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Accessory Dogs: Canines in the Fashion World

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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To the fashion-conscious person, choosing the right cute outfit and coordinating a purse and shoes to go with it is hard enough work. Now there is a new accessory that's making the task of being trendy even more challenging. This one needs walked, fed, and loved.

Tiny dogs toted under the arm, in a bag, or on a sparkly leash are a big hit in the fashion world. Popularized by Paris Hilton's Chihuahua, Tinkerbell, these pups are being spotted everywhere - from the red carpet to your local mall.

It is becoming more common to see accessory dogs in public places where dogs are not normally permitted. Perhaps it's legal because the dog's feet rarely touch the ground! Handbags, pouches worn over the owner's torso (such as those used to carry infants), and strollers are designed specially to carry these tiny canines around. Even the expensive designer purse brands are making dog totes.

The accessory dog trend has even led to some public locations allowing dogs too big to be carried. For example, the Polaris Fashion Place mall (which is carpeted!) in Columbus, Ohio allows dogs of all sizes. Some dogs come there on rainy days for exercise, and some come regularly to shop with their owners. Dogs are not permitted in the food court, and some individual stores have also prohibited them. Dog owners, who would normally have to rush home to let their dogs outside, can spend more time shopping, which is a benefit for the mall. For dogs of all sizes, going to the mall brings them socialization, exercise, and valuable bonding time with their owners.

When shopping at the mall with your accessory dog, you can add to the trendiness with accessory dog accessories! Stores, such as Moochie and Co., sell items to make your tiny pup sparkle! Collars and leashes with your dog's name written in "bling", adorable outfits, jewelry, hair bows, and even sunglasses are some products available to spice up your Tinkerbell.         

Not only are some people spending a lot of money on the accessory dog items, many are also spending large amounts on the dog itself, often significantly more than $1,000! The Chihuahua, Maltese, and Yorkshire Terrier are a few of the popular breeds. The smaller the better ... and the more expensive. It isn't uncommon for these dogs to weigh a mere 3 pounds.

With such a tiny dog, there are many risks involved. Small breed dogs are prone to obesity, especially those that are carried and rarely walk on their own. Though it is fun to hold an adorable, petite dog, it is really important that they walk and get exercise. It is also important to feed an appropriate diet and minimize treats and "people-food".
        
Small dogs are also easily broken. Their fragile bones do not do well if stepped on or dropped. Always handle these little ones with extreme care, and, if toting in a bag, be sure they are safely secured inside. It is a good idea to use a collar with a bell, so they can be heard and not stepped on when underfoot.

Low blood glucose levels can be a very dangerous problem in the toy breeds, especially when they are puppies. Feeding at least 3-4 small meals a day is necessary to prevent this. Talk to your veterinarian to establish the appropriate feeding schedule for your dog.

If you have an accessory dog, it is important to remember that your little Tinkerbell is not merely an addition to your wardrobe. She is a dog that has canine instincts, desires, and needs; do not humanize or materialize your dog too much. Playtime, love and attention, obedience training, healthcare, and appropriate diet are all just as necessary as they are in a large dog. If done with respect towards the dog, going everywhere with an owner can be a fun and rewarding experience for canine and human. Don't let your accessory dog just complete your outfit; let her complete your heart too.

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