Dealing with small dog syndrome

Small Dog Syndrome should more appropriately be named "Owner of Small Dog Syndrome."Blame it on the dog! That phrase may bring a smile to our face as we remember quips like, "The dog ate my homework" or "It wasn't me!" But in reality, we have a tendency to blame a lot of things on our dogs that are actually our faults. From begging for food to chewing slippers, most bad behavior in dogs can be blamed on the dog's owner. Small Dog Syndrome is one of those things.

Small Dog Syndrome Defined - Small dog syndrome is when little dogs think they are the leader of the pack - when that "pack" includes humans as well. It is caused by our tendency to overlook their bad behaviors because they are so small. A more appropriate name for it might be "Owner of Small Dog Syndrome." Here are some common manifestations of small dog syndrome and how we should correct them.

Jumping up on people - If our 100-pound lab jumped up on visitors, we would certainly correct that behavior. But we often allow our shih tzu to do so. Jumping up on people should not be acceptable behavior for any dog. When the doorbell rings, train your dog to sit calmly until your visitor is inside and invites your pup to come say hello.

Lap by invitation only - Having a "lap dog" is certainly OK, but allowing your small dog to jump up on you at anytime is not. When he does so, he is claiming you as his property. He's on top; he's the pack leader. Instead, train him to wait patiently until you specifically tell him it's OK to join you. The decision needs to be yours, not his.

Barking and growling - If you were to take your Doberman for a walk, you would not allow him to bark and growl as passersby. That behavior would be considered threatening and unacceptable. But what do we tend to do when our little Yorkie yaps and snarls at others? We scoop him up and hold him; placing him in a position above other dogs at eye level to other people.

Begging for food - Never give in to your dog begging for food, and make him work for treats by sitting, rolling over, or giving you a handshake. Feeding him from the table or providing treats at will just reinforces his mindset that he is the pack leader.

No pillow talk - If you truly want to alleviate small dog syndrome behavior, you should not allow your dog to sleep with you. It's all about consistency and keeping your dog in his place.

Dogs are dogs. To them, there is no distinction between small and large. It's all about pack position, with us - their humans - being part of that pack. Perfect Manners Dog Training sums it up well with this statement on their website: "Always remember that if you treat your dog like a human, they will treat you like a dog."

Sources:

"Small Dog Syndrome," DogBreedInfo.com

"Small Dog Syndrome," PerfectDogTraining.com

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