Those who firmly believe that dogs are ‘man’s best friend’ may qualify any dog as a companion dog. It wouldn’t be far from the truth either, because all dogs seem to love to keep their owners’ company. But by way of definition, breeds that are not meant to do any specific function other than offering constant company their owners are considered companion dogs. So if it is just companionship that you are looking for in the dog you want to adopt, you have the choice of specially-bred companion dogs which are generally small in size.
Origin of Companion Dogs
The Chinese are credited with developing small breeds of dogs several thousand years ago to serve purely as decorative companions of the nobility. Pekingese is one such breed from China as the name suggests. Pugs were also favored by them. The royal houses of Europe also had their own lap dogs, a name that aptly describes their sole function of warming the laps of their owners. They were a great choice for gifting among the wealthy, and the practice continues even to this day.
19th century saw the emergence of several breeds of dogs such as the Maltese and the Spaniels that found favor with the gentry. Terriers too come under this category. Children especially took to these smaller breeds, and their popularity steadily increased. By the next century, middle classes began offering these dogs to their kids as playmates. Soon, all classes of the society also followed suit, making companion dogs as ubiquitous as they are today.
What to expect in a companion dog
A gentle temperament and friendliness are the main characteristics that companion dogs are bred for. By virtue of their very nature, they make ideal pets for the whole family as they get along well with other pets in the household too. Pomeranians, Shih-Tzus, Dachshunds and Chihuahua are some of the companion dogs available, besides the ones mentioned earlier.
These dogs weigh not more than 16 pounds. These are very tiny ones too, weighing just about two pounds. While this is a great advantage while carrying them around, their diminutive size makes them particularly vulnerable to attacks by other animals that are bigger than them. It also makes it harder for them keep warm in cold weather. If you are located in areas with severe winters, select breeds have fur that is thick and long, or be ready to dress them up in really warm outfits. They are susceptible to certain health problems unique to them too. You should look into the specific needs and health issues of the chosen breed of companion dog before going in for adoption.
About 16 years is the average life expectancy of these breeds. This, however, shouldn’t discourage you from adopting them. In spite of the many problems they have, they will reward you with their playful companionship all through their life. They can accompany you wherever you go, and will just happily sit with you for extended periods.
Don’t let their gentle nature and small sizes deceive you; they are full of energy and run around very fast. Consequently, they are not considered safe for very small children and toddlers. However, older children find a match in them, and enjoy tumbling about with them. Older people also find these energetic dogs great companions as they bring a welcome cheer into their homes. Maintenance costs are also considerably less compared to larger breeds of dogs. They need much less space too. Since they can very well fulfill their need for exercise by running around within the confines of a small house, they are ideally suited for apartment life in crowded cities, and for people who cannot exercise their dogs regularly.