small dog looking up

 

What You Should Know About Small Dogs

When my husband and I met, I knew it would be a match made in heaven. At least it would seem that way if you were judging by first appearances. On our very first date we both brought a guest. He brought his male yellow Lab and I brought my female yellow Lab. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Clearly both of us are Labrador dog lovers and are comfortable with larger dogs. And this fits in nicely with the other activities we share like hiking and fitness. But what if I had brought a toy poodle or a chihuahua? Would it really have made a difference?

It’s really amazing at the range of dog breeds and physical characteristics that come from a small number of genes. I’ve often wondered how dogs who are descended from wolves ended up in such a different place from where they started. How does a Yorkshire Terrier and a Great Dane both come from the same gene pool? And how is either one related to their wolf ancestors?

Whether a dog is large or small all dogs are the same species…right? They all like to go on walks, run off leash, explore new “smells”, play with other dogs and fetch balls. So where did all the stereotypes come from? One friend is convinced that big dogs will destroy your house if you buy one as a puppy and dig holes in your back yard. Another friend thinks small dogs bark too much at strangers and only prefer their owners.  

If you’re someone who wants a small dog for a pet. Here are a few things you should know.

SMALL DOGS CAN BE HARDER TO TRAIN

The American Veterinary Society commissioned a study into the differences between larger and smaller dogs and found that small dogs were less obedient and harder to train. However, the reason for this will surprise you. Small dogs aren’t less obedient because they’re wired that way but rather because small dog owners take training less seriously. The key to training small dogs is consistency. Dog owners in the study would discourage a behavior one day and allow it on another. 

A Not So Happy Tail

I never dreamed that my dog could suffer from a condition called, “Happy Tail” !

Dog in the kitchen

The call came at work, right after my meeting. The phone buzzed furiously next to my laptop. I grabbed it. The voice on the other end was strained.

Honey! Are you okay!” my husband practically shrieked. 

“Yes I’m fine,” I said slowly. “Why wouldn’t I be?” Okaaaay, I thought, THIS is weird!

“Are you sure you’re not bleeding!” Yup, this call just got weirder.

“Honey, there’s blood everywhere! It looks like a crime scene!”  That grabbed my attention! A crime scene? What?!! He told me there were blood splatters all over the white kitchen cupboards and he didn’t know why. And to be honest at that point, neither did I. He said the dogs looked fine so he thought I must be injured.

I glanced down at my pants and jacket looking everywhere for blood but found nothing! What is going on? Then hubby dropped the phone and yelled from the other room. “It’s on the hall closet, too!” Clearly panicked, he told me he’d call me back. 

And he did…an hour later. This time he was much calmer and told me the mystery was solved. It was our black Lab Suri and after calling the vet he told me she had something called Happy Tail.

WHAT IS HAPPY TAIL?

Happy tail goes by different names: kennel tail, splitting tail and bleeding tail. Here’s how it happens…when your pup, usually a larger breed dog but not always, is happy and excited, they wag their tail back and forth. Sometimes their tails hit objects like furniture, wall corners, doors and walls…anything that has a hard surface. When that happens, it causes a small cut or split on the end of your dog’s tail. This cut bleeds and as they continue to wag their tail the blood flies everywhere…on walls, doors, cabinets and sometimes even the ceiling! Yes, it CAN look very much like a crime scene. 

hound in a field

HOW DO YOU MAKE IT STOP!

If you’ve never encountered Happy Tail, it might not seem all that serious. I mean, how serious can a small cut on the end of a dog’s tail be?  Well you would be surprised, especially when you can’t stop the bleeding. And that’s the key, protecting your dog’s tail so that it can heal and so that Rover doesn’t continue splattering your walls with blood. 

COMMON TREATMENTS

Treating Suri was difficult. First, because like most Labs she is naturally a very energetic and sometimes hyper dog. But it’s essential that you clean the cut and bandage it properly. You may get frustrated because it’s NOT easy to bandage a dog’s tail, but don’t resort to ideas like using duct tape, which is not flexible. We tried putting foam rubber around her tail and securing it with adhesive bandages, but she just pulled it off. 

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS

Treating Happy Tail we soon learned was anything but joyful and involved a good deal of patience! After several bandaging attempts, we called the veterinarian again pleading for help. Fortunately, she was ready to save the day. We brought Suri in and after thoroughly cleaning the wound she carefully and securely bandaged her tail. She also recommended an Elizabethan collar, otherwise known as the “cone of shame” to prevent her from taking it off. Once you get home, the bandage has to be changed daily and the wound cleaned to prevent infection.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

It took a month before we could safely unbandage Suri’s tail but I was relieved when we could. I learned that more serious treatments were out there if the bandaging didn’t work. Some vets surgically suture the wound or use laser treatments to speed healing. In some cases, dogs damage their tail’s vertebrae or tendons with Happy Tail and need a special device to keep their tails still. In worse case scenarios when the wound won’t heal, vets may opt to amputate the tip of the tail to prevent a widespread infection.

WHAT WE LEARNED

Happy Tail is nothing to smile about!  If you own a large breed dog like a Lab, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd or any breed with a long straight tail, keep an eye out for sharp objects around the house that could nick or cause a cut on your dog’s tail and keep them out of tail’s reach. Encourage your dog to calm down when he’s excited, especially when you first come home. Take him for a walk and be sure he gets enough exercise. A well exercised dog is more likely to calm down. 

 

A Pile of Puppies!

We had it all planned! Take our pregnant female black Lab, Suri to the vet for an x-ray and then we would FINALLY know how many puppies to expect!

It was two days before her due date and we had no reason to expect any surprises around the corner. Little did we know!

On the way to the vet, we were SOOO excited! As first-time grand puppy parents, this was an exciting journey for us! We had wanted our two Labs to share one littler of pups. They are both such beautiful creatures that it seemed a shame not to duplicate them. Of course, I don’t think we had thought it through quite enough before we allowed them to mate. And it only took ONE time! After that, there was no reversing course.

As the vet took Suri away for the x-ray, we waited for the news. “Please, not a litter of 12 pups!” I thought. Labs are famous for having LARGE litters. In fact, I had even read about one “dam” that had 16 pups! (Please God, no!) I started humming the theme song from that old family TV show from the early 80’s, Eight is Enough! Yes, eight pups would be perfect.

When the doctor returned, he sat down with a sigh and looked at us intently before breaking the news. “Oh no! Here it comes!” I thought. He cleared his throat and began, “Suri has already gone into labor and there’s a pup stuck in the birth canal. But that’s not all,” he paused as I felt a sense of dread wash over me, “we need to do a C-section immediately if you want the pups to survive because she’s not having contractions anymore.”

Hubby and I glanced at each other wide-eyed. Our poor Suri! And we had both been at work this whole time! Hubby had come home at lunch to check on her and then gone back to work.  Somehow in those four hours or so, IT had happened. We hadn’t been there for her! OMG! She must have been miserable…and we both felt terrible. 

For the two of us, there was no discussion. I gulped once and nodded. “Let’s do it!” Hubby croaked. The doctor nodded but just before he stepped out of the room I grabbed his arm. “Wait! How many…how many puppies?”

“Oh yes! I almost forgot!” he said. “I think you’re going to have eight pups!” Yes! Eight pups I can handle (I think).

And so, that night, instead of returning home with the results of an x-ray, we carried home a cardboard box filled with puppies nestled comfortably under warmed towels.