maltese puppy and kitten

Do you have a nervous Morkie? Is your dog really afraid or just pulling your leg? Although many aspects of Small Dog Syndrome and Dog Separation Anxiety seem the same, they are a world apart.  Here’s the difference…

Small Dog Syndrome

small-dog-syndrome dog stroller

Really? Unless your dog’s disabled, he should be walking. He’s a DOG!

If your toy dog is a pain in the neck sometimes, or all the time, he’s probably suffering from small dog syndrome and the problem originates with — YOU!

That’s right, small dog syndrome, or the tendency for tiny dogs to be yappy, untrained, snappy and generally obnoxious, is not something that is natural or common to small breeds by nature.

It’s learned behavior that is brought about by the way we owners treat our toy dogs.

It seems that as humans, we’re programmed to coddle and take special care of creatures we perceive as ‘babies.’ No surprise, it’s a biological response and how our race has survived. The problem is, toy dogs, with their big eyes and tiny size, bring out that same “babying” tendency in us, even when they are adult dogs.

So we keep over-compensating for their small size (carrying them everywhere!) and overlooking bad behavior that we would never tolerate in a medium or large size dog.

The good news is, with some understanding of the roots of the problem and active steps to counteract it, you’ll have a happier, healthier and more centered small dog soon!

What are the symptoms of small dog syndrome?

Basically this syndrome defines the little dog who is spoiled and obnoxious. It is the caricature of some breeds, in fact, such as Chihuahuas.

Yet there’s no breed or biological reason for this set of actions by the dog (remember ALL dogs are canines); instead, they’re behaviors we’ve trained.

They include:

  • being territorial over areas of the house, toys, food or people
  • biting and yapping
  • growling
  • peeing or marking all over the house
  • ignoring house training or potty training already achieved
  • obsessions with certain toys, food bowl or people

What small dog syndrome is NOT

  • it’s not a high-spirited, outgoing dog
  • it’s not happy, sociable dog
  • it’s not a ‘high-personality’ dog

A dog with small dog syndrome is simply spoiled. And unhappy.  It’s something you need to reverse, slowly and gently, by remembering to treat your small dog like a DOG.

Separation Anxiety

dog_anxietySeparation anxiety is completely different from Small Dog Syndrome, and is a serious problem not a mere annoyance. If you feel guilty when you have to go out or even go to work, because of the way your dog reacts or if your Morkie seems to miss you too much, he may be suffering from a common problem, called separation anxiety.

The good news is, this syndrome is treatable – which we’re glad to hear, since it can be really wrenching for the owner, and very worrisome. Plus, it can put a large amount of psychological strain on your dog too.

Signs of Separation Anxiety

Before you go out

Do you feel like your dog is “velcro’d” to you sometimes? When you’re home, does your dog follow you from room to room, even insisting on coming in the bathroom with you? Experts call this “hyper-attachment” and it can be the first sign of separation anxiety.

Another warning sign is how sensitive your dog is to you getting ready to go out. Putting your shoes on, opening the hall closet, or grabbing your keys may signal you’re getting ready to leave and so the anxiety, anxious behavior and nervousness all begin.

While you’re out

Once you’re gone, even for a short time, your dog may demonstrate these signs of separation anxiety: barking, chewing, defecating, digging, excessive salivating, scratching, and urinating. Chewing, digging, and scratching are signs of your dog trying to “escape.” Barking, defecating, excessive salivating, and urinating are signs of anxiety and fear. Chewing items that smell like you is not only extremely annoying, it’s a sure sign that there’s a bigger problem than disobedience at work here.

When you’re back

A common symptom of an anxious dog is that they when they see you again, they are excessively overjoyed. It’s a frantic, out of control kind of greeting.

Causes of Separation Anxiety

sad-little-yorkieSuch causes of separation anxiety include genetics, lack of socialization, lack of training, lack of confidence, mistreatment by a previous owner, extensive confinement, and too much bonding with the owner. As you can see, most of these causes are on the people side.

Other contributing factors can include:

  • a traumatic event in a young dog’s life
  • too-early separation from the mother
  • time spent in a pet shop or an animal shelter
  • being a puppy mill dog
  • a major change in the family’s lifestyle (moving, baby, etc.)
  • any change in your life — like a new job, divorce or death — which takes time away from your Morkie

SATURDAY:  DEALING WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY. Some ways you can help your Morkie.