So many people (especially big-dog people) tell me that they don’t like small dogs. Why? Because they are yappy and ill behaved— at least that’s the stereotype. As a dog trainer, I understand where this comes from even though I don’t concur. First of all, because of their size, it’s easy not to notice a well behaved small dog, whereas larger dogs have a certain presence that’s hard to ignore even if they are being quiet and charming. Secondly, people tend to let small dogs get away with stuff they wouldn’t dream of allowing a big dog to do. A four pound Yorkie barking aggressively and darting in to bite at your shoes is an annoyance. A 110 lb German Shepherd doing the same thing is a potential law suit.
Perhaps the biggest contributing factor is the furniture thing. Small dogs are usually allowed on the furniture and big dogs are usually not. Dogs that are allowed on furniture are far more likely to have behavior problems than dogs that aren’t—and by a large margin. I know because I work with a lot of behavior problems and have noticed a powerful correlation. Of the problem dogs that I have worked with, 90% of them were either allowed on the furniture or slept on their owner’s beds or both. I’m not saying that all dogs that get on the furniture become problem dogs, only that if a dog has serious behavioral issues, there is a very high probability that the dog has been accustomed to getting on the furniture.
It seems that by living on the same level as their owners, many dogs get the idea that their opinions about things (like who ought to be allowed into the house, or where it’s okay to pee or poop) are just as important as their owner’s opinions. This world view manifests itself in their (bad) behavior. The solution? Treat your little dog like you would a big dog. Small dogs can be wonderful once you learn the right approach and invest the effort to make it happen!