Small Dogs

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

November 18, 2022

All dogs are awesome, but I’ve personally, for lots of reasons, always been more of a small dog person.  I currently share my life with Kitsune, a papillon, and Fenrir the Alaskan Klee Kai.  Although small, papillons and Alaskan Klee Kai are both rather high-energy, versatile dog breeds.  I feel like papillons especially are often referred to as being like “big dogs in small packages”.  But describing small dog breeds this way has always kind of bothered me.  I purposely avoided using this type of terminology when I wrote my own papillon and Alaskan Klee Kai breed profiles.

Little Dogs are Awesome Too!

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

Stereotypes Suck!

Big Dogs in Small PackagesI’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 daily to work on behaviors I want to improve.  Papillons are known for being somewhat on the loud/barky side, for example, but I’ve worked hard to help mine develop an off switch for his barking.  It’s funny how small dogs who alert bark are “yappy”, by the way, while big dogs who do it are “just protecting their property/family/what have you”.  Double standard much?

Small Dogs Can Do the Same Things Big Dogs Can!

My small dogs are versatile, and will happily spend time snuggled up on the couch.  They also love spending time outdoors.  Both my small dogs love hiking with me.  Kitsune loved agility in his younger days.  Now that he’s a senior, we stick to lower-impact activities.  He loves nose work and most recently I’ve been working on training him to find deer sheds (antlers).  I do doggy dancing/freestyle with Fenrir.

Big Dogs in Small Packages

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with so many amazing small dogs and their owners!  I’ve met some incredible little dogs.  A few of my favorites included a chihuahua who through hiked the Appalachian trail, and a papillon who competed in weight pull.

My Dogs are Not Big Dogs in Small Bodies!

Big Dogs in Small Packages

“Good” dog traits such as being versatile, friendly, driven, confident, etc., should not only be associated with big dogs!  Small dogs can, and often do, have these traits as well.  It doesn’t mean they are “big dogs in small bodies”.  It means they are amazing dogs.  Size has nothing to do with it.

I see no reason why my dogs’ positive traits should be attributed to them being something they are not.  People seem to have no issues associating negative traits with small dogs, so why not, at least, acknowledge that they can independently have positive traits as well?  Traits that have nothing at all to do with size.  My dogs are not big dogs in small packages.  They are small dogs in adorably small packages!  I work hard to train and manage them in a way that allows their positive traits to shine.

I also appreciate, respect, and love my dogs for exactly who, and what, they are.  Small dogs!  Seeing them behaving well, or doing something impressive, then comparing them to big dogs never feels like a compliment to me, even when it’s meant as one.  Imagine if we complimented humans the way people often do small dogs.  It would be considered offensive.

Changing the Way People Think About Small Dogs

I apologize if today’s post seemed like a rant.  Things like this are such a pet peeve of mine.  Kit, Fen, and I are all about breaking the negative stereotype that’s often associated with small dogs!  While it may not seem like a big deal, part of that is changing the way people talk about small dogs!

Comment below, if you have small dogs has anyone ever referred to them as ‘big dogs in small packages’?  How do you feel about that term?

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  • Reply Lindsay, Dog Blogger March 11, 2016 at 1:25 am

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 2:06 am

      I love large dogs too, but will probably always stick with the little guys. Papillons especially…now 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.

  • Reply Lauren Miller March 11, 2016 at 1:26 am

    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!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 2:12 am

      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.

  • Reply Erin Amanda March 11, 2016 at 5:22 am

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 10:50 am

      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!

  • Reply Golden Daily Scoop March 11, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Great post! Hate stereotypes no matter what they are! Each dog is it’s own being and that the way to should be! 🙂

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Love this comment! This is always how I try to look at living beings, human and animal. Each one is an individual and we should try to look at them as such, rather than attempting to fit them into molds.

  • Reply MattieDog March 11, 2016 at 8:59 am

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

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 10:56 am

      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.

  • Reply Katie Allan March 11, 2016 at 10:53 am

    My boyfriend has Papillon. She is a great dog. I love this post 🙂

  • Reply Ruth and Layla March 11, 2016 at 3:29 pm

    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

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 3:56 pm

      lol some of them do have big barks! I’ll have to post a video of Kitsune barking sometime, his bark totally doesn’t match his size.

  • Reply Sherri March 11, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    Well, my schnoodle is a small dog with a big attitude, if that counts.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 11, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      I had to google pictures of Schnoodles to see what they look like – so cute! Do you mean attitude in a good way or a bad way? Little dogs can have strong personalities for sure!

  • Reply PawesomeCats March 11, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 12, 2016 at 8:45 am

      Thanks for your comment! I think the closing like goes for all living things, I just used it in context about dogs since that’s what the post was about.

  • Reply Tenacious Little Terrier March 11, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    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!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 12, 2016 at 8:44 am

      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.

  • Reply M. K. Clinton March 11, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 12, 2016 at 8:41 am

      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.

  • Reply Sierra M. Koester March 12, 2016 at 10:48 am

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 13, 2016 at 8:37 am

      They are a lot of fun 🙂 I’ve always been drawn to the little guys, which works out since I live in a city apartment.

  • Reply Three Chatty Cats March 12, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 13, 2016 at 8:39 am

      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.

  • Reply Talent Hounds March 13, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    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.

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      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.

  • Reply Rosa Doodle March 13, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard that expression before! Your dogs are adorable!!!

  • Reply Catherine Armato, Dogs Luv Us March 13, 2016 at 6:00 pm

    I love Papillons too but didn’t realize they were so physically active. Thanks for sharing your beautiful dogs’ lives with us!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 13, 2016 at 7:18 pm

      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!

  • Reply christycaplan March 13, 2016 at 7:20 pm

    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!

  • Reply fivesibes March 13, 2016 at 8:41 pm

    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!

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 14, 2016 at 10:44 am

      Poodles are supposed to be a really smart breed too! That’s funny about the red apple. Both my dogs love to play fetch even though they are both smaller dogs.

  • Reply Sadie and Co. March 13, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Well said!!! We love our little dogs for their little dog personalities and traits too.

  • Reply Beth_Daily_Dog_Tag March 13, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    I currently have small dogs, but have also had medium and large dogs, and I love this post!

  • Reply Sweet Purrfections March 13, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    It’s important to recognize dogs for the individuals they are no matter what size or breed.

  • Reply Kia March 13, 2016 at 11:01 pm

    Small dogs are awesome!

  • Reply Playful Kitty March 13, 2016 at 11:58 pm

    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

  • Reply Spencer the Goldendoodle March 14, 2016 at 12:22 am

    Great post! My humans tell me I’m their big lap dog. 🙂

    • Reply Michelle @ Paw Print Pet Blog March 14, 2016 at 10:48 am

      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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