Why Are Small Dogs So High-Strung? Explained

Small dogs, those adorable pint-sized canines that fit snugly in your lap, have captured the hearts of dog lovers worldwide. Their petite size and charming personalities make them endearing companions. 

However, if you’ve ever owned a small dog, you might have noticed that many of them exhibit a certain degree of high-strung behavior. But why is that? 

In this article, we will delve deep into the fascinating world of small dogs to uncover the reasons behind their high-strung nature. We will explore their genetics, upbringing, and environment to understand what makes these little bundles of energy so excitable.

Understanding the Small Dog Mentality

Before we embark on our journey to decode the high-strung behavior of small dogs, it’s crucial to appreciate the distinctive traits that define them. Small dog breeds, typically weighing less than 22 pounds, encompass a diverse range of personalities. 

Some are outgoing and confident, while others are reserved and timid. However, many small dogs share common characteristics that contribute to their high-strung nature:

Energy Levels: Small dogs often possess boundless energy. They have higher metabolic rates than larger breeds, requiring more exercise and mental stimulation to burn off their excess energy. When not properly managed, this energy can manifest as nervousness or anxiety.

Territorial Instincts: Small dogs are known for their strong territorial instincts. Their small size can make them feel vulnerable, leading to heightened vigilance and a tendency to bark at perceived threats.

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Social Sensitivity: Smaller breeds tend to be more sensitive to their surroundings and social dynamics. They may react more strongly to changes in their environment, including new people, animals, or situations.

Owner Dependency: Small dogs often form intense bonds with their owners. While this can be endearing, it can also result in separation anxiety and clingy behavior when left alone.

Nervousness: Due to their size, small dogs may feel more vulnerable, which can make them prone to anxiety and nervousness. This can lead to various high-strung behaviors.

Now that we have a foundational understanding of the typical characteristics of small dogs, let’s explore the factors that contribute to their high-strung tendencies.

Genetics and Breeding

Small dog breeds have been selectively bred for various purposes over the centuries. While some were bred for companionship and to be lap dogs, others were bred for specific tasks such as hunting or ratting. 

These selective breeding practices have influenced the temperament and behavior of small dogs. Certain breeds have a genetic predisposition towards being high-strung. 

For example, the Chihuahua, a tiny dog with a big personality, often displays a strong-willed and feisty nature. This temperament can be attributed to their breeding history.

Lack of Socialization

Proper socialization during a puppy’s critical developmental stages is vital for a well-adjusted adult dog. Unfortunately, some small dog owners may underestimate the importance of early socialization due to their dogs’ size, believing they won’t encounter as many challenges as larger breeds.

This oversight can lead to fear or aggression towards unfamiliar people, animals, or environments, contributing to their high-strung behavior.

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Inadequate Training

Inconsistent or insufficient training can exacerbate high-strung behavior in small dogs. Owners may unintentionally reinforce anxious or excitable behavior by not setting clear boundaries or failing to provide consistent guidance.

Lifestyle and Environment

The living environment and lifestyle of a small dog play a significant role in their behavior. Small dogs living in high-stress environments or households with constant commotion and noise may become more anxious and high-strung. Conversely, a calm and structured environment can help mitigate these tendencies.

Health Factors

Physical health can also impact a dog’s behavior. Small dogs are prone to certain health issues, such as dental problems or hypoglycemia, which can make them more irritable or anxious. Ensuring regular veterinary check-ups and addressing any health concerns promptly is essential for their well-being.

Managing High-Strung Behavior in Small Dogs

Now that we’ve explored the factors contributing to high-strung behavior in small dogs, let’s discuss some practical strategies for managing and mitigating these tendencies:

Early Socialization: Start socializing your small dog from a young age, exposing them to a variety of people, animals, and environments. Positive interactions during puppyhood can help reduce fear and anxiety in adulthood.

Consistent Training: Enroll your small dog in obedience training classes to provide structure and consistency. Reward-based training methods can help reinforce desired behaviors and reduce high-strung tendencies.

Mental and Physical Exercise: Small dogs need both mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and balanced. Regular walks, interactive toys, and puzzle feeders can help burn off excess energy and prevent anxiety.

Create a Calm Environment: Provide a calm and secure living environment for your small dog. Create a designated safe space where they can retreat when feeling overwhelmed.

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Consult a Professional: If your small dog’s high-strung behavior persists despite your efforts, consult a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can provide personalized guidance and strategies to address specific issues.


Small dogs may be high-strung due to a combination of genetic factors, upbringing, and their environment. Understanding their unique characteristics and addressing their needs through proper training, socialization, and care can help alleviate high-strung behavior. 

Remember, while small dogs may require more attention and patience, they can make loving and loyal companions when their energy is channeled positively. 

By unlocking the mystery behind their high-strung nature, you can enjoy a harmonious and fulfilling relationship with your petite pup.