The Toy Dog is the quintessential pet. While most Toy Dogs have been placed in this category because they were bred to be lap dogs that thrived on human company and did not perform any real function, some have been categorised as Toys based purely on their diminutive size.

Of course, it makes sense that the smaller a dog, the less athletically able it would be and the more difficulty it would have carrying out certain jobs, such as acting as a guard dog or pulling a sled. Rather than being selectively bred to be strong, capable or responsive, these dogs were created to have kind and loving personalities and to bond strongly with their human families. Many of these breeds have been doted on by royalty and aristocrats throughout the years and are often seen depicted in famous art work.

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As a whole, Toy Dogs are small enough to be carried around and to sit on someone’s lap. They enjoy being stroked and cuddled and can develop behavioural issues if left alone for prolonged periods or if not well socialised. They cope well with little exercise and do not require a lot of space to run around. These features have made Toy Dogs popular with those that live in apartments or have sedentary lifestyles. Unlike their ancestors, Toy Dogs should not really live outside and do best with a more ‘pampered’ existence.

The UKC does not actually have a ‘Toy Group’, unlike the UK Kennel Club and the AKC. They will often categorise these dogs into their ‘Companion Dog’ Group.

Purpose

The purpose of the Toy Dog has always been to be a pet. Many small breeds are lovingly referred to as ‘lap warmers’, having acted as an ancient type of central heating; keeping their owners warm on frosty winter nights! Indeed, many are simply not able to carry out strenuous tasks, as they lack the strength, stamina and determination. Despite this, most Toy Dogs do not lack intelligence and can be trained to a high standard. They are also quite adaptable and can really excel in social situations.

Some of these dogs are ‘miniaturised’ versions of larger breeds within different classes, such as the Italian Greyhound and English Toy Terrier. It was once seen as a symbol of wealth to own a small dog with no purpose other than to be a companion.

As well as being a companion, over the years, some Toy Dogs have carried out certain functions as ‘part-time jobs’. The Italian Geyhound hunted small game, the Affenpinscher was used as a watch dog, some Bichon Frises performed in the circus and the Miniature Pinscher was a ratter. Nowadays, these roles are largely obsolete and the breeds are usually kept as non-working companion animals.

Many Toy Dogs are successful show dogs today and while any breed can enter the show ring, Toy Dogs have a close relationship with competitive showing and many have been bred for that specific purpose.

Types

There are no specific types of Toy Dogs recognised by the international Kennel Clubs, though many will group the Toy Dogs according to their origin. It is not uncommon to list these dogs as ‘Non-Asian Toy Breeds’ and ‘Asian Toy Breeds’. The Asian Toy Breeds include those such as the Pekingese, Pug and Chinese Crested Dog – all of which are truly ancient breeds.