The smallest of the Poodles, your Toy is a highly trainable, very intelligent, athletic, and versatile breed.
While you might have chosen a Toy Poodle because they are lovable and loyal companions and excellent dogs for small living spaces, your dog’s ancestors were considerably larger. In fact, toy poodles were bred from the larger, Standard Poodle. Standard Poodle traits include their propensity toward water. This explains the classic, pom-pom poodle cut—a functional style that kept the standard poodle streamlined in the water, but warm at the joints and organ areas.
A cute and colorful breed
To be a true Toy, your Poodle must be 10 inches or under (at the shoulder), and weigh between 6 and 9 pounds. Their curly coats appear in many colors, from apricot and café-au-lait, to black-and-white and shades in between. While the coat is relatively shed-free (making them a good dog for allergy sufferers), it needs to be clipped and groomed every four to six weeks.
Unusually alert and sensitive
You’ve probably already discovered that your Toy Poodle is a sensitive dog that wants to be a member of the family. The breed has an uncanny ability to read body language and anticipate owner commands, sometimes acting before you speak or gesture. But this sensitivity can also make some toys skittish, snappy, or territorial. They may be quick to bark and act suspicious of strangers. And while they’re good family pets, the toy has a reputation for not being the best dog around small children.
The Toy Poodle is generally a healthy breed, although they are prone to watery eyes, digestive problems, heart disorders, and skin conditions. Still, you can plan on many good years with your Toy because their life expectancy is generally between 12–15 years. As with all dogs, regular visits to your vet will help ensure that you have a healthy pet for years to come.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!