As a dog behavior consultant and trainer I’ve been around all kinds of dogs. I’ve also spent countless hours in dog parks and doggie daycares interacting with every variety of breed, size and shape the canine world has to offer. All this pooch exposure has led me to form some interesting conclusions. The most obvious thing that jumps out at me time and time again is that little dogs have many more behavioral issues than their larger counterparts.
I thought to myself, why is that? What is it about smaller dogs that lend them to a greater risk of developing behavior problems? The answer becomes incredibly obvious once I watch the way their human companions interact with them.
Small dogs aren’t born psychologically different than larger dogs. Although man has engineered the outside of dogs in different ways, they’re pretty much the same on the inside. The huge Irish Wolfhound and the teeny, tiny Chihuahua both start out more or less the same – as dogs. The reason that so many more of the little guys end up unstable is us.
We create those issues unintentionally (usually) by the way we treat them. Why we do it is obvious – little dogs are so darn cute. And it’s that cuteness that can be their biggest downfall. People tend to treat them more like their favorite stuffed animals, than like the dogs they are. They baby and coddle them, while neglecting to fulfill their most basic canine needs.
The biggest contributing factor here is that behaviors that you would quickly correct a Rottweiler for are overlooked or ignored in a Maltese. Something like jumping or begging for attention are seen as cute for the small dogs, but as obvious problems that must be corrected in the larger dogs. But so what? We can let the little pooch-a-roos get away with that. Who cares, right? Well, you should care because psychologically, the issues are the same to the dog.
If you have a small dog, it’s best to pretend that he’s huge. And whatever he does something think to yourself, “would this be cool if he was a 120 lb. Mastiff?” If the answer is no, then maybe you should start setting up some boundaries, instead of enabling him to become unstable.
Just today I was at a doggie daycare with a pack of small dogs and I noticed something interesting. Out of the twenty-four dogs that were hanging out there, five of them showed obvious signs of separation anxiety. Of that five 100% were cute little white dogs (Maltese, Bichons, Havanese, Cockapoos or a combo of these breeds). In my experience, cute little white dogs are the most likely to get “loved to death.” As you may remember from my previous blog of that title, that’s when the dog receives boat loads of affection, with little or no attention toward his real canine needs.
There’s nothing wrong with loving your little dog but you have to make sure that his canine needs are met first, each and every day. And for God’s sake, please treat him like the dog he is. First and foremost – put him down!!! Way too many small dog owners carry their little pooches around like handbags. The dog’s world is four on the floor. Let you dog experience the world as a dog – on his own four, furry little legs. He can be your little, wittle, bitty baby; but not before he’s a good old fashioned butt sniffing, tail wagging canine.