Big dog vs small dog: which is the best for you?

Big dog vs small dog: which is the best for you?

Big or small, we think all dogs are amazing here at Purely Pets! But which size is right for you? Let’s compare the different breeds so you can make the right decision.

Perhaps you’ve always had your heart set on a cute little Pug, but the rest of your household would like a big, playful Labrador? Or maybe you long for a cuddly Boxer but you live somewhere small and aren’t sure you have enough space?

Getting a dog is a big decision, and finding the ideal canine companion isn’t always easy. There’s a lot to consider, like how much time you have to spend with your pet and how active you are as a family.

So, how can you decide on the ‘pawfect’ pup for your home? We share the pros and cons of dogs big and small and look at some of the common health concerns.

Discover whether a pedigree or mixed breed is right for your family and see what medium-sized dog to consider, too.

Just remember, whatever breed you choose to bring home, make sure you have in place.

The ABI states that the average claim on pet insurance is now over £800, it pays to be protected. You never know when your beloved pup might fall ill or get into an accident. Lifetime coverage means you can get them the emergency care they need, minus the big vet bill.

Big dog breeds

Large dog breeds need a lot more space in a home than their smaller counterparts and usually cost more to keep. They also eat a lot of food, which the experts over at Battersea say costs around £24 per 12kg bag.

Certain big dog breeds make wonderful family pets. They are good with young children and other family pets like cats. They’re also ideal snuggle companions for a cosy night in and love long walks through the countryside.

Some of the most popular big dog breeds in the UK are:

  • Newfoundland: These large dogs are excellent at settling into new surroundings and delight their families with their intelligent and friendly nature.
  • Boxer: This breed loves to socialise and will fit into your busy lifestyle. They are clownish and kind-natured, often making their owners laugh.
  • German Shepherd: If you have a very active household, this could be the dog for you. They are loyal, intelligent, and love getting out and about.
  • Labrador Retriever: This kind-natured breed makes a wonderful family member and is trustworthy, reliable, and great at learning new tricks.
  • Golden Retriever: These pups might be full of energy but they also have a very calm temperament and are easy to train.
  • Saint Bernard: Just like Beethoven in the films, this breed is ideal for families, thanks to their affectionate nature and high level of patience. But you need a lot of room!
  • Mastiff: These gentle giants of the canine world are usually chilled but they can be prone to cherry eye, epilepsy and some of the other health conditions listed below.

Health concerns in big dogs

No matter the size of your dog, they can fall ill at any time, but certain breeds are at a higher risk of certain health issues than others.

The most common serious conditions found in large dogs are different from those apparent in their smaller counterparts, and it’s important to know what your pet is prone to when you decide to bring them home.

This way, you’ll know what symptoms to keep an eye out for and can take them to the vet when necessary. Don’t forget to protect your canine companion in case of an emergency with pet insurance for dogs.

If you own a large dog breed, they might be more susceptible to these health concerns:

  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Panosteitis (leg pain and lameness)
  • Heart conditions like dilated cardiomyopathy and aortic stenosis
  • Cruciate ligament tears
  • Bloat and torsion
  • Cherry eye
  • Epilepsy
  • Arthritis

If you suspect your canine is unwell, you should call the vet immediately to prevent symptoms from worsening. If you have pet insurance for dogs with Purely Pets, you use call our 24/7 vet video consultation service to get quick and professional advice.

Pros and cons of big dogs

You’ve seen some of the more popular large breeds in Britain and know what health issues to look out for, but you might still be finding it difficult to decide whether a big dog is the right choice for you.

Below, we weigh the advantages and disadvantages of owning big breeds to help you with your decision.

Big dog pros Big dog cons
Can be good with children Cost more to look after
More likely to bark less Need more room at home
Make great cuddle companions More likely to shed
Usually easier to train Difficult to transport
Make you feel safe Shorter lifespan
More affectionate Prone to certain health conditions

Small dog breeds

If you have a small home and don’t have such a big budget to spend on your new canine, you might want to consider a smaller breed.

Some little dogs can be very vocal and are sometimes less sociable, but they are easy to transport and cost less to feed. You might also find that your costs less for these breeds.

If you’re living by yourself or as a couple, a small dog could be the perfect addition to your household. They can hop up on your lap for a stroke on the sofa and you can take them everywhere you go.

