Small Dog Syndrome – Everything You Should Know

Small Dog Syndrome is a typical condition for smaller breeds. This syndrome explains why your small dogs jumping on other people, sitting on your lap and yapping is not cute. However, there are things that you can do to relieve this syndrome and help your small dog.

Small dog syndrome is the name given to a collection of certain behaviors that are often seen in smaller breeds. Occasionally, small dog syndrome is considered to be an attitude problem.

Small dog syndrome is usually developed thanks to a lack of dogs training in small dogs. Owners usually feel that small breed need additional protection, or they think that troublesome behavior in smaller breeds is not worrying. A chihuahua, for example, may not be criticized for jumping on a guest, while a Canis Panther would. (1)

Small dog syndrome can lead to a number of additional issues including behavioral problems, and can eventually lead to a number of health problems. Learn everything you can about small dog syndrome, especially if you are a small dog owner, in order to understand risks and causes.(2)

If you strongly believe that your dog has small dog syndrome, take proper steps to correct the issue.

What Exactly Is A Small Dog Syndrome?

Small dog syndrome stands for a set of non-desirable behaviors generally seen in smaller breeds. Smaller breeds or otherwise small dogs are often stigmatized as being difficult, yappy, annoying and overall high demanding with their behaviors.

They do not act like this because of their breed or because of their size. Smaller dogs act like this because of a number of learned behaviors. Those behaviors are known as ‘Small Dog Syndrome’.

Some of the behaviors that make Small Dog Syndrome include constant jumping and constant growling at people or other dogs. These behaviors are seen in any size dog but are more prevalent in smaller dogs.

Because of their size, little dogs are often allowed to show dominant behavior, as they are aren’t as imposing as larger dogs. However, the truth is that smaller dogs don’t see a difference between them and bigger dogs. But, owners have a tendency to neglect their pets real nature and to miss to see little dogs dominant as cute, but in reality, it is supporting their aggression that can lead to a set of challenging issues.(3)

Signs of Small Dog Syndrome

People usually think that seeing a small dog being dominate is cute and therefore they have a tendency of encouraging it. But people forget that smalls dogs don’t see them any different from bigger dogs. That’s why it is important to not support this kind of behavior.

The best way to see how this works is to ask a question ‘would a bigger dog be allowed to do that?’ If not, you are facing with problem behavior. If you are worried that your small dog might be suffering from this syndrome or he may be headed down there, here are a few things to look out for:

  • Jumping – A small dog jumping on your leg is often seen as a cute display of affection. But, actually – it isn’t. Dog jumping up is their way of saying ‘I own you,’ which is never good. Jumping can’t be allowed if you want your dog to behave properly and to be well adjusted
  • Climbing – A small dog climbing up on your lap is non-desirable move. If your small dog thinks that he can waltz up into your lap whenever he or she wants, a certain behavior will awake and your small dog will start thinking that they are in charge. You need to make it known when it’s ok for your small dog to sit on your lap. Otherwise, your small dog will start thinking that he or she is the alpha, and start to display more dominant behavior
  • Growling– Your dog’s growling is never suitable behavior. Especially when you have guests over. When a German Shepard growls, the guest is simply told to avoid the dog and describe it to moody dog behavior. However, that’s usually not the case with smaller dogs
  • Yapping– Yapping is often seen in smaller dogs who believe that they are alphas of the house. This is usually seen in smaller dogs who suffer from anxiety separation, which is a dominance issue all its own – as a self-believed leader your dog believes that a leader shouldn’t be left alone, and will be upset about being left by their followers
  • Drag on the leash– Being a good dog on the leash is important for any dog, especially bigger dogs who can easily dish people over. Your small dog cant bowl you over, but it doesn’t mean by any means that it should be allowed walking around without the leash and any way that they want. Also, they should never be allowed to pull you on the leash or being in front of you. When on walks, you should be in front leading the way, and your dog slightly behind you or alongside
  • Excessive barking– Your small dog has a tendency of barking at every dog she passes, regardless of the dog’s size. Usually, the barking is a sign of an underlining issue that your small dog is insecure, anxious and unsure
  • Often urination– Your small dog can show control and dominance by simply urinating anywhere possible. It can be your house or your friend’s house, especially if your friend has a dog. Your small dog will do it anywhere but outside.(4)

How Humans Affect Dog Behaviour

Human effect on dog behavior is extremely significant. Especially when it comes to the discipline of the small dogs. Mostly because of their size, people feel like they have to protect small dogs additionally and therefore they can get away with a big number of different behaviors.(5)

Most of the things that small dogs do are not cute including jumping on people, intense barking on bigger dogs or urinating. In addition, the small dog owner’s develop fast a habit of picking up their small pet every time there is even a slight chance of an encounter with a bigger dog, or any sort of danger. With time, a small dog will start running to its owner and beg to be picked up every time, whether surrounding demands it or not.

