Chihuahuas are wonderfully spirited little dogs full of love and energy! Anyone who knows them can tell you how lively their personalities are. I have 5 chihuahuas, 3 of which are puppies. Susu, Ginger, Cori, Fen, & Cinna. I'll be sharing my thoughts here on everything from health issues, to food, to fashion and fun for the small dog.

I hope you enjoy the blog, leave me a comment and follow along!!

-- Michelle K.

While the main dog here is the Chihuahua, I believe the information here is valuable and entertaining to any small dog owner.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Small Dog Syndrome: Fact or Fiction

If your small dog is a handful, eventually some smarty pants is going to tell you he has 'small dog syndrome'.  Basically because he is small he's gonna get his own special label.  The reality is people like labels and stereotypes.  It makes them feel like they know something important about things they really know nothing about.

So the Chihuahua and other small breeds with 'behavior issues' now have 'Small Dog Syndrome' or SDS.  But wait! It gets better!  Because it is YOU that has caused this!  Yep! That's right!  You and all you're spoiling!  How dare you let your Chihuahua sleep with you and sit in your lap and I bet you even carry  them at times!!  'Gasp'

It's no wonder with all the bad Chihuahua parents out there that the breed has developed such a reputation as to need it's own 'syndrome'!  No need to fret though, because there is a cure!!

All you have to do is just treat your Chihuahua exactly the same as you would treat a Doberman.   Smiley   Now dont you just love it when people come up with stupid solutions to made up problems??  Exactly.

So now let's get down to the real nitty gritty of todays topic.. The Myth of Small Dog Syndrome and how Stereotyping is Shortchanging your Dog!

Basically Small Dog Syndrome is a by product of the Dominance Theory. Supposedly your little dog is behaving badly because he believes he is the leader of your pack and the owner of your home.  So now we have to contend with this syndrome based on a flawed theory.  How could we not fail?

The truth is dogs are not power hungry social climbers.  That's just humans once again applying human thought processes to animal behavior.  Dogs are however very opportunistic with a good historical background in scavenging.  And they will simply do what works.

But my real beef with SDS is that is just doesn't make sense.  There's no real logic in it.  Let's take a look at the symptoms of SDS.
  • Barking when approached.
  • Barking at strangers
  • Biting and snapping
  • Destructive Behavior
  • Growling
  • Possessive over food, toys, etc
  • Stubborn
  • Paws at or Jumps on people

Now I cant be the only one who has know a large breed dog to do these things as well.  So why Small Dog Syndrome??  We clearly have pushy behaviors, resource guarding, and either aggression or nervousness or both.  These aspects of dog behavior do not solely belong to 'small' dogs.  

And let's take a look at the 'cure'..
  • Don't let your dog sleep with you.
  • Don't let your dog on your furniture.
  • Make your dog work for everything from food to affection
  • Make sure your dog obeys your every command
  • Be the Alpha!!!!  
I've even seen one site that proudly displays a picture of a beautiful Chihuahua looking very confident and happy and tells you how this is really a bad thing because he is too dominant and then they show a dog looking at the ground slinking by with his tail between his legs and it says this is your goal.  Really??  

These solutions have about as much relevance to the problem behaviors as running the vacuum when your dishes are backed up. It's just another way to tell dog parents that they need to dominate their dog.  If you dont keep your dog in its place it will take over and attack you.  And if you were living with wolves that may be the truth.  But Fluffy is not a wolf.  She is not descended from wolves.  She is a dog and dogs have their own unique phychology, body language, and social system.  And it is not a take over agenda.

They simply want what they like and they do what works for them to get it.  That's all.  No plans for world domination or anything.  The dog that whines while you eat has learned that whining will convince you to give it some of the food.  Small dogs can be pushy and jump in your lap unwanted and big dogs can be pushy and knock you over.  But it's not because dogs are naturally searching for the upper hand.  They just want the chicken, people!

