Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Small Dog Syndrome...

One of our classes had a very small and shy female Maltese Poodle puppy. The first day this little thing just huddled underneath its owner's feet and shivered. It was much smaller than any other puppy in the class. So we encouraged the owner to use Tellington Touch strokes to calm and get her pup used to the new environment, people and other puppies.

The dilemma we faced was where to draw the fine line between molly coddling a puppy but not allowing it to become too overwhelmed and fearful. We observed the puppy became more confident with each class but her owner unwittingly continued to be over protective.

When we felt the dog was showing enough confidence, we asked the owner not to pick up her dog at all for an entire class. She found this incredibly difficult but the little pup actually coped quite well (under the trainer's watchful eye).

It took a lot of persuasion before the Maltese poodle owner eventually stopped picking up her dog during class and allowed her to stand on her own four feet. We explained that by being over protective, she was sending a message to her dog that fearful behaviour was an acceptable way to deal with the world. Her puppy would never learn self confidence this way. In fact what the owner was doing was counter productive. She was not helping her dog become more socialised, less fearful and better able to deal with what it would encounter in future. She had to learn to let go.

During the course this puppy finally reached a stage where it ran around and engaged with other people and puppies.

While doing some research, I came across an article about the "Small Dog Syndrome".

Behavioural problems arise in small dogs when owners, because of the dog's cute little size, allow them to get away with murder! The rule of thumb is that little dogs should not be allowed to behave in a way that one would not accept from any other dog. If you do allow this, it is likely to have a negative effect on the temperament and behaviour of the dog. All dogs should be treated as equals no matter what their size!

There are many small dogs who do not realise that they are small. I remember encountering a miniature Dachshund puppy at a Bed & Breakfast I was staying at on my travels. This little thing fitted into the scoop of my hands and was dwarfed by my beagles. But it had absolutely no fear at all and interacted with my dogs as an equal.
Hmmm.... wonder if he is ruling the B&B now!

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