Does Your Pooch Have Small Dog Syndrome?

by

Maria Reverberi

Last updated Feb. 13, 2018

What This Article Covers

We, as doggie parents, have been guilty of it:  pampering our little dogs to the point that their behavior is inconsequential to people around us.  For dog parents with little dogs, it is easier to ignore or forgive the yappy and nasty behavior our little ones pick up compared to the same type of naughtiness portrayed by our larger canines. 

It seems the tinier the breed, the more compromised we tend to get with our babies. Because of their size, we enable our little dogs to rule the world as Napolean did France; and thus embrace the Small Dog Syndrome (SDS).

Little dogs

What is Small Dog Syndrome?

Small Dog Syndrome is a behavioral issue exhibited by smaller dogs who associate themselves with dominance and the rebarbative compulsion to be the center of attention because of their stature. However, the fault should not be directed at these little divas, but at their parents.  Small Dog Syndrome is manifested by dog owners who allow their smaller dogs to have the last word.

Recognize Small Dog Syndrome

Picture a walk with your little pooch, let's say a chihuahua, at an outdoor shopping mall populated by mothers in strollers and restaurants inhabited by families eating at outdoor patios. As you stroll down the walkway, your chihuahua manages to get off her leash, run and jump on the lap of a man sitting at the edge of a water fountain. Rather than direct your baby to come back, you run to your chihuahua, pick her up and award her with worried kisses. You then proceed to tell the man how cute your baby is. The man may or may not share the same sentiment and might respond by telling you to be mindful of your dog. Or he may find it cute because your dog is little.

Now, reverse the image of the chipper chihuahua and replace it with Labrador Retriever as it lounges on the lap of the man at the fountain.  Most likely, the Lab will knock him over into the fountain. At this point, you'll see the owner yell, "Bad boy!" and the poor man would express his discontent in a long and flowerful diatribe. 

dog jumping on owners leg

Rather than pamper the Labrador like the Chihuahua, the most common reaction from you, the stranger and others would be to chide your Lab for mirroring the Chihuahua.  This is where Small Dog Syndrome comes into play.  Our society has become accustomed to seeing little dogs as cute, vulnerable and flawless babies that can do no wrong.  

And while we'd love to think our babies as infallible, we must acknowledge that our little canines must be discouraged to act on impulsion, without supervision and socialization. Allowing smaller dogs to get away with bad behavior is one that needs to be remedied by those parents who over pamper and don't train their canines.

"Bad Dog (A Love Story)" details the life of a dog who is left to run a mock and his relationship with his owner.

Little dogs are born with the same instinct for self-preservation as larger dogs. Yes, they may be more vulnerable to dangers and from being attacked by larger aggressive dogs, but that does not mean we should overprotect them by not allowing them to be dogs. By doing so, we condition little dogs to adapt the Napoleon complex and manipulate their owners.

Behavioral Patterns

Chances are you may not be aware your furry one is suffering from Small Dog Syndrome because you have become accustomed to the unhealthy co-dependency you have built with your dog.  However, if you carry your little one everywhere you go or never let them socialize with other dogs, you're furry canine is showing signs of the following behaviors:

Poor Social Skills

If your little pooch growls, barks, or lunges at other dogs during your walks, that means he or she considers themselves the king or queen of everyone's domain. His or her majesty may even run after other dogs in the park, street or in public areas. 

This aggressive display is not only dangerous but annoying to other dog owners. When little dogs run after other dogs, they may get bitten or get hurt by a larger and more aggressive dog. This may also place you in a legal bind for leaving your pooch off leash and attacking another dog.

Unwavering Disobedience

If you've seen little kids stomp their feet, talk back, and refuse to obey their parents, then you have most likely seen little dogs act the same way. Just like a kid that refuses to eat their vegetables and wants dessert instead, small dogs will refuse to eat their own food and demand table scraps or a treat.  Their behavior is no different than a little kid stomping their feet to get their own way or whine about watching a favored television program rather than going to bed. 

Poor Human Interaction

I get it. I mean, look at those cute, big bright eyes full of effervescence.  Our society has been conditioned to protect smaller critters and pups like the beautifully crafted Miniature Dog Puppy Resin figurines below. All we see is a vulnerable package of small and innocent little puppies and breeds of small dogs. 

We feel motherly, fatherly, and protective.  However, we must not forget that by encouraging our little ones to bark or growl at people that visit our homes or when we are out during walks, we are guilty of the actions our furry one commits. After all, no one likes dogs attacking, growling or being aggressive regardless of their size.

