When we get a new large breed puppy, we always think, “we better get that puppy house trained as soon as possible because when he grows up, we won’t be able to handle him.” It’s often a different story when we have a small breed puppy. we think that since he will still be small as an adult, we will be able to “handle” him, and that we don’t really need to get professional training for him. I think it’s a common mistake made by many small dog owners.
Reading: Small dog syndrome in humans
common behavior of small dogs
I bet you have some friends or neighbors with an annoying barking puppy? you know what I’m talking about… as much as you love dogs, every time you see the little “ankle biter”, it’s not pleasant at all. he is constantly barking. he’s all over you… jumping on your leg and in your lap when you sit… getting on your face. And how upset is he when he is repeatedly licking your face? you keep pushing him away from your face and he keeps coming back. not cute the one I find particularly irritating is the one that growls at you for no apparent reason except that you’re in his house or too close to his owner. You never know if he is going to bite you or what! These behaviors, and many others, are typical of what we call “small dog syndrome.”
what exactly is small dog syndrome (sds)?
Some of the behaviors that make up small dog syndrome include jumping (on their owners, on each other, and on other dogs), growling at other people or dogs, not listening to commands, acting nervous or even neurotic, constant or frequent barking , lash out, bite or bite, demand attention (affection, treats), etc. These behaviors can occur in any size dog, but are more common in smaller dogs.
We’ve all heard the term “Napoleon Syndrome,” referring to Napoleon Bonaparte, a 17th-century French emperor and military leader, who was apparently just over 5 feet tall, but a force to be reckoned with. Due to his small size, over the years, people have used the phrase “Napoleon syndrome” or “Napoleon complex” to describe someone who tries to overcompensate for his size or height. the term “small dog syndrome” comes from its correlation with “Napoleon syndrome”.
It is debatable whether small dogs suffering from sds literally realize they are small. are they acting the way they do because of a need to overcompensate for their size, like napoleon? Or are they acting that way because, well, to put it simply, because they’re spoiled? many trainers believe that the behavior displayed with sds is simply learned. we’ve allowed our little dogs to break all the rules…things we’d never allow a big dog to do. and although we think we are showing love and affection by not correcting them and letting them get away with it, the result is that they actually feel very nervous, anxious and insecure.
how to “fix” small dog syndrome
Here’s the good news… it’s not genetic and can be “treated”. how do we undo what we’ve already done?
here are a couple of suggestions to “detrain” your dog. First of all, don’t pick it up. Schylar, a professional dog trainer at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, says, “Small dogs are so much easier to handle because we can just pick them up when they’re misbehaving. picking up her dog when she is barking at another dog, for example, can be seen as a reward for your dog and make her feel like barking is good behavior. If you are always picking up your small dog when he is misbehaving or when he seems scared/insecure, you will only see more of that behavior occurring.”
Next, teach your dog how to start walking properly on a leash. I mean, he confesses… you’ve been carrying him around a lot, haven’t you? dogs that walk on a leash have more confidence and that is something that we must develop. put him down and if he gets scared for any reason, resist picking him up, but stay close to him so he’s sure you’re there. if he takes a few steps alone, reward him with his favorite treat. if he groans and jumps on your leg for you to pick him up, correct him by calmly and gently placing him on the ground and walking with him. Schylar says, “Remember, we use praise and affection to reinforce good behaviors.” so when your pup responds to behavior you like, reward him quickly.
third, establish yourself as their leader. up to this point, he has been the leader and has unknowingly reinforced that belief by treating him. By avoiding picking him up and teaching him to walk properly on a leash, you will begin to establish yourself as the leader. your dog needs a strong leader. don’t be afraid to set limits and teach him firmly but gently what is and is not acceptable behavior.
We recommend that you consult with one of our professional dog trainers to help you break the bad habits you have indulged in up to this point. retraining your dog is not an easy task. With the help of their coach, consistent application of good behavior, proper socialization, and establishing themselves as a leader, your little one will make a big improvement.