Category Archives: small dog syndrome

Training Advice for Aggressive Small Dogs

By Langley Cornwell

A friend of mine has a long-haired Chihuahua mix named Mimi, and the two are inseparable; this dog goes everywhere with her. Most of the time, Mimi is a friendly bundle of personality, happy to greet anybody who wants to say hello. But when another dog is in the vicinity, Mimi goes crazy. She challenges every dog that crosses her path.

I have medium-sized dogs and one of mine acts the same way, so I’m not saying aggressive behavior towards other dogs is a size-specific issue. However, we’ve all heard of fearless small dogs that challenge large-breed dogs with reckless abandon. What causes this type of behavior?

The majority of experts believe this small-dog attitude is a combined result of nurture and nature. In other words, Mimi and other fearless small dogs have learned this behavior through interactions with their humans and the outside world.

People relate to small breed dogs differently than they relate to larger dogs. For example, when my friend walks Mimi and she barks or show dominance towards another dog, the other dog owner may giggle or say something like “that’s cute.” I can guarantee that if the aggressive, barking dog was a larger breed, say a German Shepherd or a Rottweiler, nobody would be smiling.

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Why Do Small Dogs Pick Fights with Big Dogs?

By Linda Cole

I wasn’t expecting to adopt another dog until one day my neighbor came over with a tiny puppy tucked under her arm. As she explained why she was there, the pup stared at me, her bright eyes sparkling with personality that would have melted any dog lover’s heart. Before I knew it, the pup was nestled in my arms, giving me kisses. Riley is a Rat Terrier/Chihuahua mix, and she’s the smallest one in my pack of much larger dogs, but her attitude is definitely “Don’t mess with me.” One would think a small dog would show a little respect to a dog towering over her, but that would be ignoring the tenacity of most little dogs. So why do some small dogs pick fights with larger dogs?

One theory posed by vets is that a lot of small dogs tend to spend more time in their owners arms, giving them a higher position where they can view a larger dog from above. We have a tendency to be more protective of a small dog, especially if there are larger dogs in the family. To prevent small dog syndrome, I treat Riley just like my other dogs, and I don’t let her get away with doing things I wouldn’t allow the bigger dogs to do. We don’t pick her up and carry her around, and we let the dogs resolve minor disagreements themselves. The alpha dog in a pack isn’t always the biggest dog; sometimes it is the smallest one.

Like larger dog breeds, small breeds were bred to do a specific job. Some were developed to be companion dogs, happy to lounge away their days in the lap of the one they love. But most small breeds were created to hunt vermin or prey. These little canines had to be feisty, tenacious, brave and independent. They needed a fierce attitude to stand up to sometimes larger prey, with an equal amount of attitude. As far as the little dog goes, his size has nothing to do with it. It’s his super sized willingness to fight that’s important.

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Common Misconceptions about Dog Behavior

By Linda Cole

The dictionary defines a misconception as “A false or mistaken view, opinion or attitude.” When someone believes something about dog behavior that isn’t true, it can put the dog at risk, and possibly damage a relationship with a pet. Unfounded misconceptions can even jeopardize the life of some dog breeds. Dog behavior isn’t always easy to figure out, though, and misconceptions are common. Here are six of them:

1. Aggression runs in some breeds 

Dog breeds were developed to do specific jobs for us. For some breeds, toughness, determination and a fighting spirit was essential for them to do their jobs. Dalmatians, for example, were used for centuries as guard dogs, war dogs, border security and sentinels. They ran with horse drawn carriages, protecting wealthy riders from robbers. When necessary, a Dalmatian can stand up to a foe with a determined defiance. Nevertherless, a well socialized and trained Dalmatian is a wonderful family pet and has a unique ability to calm horses.

At one time, Pit Bulls were used to bait bulls. When that was outlawed, irresponsible owners threw them into illegal dog fighting rings. Pit Bulls were once “America’s Nanny Dog.” In the care of a responsible pet owner who understands the needs of a particular breed and the importance of proper training, socializing and respect, no breed is more aggressive than others. However, there are harder to control breeds that should never be in the hands of someone who isn’t an expert in the breed and doesn’t know how to take the lead role. Dog experts harp about finding the right dog for your lifestyle for a good reason.

2. You can’t fix an aggressive or anti-social dog

Many dogs rescued from dog fighting operations have been successfully rehabilitated and placed in new homes, including ones with kids. Dogs live in the now, leave the past behind, and don’t hold grudges. Any bad behavior can be corrected, but it takes time, commitment, patience, understanding and leadership. Depending on the type of aggression, a professional may be needed. Aggression could be indicating an underlying medical issue, and pain can cause a dog to be aggressive. It’s important to recognize and take immediate steps to change unwanted behavior.

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How You Train a Small Dog Makes a Difference

By Linda Cole

When it comes to dog training, the size of the dog does matter! It can mean the difference between being successful or falling flat on your face when trying to teach your small dog commands. In a way, it’s easier to train larger dogs because owners of small dogs often treat a smaller pet differently than they would a bigger dog.

Many small dogs belong to the terrier group. This is a group of feisty, high prey drive dogs with lots of energy. They are smart and not afraid to let their feelings be known. Small dogs can be manipulative if they get a chance, and can have an attitude the size of a Great Dane. It’s tempting to let a little dog get away with things most owners wouldn’t accept from a larger canine. His actions may not hold the same weight as a misbehaving larger dog, but a small dog can still be disruptive. If your small dog jumps up on someone to greet them, many will think that’s cute, but if a Saint Bernard leaps up, your guest could be lying on their back with a drooling dog standing over them. Not as cool to some, but could be cute depending on your guest’s sense of humor.

Dogs can understand if they are being treated differently than others around them, and it’s important to treat small dogs just like you would a larger one. Training is about teaching your dog how you want him to act, but it’s also a good way for you to learn who your dog is as an individual. Small dogs can be stubborn. We can accidentally teach little dogs the wrong way to act if they are rewarded for their misdeeds or bad manners.

Part of our job is to instill confidence and trust in our pets. Treating a dog with respect, regardless of size, is one way of establishing yourself as their leader, and says you can be trusted. Don’t give any treats or attention until your dog has all four feet on the ground.

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How to Deal With Small Dog Syndrome

By Linda Cole

About a year and a half ago, my neighbor brought their new puppy over and begged me to take her off their hands. I took one look at the little wiggling Terrier pup tucked under my neighbor’s arm, and saw a bright eyed face I couldn’t say no to. Riley was 8 weeks old at the time. About a month after she came to live with us, she decided she was going to show our larger dogs who was boss. She went after my Lab mix who looked at her like she was an annoyance he could do without. It’s easy to mistake a little dog’s actions as being jealous, but she was a perfect example of a pup with small dog syndrome.

Regardless of a dog’s size, all dogs should be treated equally. We have a tendency to view small dogs as needing us more than a larger dog. We see things that small dogs do as cute, but if a big dog did the same thing, we would consider the dog’s actions as aggressive. A dog who growls at another dog, a cat or a person is saying they are the dominant dog. Growling is also a sign of aggression. It doesn’t matter what size the dog is, a small dog acting badly should not be tolerated any more than allowing a larger dog to act in an aggressive matter.

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