Can I get a big dog if I have a small dog? A Complete Guide

Do Big Dogs See Small Dogs As Prey?

Dogs typically recognize another from their own species, though it is possible for large dogs to think small dogs are prey, and they may lunge, chase, even kill small dogs. Stop immediately if either dog shows signs of prey fixation: stalking, stiffness, staring and lunging. If possible, avoid grabbing your small dog and picking them up, as this can sometimes make a large dog mistake the small one for a toy. Its more effective to get between the dogs, distract the attacker with toys or treats until they are under control. If you regularly walk your small dog in a neighborhood full of off-lead, large dogs, you may need to carry around Pet Corrector. Pepper spray is not s safe option because it can get into your own dogs eyes. In a pinch, waving a walking stick or rocks thrown in the dogs direction can divert the large dog so you can get to safety. Loose dogs are harmful to everyone, you should call your local animal control if you are not able to get the owner to confine their dog.

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!

Follow these tips and tricks to help introduce your small dog to a new big friend, or vice versa! Remember to always start slow and work your way up to a let-loose play time. Jamie and Pirate say, “we may be different sizes, but we are the two best friends ever!”

5. Make sure the small dog has lots of easy escape routes. If your small dog jumping up on the sofa or into a lap should be a cue to call the large dog away and give the small dog a break. Dividing a living room space with an exercise pen so that the small dog can be on one side while the large dog hangs out on the other can be another great way to create a safe space for them to be side-by-side. During play time, having obstacles for the small dog to duck under to get out of the way from underfoot of their large dog friend can be helpful for a quick break & safety.

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.

3. Teach the large dog that when their small dog friend might growl or snap at them, that means GREAT things happen from you across the room. This could mean a treat, special play time, you getting exciting and making a fun fuss over them, etc. If their small dog says “I need space” and the other dog immediately gets rewarded across the room from you, this will help to teach them how to listen to the small dog’s request by walking away and finding something else to do instead.

Big Dogs Vs. Small Dog Behaviors

So, are behavioral differences size-based? For the most part, the answer is a resounding “No!” Dogs of all sizes love to play chase, fetch, go on walks, run off-leash, meet new people, romp with their best dog buddies, participate in training sessions and eat tasty treats. By the same token, dogs of all sizes are vulnerable to sound sensitivity, exhibit separation anxiety and aggression, jump on people inappropriately, bark excessively, chew on shoes, dig in the garden, or have accidents on the floor. They all wag their tails (if they have them!) in joy.

And yet, there are clearly differences between individual dogs, based perhaps on age, gender or the environment in which the dog lives and was raised. While the similarities in dogs of different sizes are far greater than the differences, can we deny those differences?

A 2010 research study (Arhant, et al.) examined the connection between size and behavior in great detail, addressing these questions: How does guardian behavior toward dogs of unequal sizes influence their dogs’ behavior? How do expectations of dogs based on their size differ? Do people treat large and small dogs differently? In the study, “small” and “large” were defined by weight; dogs less than 20 kg (44 pounds) were categorized as small, and those equal to or more than that as large.

The study’s most important overall finding? There are significant differences in behavior between large and small dogs and between guardians of large and small dogs. The researchers reported that a range of interactions between people and their dogs are related to the size of the dog.

Small dogs were reported to be less obedient, slightly more often aggressive or excitable, and more anxious and fearful. People with small dogs also reported a lower level of consistency in their interactions and enforcement of rules than did those with larger pups.

Cesar Millan Explains: Little Dogs Playing with Big Dogs

He chose the dog, but I chose the name,” the woman explained. Their dog was an especially petite Boston Terrier, but his name — Titan — was one more typically bestowed on a larger dog. I’d seen this type of contradiction before, and though it’s sometimes just for the sake of being ironic, often it’s about conflict. I’ve also met Pixie the Newfoundland, Tank the Bichon Frise, Bitsy the Bouvier, and Goliath the Pug.

People often have strong opinions about what size dog best suits them. Some prefer small dogs because they’re more likely to be welcome everywhere, especially when traveling. In contrast, others gravitate to large dogs because they associate them with fun and friendliness, as well as kids and families. Size-based biases are also common, and sad to say, I’ve heard several derogatory terms for both small and large dogs. And anyone with big dogs knows that people sometimes fear them even when their behavior is exemplary, and a small dog is present whose behavior is not. One Bark reader implored me, “Don’t forget to cover that big dog stigma!”

Many people have asked the question, “How is the experience of having a large dog different than that of having a small dog?” Part of the answer may come from evaluating whether big and small dogs really are different in ways that extend beyond size, particularly in their behavior. Another piece of the puzzle involves determining if people’s behavior toward and expectations of dogs varies based on the dog’s size.