2 dogs with handkerchiefs

Big Vs Small Dogs: What Are The Pros and Cons?

Seasoned dog owners generally fall into one of two categories. The first are those who believe that a real dog weighs a minimum of 50 lbs, and those smaller ankle biters are some sort of sub-species. The second, a group of small dog lovers who like the idea of taking their pup with them on the go. Purse dogs, sweater dogs, and pups that are generally easy to handle by almost anyone fit this category. But beyond personal inclination, are there noticeable pros and cons between choosing a big dog versus a small dog? If you're considering your first foray into dog ownership, it's a legitimate question.

2 dogs with handkerchiefs

Do Big Dogs Cost More than Small Dogs?

The first question we should address is the overall cost of care. When you are weighing your options for dog ownership, the sticker price of the puppy is only a small percentage of the total cost of owning a dog. You'll also have preventative care like vaccinations and flea medicine, medications for various ailments that pop up, food, treats, and toys, to name a few ordinary expenses. 

Related: Why do Dogs Sit on your Feet?

The initial purchase price is not generally tied to the full-grown size of the dog. Breed, pedigree, age, temperament, and source are all factors that go into determining the price of a dog. But none of those things are directly related to size. However, medication dosage and the amount of food that a dog requires are directly related to size. 

The average annual cost of heartworm preventative for a 10 lb dog is $60.00 ($5 per month for 12 months). The same preventative treatment for a 90 lb dog is $180 ($15 per month for 12 months). The same is true for other types of treatments. Bigger dogs generally require bigger doses, making routine and preventative care more expensive for larger dogs.

And while you may have to splurge on specialty feeds for smaller dogs, they eat far less per day. A small breed dog eats less than one cup of kibble per day, while a typical labrador retriever eats at least four cups of kibble per day. 

On the other hand, many small breeds are prone to a variety of health conditions. Between specialty diets and frequent veterinary care, you are likely to spend just as much on a small dog as you do on routine care and feeding for a larger dog. 

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 dog with a ball

Which One Has a Better Temperament?

There is plenty of aggression to go around in the canine world. And while certain breeds tend to get labeled, aggressive dogs aren't limited by size. There are as many toy and small breed dogs that aren't friendly as there are larger breeds. The difference is size. A bigger size is more intimidating when it snarls and growls. But with that being said, there are dozens of lovely dogs across all breeds with delightful temperaments. It's a little bit about the breeding, a lot about the handling, and the wisdom to know what characteristics a particular breed has and how well suited they will be for a particular environment. For example, an Australian Cattle Dog that is bred to work will likely display inappropriate behaviors when kept in an apartment with little exercise. Size is not a determining factor in temperament.

Related: Why do Dogs Tilt their Head?

With that being said, smaller dogs tend to be more vocal. If you don't like dogs that bark, you may be better off with a larger breed. Investing in good obedience training early in the puppy years will make a big difference in your ability to redirect barking behaviors


Have you put any thought into how long of a commitment your new canine friend will be? If you're buying a puppy, you're likely signing up for about a decade of commitment. Some dogs live shorter and some a little longer, but ten years is average. Generally speaking, large breeds live a shorter lifespan between 8-10 years. Even when they make it to old age, their hips and joints are prone to failure due to their size. Small breeds tend to live longer, between 12-15 years. For little dogs, you may have longer to love them, but toy breeds especially are prone to health conditions that may shorten their good years.

Related: Why do Chihuahuas Bark So Much?

Pros and Cons of Small Dogs

Small dogs include any breed under 20 pounds, and toy breeds specifically are those that are less than five pounds. Some people consider medium dogs (20-40 lbs) to be small dogs. But generally, we are speaking of dogs that fall in the 20 pounds or less category.

What we love about small dogs:

  • Inexpensive Care
  • Easy to Handle
  • Long Lifespan

What to consider before buying a small dog:

  • They Bark—A Lot. 
  • They're Fragile & Prone to Injury
  • Some Breeds are Prone to Health Conditions

small dog with pink collar

Pros and Cons of Big Dogs

From gentle giants to guard dogs, people favor large breeds for many reasons. And a seemingly equal number of people have some natural anxiety when it comes to their larger sizes. Large breeds tend to be over 50 lbs and include familiar favorites like the Golden Retriever, German Shepard, and Labrador Retriever.

What we love about big dogs:

  • Many Breeds are Easy to Train
  • Better Self Control and Good Temperament
  • Built-In Protection

What to consider before buying a big done:

  • They Cost More to Take Care Of
  • Their Bigger Size Can Be Intimidating
  • Some Breeds are Prone to Aggression

The Bottom Line on Choosing the Right Size of Dog

Ultimately, size is just one consideration on a longer list of attributes. While small breeds are typically less expensive to care for, they are also more prone to health conditions that can drive those costs up. And large dogs tend to be friendlier, but some breeds and some lines will always battle the stigma of being an 'aggressive dog.' First, decide what you want out of a dog. Then, take an objective look at what your lifestyle allows. No two dog owners are the same. A labrador puppy can be energetic, and when paired with the right owner who takes it on, runs regularly, and invests time and energy into training, it will thrive. In another home where it is kept indoors with little exercise, it may eat the furniture. 

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