There’s no doubt about it – smaller dogs seem to be more popular as pets than ever before nowadays. Apart from the fact that they are seen in some circles as a fashion accessory – actresses, WAGs and socialites seem to carry a trembling Chihuahua in their Chanel handbags wherever they go – lots of people realise that looking after a smaller dog has several advantages.
For a start, there’s the cost. Smaller breeds such as Lhasas or Miniature Schnauzers don’t have the appetite of larger ones, and this translates to a lower weekly food bill. Grooming can be much less of a chore and, again, money can be saved in grooming fees. There’s also the question of space: with a modestly-sized pet, you don’t need a huge house or garden for it to feel comfortable. Smaller dogs usually require less exercise than larger breeds, and a lot of this can be met by playing in the house or garden.
There are other practical advantages too, such as when your dog goes to the toilet; a Chihuahua is less likely to leave you to clear up something that would not look out of place in Jurassic Park – a Great Dane on the other hand could easily leave you with ‘one great big pile of… stuff’ – as Jeff Goldblum might say.
So, now that you’re convinced to go for a smaller companion, which breed should you go for? Let’s look at two popular small dogs; the Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso
Looks-wise, both animals are very similar. The Shih-Tzu is a stocky little dog; it has a broad, round head and a square muzzle. It has straight, muscular legs, a level spine and a tail that is set high. It has a dense double coat, and the hair at the top of the head is usually tied back into a top-knot. It has a beard and moustache, and comes in all colours. The Lhasa’s double coat is thick and straight, and reaches to the floor across the entire torso. Its tail is also set high, and is lays over the back in a ‘screw’. Some tails will feature a kink in the end. Lhasas come in all colours, and sometimes a puppy’s coat will change colour as it grows up.
Size-wise, the breeds are even. Both dogs are around 28cm high, and the Lhasa weighs in at around 6.8 kg. The Shih-Tzu is can be slightly heavier at 7 kg.
Their exercise needs are more or less the same too; a daily walk is essential, and this can be supplemented by playtime in a safe, open area, such as the yard or back garden. Like any dog, overfeeding and lack of exercise can cause obesity. The Shih-Tzu can be more susceptible to this, and is also prone to spinal problems, ear and eye infections and respiratory conditions. Lhasas are generally very healthy, but show a tendency to hip dysplasia and skin problems if parasites are not kept at bay. Both have a life expectancy of around 15 years.
Both breeds need to be groomed once a day, and Shi-Tzus shed very little, meaning that they are an ideal pet for allergy sufferers. Some Lhasa owners choose to clip their pet’s hair short, which makes for easier grooming.
The Shih-Tzu is arguably the better behaved of the two, as the Lhasa Apso is more inclined to get into trouble with other dogs. Both are alert and brave, making good watch dogs, but if their owner does not assert his or herself as the pack leader, they are prone to ‘small dog syndrome’. This can lead to a mistrust of strangers, and even snappiness with their owner should they not get their own way.