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What Is a Lap Dog?

Many low-energy large dogs, including bulldogs, tend to behave like lap dogs and want to continue laying in their owners' laps long after they've grown too large.
A Shih-Poo is a crossbreed between a Poodle and Shih Tzu, and makes an excellent lap dog.
A lap dog like a Shih Tzu might be ideal for apartment living.
A French bulldog, a type of lapdog.
The Yorkshire terrier is a popular lap dog.
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  • Written By: Alyssa Simon
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 17 August 2014
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A lap dog is a small pet dog that can fit on a person's lap. It is a general term that can be applied to several dog breeds. The most common group of bred lap dogs is called the toy dog group. It includes popular small dogs like Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas and toy poodles.

Lap dogs are historically associated with luxury and wealth because they do not generally perform labor or hunting tasks for humans. They are considered companion animals and, in some instances, fashion accessories. Lap dogs are thought to be some of the earliest pet animals. Their original job was to attract parasites like fleas off their owners.

Lap dogs were popular pets in royal households. The Bichon Frise is a lap dog that was favored by French kings. The dogs were taken when their masters were arrested in the French Revolution and trained to perform tricks in the streets, ridiculing the aristocracy. They would later be used as circus dogs in Europe.

Some lapdogs are specifically bred to be very small. Such selective breeding can create deformations in the animal's eyesight, breathing capacity and nervous system. They may also suffer from what is known as small dog syndrome. This is not a disease, but a behavioral problem created by the owners.

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A lap dog may display dominant behavior for which a bigger dog would be disciplined. Such actions can include jumping on a person or growling. This may make the dog anxious and disturbed. Dogs are considered hierarchical animals that should know their order in the pack to feel secure. If a human makes a distinction between training a lap dog and a bigger dog, the lap dog's emotional health may suffer.

There are several considerations when choosing a lap dog. Families may want a friendly dog that is known to get along well with children. English toy spaniels are considered both playful and gentle. Others may want a more sedate dog for an older person. A Shih Tzu rarely displays aggressive behavior and is thought to be well-suited for apartment living.

Small dogs have a reputation for frequent and high-pitched barking. A Japanese Chin, also known as a Japanese spaniel, is a lap dog originally bred for the Japanese royal family. They are thought to be very quiet and even move stealthy, causing some to compare them to cats. Another quiet lap dog is the French bulldog. It is considered, however, a challenge to train.

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Discuss this Article

abiane
Post 3

@leilaihrune - Real lap dog puppies are so cute! It's really great to find rescue dogs and give them a home because I think they understand what they've been through sometimes. While it's also a good thing to adopt ANY pet, I just think that lap dogs are the perfect size for children and smaller families or families that have smaller homes. They don't require much more than a walk, some place to sleep, food and water, and love.

leiliahrune
Post 2

@doppler - I know what that's like! We have a mixed breed that weighs about 70 to 80 pounds and he thinks he is a big lap dog. It's really kind of a pain sometimes, but usually dogs with the frame of mind are very loved and lovable so it's easy to see why they think the way they do.

doppler
Post 1

As a random side note, a lot of larger dogs tend to think they are lap dogs. Just be forewarned that if you're looking for a larger pet you might be surprised to find out your Great Dane is a lap dog wannabe.

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