A chihuahua dog with its ears down and  tongue out.

The tiniest of doggos often have the biggest personalities around. Consider the small dog who thinks they’re a big shot at the local park, or the little ankle biter who terrorizes the postal worker.

Small dogs get a bad rap for having too much bravado, but what causes the small dog syndrome everyone laments about? 

There are a few reasons why small dogs throw around their minuscule weight. The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital are here to shine some light on the issue of behavioral problems in small and toy dog breeds.

It’s Not the Size of the Dog…

When it comes to small dogs and aggression, there is no definitive link between stature and bad behavior. In fact, all canines have the drive to be at the top of the pack, or the alpha, or to find their place within the hierarchy. This occurs no matter if your dog is a Chihuahua or a Great Dane. The problem is that small dogs are too often treated like puppies, or worse, babies, and not given the same training and socialization needed.

Even if your pet is only 5 pounds, they need to follow established rules of the home and in public. They also need great socialization from an early age. 

This starts at home with being handled frequently and instructed on housetraining. When they are out and about, they should be allowed to interact with other pets and people (safely), to ensure they know how to behave with others.

If your small dog is acting up with behaviors like excessive barking, nipping or biting, growling, ignoring rules, getting on furniture, and bullying other pets, they may need a small dog intervention!

How to Redirect Small Dog Syndrome

Your first order of business in redirecting small dog syndrome is to treat your dog like a dog. That means expecting them to behave like any other dog without overemphasizing their small size. This means they should learn how to walk on a leash, sleep in a dog bed, and be trained for more positive behaviors. 

There are key things that arise when your Napoleon dog starts to misbehave. Here are the more common behavior issues that arise with these landshark pups.

  1. They get on furniture – There are times when being on a couch can be okay, but your pet must not assume they can get on every piece of furniture whenever they feel like it. There should be at least one or two items in the home that are off limits to your dog. This boundary gives them an understanding that they first must wait to get the green light before hopping on furniture.

    To do this, you can train them to wait for permission by instructing them to sit until you would like them to be on the couch or chair. Ignore the whines and reward when your pet sits and waits without a fuss, or bring a dog bed near the couch and instruct them to lie down until you are ready for them to move.
  2. They bark all the time – This is another attention seeking behavior that can be an annoyance for you and everyone else. When your dog barks, which they will because that is a normal dog behavior, you can acknowledge their alert. Once you do this, say, “enough” or “quiet”. If they respond, give them a treat.

    This reinforces the training. If they continue to bark, give them a time-out in another area of the home, such as the office. Ignore the barking and praise them when they stop.
  3. They guard you, food, or other cherished items – Many pet owners think it’s cute when a small dog wants to guard their owner. Unfortunately, this can lead to a bite. Resource guarding happens in most dogs, to some degree, and should be addressed. Avoid bringing any favored objects your dog covets to public areas or around others. If your pet is guarding you, leash your dog and have them sit next to you. Crate training, along with basic commands training, helps establish some rules in public.

    If your small dog continues to guard you, you will need to assess whether or not you are seen as the alpha in their eyes. Through careful training, your dog will learn that you call the shots and not them. Connect with us for more information on resource guarding in dogs.
  4. Jumping up on you or others – This is another behavior overlooked in small dogs. Because they are miniscule in comparison to medium to large breeds, we sometimes think jumping and climbing are cute. Unfortunately, not everyone believes this. While there isn’t a real risk of hurting you or anyone if they jump up, an elderly person or small child can be affected or injured. Also, this behavior reinforces that your small dog doesn’t have to play by the rules of larger pets.

    Redirect your jumpy pup by giving them the command to sit until they are less excited. Reward your pet for NOT jumping up by using the sit command when they start to get rowdy. 

These are some of the few behaviors seen in small dogs. Others include begging for food, being stubborn, pulling on leash, going ahead on the leash or through the door first, etc. Each of these behaviors must be met with positive, rewards based training and socialization

The bottom line is this: your dog didn’t learn to be a landshark overnight. These behaviors are entrenched. This is why training and socialization are the keys to better behavior, as well as consistency, patience, and knowing that you are the alpha dog in the home.

For more information on small dog syndrome, or to inquire about training methods, please contact us