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. Now dont you just love it when people come up with stupid solutions to made up problems?? Exactly.
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
- Possessive over food, toys, etc
- 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.
- 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.