Now obviously dogs can ALL develop poor behaviors regardless of size.  And this is typically just a lack of boundaries and self control.  Self control is a skill and having boundaries is how it is learned. And if you really want to fix your Chihuahuas behavior problems, forget about being the alpha and going through doors first, etc and actually evaluate each problem, it's cause and come up with a valid solution and then be consistent.

I find most mild issues can show great improvement within 2 -3 days of some consistent boundaries and they  get lots of love and still all pile in my lap and in the bed.  Work on training out excitement and only acknowledge, reward, and be affectionate to your little one when they are calm.  This is a wonderful way to continually teach and reinforce self control in your Chihuahua.

Decide what you are fine with and when the lines are crossed and consistently hold the line.  When one of my Chis wants in my lap they jump up and put their paws on me or the chair.  This is fine.  If they just stood there I probably wouldn't see them.  When one just suddenly jumps in my lap without warning, I simply push them back out.  Dogs are smart.  It really only takes a day or so before they figure out the approach that works.  If I get slack, they get pushy.  If I'm consistent they are patient.  It's just they way it works.

Keep little treats handy.  When you catch your dog behaving, just give a treat.  When your dog is being pushy or obnoxious don't give treats.  And don't treat for everything.  Treats should be like winning the lottery because dogs LOVE the lottery and they will almost always play!  So if you call your little Chihuahua and they get a treat some of the time when they get to you they will have a better recall because they know there is a chance that the chicken cookies are waiting!  Sometimes they win the big prize, sometimes they win a 'good baby' and sometimes they find they just ran across the house for nothing.  That's the beauty of the lottery and they can't resist it!  So keep a little mystery and surprise in your dogs day.

You can have great little dogs and you don't have to rule with an iron hand either!!  Give love, boundaries, incentives, and be consistent.  And that works whether your dog is 5lbs or 50lbs too.


  1. You know what? I really like this. I was just reading about this type of situation on a site advising me to ignore my dog when he came up to me and wanted attention, because I must decide when he can or cannot have attention. And it made me very sad. I love it when my dog comes up to me and wants to be patted and shows me that he loves me too. I feel that yes, we have to set boundaries, be consistent, train for good behavior, etc. But why oh why do some experts feel we can't let them come up to us when they want some TLC? Thank you for your side of this.

    1. I know exactly what you mean! I love having my dogs sleeping in my lap and I like having them with me at night. As long as they listen and are not push or obnoxious I don't see the problem. Enjoy your dog!!!

      Dogs are like children in some ways and one of those ways is that you cant give too much love as long as you don't forget the rules and boundaries along with it. :-)

  2. Replies
    1. ●▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ஜ۩۞۩ஜ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬▬●
      The benefits of having a trained dog are endless. A few months ago I started to train mine with some videos I found online. They teach you step by step! Aggression, anxiety, biting, barking and disasters in the house have disappeared. My dog behaves excellent. And I have taught many tricks!
      Here is the address:

  3. "All you have to do is just treat your Chihuahua exactly the same as you would treat a Doberman." You mean love them and shower them with affection? ;-)

  4. I came across your site because i was looking for ways to you chi to wear clothes. And that was great advice. Then I started to wander through your sight and I come to this.

    My husband and I have many dogs. And he also trains them. From k9 to just sit and lay down. and after so many years of experience with them he would say "theyre easier to predict then humans" so why on earth anyone would want to put fear and dominance into a dog, let alone a chi or small breed, when you can easuly take the time to learn your dog and stufy them. Get to know them shall I say? It makes me sick to know that there are people out there even entertaining this idea. So all of this is me just saying you're awesome. Keep it up! I support you! Go you!

  5. I love it! Small dogs with big hearts. Chihuahua Dogs are indeed very sweet and caring.

  6. Actually I found it to be similar to the SDS, but I like how you explain that to be top dog you don't need to be a dictator, when I read about SDS it always said the same thing, "you train the dog, if its doing something you don't like don't allow it" and as far as I read from your blog here you said the same thing "when they jump on my lap wuthout warning I would push them back out... The eventually find out something that actually works" reward good behavior, and discourage bad behavior, thank you for making a soft way to still love your dog but have them behave as well

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