Does your small dog like to throw their minuscule weight around? Or behave like a landshark around pets and people? Small dogs can have big personalities which endear us to them, but sometimes this bravado can turn into big problems.

Small Dog Syndrome, as it is generally called, is a collection of the negative behaviors associated with tiny and small dog breeds.

The question is, are small dogs all like this? Is it genetic, or simply learned behavior? And what can a pet owner do about it? The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital are here to explain negative behaviors in small dogs. 

What Is Small Dog Syndrome?

Since it is labeled a syndrome, many people assume that this is a medical term, but ultimately it is not. The good news is that there is no actual diagnosis of Small Dog Syndrome, but there are behavioral attributes, which may be called neuroses, that are present in some small dogs, but there is no genetic reason behind negative behaviors in small dogs. 

The collective behaviors exhibited by tiny bullies are most often the following:

  • They are stubborn and refuse to listen
  • They are aggressive and prone to nipping or biting
  • They are often destructive, including chewing, digging, and urinating/defecating inside the home
  • They jump up and crawl over the owner and others
  • They’re insistent about walking ahead of you and the first one through the door
  • They get on furniture and the bed, even if you don’t want them to
  • They beg for food
  • They’re prone to growling and/or barking

Obviously, these behaviors can make for an unhappy home when not corrected. 

The First Step Is to Admit the Problem

Many pet owners lament why their small dog behaves badly. Unfortunately, most behaviors in any dog are due to the fact that they didn’t get trained and socialized, or if they did, their training was minimal. Bad behaviors in small dogs seem less threatening because of their stature. We may even reward the behavior by thinking it’s cute or funny. 

Over time, however, your tiny baby becomes a tiny terror. 

The fact of the matter is, if a large Labrador jumped on our lap or pushed through the door in front of us, it wouldn’t be acceptable. We wouldn’t like it. Small dogs get away with many socially unacceptable behaviors because they are just too cute. Over time, this can cause problems for them and anyone else around them.

Treating Negative Behavior in Small Dogs

Before you embark on redirecting your pet’s unruly behavior, the key is to learn to treat them as you would any larger dog. All dogs require training and socialization for their well-being and safety. Consider this a big step in the right direction in teaching your dog better behaviors and how to get along well with other animals and people. 

  1. Socialize your pet. During puppyhood, a dog needs to be handled often by you, other loved ones, and friends. This gets them used to strangers, being held, and soon. They also need to be exposed to all that life has to offer, including sights, sounds, smells, and other stimuli. Consider a small dog outing with other friends with small dogs. Go to a local park or someone’s backyard (when it is safe, using COVID-19 precautions). When you are able, small dog training classes can be invaluable to safely giving your pup an opportunity to learn social behaviors that are positive and fun.
  2. Readdress training needs. If your pet ignores basic commands or is peeing in the house, it is time to revisit training. Small dogs need rewards-based training in order to understand the rules of the home and what they can and cannot do. Some of the fundamental training needs are basic commands, ensuring your pet responds to sit, stay, and drop it. Make sure to reward your pet with a small treat when they perform the correct command.
  3. Ignore bad behavior, don’t punish. If you want your dog to be better behaved, reacting to an accident or scolding your pet when they don’t perform a command reinforces the behavior you don’t want. Instead, redirect your pet to the right command or behavior, then give them a reward through a treat and verbal praise. Repetition, supervision, patience, and consistency in training will pay off in the end!

If your small dog continues to misbehave or have anxiety and stress, please contact us. We can get to the root of the problem, including examining them for any medical issues that may be contributing to the behavior. Our team can recommend the right training and socialization classes that we also offer here at Wheaton.

For more information on Small Dog Syndrome, or to schedule an appointment, please contact us