The most popular small dog breeds in the UK include:

  • Yorkshire Terrier: Yorkies are friendly and love going on adventures to hunt and play. They get on better in families with older children who have time to give them lots of attention.
  • Miniature Dachshund: These long dogs make wonderful family pets and love to be doted on. They are curious and have a great sense of humour.
  • French Bulldog: This small breed rewards your love and affection with loyalty and their high intelligence means they’re excellent at learning new skills.
  • Jack Russell: These little terriers have some of the highest energy levels amongst the small breeds and are very affectionate to their owners.
  • Miniature Schnauzer: Friendly, good mannered, and loyal, these pups make wonderful family pets when properly trained and socialised.
  • Pug: These are the ultimate family small dogs and get on with kids, dogs, and even cats! They are friendly, affectionate, and love playing games.
  • Pomeranian: This breed might be tiny but they have a huge personality. They are intelligent, independent, and get along better with big kids.
  • West Highland Terrier: These happy and fun-loving little dogs make great playmates for young children and don’t tire easily.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: This adorable long-eared breed is eager to please and will be gentle and affectionate with family members of all ages.
  • Border Terrier: If you want an affectionate and loyal family dog, this could be the ideal breed. They are eager to please their owners and have bundles of energy.
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Health concerns in small dogs

Just like with the bigger breeds, small dogs are also more prone to certain health issues that their owners need to be aware of.

It’s crucial you take your tiny pup for regular vet visits so they can detect medical concerns early on and prevent them from becoming too serious and even life threatening.

Although check-ups aren’t usually included on a pet insurance for dogs plan, you need to budget for these as a responsible pet parent when you bring your four-legged family member home.

The most common health concerns with small breeds include:

  • Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD)
  • Pancreatitis
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Brachycephalic airway syndrome
  • Obesity

Keep up to date with non-emergency care and vet visits for your pup and make sure you have pet insurance for dogs to protect them in case of a sudden illness or accident.

Pros and cons of small dogs

Some of the adorable tiny pups mentioned above might be grabbing your attention, but you need to be absolutely certain that one of these breeds is the right choice for your household.

Take a look at the table of advantages and disadvantages of owning a small dog to see whether they’re the right fit for you.

Small dog pros Small dog cons
Cost less to feed Can be very vocal
Easier to transport and carry More fragile
Easier to groom Can't walk as far
Tend to live longer Not always good with children
Ideal for smaller homes Less sociable
Easier to control Prone to certain health conditions

Should I get a pedigree or a mixed breed dog?

We’ve mentioned some of the more popular pedigree names and you might already have a favourite, but have you considered a mixed breed?

There are many advantages to getting a dog that is a mix of two or more breeds, but there are also pet parents who argue that their pedigree is better than a mongrel any day.

What are the benefits of getting a pedigree pup? The main advantage is that you know what to expect regarding their behaviour and physical traits.

This means you will know what health issues to look out for and can choose one based on your family and whether you want a high or low energy breed.

Discover what you should know before you bring a pedigree home elsewhere on our site.

If you’re simply looking for a canine companion to become a beloved part of your household and have no preference on what they look like, then a mixed breed is a wonderful choice. There are many reasons why a mixed breed dog makes an excellent pet, including:

  • They are less predisposed to a number of health concerns.
  • Your pet insurance for dogs might cost less because they are less likely to become ill.
  • They cost less to adopt or buy and large vet bills are much less frequent.
  • Their average lifespan is a lot longer than most pedigrees.
  • They’re easier to find from a dog rescue centre, meaning you help save a life and make way for more pets looking for homes.

The choice between pedigree or mixed breed is yours to make, and there is no right or wrong answer. Make sure you discuss both options as a family and find the right playful pooch for your home.

Common illnesses in all dog breeds

We’ve discussed what health problems are more prevalent in both big and small dog breeds, but there are certain conditions that canines are prone to whatever their size and heritage.

Make sure your furry friend is covered with pet insurance for dogs as soon as you bring them home. At Purely Pets, we can protect your puppy from as young as 8 weeks old and we have no upper age joining limit if you adopt a golden oldie.

Here are some of the most common illnesses in all types of dog:

Ear infections

Most canines get this kind of infection from foreign objects or water in the ear and parasites. The RSPCA mentions it’s one of the top reasons dogs go to the vets, but that it’s easily treatable with drops or medication. Look out for common symptoms, like:

  • Scratching or pawing at ears
  • Excessive head shaking
  • Dark coloured discharge
  • Redness and swelling of ear canal

Dental disease

Another one of the most common reasons owners take their four-legged family members to the vet is due to bad oral health.

