I saw this cartoon on one of my favourite Facebook pages, Off The Leash, and it got me thinking. Small dogs often have a bad reputation in the pet industry. We hear people describe them as dominant, spoilt, snappy, rude, uncontrolled, and a whole range of other unsavoury things. So what leads to this “little dog syndrome” that people talk about?
Look at the above cartoon, and imagine that Alexander is a Labrador or a German Shepherd. Suddenly things get a whole lot scarier, and the cartoon is much less of a joke! Small breed dogs often miss out on very important training and socialisation, simply because their size makes their behaviour less annoying or destructive. If your 30kg dog is pulling, barking, lunging, and growling on walks, that is more than just embarrassing! You get physically tired, and passers by get frightened. If you lose control of the lead, then things get quite dangerous. When your dog weighs just 5kg you might feel embarrassed, but you won’t lose control of the lead, and you might even laugh at how “tough” Alexander is trying to be.
Unfortunately for 5kg Alexander, what he is experiencing is just as real for him as for his larger doggy friends. It is just as important to figure out why your small dog is behaving a certain way, and looking for ways to help him behave differently, as it would be if your dog weighed 3-4 times as much. Often when small (or large) dogs are acting really tough and aggressive, they are actually very scared and are simply trying to increase the distance between themselves and the scary thing by going on the offensive. Most people would rather their pet not experience life as something to be scared off!
Positive reinforcement and other force-free training methods can be used with any small dog to help them to adapt and cope better in a world where everything is bigger than they are, and some extra training can really help create a happier bond between canine and human family members.