I have a secret to share with all of you… and as the owner of two working line Malinois, it may come as a surprise to some!
Well, here we go…
I love small dogs!
Not just in the sense that as a dog trainer and someone who lives, breathes and is extremely passionate about dogs, just loves all dogs. I actually really love small dogs.
The first dog I ever owned was a little mix breed (Tibetan Spaniel crossed with goodness knows what!) and since then I have always owned a small dog.
In fact, since my Beagle Daisy passed away last May, I have been sorely missing having a small dog in the house, something I am soon about to remedy by bringing home a new little family member!
I must admit it has been quite amusing over the last few months when I have mentioned to clients that I am getting a puppy soon.
When they ask what I am getting and I tell them “a Jack Russell Terrier” they are aghast, laugh, or look shocked and say “WHY would you want one of those?!”
For me it is because I KNOW a small dog with a breed appropriate temperament, good genetics, good socialisation and education can be awesome, just as awesome as any dog raised properly, and loads of fun too!
But the reality is that in the dog world, small dogs have quite a bad rep for being snappy, nervy, aggressive and out of control.
If I had a dollar for every time a client ranted to me about a bad experience with an off leash, out of control small dog terrorising their larger dog, I would be a millionaire.
Add to that the number of times we have all heard the catch cry “Oh he just thinks he is a big dog, how funny!” from the owner of Master Snappy who is raging on the end of its leash, as though it is hilarious their dog is behaving this way.
As someone who LOVES small dogs, and has always and will always own one, my biggest bug bear in these scenarios is that there is a clear lack of understanding from the small dogs owner.
Not just for other dogs and their owners, but for their own dog too.
Why is it ok to exclude small dogs from the benefit of education? and worse, letting them develop and rehearse serious behaviour problems?
Why don’t small dogs deserve the same education as larger dogs?
Sure, the size of the large dog often makes them physically harder to control and they can appear more threatening and scary to other people, which tends to make their owners more motivated to get professional help.
But a small dog with a behaviour problem deserves help and therapy for that problem, just like a large dog does.
It is not uncommon in my job to work with clients who have large dogs who are seeing me for puppy development right through to dogs coming for help with training problems and behaviourial issues, who also ‘secretly’ have a small dog at home who has worse behaviour than their large dog.
At some point as we work through their training program, they will start to notice their larger dog is behaving much better than the smaller one, and the smaller one actually has more problems than they realised.
It is often at this point they often sheepishly ask if they can bring the small dog in for a lesson because they have come to realise how much more enjoyable it is to live with a well behaved and well educated dog.
Make no mistake, it doesn’t matter what size your dog is, ALL DOGS DESERVE and BENEFIT FROM EDUCATION.
All dogs benefit from training regardless of whether they have a serious problem (which may be exacerbated by their size) or just need to refine their life skills.
Small dogs have just as much ability as larger dogs to learn critical life skills, but sadly, they are often some of the most poorly behaved dogs we will see out and about.
These dogs are not children wrapped up in furry coats, they are dogs and deserve to be treated and respected as such.
Many of the behaviourial problems we see in small dogs come from their owners treating them like spoilt children who are given no rules and boundaries, are over indulged, under socialised and lack education.
They cannot deal with not getting everything that they want to because they are used to getting everything they want.
We see some pretty severe aggression in small dogs and just because they are small, does not mean they aren’t capable of causing harm.
Video above: Dambi was a small dog with big problems
Small dogs deserve education so they can build resilience and learn how to deal with stress and pressure, something ALL dogs should learn.
It is very common to see high environmental sensitivity in small dogs which is generally a combination of genetics and a lack of early and appropriate socialisation to help combat this temperament trait.
For this reason we have a lot of small dogs who come in for lessons or to stay in our kennels when their owners are on holidays who cannot cope being in a new environment. Sometimes it can take days or even longer for these dogs to become comfortable.
Every small dog I have ever trained has THRIVED when given direction and a clear understanding of what they should be doing.
Just because they are small does not mean they don’t enjoy having a job to do, utilising their mind and working within set rules and boundaries.
And for the small dog owners who feel training is less relevant or less important for their dog because of its size and less ability to do harm compared to a larger dog, consider that my biggest fear as a small dog owner is that it cannot defend itself.
Why would I want my dog to behave in a way that attracts negative attention from other dogs by doing things like lunging, barking, growling and snapping at bigger dogs that it would stand no chance to defend itself against?
A small dog that does not aggressively engage other dogs is far more likely to stay out of trouble.
Make no mistake, a well trained, properly socialised small dog is a delight to be around and live with and just like any dog, deserves to be respected and educated.
We would love to hear your stories about the awesome little dogs in your life!