When your tiny dog thinks they are the boss, negative behaviors go along with it. Small dogs with attitude are referred to as Napoleon Complex dogs, land sharks, or princess pups. While at times funny and cute, these dogs can cause damage when coddled or left to their own devices. You may be surprised how many dog bite reports are a result of this untreated behavioral problem. 

The question is, what causes Small Dog Syndrome and is it something that can be treated or corrected? 

The team at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital is here to explain why these small-scale big shot dogs develop negative behaviors and habits. It is our aim to help pet parents make the necessary changes to help their four-legged friends. 

Is Small Dog Syndrome Really a Thing?

This general term, Small Dog Syndrome, refers to small dogs who misbehave. Their small stature has allowed them to rule over people and other pets because, after all, they’re small. What damage can actually occur? Unfortunately, a lot.

Small Dog Syndrome is not a scientific term, but this phenomenon among small breeds carries some basic truths.

Some of the behaviors associated with Small Dog Syndrome are:

  • Not listening
  • Refuses to follow basic commands
  • Aggression and nipping/biting
  • Growls at people and other pets
  • Pushes ahead through doors
  • Doesn’t want to walk on leash
  • Whines for what they want
  • Begs for food
  • Jumps up on or over people
  • Gets on bed or furniture without being asked

There is no genetic reason behind these behaviors. Small Dog Syndrome emerges through these behaviors by being permitted or encouraged, rather than redirected into the desired behavior. The good news is that this “syndrome” is not inherited and it can be corrected. The bad news is that you have a bit of work ahead.

Correcting Negative Behaviors in Small Dogs

If your dog thinks they are the king of the castle, it’s up to you and your veterinarian or professional trainer to help your dog unlearn the negative behaviors. 

  1. Treat your dog like, you know, a dog This means no longer carrying your dog everywhere or excusing their aggression or other unwanted behavior as adorable. Affection is great, but when a dog is coddled, they can learn that they can get away with things that a bigger dog would not. Change the response by treating your dog as you would any other canine.
  2. Teach them to walk on a leash – If your small dog hasn’t learned the ropes of leash walking, this is the time to start. Leash walking is a great asset to getting your pet comfortable with your role as the leader. It’s also a good way to keep them safe and encourage them to follow your lead.
  3. Sign them up for small dog training classes – Many of these behaviors stem from a lack of training and socialization. These are the foundations for good canine behavior, no matter what the dog’s stature. Your dog needs to respond to basic commands, like “sit”, “stay”, “down”, “drop it”, and so on. If they are marking around the home, then start your training with the basics of house training by teaching your pet where they should potty. Essentially, they need to learn or relearn the foundations of good training.
  4. Be the Alpha – Establish the rules of the home and how your pet should behave with family members. No longer let them walk over or on you, or jump on furniture or people without being asked. These are all great privileges, but your pet needs to understand that they are not taken by them but given by you. 

If your pet acts like the household bully or is not behaving as they should, please contact us for a consultation. We can recommend some options in behavior modification, training, and socialization that can get your pup back on track to better behaved pooch-dom.