Frequent How do you get rid of small dog syndrome? What to Know

What exactly is Small Dog Syndrome (SDS)?

Some of the behaviors that make up Small Dog Syndrome include jumping (on their owners, on others and on other dogs), growling at other people or dogs, not listening to commands, acting nervous or even neurotic, constant or frequent barking, lunging, snapping, or nipping, demanding attention (affection, treats), etc. These behaviors can occur in any size dog but are more prevalent in smaller dogs.

We’ve all heard the term “Napoleon” syndrome, referring to Napoléon Bonaparte, a 17th century French emperor and military leader, who apparently was just over 5 feet tall, but was a force to be reckoned with. Because of his small size, over the years people have used the phrase “napoleon syndrome” or “napoleon complex” to describe someone who attempts to overcompensate for his size or stature. The term “Small dog syndrome” comes from its correlation to “Napoleon Syndrome”.

It is debatable whether small dogs who suffer from SDS literally realize that they are small. Are they acting the way they act because of a need to overcompensate for their size – like Napoleon? Or are they acting that way because, well, to put it in plain terms, because they’re spoiled rotten? Many Trainer’s believe that the behavior displayed with SDS is simply learned. We have allowed our small dogs to break all the rules… things we would never allow a big dog to do. And although we think we are showing love and affection by not correcting them and letting them to have their way, the result is that they are actually feeling very nervous, anxious and insecure.

Things You Should Know

  • Enforce boundaries and rules so your small dog doesnt become too dominant.
  • Socialize your small dog so theyre calm around people and pets.
  • Avoid being overprotective and carrying your dog all the time so they dont develop anxiety.
  • Reward your small dog to provide positive reinforcement for the right behaviors.
  • Constant Motion

    Some small dogs are constantly in motion. They run around the house, they are always busy-busy-busy and cannot lay down and take a rest. While this may seem cute to us, it is actually not natural for dogs to always be awake.

    As carnivores, their ideal sleep-and-wake-rhythm is different from humans. Dogs do best if they are awake for 3-4 hours and then rest for 1-2 hours. They need a lot more sleep overall than we do – otherwise they will be more reactive, more snarly, and bark more – basically their overall small dog syndrome will become worse!

    A good way to help your small dog keep a healthy daily rhythm is to implement a schedule for activities. Dogs do not do so well if they are always surprised by what happens next. Knowing at which times they go for walks, play or sleep will help them feel secure.

    Develop a schedule that works with your family’s lifestyle and stick to it! You will see that after a few weeks implementing the new routine, your dog will be less “wiggly” and able to relax and not always be in motion.

    How To STOP Little Dog Syndrome

    “Picture a stereotypical Chihuahua walking down the street with its owner,” says Steffi Trott, trainer at SpiritDog Training. “The dog is probably pulling on the leash, snarling at every dog, and sometimes every person, he sees.” If that same dog has other problem behaviors, chances are you are looking at a dog with so-called “small dog syndrome.”

    Small dog syndrome can be learned behavior; it is not inherent to small breeds. And it isn’t actually a syndrome, but rather stereotypical behaviors that we see in scared, easily upset small dogs. While some small dogs may share some of the behaviors, like barking at other dogs when on a leash, there is a difference between behavior that is fear-based and bad behavior that is a learned response.

    These behaviors are so common because owners don’t deal with them or owners use punishment to deal with them, which often backfires by making the dog more fearful,” says Kayla Fratt, the CEO of Journey Dog Training. Also, Fratt notes, small dogs are more easily scared or hurt, so they act out more to try to get space and protect themselves. She adds that small dogs are often under-socialized and not given enough choice. “They feel trapped, they’re small and the only way to get space from scary stuff is getting loud!” Fratt says.

    Let’s look at the kind of behaviors small dogs display that could mean the dog has small dog syndrome. What differentiates these behaviors from a dog that is simply responding to their fear or anxiety lies in the way their human responds.

    Barking at other dogs. The dog barks, lunges or growls at any otherdog passing by on the street, regardless of size. It often indicates a smalldog who is feeling anxious and insecure because the dog hasn’t been properlysocialized.

    Constantly barking. Small dogs that bark at everything all the time are dogs with a problem. “They bark to an extreme extent and in every situation, whether that’s seeing other dogs, being excited about their owner coming home or demanding treats and attention,” says Trott.

    Growling at other dogs. The small dog is constantly snarling at other dogs, which some owners may perceive as being bossy, but that is not the case, says Fratt. Rather, it is because she is scared and wants them to back off. She chases other dogs away from toys, food and water bowls or you; if you’re sitting on the couch, and she growls at another dog who is trying to say hello to you, that could be a sign.

    Jumping on people. The small dog is constantly jumping on you or other people trying to get attention, says Trott.

    Begging for food. The small dog is constantly begging for food wheneveryou try to eat. While many dogs will beg for food, a dog with small dogsyndrome will be particularly persistent. Nothing their human says or doesworks to discourage them.

    Disregard for any rules. A small dog with this syndrome does whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, regardless of household rules. This could manifest as a dog who refuses to be housetrained, or a dog that will not listen when he’s told to get off the coffee table.

    Guarding of their humans. Small dogs may have strong resource guarding issues, says Trott. “This might apply to the owner in form of growling when someone approaches their human, or not allowing other dogs to sit on the owner’s lap or be petted, or snapping at people in their vicinity,” says Trott.

    Protecting toys and food. A dog with this syndrome does not like others to approach their food and toys,” says Trott. “The dog might react with lunging and biting when they think that the bone they are chewing or the toy they are playing with will be taken away.”