A condition termed “Small Dog Syndrome” is a common malady I encounter in training dogs. It is frequently presented in small breed dogs, and the general symptoms are problems with dog house training, aggression, separation anxiety, phobic reactions and diffused stress reactions.
The reason this is seen so frequently in small dogs is usually the fault of the owners. Accordingly, the remedy for this Syndrome is only possible by owner education and owner behavior modification.
This may seem surprising since many people view the task of a dog trainer as one of strictly “fixing” the dog. However, the source of this problem is the owner and rehabilitation are impossible without the owner acknowledging and discarding unhelpful owner behaviors.
First Things First
In order to get away from “small dog syndrome”, the owner must first recognize that a dog is a dog. Because a dog weighs less than ten pounds does not change the fundamental fact that it is still a dog. Consequently, just like you would not allow a 150 pound Rottweiler to jump up on you, one should not let a small breed dog jump and paw humans. To take the point further, if a 150 pound Rottweiler was to lunge and bark uncontrollably at every animal and human that they encountered on a walk, it is likely the owner would be reported to law enforcement. It is a frequent sight in every neighborhood to meet small breed dogs that lunge and bark like little demons until their owners scoop them up into their arms like naughty children. This strategy may keep the little dog from biting, but it is a short-sighted policy that worsens the problem.
Just like any other canine, small breed dogs need training, discipline, and exercise. The dog must be taught to walk at a heel, sit, down and stay on command. The most significant problem owners have, is to recognize that all dogs need to earn food, praise, and treats. It has been my experience that most small breed dog owners are lavishing them with affection, food, and gifts for no other reason except that they are small and cute. Dogs do not understand this. In fact, it makes them mentally ill. They interpret this cascade of affection without reason as submissive puppy-like behavior from their owners. In turn, they attempt to take care of and protect their puppy/owners which can lead to aggression, separation anxiety and a host of neurotic behaviors. This is indeed an instance where the phrase ” killing with kindness” rings true.
Change Starts with the Owner
There is no doubt in my mind that owners who smoother their dogs with affection and fail to discipline their inappropriate behavior do very much love their dogs. However, I am also of the opinion that it is the responsible dog owner’s duty to respect that their dogs are indeed a different species with different needs. Loving your dog entails a responsibility to cast aside your misconceptions. Your dog is not a little four-legged human and does not want to be human. Your dog, no matter how small or cute, wants to be a dog.
1. If your dog sleeps in the bed with you, stop it. Now.
2. Teach your dog to walk at proper heel. Do not carry your dog. His paws are for walking.
3. Nothing in life is free. Have your dog work for food, rewards and especially affection.
4. Do not tolerate bad dog behavior because your dog is small. Consistently enforce all your commands.
Finally, always remember that if you treat your dog like a human, they will treat you like a dog.