Unfortunately, small dog owner’s are less likely to invest their time, energy and money to train a smaller dog than a bigger one. This is a big mistake, as trained dogs are more likely to obey commands. This may be a huge reason why smaller dogs appear so disobedient. They were simple never trained.(6)

Down Side Of Small Dog Syndrome

Although Small Dog Syndrome is mostly connected with the behavioral side of the dog, there are some risks considering health as well. Small dogs can develop problems with nerves. If you are overprotecting your dog you will teach him that a world is a very dangerous place and that he needs to be 24/7 alert for its safety.

In addition, if you constantly picking your dog up he may get lazy and not be active as usual which can lead eventually to obesity. Also, this can lead to joint pain, as there is extra pressure on the organs.(7)

Improving Small Dog Syndrome

Great news about Small Dog Syndrome is that it can be reversed with time and proper training. It’s not an easy task, as it requires consistent and positive reinforcement training.

However, if you notice that your small dog is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above or any other form of dominant type behaviors, it’s a time that you need to become alpha.
The first step is consulting your veterinarian to advise you on a dog trainer or a canine behaviorist.

Good to know: Submissive behavior should never be confused with sadness.

If your dog walks around you with head down and with its ears back its not sadness, but more acceptance of your leadership and that’s a good thing.(8)

How To Fix Your Dog’s Small Dog Syndrome:

  1. Be consistent in interaction – set rules and boundaries, and make sure that you follow them and that everyone in yours surrounds does the same
  2. Engage in play sessions– be active during your playing sessions and keep your dog entertained. Have a frequent visit to the doggy park and spend as much time as possible with smaller dogs as well
  3. Make new best and dog friend– If your small dog is scared of large dogs, its time for you to re-introduce them on a more convenient manner. Don’t let your dog be scared or to act aggressively.

    You can do this one step per time – go to a neutral location like a doggy park, walk them past one another at a distance and slowly get closer. Ask your dog to sit more often also. This will all together lead to better small dog’s good behavior, while at the same time it will keep you in control of the situation

  4. Training– This is a great way to re-connect with your dog and to learn how to remain alpha. Make sure that you stay persistent, to have a plan and that you have proper sweets with you all the time. Make sure that you have proper training equipment.
  5. Canine specialist– If you think that you can’t do this on your own we suggest that you speak with a qualified animal behaviorist

There are certain actions that allow smaller dogs to feel like they are in charge of the house. They are usually everywhere in the house, from your lap, over their in-house places all the way to the bedroom and king-size bed.

Some actions are allowed to smaller dogs that aren’t allowed to the big ones. And smaller dogs know how to misbehave. However, its good to know that every dog needs to know the basic commands and to follow your step easily during the walk.(9)

The best way to avoid this condition, is to treat your dog equally, like any other dog. Especially if you have both a large and small dog. Big dogs aren’t allowed to jump on people, neither should little ones.

Don’t let strong barking opposite another dog or person misguides you and fool you for believing that your small dog is protecting you. In reality, your small dog is showing how uncomfortable the situation is for her actually, and therefore your small dog acts the only way it knows how – by acting aggressively.(10)

FAQ Small Dog Syndrome

1. Are Smaller Dogs More Aggressive?

Smaller dogs are more cautious. Therefore they have an instant tendency to protect themselves all the time. Mostly because they are small, so people have a tendency to pick them up, and over-protect in general.

It makes them insecure and they tend to be aggressive. In general, according to the researchers, genes associated with aggression are likely to persist in small breeds than large ones.

2. How Is Small Dog Syndrome Treated?

Make sure that your dog knows the basic commands and that he is disciplined. Don’t let your small dog sits on the couch or in someone’s lap without invitation. Correct behaviors like aggression, growling or barking. Also, never hand-feed your small dog.

3. Do Little Dogs Know They Are Little

The common belief is that little dogs don’t see a difference between them and larger dogs. However, there are small dogs that are well-mannered, and there are large dogs that see small dogs as prey and attack them regularly. Also, the common belief is that this depends on the fact of how dogs are raised and how well they are disciplined.

4. Why Do Little Dogs Frowl At Big Dogs?

A small dog barking at the direction of large dogs has often seen the sight. The most common reason for this sort of behaviors is due to their fear. Owners have a strong tendency of picking up small dogs every time they meet a big dog and it just sticks with them.

5. Are Small Dogs Dangerous?

There are some breeds that are considered to be more dangerous or agressive than others. Small dogs are known for having strong and powerful jaws. If a small dog attacks you be sure that you could suffer serious injuries.

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1 comment

  • Michele Furbee

    Hi! I have a very serious question and I am not sure how to handle this. I have had big dogs all my life. After my last dog passed I went to the pound and adopted a beagle. She was probably around 3 at that time. She is now close to 5 and has big dog syndrome in a major way. She is friendly with people, a little skid dish with kids but never aggressive. However when she sees another dog she absolutely goes into psycho mode choking herself on her leash, drooling, making choking noises, pulling on the leash, fur standing up on back, makes a growling, grunting noise, continually barking. She’s just crazy acting. and totally out of control. Any suggestions  on this type of correctional behavior tactics? It’s impossible and very un-enjoyable to try to walk her when this happens!