Small Dog Syndrome

small dog syndrome

Small dog syndrome.  Some small dogs display certain behaviours because they feel the need to make up for being so small.  (We want to assure you that we have minded thousands of small dogs since we started operating in 1993.  Only a very small portion of them suffer from small dog syndrome.)

Behaviours associated with small dog syndrome often include any, and hopefully not all, of the following:

  • Showing aggressive behaviour towards larger dogs – often because they are afraid so they bark or snap at larger dogs.
  • Reluctance to be obedient – sometimes because owners are not as firm with them because they are so small.
  • Over-excitable behaviour – it’s easier to allow a small dog to display over-excitable behaviour than it is to allow a Great Dane or Rottweiler to act like this.
  • Consistent jumping on people – once again, allowed to get away with this because they are so small.
  • Aggression towards other people – often this is another behaviour based on fear.
  • Taking longer to be toilet-trained – it’s just a little puddle!

Humans are sometimes responsible for small dog syndrome

Not you, of course!

Often, owners of small dogs don’t spend as much time training their dogs.  (Owners of large dog are more compelled to do so out of necessity.)  This may explain the little dog’s reluctance to be obedient – they have not learnt what is expected of them.

We often see small dogs getting away with behaviour that large dog owners just cannot allow.  For example, if you have a German Shepherd you are much more likely to train him not to jump on people.  The results of this behaviour in a big dog can be very uncomfortable or even disastrous.

Big dog owners are more inclined to ensure their dog is toilet-trained.  Understandably, the consequences are far more unpleasant if they don’t!

How to prevent small dog syndrome

Many of the behaviours associated with small dog syndrome are directly related to how they are brought up.  Here are some tips on how to prevent your dog developing this behaviour:

  • Ensure that your little dog meets other dogs of all sizes as early as possible. Especially let her meet friendly, calm, larger dogs so that she doesn’t develop a fear of them.  (At our local dog park one of the other dog owners had three little dogs.  One of them was the tiniest Maltese I have ever met.  PJ didn’t display any aggression towards bigger dogs as he was introduced to them from an early age.  Because of this early introduction he had no fear of dogs of any size.)  Read our blog on puppy socialisation.
  • Introduce commands from a very early age. Start with ‘sit’ at mealtime and don’t allow him to start eating without your go ahead.
  • When out walking don’t pick your little dog up when you see a big dog approaching. This only confirms for her that the other dog is ‘scary’.
  • Be very firm with toilet-training. It may only be a little puddle but, after some years, you’ll get tired of wiping up after him.  It will also make it more difficult to arrange for him to be minded in someone else’s home if he still has accidents.
  • Be very consistent with your training and get other household members to commit to doing the same.

Little dogs are wonderful company (as are big dogs).  However, they are so much easier to live with if they are trained and socialised early and correctly.  Taking the time to do this can help to avoid the dreaded small dog syndrome.

Going away and need care for your pets?

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Have a look at these great quality doggy mugs.  A treat for yourself or a dog-loving friend.  The mugs below are also available with: Yorkshire Terrier, Poodle, Pomeranian, Shih-tzu, Adult Chihuahua, Maltese Shih-tzu Cross and any breed you would like to request.


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