What Is ‘Small Dog Syndrome’?


At Holidays4Dogs we cater for almost every type and breed of dog. Most dog lovers simply love all dogs, but there are also lovers of big dogs and those who prefer small breeds – each sticking to his or her own ‘camp’. All dogs, no matter what their size, have different temperaments and characters. Unfortunately, small dogs often have the reputation for being yappy, nervous, or protective. Read on to find out more about ‘small dog syndrome’.

Small dog syndrome is not a scientific term. However, it is a generally agreed term which covers several behaviours associated with small and toy dogs. This may include jumping up, aggression, and possessiveness.  There are many factors that can contribute to small dog syndrome, not least the role of the owner.

Owner behaviour.

There are many behaviours that we as owners might accept more readily from a small dog than we would from a big one. For a start, little dogs are super cute to look at. Therefore, behaviours such as jumping up, are regarded as endearing traits. Training, therefore, often takes a back seat and before you know it, you have small dog syndrome setting in.

However, such behaviour from a big dog can be a positive nuisance, since they can be strong enough to knock someone over.

This is not to say all owners of small dogs allow them excessive liberties, but nevertheless, little dogs do seem to have the advantage over their larger cousins.

A small dog has no more needs than a big dog. Yet, some people often feel that a small dog is more vulnerable, less robust and in need of more protection.

Equally, the feisty little dog who lunges and barks at everything, is apt to be scooped up in his owners arms out of harms way. Unfortunately, this is not addressing the root of the problem. In fact, it is actually more likely to make the issue much worse in the long run.

Fear factor.

Some breeds of dog, no matter what their size, are more inclined to bark than others. Toy dogs definitely seem to be one of the worst for frequent barking and it is a behaviour commonly associated with small dog syndrome. This is often due to fear. When you consider the size of a 5lb dog against a large boisterous Labrador, small dog syndromeyou can see why tiny dogs may feel the need to be protective.

Many small dogs can quickly become threatened by larger dogs, particularly if they have had a bad experience in the past. This can lead them to be very suspicious of strange dogs in the future. Especially with big dogs.


Many toy dog owners don’t spend as much time training their dogs. This is a shame because small and toy dogs can be very amenable to training.

Positive training methods can help tiny dogs gain more confidence. Socialisation, especially during the key periods of puppy development, are also important to avoid behaviours associated with small dog syndrome.


It is important to bear in mind that, just because the dog might be less than ten pounds in weight, he is still very much a dog. Small dogs are often bright and very willing when it comes to training and learning new things.

Indeed, most respond very well to clicker training and many enjoy canine sports, such as agility. There are many misconceptions about small dogs, which is a great shame because small dogs really are just big dogs in a very little package.