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Why I Don’t Refer to My Small Dogs as “Big Dogs in Small Packages”

66I've loved Papillons ever since I first discovered them in a dog breed book when I was about 10.  My family had a dog when I was young, and she'll always hold a special place in my heart, but I consider Kitsune, my Papillon, to be my first dog.  He's the first one that I've had the responsibility of caring for myself.  I spent years and years researching Papillons before actually getting one.  I remember seeing, on more than one occasion, Papillons being described as "big dogs in a small package".

Kitsune loves me!I've also seen Papillons referred to as the "Border Collies of the toy dog world".  They are normally under 10 lbs, but are high energy, and very intelligent.  It's not uncommon to see them participating in dog sports, such as agility, and they make excellent hiking partners.  I've always been an outdoorsy person.  I love hiking, camping, mountain climbing, etc.  As far as dogs go, I've always been drawn to smaller breeds.  But I also wanted to find a dog breed that would enjoy my active lifestyle.

The "big dog in a small package" description seems to often be applied to small dogs who are more drivey, energetic, active, etc.  I've heard it being used to describe small dogs who have even, friendly, confident, happy-go-lucky temperaments.  Basically personalities outside the norm of the small dog stereotype.

Fenrir at the beach

I've always hated how often small dogs are stereotyped.  But that's (mostly) a topic for another post.  I will say that I have two small dogs now.  They are not 'yappy', nor will they bite your ankles.  No they are not perfect - what dog is?  I do training sessions with them every day to work on behaviors I want to improve.  My dogs are versatile, and will happily spend time snuggled up on the couch, but also love spending time outdoors.  Both my small dogs love hiking with me.  Kitsune loves agility, and we're working on getting Fenrir ready to take the Canine Good Citizen test.

My dogs are not big dogs in small bodies!  They are what they are...small dogs, in adorably small bodies, who are intelligent, confident, active, well trained, and affectionate.  I see no reason why my dogs' positive traits should be attributed to them being something they are not.  My Papillon is not a Border Collie in a toy sized body - he's a Papillon!  I appreciate, respect, and love my dogs for exactly who, and what, they are.

49 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Refer to My Small Dogs as “Big Dogs in Small Packages”

  1. Lindsay, Dog Blogger

    Such an odd phrase - a small dog is a small dog! I've always wanted a papillion, along with every other breed of dog - but I really like owning a small dog, so portable, so quick and smart.

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      I love large dogs too, but will probably always stick with the little guys. Papillons that I've owned one I can't imagine my life without one. Small dogs are awesome, it's a shame that they so often get a bad rap.

  2. Lauren Miller

    I love this post! It's always bothered me when people talk about "big dogs in small packages" like little dogs are not real dogs and they are just trying to prove that they are! I also get super bothered by the ankle biter thing, too!

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      All that small dog stereotype stuff has always been a huge pet peeve of mine. My littles are just as much real dogs as dogs 10 times their size. I think if more people thought of them as just dogs, the same way they'd think of bigger dogs, there would be more well trained small dogs out there.

  3. Erin Amanda

    Well said! I never really thought about the stigma with calling a small dog a "big dog in a small package". But you make a good point! Every dog has its own personality, and it's lame to relate positive traits solely with the larger breeds.

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      That's what has always bothered me most about that saying. My small dogs have many positive traits that have nothing to do with size. When people attribute those traits to them being "big dogs in small bodes" it always kind of feels like an insult hidden in a compliment. Like they are saying "Ick, small dogs...but it's ok because yours act more like big dogs!". When in reality they are not acting like big dogs, they are acting like themselves.

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  4. MattieDog

    Really great post - prepackaging/stereotyping really short cuts our thinking and doesn't challenge us to understand and explain how we think. Love this!

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      Thanks for your comment! As a small dog lover I feel like the small dog stereotype puts up a lot of walls. I wonder how many owners don't bother working with their dogs more because they believe the stereotypes. It makes me sad, especially since I know first hand how amazing the little ones can be if you ignore the stereotype and work with them as individuals.

