A changing lifestyle has seen toy dogs take centrestage. Here’s why these dogs score over their bigger counterparts

As they demand less space and minimal maintenance, toy dogs are preferred by residents of apartments and young professionals who can't afford the time necessary to maintain bigger dogs.

“The lack of size is a toy dog's biggest strength,” says Suresh Chandra of Limelite Kennels, which breeds Chihuahuas and Miniature Pinschers. “When your pet is one-tenth the size of an average dog, you need to put in only one-tenth of the effort normally required to maintain a dog.”

Grooming is often a bothersome aspect of pet ownership. The proliferation of mobile pet grooming services underlines this. Toy dogs obviate the need for such services. “Nobody, however busy he may be, can complain that grooming a toy dog consumes time,” says Esther Rajathi of Mercy Kennels, which breeds the diminutive Pug and a few big dogs.

All toy dogs are easier to groom than the big ones. Among toy dogs, some extract a little more work. “The Miniature Pinscher, Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, Pug and the Miniature Pomeranian are the most sought-after toy dogs in Chennai. As they have short coats, the Miniature Pinscher, Chihuahua and Pug require a shorter grooming ritual than the other dogs,” says Suresh. In addition to these dogs, more exotic small dogs such as the Bichon Frise are kept by a minority of dog lovers. A Bichon Frise and a Miniature Poodle need dedicated groomers.

While there are pros and cons of keeping a particular toy breed, advantages common to toy breeds are numerous. For one, all toy dogs don't need a spacious kennel and can be kept in apartments. Two, they are the least bit intimidating to neighbours and visitors. “Most big dogs are docile, but set off a panic reaction in people because of their size,” says Suresh. “Toy dogs don't put people on the back foot.”

Toy dogs bark as much as the big ones, probably even a lot more — but their decibel levels don't always wake up the neighbourhood. “There are certain small dogs such as the Spitz that can make a racket. Toy dogs are not to be confused with small dogs. Thanks to their diminutive size, they can't be disturbingly loud beyond the walls of a house,” says Suresh.

However, all these advantages come at a high initial investment. “The Chihuahua comes at Rs. 35,000, the Miniature Pomeranian at Rs. 35,000 to Rs. 40,000, the Pug at Rs. 20,000 and the Miniature Pinscher at Rs. 12,000,” says Suresh. “When you factor in the subsequent expenditure, these amounts are acceptable. Toy dogs subsist on a small diet. And when a toy dog has a short coat, not many grooming products are needed.”

The spurt in apartments is turning Chennai into a skyscraper city. In this scenario, toy dogs are going to only grow in demand. However, animal activist Anjali Sharma cautions against the possibility of backyard breeding spawned by such a demand. “As these dogs sell at impressive prices, unscrupulous breeders can engage in-breeding practices to make huge profits,” she says. “The Pug is a warning to us. The breed scaled great popularity at one time and even amateurs started breeding Pugs with a vengeance. Many of them did not stick to breeding standards,” says Suresh. “We should not let it happen to the other little ones.”

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