I know you’ve seen it, the out of control little dog. You make that tsk, tsk noise to yourself and declare silently that you will never own a little “Napoleon” dog. Why do some little dogs behave like little monsters, dictators, or are just yappers (notice all those descriptions)?
For this discussion, we should consider little dogs weighing less than 12 pounds. Being a terrier owner, I have never considered my dogs “little”. That is until they are next to a dog weighing 50 pounds then the size difference is obvious. Using 12 pounds as our limit, my dogs actually fall into the not so little category. I believe my dogs consider themselves vertically challenged!
I want you to put yourself on the floor. Go on, right down to your hands and knees. Are you down there? Good for you, now look around. If your head is at least 20 inches above the floor, then you are not a small dog. Move yourself to the 7 inch height. Take a look around. The view is much different down there. Now, imagine yourself at the 5 inch height. Imagine you only weigh 5 pounds. The world is going to look very large and be very noisy and busy when you barely take up space.
When you weigh no more than a bag of large potatoes or a newborn baby, most people don’t ask what you want. Typically, the small dog is moved about by being lifted into the arms of their owner. It must feel like an amusement ride called the Slingshot. Imagine yourself being hurtle into the air at such a velocity - the little dog is left wondering who purchased the ticket for that ride! This activity of lifting without warning or permission creates what I call “hand dodging” in little dogs. The little dog sees the hands coming in for them and as quick as lightening will back away, growl, or may snap.
While the action can be unintentional, being knocked over by an enthusiastic dog that weighs 20-60 pounds more than you must be a frightening event. This must be balanced with the action of the owner not swooping down like an eagle to haul the little dog off its feet away from the larger dog. This is another reason little dogs may will bark at an approaching dog in an aggressive manner.
People find it amusing to tease little dogs. From sticking their fingers in the dog’s face to holding it off the ground – a lot of people will persist at teasing a small dog because they understand a small dog bite isn’t as life-threatening as the bite of a dog weighing 80 pounds. At the other end of that, owners treat their tiny dogs like babies. They hold them like an infant, cooing at and kissing the little dog’s face (which most dogs dislike but tolerate). The little dog receives an inordinate amount of attention the moment the owner comes home. The little dog’s status is elevated to that of a spoiled teen actor. The little dog expects attention and will demand it.
What can be done for the little dog so that it doesn’t attain tiny terror status? Start with appropriate training. Simple basic manners which many little dogs lack will go a long way. Train your little dog on their level. Either you go to the floor or they come up to the couch. Being on equal footing is very helpful.
Train the little dog to enjoy the Slingshot ride up to your arms by putting a “lift” cue in the training. Ask permission before you lift! Use your hand as a target to prepare for the lift into space. Teach your dog hands reaching toward him are a good thing. Make sure your small dog does not get knocked down like a bowling pin by larger dogs. If you allow encounters between your dog and another be sure the visiting dog has a gentle way about him before allowing a greeting to take place. Respect the little dog’s size – it is never appropriate to tease a dog. A small dog bite may not wound an adult but a bite to the face or a snap at a child could result in a serious injury.
Small dogs are not babies, in fact, like all dogs they share 99.8% mitochondrial DNA with the wolf. The little dog has four legs and should be allowed to use them! Asking the little dog to perform basic manners for five minutes a day will help create a confident well-mannered dog. Everything that we expect from a big dog should be expected from a small dog. Observance of the above, will create a confident little dog and keep the potential Napoleon in the history books.