Profiling the Toy Group

Profiling the Toy Group

In This Chapter

  • Getting the scoop on Toys
  • Discovering tiny dogs with big personalities
  • Finding a Toy that suits you and your life
Looking for a canine companion that packs a lot of personality into a small package? A pooch that fits in a pocketbook? A dog who’s happy walking around the block rather than over the river and through the woods? A Toy may be just what you need. From the tiny Chihuahua to the perky Papillon, 21 little Toy breeds have a great deal to offer.
Although a few started out as rodent hunters, Toys were primarily bred to be companions for the wealthy and as elegant accessories of royalty. In many cases, though not all, the Toy breeds are smaller versions of larger counterparts (the Toy Poodle from the Standard Poodle, say, or the Pug from the Mastiffs). However, the Miniature Pinscher, which does look like a “Mini Me” Doberman Pinscher, was not bred down in size from the Doberman.
Because the Toy breeds were developed from so many other groups, it’s impossible to characterize them together. Although Toys are typically mild mannered and sweet, their personalities are quite different. Compare the sensitive nature of the Italian Greyhound, for example, to the fearless Min Pin or the spunky Brussels Griffon.

The Toy breeds’ small sizes make them perfect for any lap, but also for any home — even the smallest studio apartment. Toys are very popular with city dwellers, especially people who live in condos or retirement communities that impose size limits on pets. A Toy’s small size also makes it transportable, which means you can pick up and carry your petite pooch with you wherever you go, even on many airlines. Try that with a Labrador Retriever!
Don’t be fooled by the small stature of a Toy, though; many are tougher than you think. Nearly all Toy dogs make decent little watchdogs: They will certainly let you know (by barking, most likely) that a stranger has entered their territory. Top alert breeds include the Affenpinscher, Brussels Griffon, Chihuahua, Toy Manchester Terrier, Min Pin, Pomeranian, and Yorkshire Terrier. Keep in mind, of course, that their greatest strength is probably their bark (as opposed to the implied bite of a German Shepherd, for example).
Toys are an ideal choice for many because of their minimal exercise needs. That’s not to say that they should lie around eating canine bon-bons all day. Even the tiniest Toy needs a short daily walk, romp, or play session to stay fit. On the other hand, elderly owners or others who can’t walk their dog every time it needs to go out manage to train their pooch to use puppy pads or a litter box. Toys also require less grooming and vacuuming time in general (smaller dogs, smaller shedding surface).
Older people find great comfort in the affectionate and devoted nature of the Toy breeds. A source of companionship and comfort for the lonely, Toys also do well with the physically challenged. Toys are excellent therapy dogs, and many nursing homes have live-in Toys that provide great joy to residents, who benefit from the endless snuggles.
A Toy breed is likely to cost less to maintain than a large breed (they eat less food). On the other hand, Toy breeds tend to live longer (mid-tolate teens for many), so the cost differences may not be significant in the long run. Although not a major consideration, insurance liability is a factor for some people. Certain homeowner insurance policies restrict coverage, or charge more, for specific large dogs. A Toy breed saves you the hassle of dealing with a change or increase in your insurance coverage.
Clearly, the Toy breeds have a lot to offer many types of people — not everyone, though. People who probably shouldn’t get a Toy breed include the following:

Families with young children (six and under): Toys can be fragile, and most may not be able to stand up to the horseplay and extra-big hugs of little tykes. Even a Toy dog will have to defend itself with a nip if a small child is pulling its tail or poking. Better safe than sorry.

Busy people who aren’t home much: Toys breeds exist to be canine companions. They love their people and do best with plenty of attention, whether on your lap, at your feet, or sitting nearby.

Active people looking for running partners: Although an Italian Greyhound enjoys a jog, most toys do better with a walk or play session. Some Toys are sensitive to overheating; others have trouble breathing.


Unless you’re interested in getting into the show ring, pet owners should look for a larger-sized individual within a breed. Though too big for competition, they may be sturdier.


