Small Dog Syndrome – What it is and how to stop it

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A look at Small Dog Syndrome

Everyone has their preference for which kind of dog they’d like to have. Often times, people might opt for a bigger dog because they will likely make a nice body pillow to spoon at night. At other times, one might want an athletic dog who will be an awesome hiking partner. One thing that small dog owners are always mindful of is that there is a chance that their dog will suffer from the small dog syndrome- a condition that makes them sometimes way louder than the larger dog breeds!

Behind the term “Small Dog Syndrome”

Small dog syndrome is not a medical condition. It is basically a term that is used in the dog community to refer to a situation where a small dog, often one that is below the weight limit of twenty pounds (and sometimes as small as three pounds) makes really loud noises, barks, growls and basically does anything and everything possible to show its dominance. This means, small dog syndrome is not solved by prescription (as much as we would like it to be). It is solved through correcting LEARNED behaviors.

Small dog syndrome - great dane and chihuahua Dog Behavior

It is important to understand small dog syndrome first if you are planning to deal with it in an effective manner. A very common reason why a dog might display small dog syndrome is because they are not being shown proper leadership from their owner. Many believe, including popular dog enthusiast Cesar Millan (opinion on this  individual may vary) that dogs are pack animals that tend to live in a pack in order for them to be able to survive. The leader of the pack, also known as the alpha, is the one who usually decides when it is time to eat, when it is time to start playing, when it is time to stop playing, when it is time to look out the window and bark at things and when it is time to stop doing whatever it is that the dog has planned to do. In order to avoid a small dog from getting small dog syndrome, it is important that the human beings establish that they are the alpha in the household from the very beginning. When the dog thinks that the leader is weak, they also tend to think that their well-being is at stake and this is when they try to step up as the alpha to protect their pack. This can give rise to the small dog syndrome, a condition where the small dogs try to establish themselves as the alpha and show everyone that they are the leader of the pack.

We think a really good example of an alpha dog is Alpha from the Pixar movie Up. I you have not seen it go see it now!

Do Chihuahuas Have Small Dog Syndrome?

It is completely false that Chihuahuas, by default, have small dog syndrome. Chihuahuas are lovely dogs and get their reputation for being loud is partially due to the fact that it is true! However, it is very possible to train your Chihuahua to not bark. To learn more about Chihuahua training check out Totally Chihuahuas for more information.

Additionally, Chihuahuas are one of the most popular dogs breeds and our friends over at Obsessive Chihuahua Disorder do a great job of illustrating the breed’s beauty and charm.

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  1. Since dominance/alpha theory has been debunked by modern science, I don’t agree with this. 😀 1. Dogs aren’t out for world domination 2. your dog isn’t acting up because he wants to be “alpha”, he’s acting wrong because you aren’t/haven’t trained him to act right 3. People use “small dog syndrome” as an excuse to let their dogs become snappy little monsters with no training, giving the owners who do train their dogs and have well behaved pets a bad name. 😉

  2. Gizmo is generally well-behaved, and never causes problems with humans…However I do notice that at the dog park when a larger dog approaches to sniff he has a tendency to snarl and sometimes even pretends to nip (he has never actually nipped anyone or any dog)…I’d love to stop that but not sure how so if you have any tips please let me know

  3. My little guys make GREAT hiking partners!

    I organize a large group for small dogs. I have seen first hand that people often don’t train small dogs and let them get away with too much because of their size. I will admit that mine aren’t the best trained. Part of that is I know I can get away with that – I can strong-arm them if I need to. If I had a big dog I couldn’t just pick up and walk away with, I would be a lot more diligent about training. I have increasingly found myself lamenting about other people’s well behaved dogs so I think I am going to up my game 🙂

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