NuVet Labs – The Napoleon Complex: Do Little Dogs Have It?


The Urban Dictionary defines “Napoleon Complex” as “a personality complex that consists of power trips and false machismo to make up for short height and feelings of inferiority.” Does this sound like your small dog? The truth is, small dogs often display dominant behavior, but that’s where the adherence to this definition ends

Dogs Aren’t “Short”

At least, not in their own minds. A seven-pound Chihuahua has no more concept of being “tiny” than a 150-pound Mastiff has of being “huge.” Fundamentally, dogs are dogs, not big dogs or little dogs – just dogs. That doesn’t, however, explain why you so often hear, “I prefer larger dogs. Small dogs have little man syndrome.”

Small Dog Syndrome (SDS)

Professional dog trainers do acknowledge small dog syndrome, although the root of the issue may not be what you expect. Symptoms of SDS include excessive barking, aggression, fear, and separation anxiety.

Your small dog whining whenever you leave makes you think, “Oh, she misses me.” Or when she pulls you toward the big dog walking ahead of you, all while barking at the top of her lungs, you chuckle that she thinks she’s a big dog too. Her growling and barking at visitors is just her way of letting people know she can protect you. It’s all very cute.

Only, it’s not.

SDS and its associated behaviors are actually a small dog’s reaction to a lack of leadership from her owner. These same behaviors, as well as jumping, nipping or ignoring commands, are considered troublesome in larger dogs. Owners of bigger dogs correct these behaviors to avoid accidents or injuries. Owners of smaller dogs tend to shrug them off or coddle the dog, leading to continuation of the behaviors or negative associations resulting in fear or anxiety.

It Can Be Fixed

If your dog has SDS, be assured that it can be corrected, as long as you’re willing to make changes in your own behavior. You have to assume the role of the pack leader. Your dog can’t get away with problem behaviors just because she’s cute and seems harmless. Training and leadership exercises are the key to a well-behaved, relaxed and happy dog, no matter the dog’s size. Getting your small dog comfortable around people, other dogs, and different situations will help dispel the stigma associated with these breeds. For more information, visit the NuVet Labs website today.


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