ENDING THE "YAPPY DOG" EPIDEMIC
We’ve all seen them, the tiny dog being carried around like a fashion accessory or a teddy bear surrogate. Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, and so on. “Aren’t they adorable?” people coo. And yes, they are cute little guys. Until you reach out to pet one and it tries to snap your finger off. Or barks like its having a fit at any one who walks by while the owner sits sipping their latte outside the coffee shop, only stopping when it is picked up once again into its owner’s protective embrace.
And that right there is the problem. Stop picking up your dog! You’re not doing him any favors. And you’re spreading the misconception that all little dog are yappy, neurotic messes. Which just isn’t true. I’ve known many calm and assured Chihuahuas. But you want to know what the common denominator was between all of them? They weren’t carried around - they walked on a leash by their owner just like any larger dog.
Which is the answer. Treat your toy dog like it was a full sized Labrador. Stop protecting it from the world. Stop cuddling it to you all the time. Let it get out in the world and sniff around. Let it be afraid every once in a while - and then let it get over that fear. Don’t let it get away with barking or growling just because its small - that sort of behavior would be terrifying in a larger dog, and it should be no more acceptable just because it comes from a small one.
I met an actress with two Pomeranians that were giving her problems - they were totally un-housetrained and undisciplined. When I outlined a few basics for her - such as crating them overnight so they couldn’t pee freely in her house overnight, and feeding them just twice a day to control when they would eliminate - she looked at me aghast. “They can’t hold it all night! They can’t go the whole day between feedings!” Luckily, I was currently being a trainer on a movie set with several trained Chihuahuas, and I was able to simply turn to one of their owners and say, “Can you dog, smaller than her Pomeranians, hold it all night? Go several hours without food?” “Of course, they can,” was the answer.
I turned to the actress and explained, “Your dogs, as cute as they are, are the proud descendents of wolves. It’s time you started treating them accordingly.” I’m pretty sure she didn’t listen, but if we all spread the word, maybe other people will. And Chihuahuas and Pomeranians and Shih Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers can all stop being overcoddled toys and learn to be calm, confident dogs.