excellent dogs for first-time owners. Medium-sized dogs can be further broken down into medium-small, medium, and medium-large dogs, as their sizes and weights vary. The medium dog breeds are the largest category, and as it comprises so many different breeds and sizes, it’s essential to take temperament, energy levels, and grooming needs into account when choosing a medium breed dog to join your family. Some might be quite laid back and don’t need a lot of space or exercise, while others can be more hyperactive and need extensive exercise and mental stimulation to keep them from becoming unmanageable. It’s important to do extensive research if you are considering adopting a medium-sized dog. They’re great for participating in canine sports, which will give them all the stimulation they need to be the best dogs they can be.

Pros of owning a medium breed dog

• They are a manageable size, and some temperaments are suited to apartment living.

• They have higher energy levels and are ideal for long walks or canine sports.

• In general, they’re intelligent and easy to train.

• They’re more robust and won’t get hurt as easily.

• They have a fairly long lifespan, between 10 and 12 years.

Cons of owning a medium breed

• Higher food costs than small breed dogs—sometimes up to three times more.

• More challenging to transport and take to different places.

• They require more exercise and mental stimulation; this also means a larger area to live in.

• When adopting a medium-sized mixed breed dog, it is often difficult to determine what the dog’s requirements will be.

• When going on holiday, you might require a dog sitter as larger dogs are often not welcome in hotels and guest houses.

• Toys, beds, and apparel are naturally more expensive.

Common medium breed dogs

• Beagle

• Labrador Retriever

• Australian Shepard

• Cocker Spaniel

• Border Collie

• Basset Hound

• Staffordshire Bull Terrier

• French Bulldog

• Boston Terrier

Final thoughts

Regardless of their size and breed characteristics, every dog is an individual. They all require proper training and socialisation to ensure they maintain an even, steady temperament. Never assume that because a breed is classified as more docile, they won’t be pushed to their limits by rowdy children, overzealous discipline and a lack of structure in your home. With the right approach, any dog you welcome into your home will be a loyal and faithful friend and a pleasure to be around.

Check out our next issue for the low down on large and giant breed dogs.

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