What is Small Dog Syndrome & How to Deal With it
Small dogs are mostly cute, loveable and exude an aura that projects them as harmless. This often leads to the mistake dog owners make, especially those who are new on the terrain, to think these adorable animals need no training. The truth is, without proper training, your dog can become a problem for you and your guests, as well as other animals around them. They might also develop what has been identified by experts as small dog syndrome.
The thing with small dog syndrome is, it usually leaves dog owners confused, especially if they haven’t lived with a small dog before. If you are not sure of why your dog is turning aggressive at any slightest provocation, read this piece for ideas and ways you can handle the situation.
What Exactly Is Small Dog Syndrome?
When your dog is displaying a collection of undesirable behaviors and personality traits, it might be battling with what animal psychologists call small dog syndrome. This condition is an attitude issue which, as the name suggests, is often seen in smaller breeds. Interestingly, this trait is also inherent in humans with a small stature but in this case, it is called the Napoleon Complex. This condition is characterized by the excessive need to dominate, as well as occasional aggressive behavior just to make their presence felt. Napoleon was a short man and made up for what he lost in physical appearance by taking over power through conquests.
Similarly, the Napoleon Complex rubs off on small animals as they tend to turn to aggression to get the attention they need. A big dog like the English mastiff would easily climb on the bed or couch and get off whenever he wants without seeking any assistance, but in the case of a miniature Poodle, it will resort to barking without stopping just to get the owner’s attention and convey the message that they need a hand getting on the bed or couch. Sadly, when you indulge it the first time, the little pet will think it’s okay to bark to get what you want.
When you must have turned your small dog into a brat by giving it too much attention and often treating it like a baby who needs to be pampered, they become naughty when they don’t have their way in everything. At this point, you realize that all the while your dog has been barking to gain your attention, it wasn’t a request but a command from the little fellow. The small dog aggression, if not managed, can become annoying to the owner as the dog will extend the same treatment to guests.
Failure to manage the situation and stop your dog from behaving badly would result in taking care of your dog’s every demand or endure a lifetime of nagging from the furry fellow. The good news is that with proper training and persistence, the small dog syndrome can be managed but first, you need to know for sure that your dog has the condition. Below are signs to look out for in order to confirm that your dog is battling with the little dog syndrome.
Small Dog Syndrome Symptoms
The little dog syndrome can be confused with normal unruly behaviors exhibited by some breeds of small dogs. A Schipperke is a natural barker because of the watchdog role it was bred for, thus, you might find it barking more often which is normal. However, when the barking is obviously to get attention, coupled with other bad dog behaviors like disobedience, small dog syndrome might be the issue. The following symptoms are likely to be seen in a dog battling with the condition.
- Volatile behavior
If your dog is often too sensitive and reacts to any little thing around it, chances are, it is battling the little dog syndrome. The over-sensitive behavior often suggests it has zero tolerance for people or other animals around.
- Frequent disobedience
Letting your dog get away with bad behavior for a long period of time makes it think it can get away with anything. Accordingly, when you do want your pup to obey simple commands like get down or get things done, it might become an impossible task. This is because, over time, it has stopped seeing you as the boss of it and since you haven’t been scolding it for breaking the rules, it will fail to understand the command when you try to reprimand them for behaving badly.
- How your dog interacts with other dogs
The way your dog behaves around other dogs can be a cue. If you have been cuddling it a lot and also fail to scold it when necessary, socialization becomes a problem. A dog with the syndrome is likely to chase or growl at other animals when out on a walk. Despite the miniature size, it will often be found bullying other dogs that are visibly bigger just to get its way. At home, it can insist on having the food bowl all to itself, chasing other pets away, or marking the territory on the couch and growling at anyone who tries to climb up. The small dog aggression may lead to consistent barking, lunging, or growling at other animals.
- How your dog reacts to houseguests
If there are no boundaries set and the social skills of your dog are very poor due to lack of socialization, your guests will get a taste of the aggression that stems from the bad upbringing. Your dog may turn aggressive towards guests by growling, nipping or even jumping on them which may indicate they are trying to mark territories or seek attention.
- Constant nagging to gain attention
This is very common with small pets and can also be an indication of the presence of the small dog syndrome. Small animals have many limits to the tasks they can do for themselves which makes them demand help anytime they need something they can’t pull off on their own. A small dog will often bark at the owner to get their attention to do their bidding. They can also growl, nip and even pull you to make sure you attend to their needs urgently. At this point, you will realize that your dog has turned you into his servant while it’s the apparent master throwing commands around the house.
