When Tammy Shugart, her husband, Ashley, and their two dogs walk around Capitol Hill, neighbors do double takes. On his leash is a 110-pound Great Dane named Stone. On hers? Smalls, an eight-pound Chihuahua mix.
“Stone would be surprising enough, but when you couple him with such a small dog, people freak out,” says Tammy, an accountant. “People call them Mutt and Jeff.”
Ashley became infatuated with Great Danes before he met his wife. “Stone is 100 percent my husband’s dog,” she says. “Before we got married, I decided I wanted a dog that would care for me.”
So when Smalls showed up in the couple’s yard four years ago and started hanging around Stone, the Shugarts added the abandoned pup to their pack. “My husband likes to have his big dog he can wrestle with, and I have my little one to cuddle with,” says Tammy. She’ll often find the Chihuahua sleeping on top of Stone: “Smalls runs the show.”
Rebecca Bisgyer, owner of Dog-Ma Daycare & Boarding on Capitol Hill, says such canine matchups are rare. “The most frequent pairs are a similar breed mix and have similar play styles,” she says. “When somebody is getting a second dog, there are some things to consider—exercise needs, age, size, and temperament.”
To create a happy pack, Bisgyer says, pay attention to personality and breed characteristics. Lap dogs and hounds play well with other dogs. Some breeds, such as Akitas and greyhounds, have “prey drives” and might not get along with a small dog or cat. She suggests introducing new pets in a controlled environment so they can figure out their pecking order.
For Jennifer Gardner of Silver Spring, moving in with her boyfriend meant sharing a place with a 95-pound American bulldog named Killer, which she describes as a “giant teddy bear.” When Gardner, who works for the Washington Humane Society, rescued a four-pound teacup Chihuahua named Twiggy, the two dogs took a liking to each other. Twiggy curls up next to Killer for warmth. When Killer finishes eating, Twiggy climbs inside his bowl and licks the corners. The two swap treats.
Gardner says her dogs buck the misconception that “bully breeds”—pit bulls, bull terriers, bulldogs—can’t be trusted with smaller dogs: “They can actually coexist and love each other.”
During the workday, she separates the dogs to avoid accidents and moves tiny toys that Killer could choke on. “We are constantly amazed that Killer can squeeze his entire body into her bed,” she says. Twiggy follows Killer around the house: “She doesn’t give him a lot of alone time.”
This story first appeared in the January 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.