› Small Dog Behavior Problems

 Behavior Problems in Small Dogs

problem behaviors in small breed dogsProblem Behaviors in Small Dog Breeds

Behavior problems in dogs are one of the many reasons people seek help with dog trainer or animal behavior specialist.

Some are more serious than others.  Some problems can be traced back to a genetics and normal canine behavior gone astray.

Others are caused by the environment, either through poor socialization as a puppy, trauma, or simply through owners who have unwittingly encouraged behaviors that eventually become problems.  

Unless pet owners have been trained, the average dog owner may recognize the behavior problem but have little idea where the problem originated or how they can help their dog overcome or even eliminate the problem. 

If you are one of those owners, relax, you are not alone.  Most people misunderstand and mishandle their dog’s behaviors.

There are a number of common behavior problems seen in small dogs, some more serious than others.

Behavior Problems Seen in Small Dogs

Psychological Problem:  Dog Depression

Is dog depression real?  It is sad to think our four-legged family members may be depressed. 

They provide us with so much love and companionship, and we want only the best for their well-being. 

Our canine relationships have deepened to where dogs who were once relegated to the dog house outside now shares our home, our time and even our bed.

Read more

Small Dog Syndrome

This is not a true diagnosis, but a collection of symptoms that are often found in small breed dogs whose status has been elevated to top dog or more precisely top living being in the household. 

A variety of problems emerge but the good news is we can take care of all of them. 

If you are getting a small dog for the first time, this is a must read article.  Prevention is much easier when you do things "right" the first time around.

Read More


Almost all dogs bark, howl and whine to some extent but some small dog breeds are known for their yappiness.

However, excessive barking or nuisance barking is considered a behavior problem in dogs because it is disruptive and annoying, both for you and for your neighbors.

Before you can correct the barking, one must decide why the dog is vocalizing in the first place. These are the most common types of barking:

  • Warning or Alert
  • Playfulness/Excitement
  • Attention-seeking
  • Anxiety
  • Boredom
  • Responding to Other Dogs

Read More


Chewing is a natural action for all dogs - it's just a part of the way they are wired. However, chewing can quickly become a behavior problem if the dog chews on objects not meant to be chewed, shoes, furniture, electrical wires and so forth. 

Puppies are especially guilty of chewing and if not giving enough chew toys, they will find other things to chew.  Again, there are commonly recognized reasons why dogs chew. The most common reasons dogs chew are as follows:

  • Puppy Teething
  • Boredom / Excess Energy
  • Anxiety
  • Curiosity (especially puppies)

You will never be able to eliminate  all chewing in dogs, and of course, you wouldn't want to.  But you can encourage appropriate chewing.


If given the chance, most dogs will do some amount of digging, it is part of their instinct.

Certain breeds, like Terriers, are more prone to digging because of their hunting histories. 

Dogs that have been bred for centuries to burrow into the ground looking for mice or rats have this natural digging tendency firmly established in the psyche. 

Without the job of hunting, these breeds find other ways to dig and they really don’t care whether they are digging a hole in the yard or in your new carpet.  This is when digging becomes a behavior problem.  In general, most dogs dig for these reasons:

  • Boredom or Excess Energy
  • Anxiety or Fear
  • Hunting/ Prey Instinct
  • Comfort-Seeking (such as nesting or cooling off)
  • Hiding Possessions (like bones or toys)
  • To Escape or Gain Access

A dog that digs holes in the back yard can be frustrating. 

A dog that digs their way under a fence to escape can create a very dangerous situation.  There are ways to eliminate this behavior.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most commonly discussed dog behavior problems in small dogs.  

Dogs who have been bred to be companions are very susceptible to separation anxiety because they feel they are not doing their job if their human is not right next to them.

This disorder manifests itself in excessive vocalization, chewing, inappropriate urination and defecation, and other forms of destruction that occur when a dog is separated from his owner.

Not all of these actions are the result of separation anxiety.

Separation Anxiety can also lead to a dog eating feces or coprophagia.  Signs of true separation anxiety include:

  • Dog becomes anxious when owner prepares to leave
  • Misbehavior occurs in the first 15-45 minutes after owner leaves
  • Dog wants to follow owner around constantly
  • Dog tries to be touching owner whenever possible

True separation anxiety requires dedicated training, behavior modification and desensitization exercises. Medication may be recommended in extreme cases, but this should be a last resort.

Read More

Eating Their Own or Others' Feces:  YUCK!

This may be one of the most distasteful behaviors to observe or discover after the fact. 

This behavior begins in puppy-hood and most outgrow this nasty habit. 

The technical term for eating one's stool is coprophagia and the practice is more of a behavioral problem than a health problem, but there can be some health issues associated with the practice. 

If your dog likes to eat his own or others' poop, you'll definitely want to read this article.

Read More

Inappropriate Elimination

Inappropriate urination and defecation are among the most frustrating dog behaviors for their human families. They can damage areas of your home and make your dog unwelcome in public places or at the homes of others.

