All dogs are descendents of the wolf. Most small dog breeds can trace their roots back to the middle east and the Middle Eastern gray wolf. Did you know that pretty much every dog has a history that is intertwined with man as we bred a breed to serve a purpose to help mankind? I find it fascinating learning about different breeds and their use throughout history. What were small dog breeds bred for? Well, it depends on which breed! Many toy dog breeds have similar histories, but some of the small breed dogs have their own unique history. I visited Petland Naperville to see if I could find some information on the history of toy dog breeds and small dogs, and the Pet Counselors there were happy to talk about little-known facts of small dog breeds.
Long, long ago, animals of all kinds served a purpose for man. I mean a long, long, time ago---evidence shows that the earliest dogs were domesticated approximately 12,000 years ago! Many small dogs earned their keep by hunting rabbits (Italian Greyhound), badgers (Dachshund), foxes (Jack Russel Terrier), and other small game (terriers). The Shetland Sheepdog was also used for cow and sheepherding. Small dog breeds were bred for eyesight or smell, depending on the need. Other small breed dogs served as watchdogs, helping to protect man from his enemy (Pomeranian or Miniature Pinscher). Many small dogs are known to bark and provide warning whenever someone comes to the house or enters your yard. This was bred into them as an early warning system to their owners.
Sometimes, toy dog breeds served a cushier role, but an important role nonetheless. Miniature Poodles were known to curl up in the sleeves of nobility, serving as handwarmers! The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel served a similar purpose, curling up on the lap of his owner to keep him warm during travel or at home.
Finally, some small breed dogs were worshipped, like the Chihuahua (Aztecs) or the predecessor to the Maltese (Egyptians). They also became performers, like the Bichon and Miniature Poodle, who were highly intelligent and trainable, and weren't disrupted by loud crowds. Even in the dog show world, small dog breeds were bred for show, like the Boston Terrier and French Bulldog, who were purposefully bred to perform in dog show rings.
Small dogs have earned their keep throughout history, and even if the puppies at Petland Naperville never get trained for a particular task anymore, perhaps you will see a little bit of their history embedded in their personalities.