I'm hugging my friend Heidi and her boyfriend Aaron goodbye. As they begin to walk through the door, all hell breaks loose. Olly, my Chihuahua/Dachshund mix, who was previously lying peacefully underneath the table, leaps at them while yapping his head off. His black fur sticks out on his back and he growls viciously as if to scare them out. Quickly, I scoop him up and mutter that he's harmless and is all bark and no bite, but secretly inside I'm not so sure. My friends laugh it off and I wave them goodbye with my cheeks still burning bright red. I sigh heavily. There's no denying it, my dog has Small Dog Syndrome.
Small dog syndrome, or SDS, can be seen in many smalls breeds, but some notable ones are Chihuahuas, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, and Jack Russel Terriers. Some common characteristics of SDS include obnoxious barking, nipping at ankles, and a Napoleon complex. These are little dogs with big attitudes. This behavior often leads to unfavorable situations and even dangerous ones if a small dog goes after a larger one who isn't fazed by the smaller dog's big dog facade. It's a worry I've experienced when Olly has come across larger dogs. Unfortunately, my reactions may have created Olly's attitude problem.
What many owners like myself don't realize, is that SDS is often created by a lack of proper training. Because of our dog's small statures, we often let them get away with behaviors that we would never let fly with big dogs. For example, say a Yorkie jumps up on someone as they walk through the front door. Often this is viewed as cute and the person will pet the Yorkie thus reinforcing the bad behavior. However, let's switch the Yorkie out with a Great Dane and suddenly this behavior is no longer so cute. Big dogs receive stricter training because if they developed SDS they would be viewed as a danger to society. People would never be okay with a giant St. Bernard running around off-leash and barking at people. The reason for this discrepancy is that a bite from a Yorkie is going to do a lot less damage then a bite from a St. Bernard.
Still, it's not fun to have small dog with full-blown case of Small Dog Syndrome, so what can be done about this? Well, train them exactly like you would train a big dog. Don't let them jump up on you. Discipline them when they bark non-stop at people and other dogs. Make them have to be invited before jumping up on the sofa. Also, early socialization is key. Introduce them to both big and small dogs as puppies so they know how to act like proper pooches. With the proper training, you can have a small dog, but without the syndrome.