Transition to Toys or, It’s a Whole New World!

    Traveling with the Toy dogs in the RV.

    Some people start off with a Toy breed. Tiny dogs and their accessories are routine to them, and they don’t think anything of them. And then there are those who start with big dogs and one day decide to get a Toy dog. For them, it’s a whole new world.

    I belong to the latter group. I had American and English Cocker Spaniels for almost twenty years, but my primary breed was the Vizsla for almost forty years. Along the four decades I’ve been in dogs, I also owned two Akitas and an Afghan Hound—not all at the same time—but needless to say, I was quite accustomed to lugging around large, heavy crates and fifty-pound bags of dog food, washing large food bowls and water buckets, and buying leads strong enough to hold large, rambunctious dogs.

    I did have one Toy dog in the mid-1990s. I bought a red and white Japanese Chin which we named Kitty. Showing her was an adventure. Everyone told me that Toy dogs were difficult to lead break, but she was easy to train to walk and gait on the lead. The table, however, was another matter. She never learned to like the table. In the ring I quickly discerned that I had picked a less popular color and was normally the only red and white. That said, she was a lovely dog and we picked up our points fairly quickly.

    We had Sari Brewster Tietjen for what turned out to be Kitty’s last show, and when she gave Kitty the Winners Bitch ribbon to finish her championship I thanked her and said that I was surprised she didn’t check her book. She looked at me quizzically and I explained that every other judge who had awarded Kitty points had checked to see if the self-colored nose was disqualifying before awarding us the ribbon. She was surprised to hear that and commenced to give me a genetics lesson on colors in the Japanese Chin. I came to find out that she was an expert in the breed. What a lovely blessing that day to be given the opportunity to learn from someone with her knowledge.

    Photo of dog snacks, showing the difference in snack size for large dog breeds vs toy dog breeds.
    Everything is tiny for toys.

    We never bred Kitty because it turned out she had some physical issues that we worried would be passed to the next generation. While she lived to be thirteen and a half, when she passed we decided that maybe Toy dogs just weren’t our thing.

    About ten years ago we realized that most of our Vizslas were senior citizens with only a few years remaining and we were at a stage in our life when we were traveling more. When we had multiple Vizslas with us they took up all the space. We decided to relook at Toy breeds. By this time the Toy Fox Terrier was in the Toy Group and we quickly decided that it would be an ideal breed for us to segue to.

    It took many months, but we finally brought home our first Toy Fox after a lot of research and searching for the right breeder and puppy. That Toy Fox Terrier puppy was tiny compared to what we were used to. After flying her home, we hit the road to haul our horse to a show in Texas and took her with us. Turned out that traveling with a Toy dog was all we’d hoped it would be.

    Now, for you folks who have had a lot of Toy dogs, everything being tiny is the norm. But for those of us who’ve spent most of our lives with larger breeds, buying new dog equipment and accessories became an adventure. Everywhere we went you could hear us saying, “Look at the tiny bowl!” “Look at the tiny leads!” “Oh, that little bucket is so cute!” The weather got a bit chilly, “Oh, look at the cute little sweater!”

    Toy Fox Terrier dog dressed in red santa suit

    We never clothed our Vizslas! Our first Toy Fox had sweaters, jackets, and even a cheerleading outfit for my college alma mater.

    We discovered the joy of carrying a dog in a very small crate, made sweeter after years of dragging sizes 200, 400, and 500 plastic crates in and out of vehicles and buildings. We discovered that instead of large bags of dog food, four days of dog food for one Toy Fox fit in a sandwich bag. We could carry the dog in our arms and even easily fly with it—right under the seat of the plane—a novelty for an Army Family that had flown Cockers and Vizslas in the baggage hold when relocated overseas and back. And picking up a Toy puppy’s poop? After all the big dogs? Yep—sometimes even that made us giggle.

    Not everything that was unique to Toys made us smile. Some things were initially scary. Our first litter was almost overwhelming. She whelped easily and everyone was fine, but for a person accustomed to one-pound puppies, a four-ounce tiny Toy puppy was frightening. I was afraid to sleep, afraid to let the room get cool, afraid of them being fragile, afraid of hypoglycemia… you name it, that first Toy litter was stressful. Where once I’d whelped and raised puppies with calmness and confidence, suddenly I was a nervous wreck. They were so tiny!

    Showing also was different. I had to slow down from running with the Vizslas to “the walk” with the Toys. I also quickly determined that my Sporting dogs took a little longer to learn to show but then never really changed it up. But Toy Foxes learned very quickly and then changed it every day. And then, the first time I showed in the Toy Group, I had more learning to do. I was accustomed to the Sporting Group, and in the Sporting Group we all know where to line up by size and speed. My first time to take Breed with my Toy Fox and I’m standing there trying to determine which dogs I should follow into the ring. I asked several Toy handlers, as we waited, where did the Toy Fox go in the line-up? Their response was, pretty much, “anywhere you want.”

    Traveling with the Toy dogs in the RV.
    Traveling with the Toys in the RV.

    Changing from big dogs to Toys has been a learning experience. If you are reading this and thinking you’d never want a Toy dog, let me quote my husband who said that he never thought he’d like a Toy breed but now wishes we’d discovered Toy Foxes ten years sooner. And one warning: You start with one, but the joke about them being like potato chips? Can’t have just one? It’s true. When we went from Vizslas to Toy Foxes, we downsized from a minivan to an SUV. Then we bought a motorhome with bunkbeds because each bunk holds four Toy crates. Now we’re looking for a bigger RV. And in addition to the Toy Fox Terriers, we have two Toy Manchesters. Potato chips.

    Our last Vizsla passed away last summer and I’ve been offered Vizsla puppies by several breeders. We are definitely Toy people now. We like the tiny—tiny crates, tiny dog food, tiny dog poop, tiny collars, and most of all, the tiny dogs who all think they are as big as my Vizslas were. We are fully transitioned Toy people now. And loving it. Just know that if you get into Toys, it’s a whole new world.

    • Susan Thibodeaux began showing dogs in 1978. Ten years ago, after decades in the Sporting Group showing primarily Vizslas, Cocker Spaniels and English Cocker Spaniels, she made the decision to segue to the Toy Group and now has Toy Fox Terriers and Toy Manchester Terriers. She is Vice President for the American Toy Fox Terrier Club and on the Board of the Brevard Kennel Club. In addition to showing, Susan can be found having fun in various events such as Rally, Fast CAT and Barn Hunt, stewarding, teaching handling classes for BKC, and judging sweepstakes and matches.

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