It is most important that you discuss this behavior with your veterinarian first to rule out health problems. If no medical cause is found, try to determine the reason for the behavior, which can come down to one of the following:

  • Submissive/Excitement Urination
  • Territorial Marking
  • Anxiety
  • Attention-seeking
  • Lack of proper housebreaking

Inappropriate elimination is unavoidable in puppies, especially before 12 weeks of age. Older dogs are another story - many require serious behavior modification to rid them of the habit.

Another common problem associated with elimination is coprophagia, or the eating of feces.  This is a common problem in small dogs but thoroughly revolting to human.  Starting in puppy-hood it can become a habit that is difficult to break. 

Read about Submissive Urination

Read about Excitement Urination


Begging is a bad habit, but many small breed dog owners unfortunately encourage it.

This can lead to digestive problems and obesity.

Worse yet, it can undermine your role as pack leader.

Dogs learn to expect that they will receive treats every time a person sits down to eat. 

While we should not deny our small dogs a treat now and again, it is so important that we not get into the habit of sharing everything we eat.

Many of the things we love can be deadly to dogs for starters. 

More importantly, if dogs receive too many treats, they are not getting the complete, balanced diet that they need. 

This behavior problem can then turn into a health problem.

Read More


A dog's desire to chase moving things is simply a display of predatory instinct.

Many dogs will chase other animals, people and cars and depending on the breed, this can be a behavior problem in many small dogs. All of these can lead to dangerous and devastating outcomes!

While you may not be able to stop your dog from trying to chase, you can take steps to prevent disaster. 

There are ways to prevent this behavior.

Jumping Up

Puppies jump up to reach and greet their mothers. Later, they may jump up when greeting people because they are so excited. 

Some bigger dogs may also jump up to exert dominance, but in the case of a small dog, jumping is mostly a form of attention seeking.

If the dog is accustomed to being on your lap, jumping may trigger an unconscious response in us to pick up the dog. 

Small dogs that jump may not be as annoying or dangerous as it would be in a larger breed dog.

Nevertheless, if you are walking out the door headed for work and your tiny dog, which has just come in from playing in a puddle jumps on you, your attitude might change.

Of all the behavioral problems seen in small dogs, this might be the most common. There are many methods to stop a dog's jumping, but not all will be successful.

Lifting a knee, grabbing the paws, or pushing the dog away might work for some, but for most dogs this sends the wrong message.  These methods are often considered Old School and newer ways seem to work better. 


Aggression and biting in dogs are two of the most serious behavioral problems. 

Dogs bite for reasons that can be traced back to instinct and pack mentality.

Puppies bite and nip on other dogs and people as a means for exploring their environment and learning their place in the pack. 

If a puppy remains with its canine mother long enough, she will teach the pup not to nip.  But often puppies are removed from their mothers too soon and placed in a home where they continue to nip. 

If the behavior is not stopped, the puppy might continue biting into adulthood. 

Owners must show their puppies that mouthing and biting are not acceptable by teaching bite inhibition. Beyond puppy behavior, the motivation to bite or snap typically arises from a variety of different situations.

Some breeds bite more than others, but biting can be control through proper training.

  • Fear or Defensiveness
  • Protection of Property
  • Pain or Sickness
  • Dominance Assertion
  • Predatory Instinct

Read More


Dog aggression is displayed by growling, snarling, showing teeth, lunging and biting whether it is directed at a human or another dog.   All dogs have the potential to become aggressive, irrespective of breed or history.

However, dogs with violent or abusive histories and those bred from dogs with aggressive tendencies are much more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior towards people or other dogs. As behavior problems go, this is the most serious.

Reasons for aggression are basically the same as the reasons a dog will bite or snap, but overall canine aggression is a much more serious problem, one which can be dangerous to humans as well as the dog.   

Fear of Thunderstorms

I have listed this problem here, not because it is a behavioral problem in the classical sense, but it is a real problem to the dog and something that the owner can do something about. 

Called a Thunderstorm Phobia or simply Storm Phobia, this condition occurs when a dog is overly frightened of one or more aspects of the storm causing him to display physical, psychological, and behavioral signs. 

Read More

Anxiety in Dogs

Some small dogs seem overly anxious most of the time.  They may also suffer from separation anxiety, but may may also be nervous even when their owners are home and nearby. An anxious dog is often difficult to handle, especially when the anxiety becomes chronic.  Music therapy is one way to help an anxious dog.

Read More

Like/Leave a Comment

I'd love hearing what you think of this site or page.  Did you like what you read?  Did it help solve a problem?  Let me know

Just leave a comment in the box below and click the like / share to let others know about my site. We really appreciate it.  Thank you.

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.

Got Dog Products to Sell?

You definitely need to check out Trafeze to get your products out there and seen by the masses.

Catch me at Trafeze

Advertising on this Site
Small Dog Place is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com  This site receives a small commission from all affiliate links and third-party advertising.

Grab Our Free Ezine...

Enter Your E-mail Address
Enter Your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Small Dog E-Zine.

Did you enjoy this article or find it helpful?  Then why not share it.

The best way to say, Thank You?

Is to Share

Can't find what you need?

Try a Search

Contact | Home

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.