History/Evolution: One of the oldest of the Toy breeds, the Affenpinscher is believed to have originated in Germany in the 1600s; the name means “monkeylike terrier” in German. In their early years, Affenpinschers excelled at hunting rodents on farms and in homes. The breed’s hunting skills come from its Terrier roots, but its wiry hair stems from the German Pinscher. Less common today, this monkey-faced breed is still a beloved companion, amusing owners with playful antics.
Size: Tiny, 8 to 11 inches, average 7 to 9 pounds.
Color: Black, gray, silver, black and tan, beige, red.
Temperament: Inquisitive, bold, alert, mischievous. Loyal and affectionate with family and friends, but will bark when threatened or attacked. Fearless for its size.
Energy level: Medium to medium high. Can be busy.
Best owner: Active owner with a sense of humor.
Needs: Exercise and play (indoors or out), socialization, regular brushing, and periodic clipping and stripping.

Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise

Brussels Griffon

History/Evolution: The Brussels Griffon originated in Belgium in the early 1800s, the result of crossing the Affenpinscher and the Belgian street dog. The breed’s cocky demeanor served it well as a guard of cabs in Brussels, attracting customers and deterring robbers. It was crossed with the Pug in the late 1800s, accounting for the head type and the breed’s smooth-coated individuals, known as Petit Brabancon. Recognized by the AKC in 1910, the Brussels Griffon is known for its sensitive nature and comical ways.
Size: Small, 9 to 11 inches, 8 to 10 pounds.
Color: Red, beige, black and tan, black.
Temperament: Intelligent and confident, sometimes to the point of self-importance. Usually enjoys other pets; protects with a fierce bark. May experience separation anxiety.
Energy level: Low to medium.
Best owner: Upbeat, patient trainer; a family, preferably with older children.
Needs: Exercise and mental stimulation, fenced yard, some brushing, patience with housetraining.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

History/Evolution: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a descendant of European toy Spaniels, was a pet of aristocratic families during Tudor times. In the 1700s, King Charles II favored it so much it was given its royal name. The breed changed over the years until the 1920s, when an American fancier generated enough breeder interest to revive the original spaniel. The first Cavaliers were sent to America in 1952, but the AKC didn’t recognize the breed until 1996.
Size: Small, 12 to 13 inches, 13 and 18 pounds.
Color: Red and white, tricolor, black and tan, mahogany red.
Temperament: Gentle, sweet, and easy to please. An affectionate, nonaggressive breed that is friendly with other dogs, pets, and strangers.
Energy level: Medium.
Best owner: Active seniors, families with considerate children.
Needs: Exercise, regular grooming, and cuddling.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle


History/Evolution: Although much of the Chihuahua’s history is based on speculation, most believe that the tiniest of the toys descended from the Techichi, a dog ancient Aztecs used as companions and in religious ceremonies. The Chihuahua of today, both smooth- and long-coated varieties, differs from the native dog, perhaps due to breeding with dogs introduced by New World explorers. Thanks to its size and saucy personality, the Chihuahua is one of the most popular breeds in the U.S.
Size: Tiny, 6 to 9 inches, less than 6 pounds.
Color: Any color.
Temperament: Lively, alert, and swift, with a Terrier-like sense of confidence and selfimportance. Intense devotion is common. Some bark.
Energy level: Medium to high.
Best owner: A gentle person with time for daily companionship.
Needs: Little exercise or grooming needed, but warmth is appreciated; urban living suits its minimal space requirements.
Life expectancy: 16 to 18 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle

Chinese Crested

History/Evolution: It’s no easy task to trace the origins of the Chinese Crested, but the breed appears to have evolved from African hairless dogs, which the Chinese bred down in size as early as the 13th century. Chinese Cresteds are thought to have sailed with Chinese mariners, serving as ratters during times of plague. By the late 1800s, a handful of American breeders had begun to popularize the Chinese Crested with dog show enthusiasts; the AKC recognized the breed in 1991.
Size: Small, 11 to 13 inches, about 10 pounds.
Color: Any color or combination of colors.
Temperament: A devoted companion; alert, gentle, playful, and sensitive. Agreeable with dogs, other pets, and strangers.
Energy level: Medium to high.
Best owner: Someone with dander allergies.
Needs: Hairless varieties require regular skin care (including sun block) and protection from cold; dogs with a powder-puff coat require normal brushing.
Life expectancy: 15 to 16 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle

