📢 [OPINION] - There's no such thing as small dog syndrome 🚨


Like a lot of the dog owners that will read this post, we are loyal medium to big dog people at Owen & Edwin HQ.

We love our dogs, not just because of their size, but how they integrate within our active lifestyle. We love their desire to run, there sporting breed good looks, their robustness in the backyard and their more than wonderful temperament. 

See, I personally am a big believer that your dog tells you a lot about who you, and the behaviour you both display is a representation of you. So, whenever someone tells me that their small dog has "Small Dog Syndrome", I believe it's not the dog who is to blame. So, let me explain with an example....

Sassy Torquay Beach Owen & Edwin Small Dog Syndrome Vizsla

In Australia, we are blessed with beautiful beaches and wonderful dog-friendly parks which enable your best friend to run off-leash. These places provide the happy four-legged with an opportunity to run free, socialise, make friends and have a good time (it's kinda like a nightclub for dogs when you come to think of it). 

Last month, I walked Sass along the dog beach in the picturesque Torquay (where it is said to have the one of the highest dog to person ratios in Australia). Being a Vizsla (Pointers & Retrievers in general), they're arguably the friendliest canines in existence and are more than happy playing with other dogs. However, with the lack of experience I personally have, I cannot say this about all dog breeds. 

Sassy the Vizsla saw a miniature Dachshund. Sassy was excited in fact thrilled to have found a friend on the beach. The little sausage, on the other hand, may not have been so. As docile as ever, Sass walked slowly to the Dachshund with gentleness and caution. The Dachshund, on the other hand, began to snarl and snap at Sassy as she began to cry and run in the opposite direction.Sassy Vizsla Owen & Edwin Dog Jacket Dog Blazer Torquay Victoria Australia

We weren't upset with the Dachshund or their owners initially (they were genuinely lovely people and we all laughed it off at the time), however what was interesting is how they handled the situation after they controlled their Dachshund.

Once he became aggressive, an owner would pick him up and cuddle him. 

And in this one action, it occurred to me that they weren't condoning him for his behaviour. In fact, they were rewarding him. 

With larger dogs, from the time they are small you are taught to ensure that you can handle your dog. As owners, it's drummed into our subconscious that if a big dog gets out of control, death of a human is a likely worst case scenario. If a medium to big dog barks too often, it's not cute....it's just outright irresponsible and your neighbours are likely to complain. If your dog gets snappy, you can't just pick it up so you have to drag it away and (in a worst case scenario) discipline them. 

However, is this the case with little dogs? More so, do little dog owners treat their dogs the same way?

With a smaller breed, when it's a worst case scenario you can pick up your dog. Because a little dog is smaller, you subconsciously believe that they will do less harm. When a little dog barks or even snaps, far too often the 'cuteness' of the animal will outweigh the poor behaviour in the eyes of the owner. 

It's a stark contrast. 

See, I read John Chapman's The Five Love Languages late last year, and it's more than appropriate to relate the principles to your dog (in fact, I'd recommend you read it too). Essentially, we receive and express love in Five different ways: Touch, Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Quality Time and Acts of Service. Like humans, dogs tend to express love through touch, quality time, gifts (remember when they bring things home) and acts of service (e.g. dog collects the paper from the front door). Bringing this concept back to the Dachshund, the dog received love through touch (cuddles) after misbehaving. As long as this remains the pattern, the behaviour is positively reinforced.

But this isn't just that, this is with every waking moment with your best friend. Whenever we see great behaviour, we must positively reinforce the behaviour by expressing love to your dog. Through practice and experimentation, you'll determine your dog's own love language (if you were wondering, Sassy loves Touch and Quality Time) and once you can determine that you're on your way to better days. 

Ultimately, the behaviour of your dog (much like children) lies within the environment it grows up in, the disciplined leadership demonstrated, your ability to read your dog and the standards you set for each other. With that being said, I believe (and this is more than a controversial stance) that there is actually no such thing as small dog owner syndrome, but there is such a thing as small dog owner syndrome. 

If you'd like to know more about us and our philosophy, download our FREE EBOOK Below "The 7 Habits of the Highly Effective Dog Owner" and you'll be shocked by the positive results you get!

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2 comments


  • Andy

    Hi Dean,

    I agree with your points and enjoyed the post. I regularly encounter small dogs on lead, when I am walking my two dogs, and the dogs we encounter can be snappy. Their owners instinctively pull them away by the neck (aka lead).

    Now I am lucky enough to own a very confident pig x chihuahua called Benji, and he has a way of communicating to other dogs that makes them like him, so I offer to let the dogs meet. They invariably get on well. The owners are often grateful for the chance for their ‘kids’ to play. If I get the chance, I always like to mention that if I see a dog I don’t want my dogs interacting with I step off the path and we wait patiently in a stationary position. In doing so I am avoiding jerking their necks and sending fear signals, that indicate their owner is afraid and they should go on the attack to protect us.

    So when I see a little dog being tugged by the neck, and if we do get into conversation with the owner,I mention that Benji can be snappy and that it can be exasperated by pulling on his neck… occasionally I meet the people a few months later, and this has helped some of them who have tried this technique.


  • catherine macken

    Hiya Dean! As Sassy’s breeder, and breeder of smaller dogs, I have some comments on this subject.
    Small dogs all feel a certain elevation of anxiety when they encounter a strange larger dog. This is simply because of their size relative to the large dog. Put yourself in the paws of a small dog:
    Here you are minding your business on the beach when out of nowhere appears a fellow dog twice to three times your size!! Questions rage in your primitive brain parts…
    Is he friend or foe?
    Can I defend myself if he is foe?
    (At this point remember dogs are dogs, not humans. They don’t make ‘friends’ in a human sense, rather they determine relative status)
    The small dog will react at this point. He will get in first before the bigger dog.
    This is pure anxiety and an understandable reaction. Much like a human using the ‘ad hominem’ argument – get in first and put the other person on the run!

    Here is one of my observations re small dogs:
    They don’t get the training that most larger dogs receive.

    This is because a dog of small physical size is manageable, in comparison to say a Vizsla. In other words, people get away without training small dogs. As you know, a large, high energy dog without any training would be very hard to live with.

    Much like an un-trained human, if you think about it…

    Happy dog walking and keep up the dog talk. We need more of it!


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