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Tips To Deal With The Small Dog Syndrome and How To Stop Your Small Dog Barking Excessively

Updated on November 29, 2016
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian in Brazil. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

Small dogs kept in groups tend to bark a lot.
Small dogs kept in groups tend to bark a lot. | Source

Do Small Dogs Bark More?

Small dogs bark more
Small dogs bark more | Source

Small dogs do not have to bark more, but they usually do. Find out some reasons why they bark a lot, and some effective methods to help them bark even less.

Okay, I know that all dogs bark. Wolves and coyotes almost never do, but for some reason many dogs feel like doing it almost all of the time. Dogs of all sizes do it. And, for several reasons, some dogs do it more than others.

If you have been around a lot of dogs, you have also noticed those dogs that bark more than others. A German Shepherd or Rottweiler may bark a lot, but nothing compared to some of the Chihuahuas and Yorkshire Terriers I have seen over the years. Part of the problem is the high pitch (we really notice their barking), but that is not everything. Almost all small dogs seem to bark more, and some of them seem to bark a lot more.

But why?

Reasons Small Dogs Bark More

Little dogs bark excessively and then get away without training or other corrective measures (the small dog syndrome).
If you are a little dog your barks are more likely to be ignored—thus, small dogs have to bark more to be noticed.
Small dogs are often rewarded for their barking (by being fed, brought inside the house, put up on a lap, couch, or bed, etc.).
Some small dogs are bred to be barkers. (Shelties, some terriers, and Schnauzers are a few examples.)
Small dogs do not cost as much to keep so an owner may have many dogs. When one little dog starts barking, they all feel the need to join in.

What is Small Dog Syndrome?

And what are the five best ways to stop my small dog acting up?

When big dogs bark, they are usually stopped right away.
When big dogs bark, they are usually stopped right away. | Source

Many dog experts describe a “small dog syndrome”. This is a condition that develops only in little dogs that are treated differently around the house. They are allowed to bark when they want attention, are allowed to growl without being reprimanded, and are also allowed to jump up on their owner´s lap whenever they feel like it.

These dogs are often allowed to sleep at the head of the bed, rest on the couch when the family is in the living room, and are fed special meals with the family.

The small dog syndrome develops in little dogs who feel a need to express their dominance among their human family. Dogs that behave in this way are allowed to bark excessively. If one of these small dogs was a Rottie or Doberman, do you think they would be allowed to bark at visitors or other dogs on the street?

The small dog syndrome is a common excuse for a barking dog and a small dog with this syndrome is one of the hardest to train because his owners are often reluctant to treat him differently. The small dog who is allowed to behave in this way is also one of the easiest to train. All of those bad habits need to be changed.

Do not allow your dog to bark at you to get attention (like when he wants up on the bed or couch).

Never allow your dog to growl without telling him “no”. If he growls at another dog, a visitor, or a child, send him to his bed (or crate, if you use one) for a “time out”.

Do not allow your dog to jump up on your lap without being called.

If you want to let your dog sleep on your bed, have him do so at the bottom of the bed, at your feet. He does not need a pillow.

Feed your dog in his own bowl after the family has finished their meal. You can change this rule later if you want, but while dealing with the small dog syndrome he needs to realize he is a dog and will be treated in that way.

Are you the cause of your little dog´s Small Dog Syndrome

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Teaching Your Small Dog To Bark Less

Now that your small dog no longer suffers from the syndrome, what are the five best ways to train him to bark less frequently?

Are some dog breeds more likely to bark than others? Sure, and if you choose a Maltese, a Miniature Schnauzer, or one of the small terrier breeds that is used to barking to alert you to any changes around the house, you need to start training your puppy early or are in for a lot of barking. Even though you can train your dog to bark less, some breeds are more likely to use a bark every time they feel the need.

Not all small dogs need to bark more than big dogs, however. Some dog owners will try anything, like shock collars or citronella spray collars, but some of them are cruel and most of those do not work. Some dogs modify the pitch of their barks so that the collars no longer work, and others will just wait until the collar is off and then start barking as much as before.

A collar is not the answer but there are some things you can do.

