My sister lives in a condo complex that does not allow dogs larger than 30 pounds. A woman petitioned the condo board to have a larger dog as she lived alone and wanted a dog for protection. The board assumed that larger dogs were more difficult in a variety of ways, including destructiveness. My sister asked me for my opinion on a couple of issues and this is part one* of my response:
 
 

 

Common assumption #1 that people make which may or may not be true:

Big dogs are more destructive/messier than small dogs.

 
 
Messiness: It is true that big dogs leave big piles, but if they are cleaned up, then there isn’t an outdoor mess problem! Little dogs leave little piles, but if they aren’t cleaned up there is a problem!
 
 
Destructiveness: This has more to do with temperament than size. If you have a dog that suffers from separation anxiety, for example, it can be destructive of property, scratching up or chewing on door frames, floors, moldings, window frames etc. Small dogs as well as big dogs can cause significant property damage, especially if they are not fully housebroken (a common problem with toy dogs, which is why I recommend litter box training for toy breeds). Managing a dog with destructive tendencies should include:
  • – good food
  • – exercise
  • – space management (meaning the use of crates or baby gates to control access of the dog before it is housebroken or to keep it from mischief in other areas of the house), and
  • – addressing behavioral issues (such as separation anxiety with behavior modification and possibly anti-anxiety drugs) with a positive reinforcement trainer, behaviorist, and/or behavior savvy veterinarian who can help you to design a management program that includes a strategy to contain/control the behavior and addresses the underlying causes of the problem.

Good management should significantly control or abate most issues of destruction both inside and out.

Image 2Common assumption #2 that people make which may or may not be true:

 Small dogs are easier to manage when it comes to behavior problems.

Smaller is easier:  Not necessarily true…this is like assuming that big people will have more behavioral problems than small people. While big dogs can create big problems quickly (for example, it takes a Dane lot less time than a beagle to eat a couch), small dogs can also destroy property and deliver damaging bites (just ask anyone whose small dog has bitten them or a child on the face).  Barking is another issue of annoyance for any size dog, but can be helped with good management, training, and perhaps behavior modification to address the underlying reasons why the dog is barking. The bottom line is that dogs are individuals, and to judge them based solely on their physical size does not allow for the singularities that make each dog so very special. Perhaps the question should not be size of dog, but whether or not the dog and owner follow clear guidelines which define appropriate behavior for the dog and the owner. If the guidelines are not met, then the owner (and offending dog) would have to face the consequences.
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 * Part two can be found here: Rin Tin Tin wannabees…