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Advice to Overcome Small-Dog-itis

You wouldn’t think it was possible for a 9-pound chihuahua to pull off a Godfather impression, but little Bree was nailing it. Perched on the edge of the picnic table in the dog park, her stubby legs tucked under her, she impassively surveyed the world around her. In charge. Unconcerned. Confident.

“Oh, Bree-Bree,” behavior associate Kara Fike sighs. “What are we going to do with you?”

Bree pulls off her Godfather impression because it doesn’t stray too far from her personality. Warm and generous with a chosen few. Particular about her likes and dislikes. Protective. In control.

Bree has a pet peeve: hands. She doesn’t like them reaching for her or her stuff, unless she knows the person attached to them very well. While she’s comfortable around new people, all bets are off when they reach for her. For a dog as adorable as Bree, this is a liability. Though she’s never bitten anyone, her snapping has landed her a reputation as a land shark.

Affectionate and loving with her chosen human friends, rock solid (if bossy) with other small dogs, an outdoor aficionado and surprisingly athletic hiking partner, Bree has a lot to offer. But she’s definitely a work in progress.

Part of what makes finding a dog like Bree a home so difficult is that the exact home that would be perfect for her is the home that would never think to look for her: the active, sporting folks who are more at home on a trail then on a couch and want a pet that can keep up with them.

While independent, Bree is no poster child for small dogs, but she is a poster child for small dog-itis: the belief that little dogs are for cuddling and big dogs are for the fun stuff. Land sharky-ness aside, a lot of Bree’s pet peeves would be pluses in a big dog. Calm with strangers, always willing to play with other dogs, not high-strung, up for a long walk or a run but totally chill hanging out while her owners are at work. Likewise, her personality failings—an unwillingness to be picked up and discomfort with having strange folk grab at her—would likely be viewed with more compassion if she did wasn’t so darn wee and adorable.

If there was ever a group of dogs that needed a PR makeover, it’s small dogs. Because it’s very easy to forget that they are, when all is said and done, as doggy as that Labradoodle you saw jogging in Golden Gate Park last week. Like all dogs, some small dogs are active, some are lazy, some love to cuddle, and some are … Bree.

Bree isn’t an impossible dog. In fact, she’s awesome. It’s just that as a society, our assumptions about her and her short-pooch brethren are impossible. And we all need to work on that.

We believe there’s a lid for every pot. And we believe that the right person is out there looking for a dog just like Bree, and we’re hanging with her until we find it. We just hope that right person remembers to look down sometimes. Your potential best friend might be a little shorter than you think.

Finnegan Dowling is the content marketing manager for the Humane Society Silicon Valley in Milpitas. To learn more about HSSV, visit

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