Small Dog Syndrome

19 May 2013 | by | Posted in: Wag Wiki

Oh, aren’t those little dogs just adorable? Ah, look! He’s pawing me. That is SO cute! OMG, look at him trying to jump at me! – Familiar?

Small dogs are extremely cute and adorable. Their small size makes them have things the easier way and they get away with a lot. Owners of small dogs generally fail to realize or simply choose to ignore the fact that small dogs are also dogs! A small dog is just as much a dog as a giant Rottweiler or a Great Dane is. Of course their small make makes them super adorable but they have all the dog instincts and characteristics of a dog. Failure to see this makes them highly difficult to train. What exactly happens is that since they are so damn adorable, dog owners tend to be very lenient with them. They let their small dog paw them, jump on them, sleep with them in their bed, jump on the couch as and when they want, and so on.

The truth is that all these are the traits of a dominant small dog. All these are the traits of a small dog that thinks he is the alpha or the lead of the pack. This is known as Small Dog Syndrome. Once he is led into thinking that he is alpha, barely anything will make a difference to him. He will jump on the couch as and when he wishes even without being invited and he will refuse to jump off no matter how hard you try. He thinks he is the alpha and he can do whatever he wants to. Whose fault is that? Yours, really.

You thought it was nothing but cute behavior. You thought it was okay to let your dog have his way. Now he has taken advantage of your lenience and has established himself as the alpha male. Now he is very difficult to train because he simply does not listen. Even now his cute looks and adorable eyes melt your heart, and you end up smothering him with hugs and kisses even though he is behaving badly.

So the damage is done now and there is no point digging into it. Now is the time for damage control! Oh, yes. The damage can be undone. As the owner, you have to show relentlessness and patience because your dog thinks he is the leader. Snatching that status from him and establishing yourself as the leader will take some effort, time, and not to mention some strategic thinking. In other words, you really have to start thinking like a dog. Here are a few tips that will help you out:


The first and the foremost thing to do would be to understand your dog. Understanding him is very, very important. As aforementioned, start thinking like a dog. You should understand when he is showing dominance in order to curb it. You should understand what he is trying to convey so that you establish your dominance. It might seem a little scary and difficult in the start but you’ll get there.

NO Misbehavior

He may be the cutest thing you ever lay your eyes on but that is absolutely NO reason to tolerate the crap he throws at you. There are boundaries even when it comes to pampering and adoring. Too much will enable him to take over you. Identify signs of misbehavior such as jumping on you, barking as and when he wants without a reason, deciding his own time of eating, pouncing on the couch or bed and relaxing as if it is his place even though you don’t invite him, literally looking down upon things and people after jumping onto a higher spot, and walking ahead of you during walks.

Most dog owners don’t even bother about these signs. They just think that their dog is too cute and all these are traits of cuteness. Sadly, these are traits of the dreaded Small Dog Syndrome. Thus, you should NOT let your dog get away with any kind of misbehavior. Period.

Make him EARN

He will want a lot of things. He will want to jump on you and get whatever he wants. Don’t allow that. Make him earn even a small treat. Demand that he do something in order to get what he wants. If you want to give him a treat, first give him a command. It may be a basic command like Sit, too. But always give him a command. If he does not sit, don’t bother treating him. Repeat after a few minutes. No sitting, no reward. Repeat. He will understand soon that unless he listens to you he will not get what he wants. That will inculcate some good behavior.


You let your dog lead when you take him out for walks, don’t you? This is one mistake that almost all dog owners make. You are the owner, aren’t you? You are the leader. In a pack, the leader is the one that walks in the front. You may have the leash in your control but if you let him walk ahead of you he will think that he is the alpha. You are actually leading him into believing that he is the leader of the pack.

Always ensure that your dog either walks with you or behind you. You should lead. Also, you should be the one walking through doors first. NOT him.

No Couch for the Dog

A dominant dog will jump on the couch and laze on it, silently giving you the message that you are on his territory. He wants to tell you that you should take his permission to be there because it is his area. Not really, right? What should you do then?

You should ensure he does not jump on the couch or the bed or any furniture when he is in his dominant stance. If he is making eye contact, ask him to back off. Make a talking hand and ‘bite’ him until he gets it. ‘Bite’ him with enough force so he jumps off but don’t be so harsh that it hurts him.

Invite him on the couch or any furniture only when he is in his submissive stance. The signs include no eye contact, relaxed ears, and relaxed tail.

Know that a dog with the Small Dog Syndrome will end up being a very annoying dog if you don’t pay attention. Dogs that don’t listen to their masters create havoc in the house. Make sure you train him well so that he is obedient and you are a happy lot.

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