10 Signs of Small Dog Syndrome (& How to Deal With It)

7 Signs of Small Dog Syndrome (& How to Deal With It)

Did you allow your small dog to be the leader of the pack? Even a tiny dog throwing its weight around might become a significant problem. There is a name for this, Small Dog Syndrome. The term refers to behavioral problems rather than a medical term, as Small Dog Syndrome cannot be diagnosed. Instead, it relates to neuroses often present in small dog breeds without being genetic, kind of like the Napoleon Complex in humans.

What are the signs of Small Dog Syndrome?

Many dog owners contribute to their minuscule canine companions encouraging the development of the syndrome without even realizing it. Imagine the following circumstances:

The doorbell rings, and you open the front door. Before you can even greet the person, your 80-lb German Shepherd jumps up or growls at the stranger at the door. You will certainly call the dog off and work on correcting such behavior. However, what do you do if your 5-lb Yorkshire Terrier reacts in the same way? You would likely laugh it off and pick your precious little Yorkie up to calm it down. 

Imagine you’re in the park with your 6-pound Maltese when a 70-pound Doberman approaches. Your Maltese growls at the large dog, and you pick the little fluffball up and whisper a promise that you will always protect her. Such behavior by you shows the small dog that growling at big dogs will bring kisses and cuddles, the same as when you think she’s cute when she growls at you when you want her to move off the couch so you can sit down. If you don’t react with snuggles, your small dog will become even more cheeky to show you who the boss is.

What are the behaviors that are red flags of Small Dog Syndrome developing?

The following are behaviors that you would likely not allow in large dogs but laugh off in your little Pixie dog:

  • Jumping up at people
  • Climbing or crawling over you or other people
  • Unnecessary barking at people
  • Being stubborn and refusing to listen
  • Getting onto couches and beds even when you don’t allow it
  • Showing aggression by growling and even nipping or biting if you try to get the small dog off the furniture
  • Begging for food while you are eating
  • Aggression toward other bigger dogs
  • Being destructive by chewing and digging
  • Peeing and pooping inside 

All of these behaviors are attention-seeking and efforts to achieve pack leader status.

How can you treat Small Dog Syndrome behaviors?

The first step is to admit that the small dog’s human family members caused the behavioral issues. The next step is to evaluate the little one’s behavior and how you would treat those same behaviors in big dogs. If you have small and large dogs, you will need to commit to treating them similarly.

Although training and socialization are best done when your dogs are puppies, you could rectify existing behavioral problems by revisiting obedience training and socialization.

  1. Socialize your small dog. You will have to readdress your dog’s socialization with strangers, both humans, and dogs. It is essential to expose your dog to as many stimuli as possible, including sounds, sights, smells, and more. Join other small dogs and their owners in a park. You might even choose to enroll your little dog in small dog training classes because changing existing behaviors is challenging.
  2. Readdress obedience training. Small Dog Syndrome will likely cause your doggy to ignore basic commands learned in puppyhood. Revisiting obedience training might resolve some of the issues. However, it must be a rewards-based process. Start all over again with basic commands like stay, sit, drop it, etc., throughout the day but have treats ready to reward every obeyed command.
  3. Don’t punish bad behavior. Scolding and punishment will do no good. It will reinforce your small dog’s idea that bad behavior will have it back in your arms in no time. That is because you rewarded bad behavior with cuddles before. You do not need to withhold the kisses and cuddles during this process, but be consistent in providing them only for good behavior while not making a considerable fuss about bad behavior.

Note: This will be like tough love, and it will not be easy. Perseverance is crucial – it will be worth your while in the end. 

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Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady is an animal lover and the proud dog-mom of a Golden Retriever named Brody and an Italian Greyhound named Jessup. Unfortunately, Jessup developed serious allergies to many different types of dog foods and ingredients when she was just a puppy. Meanwhile, Brody could eat seemingly anything and carry on as healthy as could be. Sarah spent hours of time researching and testing different foods and brands before finding something that worked for little Jessup. She wants Dog Food Care to simplify this experience for future dog-parents who face food allergy or tolerance issues of their own.