Can a big dog and a small dog get along? Here’s What to Do Next

Once you feel your control over your large dog has been unequivocally established (even better if the trained professional who has been working with you feels that way), you can take him to, say, a dog-friendly park and try letting him go. This will occur after you have already taken him to that park many times on a longer and longer lead, making sure that he directs or redirects his attention to you when you tell him to. But even then, a long leash should remain attached to him, trailing behind, so that you can more easily get hold of him should he act inappropriately. Following your instructions while not tethered to you is going to be a lot harder in a public setting with lots going on than in your fenced backyard, which is an environment that you can control almost entirely.

Julie Kembel’s 14-pound dog Abby is a scrappy little thing. The poodle-Cavalier King Charles spaniel-golden retriever mix loves to chase squirrels (that she never catches) and is happy to run off by herself and then come back to Ms. Kembel or her husband, Bob, once she has had her fill of predatory excitement. But not if there’s a big dog around.

It is never your fault if a larger dog attacks your littler one. But you can enhance your chances of keeping your small dog safe in public settings. One thing not to do is overcompensate for her small size by constantly worrying over her and picking her up outside out of unfounded concern that she is in danger. In general, big dogs and little dogs do well together. But if you always send a message to your small pet that life is unsafe, she might become anxious, or even nasty — with barks and teeth barring of her own. And “anxious” and “nasty” tend to activate other dogs, sometimes into aggressive stances and tactics.

Believe it or not, keeping your dog on a leash in public places when he wants to run free and going through the paces of training, which could take weeks to months, is not the hardest part. The hardest part is staying calm should an unfortunate instance arise in which your dog is loose and a small dog he sets his sights on happens to come along. So many owners, understandably, start screaming at their dog and making a big fuss — a perfectly logical expression of instinct when another dog’s safety might be at stake, and one that might also be expected by the owner of the dog being attacked. But it’s the worst thing you can do because it only adds to the frenzy and will get your pet even more excited about what he is up to.

There are no numbers for how often big dogs attack little ones, but it’s a common enough scenario that veterinarians even have an acronym for it, BDLD, which means Big Dog Little Dog. It not infrequently enough turns into a very, very serious emergency medical situation.

How to Handle Small Dog Aggression with Dog Training

Through pet training, dog owners can deal with small dog aggression. It can help your dog’s relationship with you, your family members, and other dogs. Here are a few suggestions to get started:

  • Schedule obedience training
  • Make sure that the household is onboard with the training
  • Set boundaries and make rules for your dog
  • Be consistent
  • Reward behavior you want to keep seeing
  • We have a webinar replay all about training with Small Dog friends! In this webinar, Summit Head Trainer Amber shares lots of the tricks of the small dog training game that she has been using to raise Jameson, her little Papillon. This includes reinforcement strategies for small bellies, why small dogs do what they do, how to help our small dogs think on their own four feet, safety skills & considerations, adventure skills for small dogs, and how to create safe and positive relationships. Check out the replay here!

    4. Teach the large dog friend good skills like checking in with you, calmly watching an exciting thing (such as a small dog friend) across the room, being calm on a leash, settle on a mat, etc. All of these skills can help a smaller dog feel safer around a large dog, and the large dog is learning to check and control some of their impulses that could be well-intentioned but physically risky for a small dog friend. If a large dog can get used to lying down near a small dog friend, this can be less overwhelming & intimidating, meaning the small dog will often feel less discomfort and less need to do those other behaviors. Teach your small dog some of these same skills as well!

    Small dogs can be awesome adventure buddies! While much of the training for small dogs is the same as with larger breeds, there are some nuances that can make training your small dog a potential headache, or a dream!

    While it may seem funny, small dogs and big dogs can make the best of friends! Take best friends Jamie and Pirate for example! These two learned how to be great companions who know how to play safely & kindly. Sometimes, small dogs need a couple extra breaks as well as a few safety precautions to ensure a fun time. Check out these tips on how to successfully introduce small dog and big dog friends!

    6. Choose side-by-side activities whenever possible instead of head-to-head activities. Things like going for a walk or hike together instead of nose-to-nose social time in the backyard can be a great way to help a small dog feel comfortable in the vicinity of a large dog, while the activity is moving both dogs forward instead of towards each other.

    Cesar Millan Explains: Little Dogs Playing with Big Dogs

    Small dogs are cute, portable, friendly and so lovable! However, many small dog breeds have a reputation for being yappy and scrappy. Where does this behavior come from and how can pet owners handle these big-scale reactions from their small-scale companions?

    At Harpeth Hills Animal Hospital, we can help you with understanding dog training needs and handle this particular pet behavior, along with many others.

    Many experts believe that this behavior could be coming from a place of fear. After all, can you imagine how big the world looks to them from that position? Their stature is much lower and they are very aware of their size in this world.

    There is also the idea that dog owners could be encouraging this behavior and reinforcing it. After all, small dogs are not as threatening and their owners behavior is often easier to forgive. Essentially, they are getting away with it through ignoring the jumps or growls. It could even be unintentionally rewarded through comforting words,snuggling, treats, etc.

    One of the best ways to be successful in pet training is to increase awareness in your own behavior. Ask yourself—is this behavior that I want to continue? Should I be rewarding it?