Is Your Dog Acting Out of Line When in the Presence of Bigger Dogs?

When smaller dogs act aggressively towards bigger dogs, we often chuckle in response. The sight of a tiny terrier barking ferociously at a massive Great Dane seems improbable. However, dog on dog aggression is becoming increasingly common on our city streets and in our parks, and owners who fail to recognize the problem won’t be able to correct it. Small dogs may act aggressively towards the big dogs they live with or with strange dogs they meet when on a walk. Within your home, the problem may be complicated by dominance issues, so this article will look closely at random meetings between the big and the small out in public. However, these techniques also apply at home. The first step to resolving the issue is to figure out why it’s happening.

Small Dogs Learn to React Negatively to Large Dogs

In puppyhood, that small bundle of joy regularly cuddled in its owner’s arms may have had a bad experience with a bigger animal. The larger, more mature animal may pounce on the pup in an attempt to play. The puppy’s natural reaction includes a fear response, especially if it was injured. To properly socialize a young dog, supervised meetings with other dogs should happen. On the other hand, smaller animals tend to fear larger ones just because they are bigger. When people suddenly see a large dog on the path ahead of them, they often freeze. Sudden stops like these transmit your fear through the leash. Because dogs instinctively want to protect themselves, they bark loudly in response and go on the attack to move the big guy along. 

Training along with positive reinforcement will help.  When your small pup behaves and acts in a positive way, reward with a treat. Dog treats that aid in dental care are a bonus.

Some Small Breeds Are More Inclined to Act Out Against Larger Dogs and Other Animals

On the other hand, small dog breeds such as terriers and chihuahuas were bred for aggression against rodents. If a terrier attacks a large dog from behind and that dog moves away, the attack behavior has been reinforced and is more likely to occur again in the future. A chihuahua may run at a big dog as soon as it sees it to establish territory. Breeds such as these should always be properly socialized when they are young. That socialization includes regular interactions with large good-natured dogs in a controlled environment. But, even if a small dog didn’t get the chance to learn how to read social signals when it was young, there are methods available to change its responses.

How to Stop Your Small Dog From Overreacting Against A Larger Dog

Training an older small dog to respond in a more positive way to large dogs will take time and patience. It starts with a controlled environment. When you see an older dog out for a walk with its owner, take note of the distance between the two animals that trigger the behavior. If a small dog remains calm when it’s 40 feet away from the large dog, but goes ballistic when the distance between the two is 30 feet, you have your starting point. The next time you see a big dog that is coming your way, stop walking at 40 feet and start piling on the rewards. At 40 feet, the dog is responding well. Keep giving it treats until the other dog has passed by. Make sure the time interval is short. Try to do this every day for at least five minutes during your daily walks. Tugging on a leash or yelling at the dog may stop the behavior at the moment, but won’t work in the long term. They will just be tenser the next time a big dog approaches.

Smaller dogs negatively react to larger dogs when they haven’t been properly socialized. They can learn this behavior during puppyhood, and some breeds are more aggressive. The good news is that with proper training, time, and patience, owners of small pets can condition their little dogs to behave in more socially acceptable ways.

Currently we have five dogs. Three are large breed, outside dogs. Two are smaller, less than 20lbs. They each have their own personality and socialize with each other.  I love watching them with one another and love to see them thrive. Anything I can do to help them get along with others, I will do

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