English Toy Spaniel

History/Evolution: Like its relative, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, the English Toy Spaniel was a beloved companion of royalty and families of privilege in Europe. Mary, Queen of Scots, is believed to have favored this spaniel; the story goes that one of the dogs even refused to leave her side at the scaffold. Though English Toy Spaniels are perfectly content as lapdogs, they retain their natural hunting instinct. The breed achieved AKC recognition in 1886.
Size: Small, 10 to 11 inches, 8 to 14 pounds.
Color: Red and white, tricolor, black and tan, mahogany red.
Temperament: Not overly active, but bright and interested, willing to please. May be shy with strangers or in new situations.
Energy level: Low.
Best owner: Loving, calm owner who is open to plenty of lap time.
Needs: Long coat needs brushing twice weekly.
Life expectancy: 10 to 12 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise


History/Evolution: A descendant of breeds brought to Cuba from Spain, the Havanese is Cuba’s national dog. By the mid-18th century, the breed’s popularity included such notable companions as Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens. Some Cubans who left the country during the Cuban revolution brought their Havanese with them, and a handful ended up in the U.S. By the end of the 1970s, the breed was gaining popularity, and the AKC recognized it in 1996.
Size: Small, 81⁄2 to 111⁄2 inches, 7 to 13 pounds.
Color: All colors.
Temperament: Busy, curious, trainable and intelligent; affectionate with all — animals and humans alike.
Energy level: Medium.
Best owner: Someone who wants a small dog who isn’t too yappy or too fragile for kids. Nonshedding coat is okay for people with allergies.
Needs: Brushing every other day, exercise in the form of walks or play sessions.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise

Italian Greyhound

History/Evolution: The smallest of the sighthounds, the Italian Greyhound is believed to have originated more than 2,000 years ago in the Mediterranean basin. During the 16thcentury, the breed was in high demand in Italy and came to be known as the Italian Greyhound. Its appeal spread through Europe, and the breed was often depicted in Renaissance paintings. A true greyhound, the Italian Greyhound is as skilled at hunting as it is comfortable as a lapdog and companion.
Size: Small to medium, 13 to 15 inches, 8 to 12 pounds.
Color: Any color, but no brindle markings or the tan markings normally found on black-and-tan dogs of other breeds.
Temperament: Gentle, sensitive, and timid with strangers but devoted to its family; like its sighthound relatives, likes to run and chase.
Energy level: High, but mellows with age.
Best owner: Family with gentle children, owners who can give daily exercise and plenty of attention.
Needs: Daily exercise, sprints in a fenced area, regular brushing of teeth.
Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle

Japanese Chin

History/Evolution: The Japanese Chin originated in China, where it was prized by the aristocracy. The Chin eventually moved to Japan via a royal gift. In 1853, Commodore Perry brought the first of the breed to Europe in 1853 as a gift to Queen Victoria. The Chin made its way to the U.S., although the supply was temporarily cut off during World War I. Playful and entertaining, the Chin has enjoyed some popularity in the United States, but most of its devotees are in Japan.
Size: Tiny, 8 to 11 inches, 4 to 7 pounds.
Color: Black and white, red and white, black and white with tan points.
Temperament: Sensitive, intelligent, and willing to please. Devoted dogs who will follow their owners anywhere.
Energy level: Adaptable.
Best owner: Seniors or invalids interested in close companionship.
Needs: Sensitive to heat and humidity — air conditioning a must. Prolific shedders requiring twice-weekly combing. Suited to apartment living.
Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle


History/Evolution: The most ancient of the toys, the Maltese has been popular for centuries with people of wealth. As with other ancient breeds, the origin of the Maltese remains a mystery; the dogs appear in Greek art dating back to the fifth century. Most associate the breed with the Isle of Malta. Maltese likely were distributed as exotic items of trade from Malta, eventually making their way throughout the civilized world. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1888.
Size: Tiny, 9 to 10 inches, 4 to 6 pounds.
Color: Pure white.
Temperament: Gentle, playful, and energetic; fearless for its small size. Showers affection on family and friends.
Energy level: High.
Best owner: Someone with a lot of time for a dog.
Needs: Lots of attention; extensive daily care of long, silky coat; frequent dental care. Apartment living is fine with walks and playtime.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle

