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Last updated: August 23. 2013 3:08PM - 234 Views

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By Dorothy MinerIt’s Cujo! No, it’s 10-pound Fluffy, growling in mama’s lap. Small Dog Syndrome is what happens when small dogs are allowed to become tiny terrors — snarling and snapping whenever they feel their rights have been infringed upon.Small dogs are often allowed to get away with behaviors we would never tolerate in their larger cousins. Some people think it’s cute when Fluffy curls his lip and takes a snap. After all — how much damage could a tiny dog do? (Plenty.) Dogs with Small Dog Syndrome have very high self esteem, often aided by the way they are raised. The causes are many. Little dogs are cute and owners sometimes fail to realize how big a problem they have until their pets are truly nasty. Here are some things to remember if you want to have a pleasant little pet.• They may be tiny, but they’re dogs. They aren’t fashion accessories or little folks in furry costumes. • Small dogs need as much training and socialization as any other dog. Puppy kindergarten and basic obedience training are vital. If you worry about its physical safety in a class, talk to the instructors to see how they handle the needs of the tiny dog in class.• A dog sitting in your lap must not be allowed to growl or snap at people. If that happens, stand up abruptly and put the dog on the floor. Allowing him to remain in your lap reinforces the bad behavior. • Small dogs must learn to walk. Leash training isn’t easy, but picking up your pooch and carrying it instead of teaching good leash manners isn’t the solution.• We enjoy having our dogs sit in our laps, but we must remain in control. Don’t allow him to run all over you, climb up to your shoulder or the top of the chair. This leads to an elevated sense of rank. If your dog sleeps on your bed, teach him to stay in one spot. If he snarls or snaps when you move or touch him, whether he’s on your lap or on your bed, put him on the floor.• Small dogs can be picky eaters, but don’t hand-feed him and don’t feed him from your plate or fork. This puts the dog in the alpha position. Find an appropriate diet and feed him from a bowl on the floor. • Handle him properly. Don’t swoop down and abruptly scoop him up. Let him know you are there and raise him gently. A startled dog may bite.• Monitor children’s interactions with the dog. Young children shouldn’t pick him up or carry him without close supervision. Tiny dogs can be injured easily. If a youngster handles him like a toy or doll, a bite is likely.• Small dogs can and must be housetrained. Just because the size of the puddle or pile is tiny, it is still unsanitary. A dog urinating in the house as a marking behavior is telling everybody he owns the place.If you are already living with a dinky dictator, there are steps you can take to correct the situation. Review his obedience training. Revoke his bed privileges; allowing him to sleep on your bed puts him on equal footing with you. Give him his own sleeping spot in your bedroom, but keep him off your bed. Allow him in your lap by invitation only. Put him on the floor at any sign of problems like barking, lip curling, growling or snapping. Don’t allow any mouthing, even in play; and don’t permit behavior you wouldn’t want to see in a large dog. If your dog is an ankle-biter, snap on his leash and keep him under control in situations where this behavior is likely to occur. Provide for all his needs, but have him do something in return. Have him sit or lie down before you put his food on the floor or before you invite him onto your lap. Have him wait patiently while you get his leash for a walk. Don’t let him run out the door before you. If he wants to be petted or to play, have him do something for you first — a Sit or Down, or even a trick. Put yourself back in control.The world is full of perfectly wonderful little dogs that are sociable and friendly. Expecting the same behavior from your little guy that you would expect from a large dog is the key. Dorothy Miner is a long-time dog obedience and tracking instructor and judge of canine events. She contributes regular columns to several dog publications. She is currently a trainer at That Place for Pets (formerly Hollowell) and teaches weekly classes for the Allen Correctional Institution’s PETS Program.



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