I have large dogs, but I love little dogs and one will share my home in the future. He just hasn't found me yet.
That makes it all the more disturbing that lately I've been seeing an inordinately large number of pint-sized canines with serious reactive or aggressive problems.
Now there are a lot of people who believe that obnoxious behavior just goes hand-in-hand with little dogs, that they just naturally compensate for their small size by acting tough. But that's not really the case. Small dogs don't think about whether they're large or small; in the dog world they're just dogs. Like their larger cousins, some are passive and some are more dominant and take charge.
But behaviors owners would never tolerate from 80- to 100-pound dogs are often ignored or dismissed as amusing when displayed by dogs that are 10 pounds or less.
And before you laughingly ask "just how much damage can a small dog do?" let me tell you, you don't want to find out. Many years ago, as I putting a four-pound toy poodle into a crate, it twisted in mid-air and sheared the leather watchband off my wrist,
Because small dogs are normally carried or held in people's arms and by nature of their size share the bed or furniture with their owners, bites to the face, hands and arms are quite common. Oh, and who hasn't heard the term "ankle-biters" applied to small dogs?
Although registration statistics compiled by the American Kennel Club currently show large breeds to be the most popular, the fact is that most pet owners don't register their dogs, and the popularity of small designer breeds like "chorkies" (chihuahua-yorkie cross) "malti-poos" (maltese-poodle cross) and "malti-tzus" (maltese-shih tzu cross) has exploded.
Since designer breeds can't be registered with AKC, statistics relating to their numbers and popularity are not tracked. But I don't believe that the increase in small-dog popularity is the problem, nor are small dogs more likely to be aggressive.
I think the problem is rooted in the relationships many owners have with their small dogs. Although we may all think of our dogs as family members, celebrating their birthdays and holidays with special treats and toys, when we cross the line emotionally that separates dogs from humans as two different species, we do our dogs a disservice. They are not, nor should they be treated, like little human children.
We speak of the love we have for our dogs because of their uniqueness, their very "dogness." We extoll the virtues that set them apart from humans and for not possessing qualities or traits we dislike in our own species. So how can it come as a surprise that when we treat a dog like a "little person" or interpret its behavior based on a human rationale things (and the dog) will go wrong?
Yes, small dogs get a bad rap, and when I see one snapping and lunging at people and other dogs I feel bad because I know inside is a great dog who is living with the stress and anxiety of his or her owner's poor choices.
-- Sherry Davis is a dog trainer/owner of CSI 4 K9s. Email her at email@example.com. These are her opinions, not necessarily The Californian's.