  5. Ruth and Layla

    I love small dogs especially as I am a shortie and they are easier to walk etc although when Layla barks (once a month BOL) I do joke and say little dog big mouth BOL

  6. PawesomeCats

    Couldn't agree more and I love your closely line about respecting your dogs for who they are. That's exactly how I feel about the cats.

  7. Tenacious Little Terrier

    Agreed! Mr. N can do everything a big dog can and he does(that he wants to anyway, I don't think he'd like bitework!). And about that yappy stereotype. We went to a vaccine clinic the other day... it was us, a bunch of Chihuahuas, two Pits, a Lab, and a Setter. And who was barking their heads off? Not any of the small dogs... but ALL the big ones!

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      Yay Mr.N! Yeah it's funny that little dogs also have a stereotype for being nippy and around here Kitsune has been bitten by other dogs a couple of times, unfortunately, all of them big! There are a couple of small dogs in our neighborhood that are just the sweetest things. Goes to show you the stereotypes really don't hold true in a lot of cases.

  8. M. K. Clinton

    It is always special when you grow up and can actually select your very first dog. I think Papillon are darling dogs. Having a Basset Hound, I hear so many comments on his size. People believe they are small dogs because they are low to the ground. Nope, they are big and average 50-60 pounds full grown.

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      50 - 60 lbs is big! My Kitsune is an over sized Papillon and is about 20 lbs. Fenrir, the one who looks like a husky, is actually an Alaskan Klee Kai and just under 10 lbs.

      Kit will always have a special place in my heart for being my first dog. He's taught me so much. Hard to believe we've had him for 7 years already.

  9. Sierra M. Koester

    I think small dogs are great! They can have big personalities, but I probably wouldn't refer to them as big dogs in small bodies, either.

  10. Three Chatty Cats

    Very well said! Do you think most people who say that line ("big dogs in a small package") are NOT owners of small dogs? I've not actually heard that line before. We have a small(ish) dog. More medium sized, but what we consider small. He's a terrier mutt.

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      In my experience the people who say it don't seem to be small dog owners. I have had people say it to me before, about my dog Kitsune, and it's always been by owners of big dogs. I don't think they necessarily mean anything by it, but I still don't like it as I feel it helps to perpetuate stereotypes.

  11. Talent Hounds

    Your dogs look adorable and sound great fun. Small dogs can be great. I see Kilo roaring at huge dogs and puffing out his chest and I definitely think he thinks he is bigger than he is. He has a big personality in a small body. But he is also very happy to cuddle in my lap and enjoy the benefits of being little.

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      What kind of dog is Kilo? I think that's one of the things I love most about small dogs - they can be just as active as bigger dogs, have strong personalities, but at the end of the day they are small enough to fit perfectly on your lap.

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      I'm sure it varies by individual, but in general they are quite active. They are very smart too - which makes for an interesting combination. If they don't get enough mental/physical exercise they will find ways to entertain themselves...which isn't always a good thing.
      Thanks for your comment!

  12. christycaplan

    I also hate this expressions - our doxies are well doxies. They are each total individuals and don't necessarily carry the traits of larger dogs even though they have large personalities!

  13. fivesibes

    Sweet photos! While I have Siberian Huskies, I grew up with Poodles and they were always wonderful little dogs! Never yappy, nor did they go after anyone's ankles. They loved to snuggle and one loved to play Fetch with a rubber red apple!

  14. Playful Kitty

    Every pet is different and unique. There is nothing wrong with being exactly what they are. Small doesn't mean insignificant. Small means small. I think that your dogs are perfect just the way they are - without having any connections to a larger breed.
    -Purrs from your friends at

    1. Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog

      Aw yeah I've met some larger dogs who where huge cuddle bugs too! Although I don't know how their owners ever got any sleep. It always amazes me how much of the bed my 20 lb dog can hog - I can't imagine if he was any bigger!

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