Gingivitis and gum disease are caused by bacteria, which leads to plaque and tartar build-up, so it’s essential you look out for your dog’s dental health. We’ve got some top tips on how to clean their teeth properly.

Some of the more obvious signs your pet is suffering from oral disease are:

  • Reduce appetite
  • Difficulty eating
  • Bad breath
  • Weight loss
  • Red and inflamed gums


Poor nutritional health can lead to your dog tipping the scales, and it’s a common concern, especially as canines age. Make sure your pet is on a healthy, high-quality diet and that you don’t offer too many treats or human food.

You can tell when your pooch is piling on the pounds when you can no longer see their waist and it’s hard to feel their ribs when you run your fingers over their body.

Your pet might find it difficult to breathe when out for a walk and will be reluctant to leave the house.

Kennel cough

This condition is more common in pups in kennels, so if your pet will be boarding while you go on a holiday, make sure their vaccines are up to date.

Your canine companion might develop a honking, high-pitched barking cough. Your vet will prescribe medication to help your dog recover.

Urinary infection

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria, which often comes from the dog’s intestinal tract and goes into the bladder. The condition can also occur when your canine doesn’t get let out to wee regularly and holds it in. Look out for:

  • More frequent urinating
  • Whimpering when weeing
  • Frequent licking of genitals
  • Blood in urine


Just like us, canines can become allergic to a range of environmental and food allergies. Depending on the cause, your vet will prescribe creams, medication, or a special diet.

An allergic reaction in a dog can produce various symptoms, including:

  • Itchiness
  • Dry skin
  • Bald patches
  • Inflammation
  • Diarrhoea
  • Vomiting

Lacerations / Cuts

This isn’t an illness as such but something that’s a common reason for vet visits. Your dog might get scratched or injured when out on a walk or around your home, so it’s important to protect them with pet insurance for dogs to cover them in case of an accident.

Whether your pet’s laceration is minor or deep, it’s best to take them to the vet to check for signs of infection.


Although this is more common in larger dogs, all canines are at risk of this health condition. Your vet can help you manage the symptoms with medication, but arthritis can’t be cured. Watch for these signs in your four-legged friend:

  • Limping and lameness
  • Reluctance to get out of bed
  • Swelling around joints
  • Slower when out for walks

The top medium sized dogs to own

After looking through the different types of dogs, you might still be unsure on what breed is right for your home. A large canine could be too big for your space, but you have small children and aren’t keen on a tiny, vocal pup disturbing their naps.

Whatever your situation might be, it’s worth considering a medium-sized hound. They’re a fantastic size for cuddles but don’t take up too much room. They also bark less than their smaller counterparts but are still easy to transport around.

There are a lot of different breeds to choose from, and here are some of the more popular breeds the UK:

  • Beagle: This adorable breed is happy, outgoing, and loves their family. They like plenty of exercise and chances to sniff with their super-powered nose.
  • Schnauzer: If you suffer from allergies, this is the medium-sized pup for you. They’re intelligent, fearless, and always in high spirits.
  • Border Collie: This highly intelligent breed loves staying active and going for long walks and outdoor adventures.
  • Cocker Spaniel: These dogs are handsome, happy, and delightfully charming. They can learn every trick in the book and are friendly to everyone they meet.
  • Basset Hound: This chilled breed is as laid back as they come and will become every family member’s best friend, including small children.
  • Whippet: Loving and affectionate, this fast breed loves chasing frisbees before going home for a snuggle on the sofa.
  • Cockapoo: This popular mixed breed is low shedding, relatively quiet on the barking front and has bags of personality and energy. The perfect mid-sized family dog?

Find pet insurance for dogs for your new addition

Dogs of all shapes and sizes deserve to be protected through every stage of their life. As a responsible pet parent, your canine companion relies on you to look after them, and making sure you have pet insurance for dogs in place is vital to protecting its health.

A lifetime insurance plan means your four-legged friend gets treatment for accidents and illnesses when they need it most.

Pet insurance for dogs with Purely Pets comes with many benefits:

  • 15 levels of lifetime cover up to £15,000
  • Easy-to-manage policies through the online portal
  • Access to the 24/7 vet video consultation service
  • Protection from as young as 8 weeks old and no upper age limit

Don’t wait any longer to give your playful pup or golden oldie the protection it deserves.

Contact Purely Pets for a quote today.

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  • 98% claims paid *
  • Claims paid directly to vets
  • 24/7 vet video consultations
  • Interest free monthly payments