When you have a big dog, the smallest problems can seem enormous. When you have a little dog, the opposite tends to be true—even big problems seem small. Therefore, issues like aggression and excessive barking often go unaddressed, and your poor pup gets labeled as an “ankle biter” or “yappy.”

Our trainers are big proponents of letting the owner decide the difference between good and bad behavior. Most of the time, if a dog’s behavior doesn’t bother you, it doesn’t need to be corrected. You’re the one living with your dog, after all.

However, if you’re reading this article, you probably have some behavioral concerns. Your dog or some dog you know may have Little Dog Syndrome.

Little Dog Syndrome is when a small dog gets away with bad behavior because of its size.

This Dog’s Life says the syndrome is linked to the fact that “humans treat small dogs differently.” How many sitcoms have you seen where someone has a “Beware of Dog” sign, and the aggressive dog on the other side is a toy breed? We wouldn’t laugh at the bad behavior if it were a Rottweiler, but we do laugh when it turns out to be a Chihuahua. Why is that?

Small dogs don’t pose a threat. If they get too yappy, just pick them up and move them. If they like to nip, put on boots and (gently) nudge them aside. Crate them. Put up a baby gate. But is this way of handling behavior teaching them anything? Your dog feels like he has to do more to get attention, and you tolerate him instead of enjoying the relationship you have with your dog to the fullest.

Signs that your dog may have Little Dog Syndrome include:

  1. Barking – It’s easier to ignore barking from small dogs. It can even be cute. But having a dog that constantly makes noise means there is a deeper problem. The most probable cause is a fear or anxiety issue.
  2. Jumping – Small dogs often jump for attention or to beg for food. Again, it’s easy to ignore a three-pound pooch pawing at your knee, but if you give a dog an inch, they tend to take a mile.
  3. Territorial Behavior – Small dogs may feel more vulnerable than larger dogs. They’ll growl, bark, and jump to make themselves seem bigger, to try and protect what’s theirs. Correcting this behavior early on will save your dog a lot of stress.
  4. Aggression – This can stem from fear or too much freedom. Is there going to be a story in the paper about someone getting viciously mauled by a Westland Terrier? Probably not—but that does not make aggressive behavior from a small dog okay.

Dogs need structure to thrive, and by failing to set boundaries for even the smallest furry member of your family, you’re doing everyone a disservice. As The Honest Kitchen blog implies, if two dogs perform the same undesirable behavior, that behavior should be addressed the same way—no matter their size.

It’s always best to train your dog as early as possible, and the way you train a small dog does not differ greatly from how you would train a large-breed dog. If you aren’t sure how to get started, contact an in-home dog training service like Sally Said So! for a professional consultation.

It’s never too late to teach an old dog new tricks, and it’s never too late to make big behavioral changes in your little dog. Contact us for all of your North Carolina dog training needs!