If you’re the proud owner of a pint-sized pooch, you’ve probably come across the expression ‘small dog syndrome’.
The phrase – the canine equivalent of ‘small man syndrome’ – sees little dogs across the nation displaying excitable or aggressive behaviour in a bid to show their dominance. So how can you tell if your four-legged friend is one of them?
A new study, led by Betty McGuire at Cornell University, has revealed that small dogs often display one of the main signs of the syndrome when they’re out on their walks.
Although leaving scent on their travels is a normal behaviour for most dogs, mini mutts apparently will try to make their mark as high up on an available surface – think a lamp post or tree trunk – as possible, to give other passing pets the impression that they’re bigger than they are.
‘Small adult male dogs may place urine marks higher, relative to their own body size, than larger adult male dogs to exaggerate their competitive ability,’ the researchers explained in the report, which was published in the Journal of Zoology.
‘Our findings support raised-leg angle as a proxy for urine mark height and provide additional evidence that scent marking can be dishonest,’ they continued. So if you spot your dog jumping up or raising their leg at an awkward angle, now you know why.
Writing for Purina, animal behaviourist Dr Joanne Righetti says that other symptoms of small dog syndrome include jumping up on owners, other people or dogs, lunging or snapping at perceived threats avoidance or fear of larger dogs, reluctance to move off sofas and beds and failure to obey commands.
‘There is no doubt that many small dogs get away with behaviours that owners of large dogs would not allow,’ she says. ‘Jumping up on us, for instance. A large dog would be more likely to knock us over but a small dog can often be encouraged by owners. Inadvertently, owners often reward the very behaviours we dislike.’
‘Changing dog behaviour generally involves changing owner behaviour too and, in fact, this syndrome may have more to do with the owner’s behaviour than their dogs! Understanding dog behaviour, and how humans affect it, is the first step in improving small dog syndrome.’