BaxterBoo Blog
March 1, 2012

Counteracting the Tiny Terror

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Meet Anna and Joey, my adorable Shih Tzu-Poodle mix dogs. They are only about six pounds each. They absolutely love the fact that I work at because they often get to come along.

Joey, the black one, thinks modeling dog clothing is his life calling. I stuck him in the photo booth and he sat there so proud, holding still and looking content as if to say, "I was born for this!"

Its hard to imagine that these angels could ever cause me a lick of trouble, but Joey can be somewhat of a stinker. Apparently, he has a little bit of what's called Small Dog Syndrome. Being a small creature myself, I thought this topic was worth investigating.

Why must Fifi be so fierce?

Small dogs often have a bad rap for being yappy and hyper. While mine are not, I did find out that I'm not the best dog parent while researching this topic. For instance, I let my dogs nudge me for attention, sometimes invading my personal space because, lets face it, small dogs are just so dang cute! But if a large dog were to do this, or jump up, that would be annoying and possibly even dangerous (for children and vertically challenged persons like me.)

Joey also likes to walk in front of me on the leash. He looks adorable with his proud gait, especially now that I keep him so well dressed and polished for his modeling career. Unfortunately, these are all signs that I've allowed him to become top dog. He's not a raging alpha male by any means, but there are things you and I must know to make sure our small dogs feel safe and well cared for:

  1. Small dogs act tough to project a strong front because they don't see their owners acting like the pack leader.
  2. Small dogs don't like feeling like they have to be the pack leader because they know they aren't designed for it. It is too big of a responsibility for them.
  3. Small dogs like to be treated like big dogs: which means they like to know the rules, and they feel safe when they are consistently enforced. It is actually mean to allow your dog to set the rules. (I have also found this to be true with raising children.) If we don't set clear boundaries, they will keep pushing until they figure out what the boundaries are.

Tips for keeping Small Dog Syndrome in Check

  1. Make sure you are the first one through the door. I observe my less-dominant female dog, Anna, always waiting for Joey to go through the door first. This is a sign of respect and submission. It is appropriate for your dog to show you this kind of respect, so have your dog sit and stay while you go out first.
  2. Your dog needs to walk beside or behind you on walks. You've already set the tone for your dog that you are top dog by going out the door first. So he is going to be watching you carefully to see if the new boss means business. You have to be the one to project confident body language. Dogs sense mood and it is directly tied to how you move. So walk briskly, shoulders back, and assume your dog will follow. Your dog wants to be walked. It is a tiresome responsibility for them to walk you. If there is pulling, give a quick snap of the leash (nothing to injure your small dog, but enough to get his attention.)
  3. Reward good behavior with praise and affection. Ignore bad behavior. Even negative attention is still attention. Ignore your dog when he jumps on you, no matter how adorable he is. Invading your space is a top-dog behavior that needs to be nipped. Additionally, hyperactivity in a dog is not a sign of a happy dog. It is a sign that they need exercise and calm leadership. Model quiet confidence to your dog, ignoring him until he calms down.
  4. Forget that your dog is small and/or cute. This means that you probably should not let them sleep in your bed, especially not on your pillow. Letting a dog sleep on your pillow is like giving them the throne. DONT ABDICATE! They truly don't want to rule. It feels unsafe to a dog. If you must sleep with your dog, have them sleep at your feet.

Your dog wants to please you and feel safe. Remember, you are not being a cruel egomaniac by being the pack leader. You are simply letting your dog know he can relax under your strong, quiet leadership. I've employed just a few of these ideas, and there is much more peace and contentment in our home for our dogs, our family and for our guests.

We would love to hear your stories for how you have helped your dog(s) feel safe and behave like the princes/princesses you knew they could be!

Debra Stadler on March 3 at 3:21 PM said:

Hi Mary, I've just recently gotten my new little puppy. She's a 12 week old, 3 lb little Yorkie. So nice to have a pet again. It's been a few years so I've really been anticipating the arrival of a new little one. Very nice article with valuable tips. Just one difference of opinion. I cant imagine not sleeping with my dog. In fact I've always slept with my dogs and never had obedience problems. It does make sense what you've pointed out but this would be very difficult for me. I like to snuggle with my puppy/dog too much. Thanks, Debbie Bella's Mom P.S. I'd love to work at BaxterBoo so I could take my Bella to work. Just seems like it would really be a lot of fun for your dogs and you. Not to mention the advantage of having your pets with you to help relieve any work related stress.
Meet the Breed: The Pomeranian | BaxterBoo Bl on November 6 at 5:01 AM said:

[...] As poms are often willful and headstrong, It is important to properly socialize them against Small Dog Syndrome with a strong, calm, kind human pack leader. They are eager to please, friendly, and playful. They [...]
Meet the Breed: Ay Chihuahua! | BaxterBoo Blo on December 4 at 6:08 AM said:

[...] to baby these dogs. Rather, they should be treated like a bigger dog so they do not suffer from Small Dog Syndrome. Tiny dogs who assume the alpha role in the family are territorial, yappy, and even aggressive. [...]
Lk on July 26 at 4:39 PM said:

I think most of these are great suggestions, but believe that as with anybody raising kids, be they fur or not, one must sometimes bend or even rip apart the rules! Individual dogs have individual needs, as do all kids and we know how parenting has changed since Dr Spock! So too will certain "dog rules". I agree with the comment about sleeping with dogs that the other reader mentioned. I too sleep with my dog and always have, after bringing her home from a caged enviournment of 5 months! She trembled and cried in the kennel so hard, and even in my arms it took 2 weeks for her to sleep okay at night. Just saying...

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