If you are the owner of a solitary French Bulldog or one of the other small dog breeds that do not bark much, here are a few simple methods to keep her from becoming an excessive barker:

  • Never ignore your dog when she is barking to alert you. If she goes to the door to bark at a stranger, praise her with “good dog”, then tell her to lie down in her bed while you deal with the distraction. (Barking once to alert you is fine. Barking excessively is not.)
  • Always ignore your dog when she starts barking for no reason or if she is ordering you around. If your dog keeps barking even when you ignore her, do not yell at her and provide her with an excuse to bark even more. You can put a leash on the dog and lead her to a room where she will not be able to be with you, effectively training her that barking means isolation from the rest of the pack.
  • Never reward your dog for barking excessively. If your little dog comes up to you and barks to get up on your lap, tell her “no”, order her to her bed, and then (as long as she is no longer barking) you can call her to you and let her up after a five minute break. This goes for the bed at night too. If you want to let your small dog sleep in your bed, do not let her bark and tell her when she wants to get up.
  • Even though your dog is small, she still needs daily exercise. Take her for long walks, and allow some of those outings to be “smellfests” where she has the chance to sniff markings on fire hydrants and other objects. If your dog is tired and content from walking she is going to be less likely to try to establish her dominance by barking excessively.
  • If you have more than one dog, confine him as soon as he starts barking. He will learn that barking excessively leads to isolation.

Why bother doing something about it?

Genetics has a lot to do with it, and if you have a breed that barks a lot there is a lot more work involved. (The “record” I have read about is for a small dog that barked over 900 times in ten minutes.) No one wants a dog that barks too much, though, no matter the size. Neighbors that have to live next to a barking dog are likely to become “anti-dog” and do their best to keep the rest of us from enjoying our canine companions.

If you have a dog that is barking excessively, try to do something about it. Although you will have much better luck with training a puppy not to bark, even an older dog can be trained to bark less if worked with.

You should start as soon as possible for the best result.

My Maltese Cafe Noir.
My Maltese Cafe Noir. | Source

Not all small dogs need to bark more. This little Maltese was taught that excessive barking was not allowed in his household and never developed the symptoms of "small dog syndrome".

© 2014 Dr Mark


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    • MarieLB profile image

      Marie L B 2 years ago from Yamba

      I've had to Vote NO re giving in to my dog. I'm often told I am cruel, because I do insist that she does as she is told, but by gosh, she is worth all of the 24kgs weight in gold to me!! Thanks for that article. Great read!

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 2 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Interesting, but there is little or nothing we can do about the annoying barking that comes from across the street. My husband and I both like dogs, but in our current physical conditions, dogs are too high-maintenance for us, so we have cats (indoor-only) instead.

      The people across the street, however, have 5 miniature poodles or cock-a-poos, or some such fuzzy breed; they are all under a foot tall, and they are let out into the front yard and ignored, left to bark at any and all passers-by, human or animal, from the time the people get home from work until dark, and all day on the weekends. I swear, those dogs bark if a flea walks down the street!

      The people themselves seem to be in the back of their house, and do not hear what is going on. We are on at least civil terms with them, and have politely mentioned the problem a few times. It helps--for about a week, then things are back to the all-day barkfest.

      We need a way to teach these dogs to stop barking, from 25 feet away across the street! Unfortunately, the 'sonic' devices I've researched are outside our budget.

      The way our house is laid out, there is no 'back of the house' escape; we are subject to this no matter where in the house we are, and the dogs often awaken us earlier than we want to get up on the weekends.

      They do not have secure fencing in their backyard; that is why the dogs are let out in the front yard only. It is so frustrating, but I don't want to end up involving animal control or the cops, and make a bad-neighbor vibe. We do still have to live here.

    • VJGSA profile image

      VJG 2 years ago from Texas

      I lived upstairs of a duplex. The lady downstairs had a hyper chow - constantly barking and nipping. We shared a backyard - which held the detached garage - and it was extremely dangerous getting to my car. The woman moved out and a family with two year old triplets moved in. Those triplet boys were quieter than the one chow!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 2 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I had seen these little dogs really barks loud and noisy

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Bob, nice to "see" you. Over 100,000 for a ladybug! There are a lot of people that have been on here longer and have never reached that for one hub. Congrats.

      I finally had one go "viral" on FB and was shared, reshared, etc so I had some great numbers last month.

      No, it wasn't on winter moths either!! I don't think that sounds nearly as interesting as a ladybug.

    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 2 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Interesting hub, Doc, I especially like the remedies. Voted up, interesting and useful.

