You may think your small dog’s extreme reactions to the world around it are simply Small Dog Syndrome. But what if their big dog energy is less small dog sass, more big world stress? Is small dog syndrome actually anxiety?
How many times have you heard or said “Oh, he’s a big dog in a small dog’s body”? Unfortunately, small dogs have developed a reputation, unfairly or not. And here’s the thing: your small dog’s big reactions might be less passing shot, more mental health marker.
What is Small Dog Syndrome?
Small Dog Syndrome is a non-scientific term associated with behavioral issues that many small dogs exhibit. Symptoms include things like:
- Aggressive barking, lunging, growling, snapping, nipping, or biting (dogs or people)
- Jumping up
- Acting neurotic
- Territorial aggression
- Ignoring commands
- Constant barking
- Excessive whining or attention-seeking
Of course, all dogs can display these behaviors, but where big and medium dogs are not allowed to get away with them, the same behaviors in small dogs are often laughed off. But if you’re ignoring your small dog’s display of such behaviors, you’re probably not doing your fluffball any favors.
Is it Actually Anxiety?
There are some small dogs whose big attitude is simply that: big attitude. However, in many cases, small dog syndrome, and any associated behaviors, stem from anxiety.
The big wide world can be a scary place for a small dog. Like humans, they can react in two ways: cower and hide from the world; or take the “offense is the best defense” approach – resulting in aggressive behaviors that are actually a fearful reaction rather than delusions of big dog grandeur.
Solutions for Anxiety-Related Small Dog Syndrome
The good news is that small dog syndrome brought on by anxiety – be it separation or general – is treatable. There are a number of things you can do to help ease your dog’s anxiety, including:
- Remember that your small dog is, well, small. Big places, with big pets and people may, understandably, trigger their anxiety. Make sure your dog feels comfortable and safe before putting them into social situations.
- Treat your small dog like any other dog. No excuses for bad behavior. No more laughing off unwanted behaviors with stock ‘big dog attitude’ platitudes.
- Be the alpha: take control of your home, and your dog’s sense of security and safety. A good place to start? Sign up for a training program like BOND™, designed to help you manage your dog’s separation and other anxiety by focusing on positive behavior and developing their independence and sense of security.
- Ask your vet about treating your dog’s anxiety issues with a combination of a behavioral modification training program and medication targeted specifically towards anxiety in dogs. Reconcile® (fluoxetine hydrochloride), for example, is an FDA approved drug which when used in combination with behavior modification training, has seen a lot of success around separation anxiety in dogs. This once-a-day, flavored, chewable tablet that dogs love works by treating low serotonin levels, the brain chemical responsible for anxiety control. (Note: indicated for the treatment of canine separation anxiety specifically, in conjunction with a behavior modification plan, Reconcile® can only be prescribed by a licensed veterinarian. Visit Reconcile.com to view full safety and prescribing information.)
- And remember: you don’t have to do this alone! Reconcile® has put together a fantastic online educational resource – Behavior Bits – filled with helpful and easy-to-implement behavior training recommendations from industry experts.
Don’t let your small dog’s big attitude fool you: their so-called small dog syndrome may well be anxiety. The good news is you can help them view the world through a stress-free lens.
Animal Wellness is North America's top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.