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Latest health and behavior news and advice from the veterinarians at Tufts University.

Features September 2013 Issue

Yes, Protect Your Small Dog.Don’t Over-Protect Her.

It’s never your fault if a larger dog attacks your smaller one. But there is something you can do to make your dog less reactive so that she might not as easily become a target for larger dogs. Don’t overcompensate for her small size by constantly picking her up out of concern. If the owner of a little dog becomes anxious about her safety even without any hint of trouble, the dog might have a tendency to become nasty — somewhat “yippy and yappy,” Dr. Dodman says, because “she doesn’t have to deal.” That is, it becomes too easy for a small dog to grow confrontational if she receives a consistent message that the world is unsafe and that her owner is there to protect her — even when no harm is imminent.

Keep in mind that a lot of dogs who run up to other dogs — even big dogs running up to little dogs — don’t mean harm. “Most dogs do dog things,” Dr. Dodman says. “They have their own code and sometimes like to fake each other out. Or one trots toward the other, then they go off and play together. Or a dog does run toward another one, but it’s only for a nose-to-tail investigation and the same happy ending. Most of the time, that is the case.”

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