Miniature Pinscher

History/Evolution: Despite its name, the Miniature Pinscher is not a miniature version of the Doberman Pinscher. Native to Germany, the Min Pin is most likely the result of breeding the German Standard Pinscher with the Italian Greyhound and the Dachshund. Though it originated several centuries ago and has been bred extensively in Germany and Scandinavia, the Miniature Pinscher did not become popular in the United States until the 1920s.
Size: Tiny, 10 to 121⁄2 inches, 8 to 10 pounds.
Color: Black or chocolate with rust-red markings, or solid red.
Temperament: Energetic, busy, and inquisitive, sometimes aggressive if not well trained; fearless watchdog. Usually affectionate with family, reserved with strangers.
Energy level: High.
Best owner: Active owner with fenced yard and ability to supervise; families with older children.
Needs: Lots of exercise and activity in areas where the curious dog can be left alone when necessary (think toddler).
Life expectancy: 14 to 15 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle


History/Evolution: The dog who became the Papillon started off as the dwarf spaniel of the 16th century. Though its name — French for “butterfly,” for the butterfly effect of dog’s fringed ears — and much of its development can be traced to France, the breed gained a good deal of its popularity in Spain and Italy. Both erect-eared and drop-eared Paps can be born in the same litter and are judged together by the AKC, which first represented the breed in 1935.
Size: Tiny, 8 to 11 inches.
Color: Parti-color or white with patches of any color(s).
Temperament: Happy, obedient, and playful. Friendly toward other pets, and strangers, but a capable watchdog.
Energy level: High.
Best owner: Fun-loving, active owner who can take charge.
Needs: Playtime, positive training methods, twice-weekly brushing of coat, regular teeth brushing.
Life expectancy: 14 to 18 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle


History/Evolution: With legends that can be traced back to ancient Chinese dynasties, the Pekingese is truly a regal creature. The small, maned dogs resembled the symbol of Buddha, the lion, and were developed to accentuate this resemblance. Later, Queen Victoria was given one, causing great demand for the dogs in Britain. First registered by the AKC in 1906, the Pekingese continues its role as charming, loyal companion.
Size: Small, less than 14 pounds (dogs 6 pounds and under are called sleeves, because they could be carried in the sleeves of their Chinese masters).
Color: All colors, but the exposed skin of the muzzle, nose, lips, and eye rims is black.
Temperament: Regal, intelligent, independent, and self-important. Affectionate to family; often aloof with strangers. May not be sturdy enough for a child’s handling.
Energy level: Low.
Best owner: Low-key owner who is a gentle and patient trainer, and tolerant of snoring.
Needs: Leisurely walks or indoor romps, regular combing, air conditioning, daily cleaning around nose wrinkle and hind end.
Life expectancy: 13 to 15 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle


History/Evolution: A descendant of the Spitz family of dogs, the Pomeranian gets its name from the historical region of Pomerania (split today between Germany and Poland), where the Poms served as able sheepherders. The breed gained popularity after Queen Victoria brought one back from a trip to Italy, and a smaller-size Pomeranian then became more fashionable. Today the animated, fox-faced Pom remains a popular show dog and companion.
Size: Tiny, 8 to 11 inches, 3 to 7 pounds.
Color: Red, orange, cream and sable, black, brown and blue, brindle, beaver, white, and parti-color.
Temperament: Extroverted, busy, and curious. Attentive and playful; reserved with strangers. Can bark a lot.
Energy level: High.
Best owner: Loving, gentle family/owner.
Needs: Minimal daily exercise, but lots of attention; twice weekly brushing, training, supervision with young children, secure fenced yard.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle


History/Evolution: Much of the Pug’s origins are a mystery, but the miniature mastiff-type dog appears to have been developed in ancient Asia. A favorite pet of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, the Pug was brought by traders to Holland. By the late 1700s, the breed had arrived in France, where Napoleon’s imprisoned wife, Josephine, used her Pug to deliver messages to Napoleon. The Pug’s official motto, multum in parvo, meaning “a lot in a little,” suits it well. In 1885, the AKC accepted the Pug for registration.
Size: Small, 10 to 11 inches, 14 to 18 pounds.
Color: Fawn or black.
Temperament: Adaptable, even-tempered, pleasant, playful; exudes charm and dignity.
Energy level: Low to medium.
Best owner: One with plenty of time for interaction and who can tolerate wheezing and snoring.
Needs: Low heat and humidity; minimal coat care; daily cleaning of facial wrinkles.
Life expectancy: 12 to 14 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle

