Busting the Myths About Small Breed Dogs and Training


Aggression in small breed dogs is neither “cute” nor “funny” In fact it’s a problem.

My husband and I have spent the past ten years taking in the dogs other people discard. As a result we now live with a large pack of rescued dogs no one else wanted. Most of them are seniors.

Living with this many dogs would be total chaos for the average dog owner, but for us it’s just daily routine. Every time we bring in a new dog there is a transition period. This transition period is the first few weeks (sometimes months) that a dog is with us. We use this time to assess any issues they may have and work out a plan to correct those issues.

One similarity we have seen in every small breed rescue we have taken in is a lack of proper training, and in some cases no training whatsoever. Fact is, the average small breed dog owner seems to believe that like a cat, the small breed dog needs to be taught nothing but potty skills, and therein lies the problem.

A dog is a dog no matter what it’s size. Humans live harmoniously with domesticated animals, and have done so for hundreds of years, but that does not mean that domesticated animals pose no danger to humans. An untrained dog (a dog not given boundaries, regardless of it’s size) is a ticking time bomb of potential dangers.

Firstly, let’s address some common misconceptions about small breed dogs.

1.) Small breed dogs are “indoor” dogs.

There is no such thing as an “indoor” dog, for that matter there is no such thing as an “outdoor” dog either. All dogs regardless of size need exercise and socialization with people and other animals, they also need a warm, dry place to sleep out of the weather, and interaction with humans and other animals.

2.) Small breed dogs never bite.

Seriously? I actually can’t believe I have to say this but…the fight or flight response of small dogs has a finer trigger than the same response in large breed dogs. Small breed dogs are quicker to bite than their larger breed relatives.

3.) Small breed dogs can’t hurt you if they bite.

Again, I can’t believe I have to say this, but while the bite of a small breed dog might cause less damage, there have been cases (thankfully few and far between) in which small breed dogs left alone with infants have actually killed them. Assuming the bite of your small breed dog is no big deal is a stupid move.

4.) Aggressive behavior in small breed dogs is “cute” and they will grow out of it.

NO, it isn’t, and NO they won’t! Aggressive behavior is NEVER cute or acceptable, and ignoring it will not make it go away, in fact it may very well make it worse! By not addressing and correcting aggression in your small breed dog you are telling them the behavior is acceptable, and they will repeat the behavior because they think the outcome pleases you.

5.) Small breed dogs can not be disciplined because they are too fragile.

Firstly, when we say “discipline” your dog, we are by no means asking you to beat your dog (and if we ever saw you doing so we’d call the authorities.) We are saying that your dog needs to be taught the difference between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. Aggression in dogs in UNACCEPTABLE canine public behavior. You wouldn’t allow your three year old child to go around the neighborhood punching people would you? Of course not! You would take the child aside and explain that we do not hit others. So why does the concept of curbing your small breed dog’s aggression seem alien to you? Why would you think you can’t use positive reinforcement to discipline your dog?

For some people, the small breed dog is chosen to replace the human children they are unable to conceive, or whom have left home to live their own lives. There is nothing wrong with choosing to bring a pet into your home to fill a void. The problems start when the decision is made to treat the new pet like a human child instead of a dog. Doing so creates issues, and before you know it you have a snarling snapping bundle of fur that acts aggressively towards anyone who isn’t “family.” (and sometimes they aren’t too fond of “family” either.)

Every dog, whether it’s a five pound Chihuahua (the smallest dog in our pack) or a hundred and thirty pound Dane cross (the largest in our pack) has the potential to be an aggressive dog. Most people correct aggression in their large breed dogs, yet fail to do so with their small breed dogs. This is a dangerous habit for a couple of reasons.

1.) Your dog may bite a stranger, and that could cause your dog to lose it’s life.

2.) Your dog may attack a large breed dog and end up with life threatening injuries or dead.

Dogs are dogs, and if we plan to live with them, we need to understand their needs. Dogs need to be lead into the right behavior patterns, and that does not just “happen as they grow.” Like children, they have to be taught proper behavior, and like children that teaching will need to be constantly reinforced.

Please don’t be a part of the problem. Train your dog (no matter what size it is) and be part of the solution. Raising a good dog is as much work as raising a good child, more work even, because your dog will ALWAYS have the mental capacity of a child, and you will ALWAYS have to reinforce behavior training.

Until Next Time Remember,

A Trained dog is a GOOD dog! (well…most of the time)