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Toy dog

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This page refers to canines. For the popular children's toy, see toy dogs.

A toy dog is a way of referring to any very small dog, but also a member of an official classification, the Toy dog Group. This group contains the smallest dog breeds in the registry of an all-breed association. There has been much discussion as to whether the name signifies size alone, or also refers to a dog's original purpose, or its temperament. This has sometimes led to misunderstanding or bad feeling in the world of purebred dogs; there seems to be no consensus.

Does Size Matter?

Inconsistency in the placement of small terriers illustrates the point. The Tenterfield Terrier, for example, is in Group 2, Terriers, in the ANKC. It was slated for placement in Group 1, Toys, but quickly reclassified after objection from owners, who argued that the Tenterfield was a working terrier. In the American Kennel Club, the Toy Fox Terrier, a dog of similar type to the Tenterfield, was placed in the Toy Group without objection from owners, but is in the Terrier Group in the UKC. The diminutive Yorkshire Terrier is indisputably a toy. The Australian Terrier is one of the smallest terriers, but is in the Terrier group.

Form Versus Function

Another bone of contention is the idea that Toy Dogs are companion animals, slow moving, with little need for exercise and low endurance. Papillons give lie to this; although dainty and small they are quite capable of taking long walks with their humans and often excel at the energetic sport of dog agility. The UKC defines Italian Greyhounds as having been bred exclusively as pets; the AKC states that these dogs were bred as gazehounds, dogs that hunt by sight, and are quite fast and hardy, but they are nevertheless members of the AKC Toy group.

It seems safest to define the Toy group as being determined by the size of the dogs, and leave discussion of function and temperament to the various breed clubs. However, this can also be problematic, as the upper height limit of some toy dog breeds is over 12 inches at the withers, which places these dogs within the height range of dogs in some other groups as well.

List of Toy Breeds