Growling is almost always accompanied by whining if our untrained or undisciplined pups don't get their way.  Reprimanding and training our canines is not mean. Because we love our dogs, we must also teach them right from wrong just like a human child.  Discipline is for both small and large dogs.

Inability to be Housebroken

In retaliation for not getting their way, dogs with Small Dog Syndrome will urinate and poop in your home, public area or someone's else's home.  Depending on how spoiled your dog is, their unwanted naughty behavior may become a permanent routine.  Peeing or pooping on your rug or floor is your furry one's way of rebelling. They might as well wear a sign that says,  "These are not the poops you're looking for".

Treating Small Dog Syndrome

Small Dog Syndrome is the cause and responsibility of parents with little canines who pamper and encourage their little one's behavior. If you are guilty of this, then you must take immediate action to remedy the situation.

The first step you must take is to not compliment or dismiss your little one when they bark, growl, pull on pants, or whine when they don't get what they want.  By all means, do not yell at your pup. After all, it is not his or her fault for acting this way. Growing up, your furry friend was not disciplined for bad behavior. Rather, it was dismissed and, as such, encouraged. Therefore, the only instinctive reaction your dog knows is how he/she was brought up.

If you live with both small and large dogs, do not chastise your larger pooch if they decide to take part in his little brother or sister's misdeeds.  This is where some doggie parents go wrong because they punish the larger dog for the same exact thing the little one carried out. If they are both partners in crime, they must both do the time. No exceptions.

Enroll your pup in a training class or pick up a book or online course to learn how to train your little one.  It will be very hard at first, but you must keep at it. Use the clicker training technique or use treats as positive reinforcement.

Allowing your pooch to be the divine ruler of your castle will eventually take a huge toll on you and your relationships.  In a household with two different sizes of dogs, this type of preferential treatment can bring out jealousy and resentment from your larger dog. For example, if you scold your large dog and not your little one for doing the exact same thing, this will teach your larger dog that the little one is not his equal, but their nemesis.

I know a chihuahua parent who has never allowed her little one to socialize with other dogs. Her dog is now 13 years old and only responds to humans who give her all the attention. When we first met, her dog growled and barked at my Harley.  Harley wagged her tail and ignored her. 

The woman told me her dog was only used to people but not other dogs. This was apparent when it started growling and barking from afar at another dog crossing the parking lot.  I could not believe what I was hearing and felt bad for the pup. Being that her pooch is a senior, her dog is too old to learn to socialize.  However, she agreed to let her dog greet me and slowly introduce her to Harley. 

I petted and talked to her dog while doing the same thing to Harley.  After a few encounters, her dog slowly begun to warm up to my dog and sniffed Harley's butt.  The chihuahua made friends with my little 14-year old Bichon Frise but there are times when the chihuahua's insecurity comes back and she wants her mother to pick her up.  

Acknowledging Bad Parenting Skills

Keep in mind that little dogs that suffer from Small Dog Syndrome are the recipients of their owner's excessive pampering, overprotection, and failure to discipline and socialize their dog. The most important step to correct your small canine's naughty behavior is to correct yours first. If someone brings this up to your attention, don't get upset or walk away. I've seen this more than once with parents of little dogs who believe their dog's overindulgence is helping them.

Our little babies may look vulnerable, but they are as capable to learn discipline as large dogs. Little dogs can be assertive, obedient, helpful companions and even service dogs.  They can be little helpers and get along with bigger dogs and strangers.  And some little dogs are fighters and will defend themselves and their owners in dangerous situations.

As a parent of a small dog, I was guilty of overprotecting my Harley when she was a puppy. I thought it was the cutest thing in the world when she ran and stood on her two feet tagging people's legs. I was a new doggie parent and would get offended when folks snickered and told me to train my dog.  

I, of course, was wrong so I listened to common sense and immediately enrolled her in obedience school. I learned right away that if bad behavior is not corrected in time, Small Dog Syndrome would have turned my little puffball into a devious rascal.  And she would not have grown up to be the magnificent service dog she is today. 

Harley the Bichon Frise

No one is infallible.  As humans and doggie parents, we are bound to make mistakes. When it comes to Small Dog Syndrome, recognizing your part in the problem is the first step to fixing it. Alienating your little one simply because of their size is discriminatory to larger dogs. And although you may think it's your way of loving and protecting your little pooch, you are hurting them instead.

Go online or to the library and research training tips that will help you with your pup's behavioral issues. The sooner you acknowledge the problem the easier it will be to correct your pooch's Small Dog Syndrome. This will put you on the track to being a great doggie parent. 

It is great to love our babies, but we must also give them room to be canines. After all, "Too much of anything... even love isn't necessarily a good thing"-Captain Kirk.