      BTW, I was paid on Nov. 28 just like you said. That one hub (ladybug swarming) has generated over 100,000 views! Updated one on the annual winter moth invasion which is occurring in my neck of the woods as we speak, but it hasn't generated much interest.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      She sounds great, Will. Some little dogs make great watchdogs, too, and she sounds like one of them.

    • WillStarr profile image

      WillStarr 2 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

      Our Chihuahua Lily must be an exception. She does all of that, but doesn't bark much, and is not aggressive at all. In fact, she loves everyone.

      She barks at our cats when they fight, and barks as part of a game where I pretend I don't see her. The only other time she barks is when someone unknown is outside our front door, like a salesman. I have no idea how she knows the difference. She is a good watchdog.

    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 2 years ago

      I have to admit that one of my lines is full of Barkaholics. They are control freaks and bark at anything out of order. A beetle crawling on the deck or car parked in front of our yard, and of course they set everyone else off. Ignoring them just lets them go on longer - lol.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Good point, as excessive barking is very dangerous for the small dog. Many of the people I meet on the beach pick up their barking MinPins and Yorkies, and the dogs seem justified in their barking.

    • Suhail and my dog profile image

      Suhail Zubaid aka Clark Kent 2 years ago from Mississauga, ON

      Informative hub! A negative impact of small dogs barking is when they do it at a large sized dogs. Then the bigger dogs don't take the nonsense and get aggressive in return and then that's a vicious cycle.

      With my kuvasz, I am very careful with small dogs. There are some in the neighbourhood whom my dog doesn't like at all, because they bark at him. With others, he is very friendly, because those dogs don't bark at all.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 2 years ago from United States

      Very information Hub...and I agree that we should not let our small dogs bark incessantly. I only disagree with "Do not allow your dog to jump up on your lap without being called." because I love when my 4 lb Chihuahua jumps on my lap to cuddle with makes me feel so good inside.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      Hi Solaras, thanks for leaving the comment. I never managed to keep my tiny dog from jumping up on the back of the sofa (I guess he wanted to survey his realm each evening after we came home from work) but the other suggestions work, if you keep at them. They may not be as intelligent as a Border Collie, but definitely are intelligent enough to handle us humans!

    • Solaras profile image

      Solaras 2 years ago

      Great article - I never fully understood what the small dog syndrome was. Good advice on keeping the little ones from asserting their will on their masters! Voted up and useful.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 2 years ago from The Beach of Brazil

      I smiled picturing your dog putting her paws up for added attention! My Schnauzer knows that she is not allowed to bark at me, but when walk-time rolls around she does put her paw up on me just like you described. It is impossible to ignore!

      I didn't realize it had been so long since you went through the KCS and secondary blindness. A lot of dogs in her position do gain weight, but it sounds like you have things under good control. Keep taking good care of her.

      Thanks for the share.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 2 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Since my sort-of-small (20 pounds) miniature schnauzer went blind two years ago, she's gotten very bossy. Although I've found toys for blind dogs and spend time playing with her or giving her a massage, she naps too much during the day and would eat constantly when awake if I let her. (She's been tested for Cushing's, but the tests were negative.) I think she may be substituting food for other activities that she no longer does since she lost her sight--sort of the way humans do as they age and can't do all the things they did when young. (I'm not letting myself off the hook here!)

      At first I felt sorry for her and gave her treats when she came up to me and either barked or 'grumbled' (a low throaty mumble she uses to get my attention). Her third ploy (if the first two don't work) is to put her paws on my arm while continuing to grumble or bark. I don't want her to gain weight, so I knew it was necessary to stop giving into her demands.

      I've found that ignoring her usually works and she walks away and either lies down on her dog bed or finds a toy she enjoys. She doesn't give up easily, though. Sometimes she will settle down for a few minutes, but then go through her 'bossy' behaviors several more times. I realize that if I give in to her demands, I'm actually rewarding her for bad behavior. Though it might be easier in the short term to pop a treat into her mouth and make her happy so she'll let me keep working at the computer without all the noise, it's not good for her (or for me) in the long term.

      It takes fortitude and consistency when interacting with a dog determined to get her way or drive you bonkers trying! I just keep telling myself that I'm taking good care of her when I tell her no or ignore her...and stick to it. By making her wait for food until her regular mealtime, I'm reinforcing good behavior and keeping her healthier.

      Fortunately, she doesn't bark excessively or even as much as she did when sighted (other than when the mail carrier walks onto the porch). The 'record' you cited of a small dog barking 900 times is mind-blowing!

      Voted Up++ and shared