My Chihuahua is the typical little dog. She’ll bark incessantly at dogs who could easily tear her little head off. The toughest Chihuahua on the block, (OK, the only Chihuahua on the block), she is clearly not intimidated.
Or is she?
It looks like she is, in fact, according to Dr. Sophia Yin, DVM, animal behaviorist and author of How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves. Yin says that some little dogs have two things against them, which is often why they pick fights with the quiet Rottweiler or German Shepherd just minding his own business.
First of all, a pint-sized pup doesn’t notice that the big Lab next to them is behaving, all they see is a looming figure before them and it frightens them. When they are intimidated, they immediately act aggressively. In addition to that some little dogs, like Terriers, just have a natural predisposition to reactivity and poor impulse control.
“Small dogs typically find big dogs scarier,” she adds. “They’re afraid of being trampled or pushed around. And when they’re afraid, their instinct is to become aggressive,” says Dr. Yin.
Luckily, this is a behavior that can be changed with obedience classes (or just strict training) and socialization. Even if your puppy didn’t socialize much when younger, owners can socialize a dog at any age. Couple that with teaching the dog patience in the form of the sit and stay command and your little dog will be on the way to better behavior and less anxiety around big dogs.
One thing to remember when walking your little dog is that when you react, so do they. So although when they start to bark at a big dog, your first reaction might be to pull them back by their leash or yell “No”, that will make them more reactive, explains Dr. Yin, “This only increases their arousal level. Like when two guys are about to get in a bar fight, and you poke one of them. It only makes the guy more ready to fight.”
Like with most things between dogs and their owners, as you train your dog, you are also retraining your own actions.
Does your little dog act aggressively around big dogs?
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