Is There Such a Thing as Small Dog Syndrome? | Animal Friends

Dog / Is There Such a Thing as Small Dog Syndrome?


Elena Barnard

Animal Friends Pet Insurance

Small Dog

Over the weekend I found myself becoming involved in a debate about whether there is such a thing as ‘small dog syndrome’. There seems to be a stigma surrounding small dogs that depicts them as yappy, badly behaved canines that perhaps over react to bigger dogs around them and ‘rule the roost’ so to speak. This led me to think about why (over time) little dogs have received this label; is it maybe because they feel threatened and so overcompensate? Or is it to do with the way they are trained and treated by their owner?

The question of whether or not there is such a thing as small dog syndrome is one that is tricky to answer objectively. Every dog owner will have their own special relationship with their dog(s) that means they will have their own view on how-well behaved their pet is.

One point that was put across during the discourse was that some people can be guilty of treating small and large dogs differently. I thought that there was some truth in this myself and we started to discuss some of the ways in which this happens.

The first thing that popped into my mind was that I hardly ever see a large breed of dog being allowed to jump up at people. If a German Shepherd was to jump at a guest then nine times out of ten the owner would reprimand them. However, more often than not, when a small dog jumps up then it can be seen as cute or that the dog likes the person it is jumping up at.

In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that there are quite a few things that small dogs can sometimes ‘get away with’ whilst large dogs cannot. Such behaviours include growling at another dog, especially if the dog is a lot larger than the small dog with the big bark, sitting on an owner’s lap for an extended period of time and generally displaying more dominant behaviour than they should be allowed.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all small dogs are badly behaved or can do what they like; or that large dogs are better behaved than small dogs. I just believe that on occasion it can be easy to see some prohibited behaviour in a larger dog whilst not so with smaller dogs; for example, if a small dog sits on their owner’s lap and barks or growls menacingly at someone who comes near, then it can be seen as ‘oh, they are just protective’, whereas if a large dog was to do the same then it would be seen as more severe.

Treating a small dog differently to a large dog may account for some of the behaviour that dogs with small dog syndrome may exhibit. If a small dog is treated/ trained equally to the larger dog of the household, then this may help to alleviate any bad behaviour/habits. However, this only applies to small dogs that are displaying such behaviour.

When it comes to a dog’s behaviour my personal opinion is that its size does not account for its personality. Whilst breed temperaments give an indication of a certain breed of dog’s characteristics, I feel that every dog is unique and should be judged on individual merit. I also believe that a dog is a reflection of its owner and the quality of the training they receive; I know plenty of small dogs who are perfectly well behaved. What do you think? Do you feel that small dogs are overly ‘sensitive’ simply because of their size? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below.

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Hello, fellow animal lovers! I’m Elena, and I take care of social media for Animal Friends Insurance. I’m here to share the latest on animal welfare, our charity work and pet care. I foster and adopt rabbits and have a rescue dog called Luna.