Tips For Little Dogs To Get Along With Big Dogs
I am a six-year old terrier / (maybe) dachshund or beagle mix. My owners adopted me from a rescue shelter where I had been living for a month after the shelter rescued me from the pound. My problem is that I'm fear aggressive. I'm getting much better with people, but I still have problems with some dogs. In particular, big dogs really creep me out (as do cocker spaniels because they just growl and try to chase me). When out walking, my owners have to cross the street when they see a big dog. I'd really like to make some four-legged friends and maybe hang out at the dog park. Do you have any advice?
Georgie, Orange County
You read my mind! Why do little guys like you always want to get all Napoleonic on me? Just this morning on my walk, a small white poodle went crazy barking at me when I passed by. In your case, I can imagine it might have to do with the time you spent in the shelter: maybe some of the big dogs in there tried to eat your food, or take your blanket. But you’re right, it’s going to be hard for you to make friends if you don’t try to overcome your negative feelings about big dogs. It would be greatif you could hang out at the dog park to help you get used to being around bigger dogs.
Also, I’m glad to hear your owners are not reinforcing your aggressive behavior. So many owners of small dogs do the very worst thing in this same situation: they pick up the little dog and try to calm him down by baby talking him. Although these humans mean well, when I see them I wish I could tell them they are doing the exact wrong thing. Instead of discouraging little guys like you from acting aggressive towards big dogs, it makes you do it more, because you are interpreting the hugs, baby talk, and getting picked up as positive reinforcement.
My advice is that first, your owners do some practice with you about calm walking. Tell them that when you are out on a walk, they might sometimes just stop and tell you to “sit and stay” for a minute or two. This will help you learn to be calm on the leash. Then, they might want to take you near a dog park or somewhere that lots of other dogs will be walking by. If they can find a bench they can sit on, that would be even better. When a big dog walks by you, they should tell you to “sit and stay.” It might take a few times for you to get it right. If you bark and lunge at the dog, they should just keep trying to get you to sit down and be quiet (my owner likes to say “no barking.”) Once you manage to stay seated and not bark, they should give you cookies (preferably dog oreos) and tell you what a smart, handsome, and amazing dog you are. Once you master doing this while seated, they can then move up to doing it while you are walking, then maybe in the dog park itself. Good luck!
- Goldendoodle Leo