- Urinating around the house
Dogs can accidentally urinate around the house, especially if their training has not taken effect. On the other hand, a dog can do this intentionally to mark their territory or establish the fact that it is the alpha of the pack (the pack, in this case, is made up of whoever lives in your home). If ignored, this unruly behavior can be extended to other people’s homes when you visit with the dog.
How To Stop A Small Dog Behaving Badly
- Stop encouraging bad behavior
You may indirectly be fuelling your dog’s small dog syndrome by reinforcing bad behavior. Not correcting your dog when they do something bad like being unfriendly to other animals and people will not help them learn the good from the bad. Behavior that leads to small dog syndrome is often inadvertently encouraged.
Also, breaking rules around the house should not be treated lightly, no matter the size of the dog. Don’t let them get away with behavior you are not comfortable with as this might turn your dog to pest over time and he will lose respect for you as the master.
- Set rules and boundaries
Make a list of rules and stick to them, make sure your dog knows what’s coming to it if he breaks those rules. It is also important to let other members of the household and guests know these rules so that they can help enforce them.
- Cut down on the cuddling and pampering
We know you love to cuddle your dog every once in a while but too much of it can turn it into a brat. The need to protect the small breeds, as well as the natural instinct to shield it from bigger breeds when you are taking a walk, may lead to constant petting and attention. Unknown to you, the dog is being denied the opportunity to socialize with other animals, especially the larger breeds. In all, don’t treat your dog like an egg; it won’t break if you let it be a dog once in a while. Also, don’t pick it up at every slightest chance unless it’s absolutely necessary.
- Start training, again if necessary
It’s never too late to start socializing your dog with other animals if they don’t like being around them. It will only take more time but eventually, your dog will learn. Engage your dog in play sessions and try to bring in other dogs to play with it, preferably under supervision. The friendly bigger breeds are the best to introduce your small dog to if they generally dislike large dogs.
Enrolling your dog in obedient classes also helps in getting them to obey simple commands like ‘sit’ or ‘come’. Reinforcing only good behavior also goes a long way in setting boundaries between right and wrong. Treats and praises should be used to reinforce good behaviors during training.
Notably, most of the pets with small dog syndrome were never trained by their owners. The reason for this can be traced to the fact that they are perceived as easy to manage, in fact, most people who have tight schedules often go for small dogs because they see them as less work in terms of grooming, training, and exercising. Thus, when the dog is behaving badly, their owner resorts to picking them up and cuddling them to solve the problem, thereby, reinforcing the bad behavior.
- Make room for socialization
Regular visits to the park will introduce your dog to other pets of different sizes. Even if they are not comfortable around bigger dogs, keep them at a safe distance and gradually bring them close to interact with them. It is better to start socializing your small dog with big dogs that are friendly and loyal because any form of aggression from the other party might further push your dog away from other animals. Don’t panic and pick your dog up when you meet a large dog on your way but encourage socialization to take place between the two animals.
- Solicit help from others
Managing a dog with small dog syndrome is not a task for one person. It is important to bring in everyone who lives with the dog by informing them about the ways to interact with your dog. This will not only help with the training but equally make sure the progress made by the dog does not get interrupted after someone teaches them something else. You can let visitors know that the dog is not allowed to jump on them or sit beside them on the couch unless they are called. Guests can also be informed that before they give your dog table scraps, it must be placed in his bowl.
- Seek help from an expert
When you have exhausted all techniques and nothing worked, a professional dog trainer is what you need. Trainers have special ways and tools they employ to get the best result from training animals, regardless of their personality. A trainer who uses reinforcement rather than punishment to teach a dog how to behave will be better in this case. Do your homework on the trainer before going to it and be sure he/she is the type that pays proper attention to your concerns about your dog.
Why Are Small Dogs So Mean?
Small dog aggression is mostly a way these miniature pets get the respect and attention they need. They want people and animals around them to respect them without looking down on them because of their size. This is one explanation but as a dog owner, you might be contributing to the meanness your dog portrays. Their behavioral problems may be a result of the many times you let it get away with things a bigger dog would be reprimanded for. At first, this might seem cool but over time, it turns your dog into a spoiled brat who employs all means to achieve its desired results. If you keep doing your dog’s bidding anytime it barks or pulls, the time you decide to stop, the dog will not let things slide easily.
Also, not socializing your small dog makes it mean. Some dog owners who always see the need to protect their small dogs from bigger ones eventually turn the small furry fellow into a mean dog because they were not taught to co-habit with other pets and people.