The very smallest of dog breeds such as the Chihuahua and the teacup Yorkie are hugely popular as pets in the UK, and for good reason-little dogs are obviously very cute, can be highly entertaining, and make for great companions for people of all ages.
However, one universal theme that most small dog owners will agree upon is the fact that toy dog breeds don’t really realise that they are so small, and often have big-dog attitudes and personalities! While this can of course be very amusing-seeing a petite Chihuahua telling off a large German shepherd in the dog park, or warning all and sundry to steer clear of their chew toy-“small dog syndrome” can also turn into a problem, which can ultimately make smaller dogs some of the hardest to handle and manage, and may even manifest as aggression.
While a nip or a bite from a small dog cannot do as much potential damage as one from a larger breed, it is still of course potentially painful and dangerous if your little dog has a tendency to nip, or cannot be trusted to behave around other people or dogs-and in this article, we will look at some of the causes of little dogs turning into little dictators, and how to keep this from happening to you. Read on to learn more.
Small dogs are still dogs!
Toy dog breeds are also sometimes referred to as “handbag dogs,” and you can buy a wide range of different cute carriers and designer totes to port your pet around in. This is totally fine and sometimes even necessary-for instance, if you are walking somewhere where it is really busy, and your little dog might get trodden on-but it is really important to ensure that you never lose sight of the fact that your small dog is still a dog, and not an accessory.
Small dogs should be walked daily and allowed to face other dogs, people and situations at ground level, instead of being scooped up and put in their carrier for a stroll around the block with no chance to walk.
It is also of course really important to make sure that you feed your dog a balanced diet of size-appropriate food, and do not substitute this for scraps, snacks or people-food in an attempt to show your pup how much they mean to you.
You should also ensure that your small dog has a set routine with reliable feeding and walking times, and clear boundaries in place about what your dog is and is not allowed to do, which are consistently enforced.
Small dogs need to be trained properly
It is just as important to train small dogs as it is with larger dogs, and even little Chihuahuas should be able to follow the core, most basic commands that all dogs need to know, such as sit, stay, come back, leave it, and heel.
These commands are achievable for virtually all dog breeds, and most small breeds are intelligent and quick to learn, and will actually enjoy the interaction and excitement of working on new skills.
Thinking that your small dog doesn’t really need to be trained, or that they should be given a lot of leeway just because they are small, cute and know how to work those puppy dog eyes is actually doing your dog a big disservice.
Socialisation is vital
Dogs are of course social animals, who like the company of their own kind and naturally gravitate to each other in situations where this is possible, such as at the dog park or when out and about. Dogs like to play with other dogs, and this is not only a form of entertainment but a vital part of the learning process; socialisation teaches dogs about how to be a dog, how to interact with others, and learn the parameters of what is acceptable when playing with other canines.
However, because many other breeds will tend to tower over toy dogs, be able to run faster and of course, can also be boisterous, it is a natural response from small dog owners to try to manage many elements of their dog’s interactions with others, again often scooping them up when a large dog approaches, or being wary of letting their dog get involved in too much free play.
It is certainly true that smaller dogs can be more fragile than larger dogs, and less robust-but they do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool either, and by avoiding other dogs or intervening in play by removing your dog when they really get going, you will only frustrate your dog and potentially, store up problems for yourself further down the line.
By picking your dog up every time a larger dog approaches, you will not only prevent your dog from learning about the proper way of interacting with other dogs and frustrate their playtime, but you can also cause some more serious problems too.
These problems may include teaching your dog that larger dogs are to be feared and so, avoided, or that your small dog is the boss in any given social scenario, because you pick them up and so, place your dog above the height of the other dog, which can lead to bossy, alpha-type behaviour, which can manifest as aggression.
Make sure you are the boss
Finally, as well as ensuring that your dog has all of their needs met, that they are responsive to training and that they can meet other dogs on their own terms without fear or aggression, it is also vitally important to make sure that your dog is respectful of you, and other people as well.
Don’t put up with any nonsense such as nipping or growling when you try to stop your dog from doing something that you don’t want them to do, and don’t let them rule the roost-loving your dog like your child does not mean putting up with bad behaviour, or tolerating them running amok!