Shih Tzu

History/Evolution: Although the Shih Tzu is typically associated with China, many believe the breed was brought to the Chinese court from Tibet. The Shih Tzu as we know it was most likely developed in China around the late 1800s during the reign of Dowager Empress Cixi. The breed faced extinction during the Communist Revolution, but 14 dogs imported to England formed the foundation of every Shih Tzu today. The Shih Tzu remains a gentle and devoted companion.
Size: Small, 8 to 11 inches, 9 to 16 pounds.
Color: All colors.
Temperament: Positive, playful, and affectionate; sweet, occasionally stubborn.
Energy level: Low to medium.
Best owner: Everyone from families to seniors, but a patient trainer with time for daily grooming or funds for professional appointments.
Needs: Socializing, daily exercise, positive training methods, diligent grooming.
Life expectancy: 10 to 14 years.
Photograph © Jean Fogle

Silky Terrier

History/Evolution: Developed in Australia in the late 1800s, the Silky Terrier is the result of crosses between Yorkshire Terriers from England and Australian Terriers. Known as the Syndey Silky Terrier, the Australian Silky Terrier and, finally, in the United States in 1955, the Silky Terrier. This toy breed’s pleasant and inquisitive nature has made it a moderately popular companion.
Size: Small, 9 to 10 inches, 8 to 11 pounds.
Color: Blue and tan.
Temperament: Alert, feisty, inquisitive, and playful. Terrier instincts make it an adept hunter. Intelligent, stubborn, mischievous. Tends to bark a lot.
Energy level: Medium to high.
Best owner: Relatively active owner with a fenced yard for exploring.
Needs: Daily exercise (games of fetch or walks with family), training and socialization, regular bathing and brushing, routine dental care, and attention.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise

Toy Fox Terrier

History/Evolution: The Toy Fox Terrier was developed in the early 1900s by American fanciers who crossed small Smooth Fox Terriers with Toy breeds such as Miniature Pinschers and Manchester Terriers. The breed retains the working abilities of the Terrier but has a mild and amusing character that makes these dogs wonderful home companions. Accepted by the AKC in 2001, the Toy Fox Terrier does well on the farm, in the show ring, and in conformation, agility, and obedience trials.
Size: Small, 81⁄2 to 111⁄2 inches, 3 to 7 pounds.
Color: Tricolor; white, chocolate, and tan; white and tan; white and black, all with predominately colored head.
Temperament: Alert, spirited, determined. Animated, playful, loyal; may not warm to strangers right away.
Energy level: Medium to high
Best owner: Active individual or family with post-toddler children.
Needs: Exercise, training and attention to divert it from digging and barking; fenced yard for hunting and exploring.
Life expectancy: 13 to 14 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise

Yorkshire Terrier

History/Evolution: Despite its long coat and lovely looks, the Yorkshire Terrier began as a hunter of rats and other vermin in Yorkshire, England. The breed is the result of crosses that likely include the Waterside Terrier, Clydesdale Terrier, Paisley Terrier, and Black-and-Tan English Terrier. The Yorkshire Terrier soon became a popular show dog and companion of the wealthy. Don’t be fooled, though — the breed is still a Terrier, with Terrier instincts.
Size: Tiny, 8 to 9 inches, 5 to 7 pounds.
Color: Blue and tan.
Temperament: Busy, inquisitive, and bold; can be stubborn and surprisingly aggressive for its size. May bark a lot, but can be trained not to.
Energy level: High.
Best owner: Active owner or family with gentle, considerate children.
Needs: Daily short, leashed walks or play sessions; firm and fair discipline, brushing every other day, routine dental care, attention.
Life expectancy: 12 to 15 years.
Photograph © Isabelle Francaise

by Eve Adamson, Richard G. Beauchamp, Margaret H. Bonham, Stanley Coren, Miriam Fields-Babineau, Sarah Hodgson, Connie Isbell, Susan McCullough, Gina Spadafori, Jack and Wendy Volhard, Chris Walkowicz, M. Christine Zink, DVM, PhD