When looking for the ideal playmate for their dogs, many people first try to find a similarly sized dog. Small dog owners want small dog playmates for their pets, and big dog owners think that their dogs could only be happy romping with another big dog. However, when trying to find an appropriate companion for your pooch, very important things to also consider are your dog’s age, activity level and play style.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have seen two great examples of dogs completely mismatched in size, but who make great companions. At my house, we have been fostering a terrier/chihuahua mix. This dog is 8-months old and a whopping 7 pounds. My dog is a 17-month old, 65 pound black lab and guess what, they LOVE each other and play really well together. They are a good match because both are young, have lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm for play. The key is that Tucker, my lab, in addition to chasing the little guy around the dining room table and putting nearly his whole head into his mouth, will also handicap himself by lying on the ground and letting the terrier jump all over and bite him. The terrier doesn’t get overwhelmed and feel threatened both because Tucker is very restrained in his biting and chasing and also because the little guy gets his chance to be the biter and the chaser, too. In fact the restraint that Tucker shows while playing with this smaller dog is a pleasant change from his typical play with large dogs, which can result in a whole lot of dog running in the yard, trampling the landscaping and threatening by-standers’ ACL’s.
The second pair of dogs I observed recently was Jamie Damato Migdal’s senior toy poodle together with her new dog, Whisper, a 3-year-old collie. These dogs are also terrifically well matched because neither of them has a bit of interest in play. They are both very relaxed around other dogs, but a good game of chase is not what either is looking for. Based on size alone, the terrier and the poodle are a much closer match, but when they met in the office last week, The Poodle gave the terrier a stern snarl for trying to initiate play. She was simply not interested in his youthful exuberance.
As with all dog play, monitoring and interrupting frequently is a must. Dogs of unequal size can be terrific playmates if well matched. Remember, when trying to decide if your dog would enjoy spending time with another dog, it is important to also consider factors such as the dogs’ energy level, confidence and preferred play style.