Three Pekingese and one chihuahuaMan’s best friend may also be man’s best accomplice in degrading our natural environment. Don’t let Fido fool you with those puppy-dog eyes — behind that furry facade is a cold-blooded carbon emitter.

OK, that might be stretching it, but your pet’s carbon pawprint is probably larger than you think. We’re not barking mad — take a look at the stats. A medium-sized dog eats about 360 pounds of meat annually — more than the average American human, who consumes about 200 pounds (and that’s still a lot). “Owning a dog really is quite an extravagance, mainly because of the carbon footprint of meat,” says John Barrett of the Stockholm Environment Institute in the U.K. Meat, as we all know by now, has a huge environmental impact.

“Two German shepherds kept as pets in Europe or the U.S. use more resources in a year than the average person living in Bangladesh,” writes David Biello in a recent article published by the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. 

From the yearly amount of meat and grain your dog consumes to the rancid runoff produced by doggy doo-doo, you might almost be convinced to jettison the pooch, as Brenda and Robert Vale suggest in their book Time to Eat the Dog?: The Real Guide to Sustainable Living, which takes a hard look at the ecological footprints of pets.

But we think that’s extreme.  Instead, how about downsizing from a Bernese to a beagle?  If the thought of owning a Chihuahua gives you pause (paws?), let us make a case for these underdogs:  Owning a small dog means less hair to clean up, less food to buy, and let’s just say that doggy duty becomes less of a … handful. So punt your preconceived notions about seemingly puntable pooches and solve your environmental pet peeves with a small dog.

We offer some suggestions: