When a Big Dog Attacks a Little Dog

It's hard not to act alarmed in such charged circumstances no matter which dog is yours, but remaining calm is your best bet for diffusing the situation.

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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.

Abby has been rushed too many times by a rather large, energetic Portuguese water dog who, while not dangerous, is somewhat aggressive. She has rolled Abby over on her back, pinning her down. Now, whenever Abby sees her or other large dogs, she stays close by her human parents for the entire time outside.

Abby and the Kembels are among the lucky ones. We know of one woman in Rhode Island whose large-sized dog one day ran out of her apartment, down the stairs, and into the building’s parking lot. Just at that moment, a man was walking his little dog across the street. The larger dog then saw the little one and ran after him. The man, seeing the large dog’s ears pinned back and teeth barred, instinctively grabbed up his pet. That didn’t deter the aggressor, who jumped and jumped until he succeeded in grabbing the little pet out of the man’s arms. The man then had a heart attack and died.

In another instance, a man had his large dog with him when he was working in his front yard. The man then left his yard for a bit to tend to something else, and wouldn’t you know it, someone walked by with a small poodle. The larger dog went directly into prey drive, rushing up to the poodle, grabbing it, and chomping down on its midriff.

The owner of the aggressive dog saw what was going on and immediately rushed over with a pair of gardening shears, shoving them into his dog’s mouth so he would let go. The poodle ended up having to have a portion of his intestine removed. That’s how deeply the bigger dog bit. Then aspiration pneumonia set in along with peritonitis, which is inflammation of the silk-like lining of the abdominal wall. The little dog died two days later.

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.

 Abby

© Jollier | Bigstock

The best solution: avoiding the situation altogether

First, to the owners of the large dogs: If you have observed even once that your dog can turn aggressive, it’s important that you leash him whenever he might come across other dogs or people. So many people talk about how their dogs are almost always model citizens, and it’s the “almost” that gets them into trouble — and sometimes changes lives. A dog who is docile and friendly 99 percent of the time but once in a blue moon goes off half-cocked unexpectedly has to be consistently restrained until he can be let go with your full confidence that he will do as you say when he doesn’t have to. As sad as it might feel that he has to pay for his exceedingly rare transgressions by remaining on a leash every single day, it’s your only assurance of his behaving appropriately — and safely.

A harness or head halter works better than a simple collar around the neck for redirecting your dog’s attention when you want him to walk the other way or make sure he turns his head, when necessary.

Sometimes, with intensive training, perhaps by you alone but preferably with the help of an animal behaviorist or a professional trainer, a dog who has acted aggressively (but not necessarily harmfully) with a smaller dog can be taught to come back to you or “leave it” rather than attack in the heat of the moment. It takes a lot of patience — and no choke chains, prong collars, or electronic training collars! You want to start at home, working with him to sit, stay, lie down, and live up to other standards of good behavior that you set for him. That includes coming when you call even when he would rather continue doing what he’s doing. When he follows through, it’s your job to reward him with warm praise and delicious treats.

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.

Another option is to train your dog to wear a basket muzzle. A basket muzzle, such as the Baskerville Ultra or the Bumas Custom Muzzle, will allow your dog to eat, drink, pant, and even catch a rope toy. When introduced properly, a dog can learn to be as comfortable in a muzzle as he is in his collar or harness.

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.

Yes, you have to work as quickly as possible to remove your pet from the other dog’s body and re-leash him, no matter what that might take. You also have to be prepared to be contrite and apologetic even when the other owner, who is scared to death, starts yelling at you or perhaps even trying to kick your dog in an effort to keep his own safe. But you screaming and flailing about will make your dog less, not more, inclined to comply with your wishes and return to your side. It could enhance that “bring it on” feeling that he already has.

You should not yell at your dog or punish him once the incident is over, either. He will not get why you are doing it. Dogs live very much in the moment. What happens “next” is not a follow-up to what happened before; it’s simply a different situation, and he won’t understand why you’re treating him harshly. You simply have to go back to patient training, and in some cases you have to be resigned to never letting your pet off the leash again where he runs the chance of coming into unwanted contact with other dogs. Keep in mind that if things get far enough out of hand, your responsibility becomes part of a legal situation that can get taken up in court. And the courts sometimes have solutions for biting dogs that don’t end well.

The responsibility of the small-dog owner

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.

Again, it is never your fault if a dog attacks yours, even if yours is acting unfriendly. But why inadvertently teach your dog to be confrontational even though, in the main, life is not a confrontational series of incidents?

To help steady yourself, bear in mind that in dog parks and other places that dogs go around unleashed, they do a lot of running up to each other. And what often looks threatening to us is playful to them; they like chasing and being chased. They like sniffing each other. They have rules for play that don’t necessarily resemble people’s rules, and it almost always works out.

That said, should real danger advance toward your dog in the form of another dog, you want to know your options. Sometimes the best one is to scoop up your pet in your arms. If a dog shoots over to your canine family member like a bullet, perhaps with teeth barred, working to lift your dog out of harm’s way makes perfect sense. We can’t guarantee that it will always work very well. After all, some large dogs can easily jump as high as your arms and can cause harm to you in the process as well as to your dog. But it’s a better bet than just trying to kick the large dog away, which will only leave your pet standing there defenseless, as physically lashing out at an aggressive dog in the throes of an attack will generally not work to shoo him from the scene. He has more bite than you, and is quicker, too. Then, too, kicking and yelling can only serve to further agitate the aggressive dog, just as that reaction from his owner will goad him on. In fight or flight mode, the dog is going to take flailing and loud voices as a kind of encouragement to give it his all in the “boxing ring.”

It’s hard to stay calm when a dog you love is in serious danger and your body and mind are telling you to act. But firmly and calmly telling the aggressor dog to “leave it” might actually have a better effect than a more dramatic reaction. You might even toss a handful of treats on the ground in front of the approaching dog as a distraction. It’s the last thing you would feel like doing. But if the aim is to get the dog to chomp on food rather than your little pet, what does it matter as long as you get the outcome you’re looking for?

Ditto about treats for the owner of the aggressive dog. The person with the small pet may not understand why you’re treating your dog kindly when he’s on the attack. But again, the objective is to get the dog to do what you want; teaching him a harsh lesson in the moment isn’t going to yield a positive result.

Of course, if you think you’ve successfully taken the time to train your dog to come back to you after he has frightened or actually harmed a littler dog, perhaps with the help of a professional trainer or behaviorist because so much is at stake, and a second dog ends up in an equally dicey situation because of your pet, it’s time to permanently limit his outside time off leash to your backyard bordered by a sufficiently high fence.

39 COMMENTS

  1. Im soo sick of seeing this article that places all of the blame on the larger dog. I replied the last time and the editor chose to repost this biased crap. Im canceling my subscription.

    • I agree with you. This is a biased article. The examples weren’t all that uncommon, though. People are stupid–they will continue to let their dogs off lead when it’s just not safe for that dog or other dogs.

      There is nothing worse than having a dog charge at you (even one that wants to play) when you have spend lots of time and often lots of money training your own dog to be non reactive on leash. There’s always an idiot running after the dog saying “he’s friendly!”

      Notice that I never mentioned size in my reply. It doesn’t matter the size of the dog. People do the wrong things and dogs suffer.

    • As the owner of 3 small dogs, I didn’t find it biased. I’ve had two instances of a bigger dog attacking one of mine, and thankfully, there were no major physical injuries. However, it was a lifetime of fear of other dogs. A big dog could inflict serious injuries or death. If a small dog is the attacker, there is less risk and more chance to prevent harm. I wish people would just keep their dogs on a leash except for in fenced in areas and parks.

    • My small pup literally just died yesterday because my neighbor did tie their large dog up right. My dogs spin was bit into she couldn’t even mover her legs and I had to have her put down. Little dog can not kill a large dog. People with large dogs need to understand the responsibility of own a potentially dangerous dog. I’m heart broken, and a little pissed my baby girl is dead and I will still have to look out my window and the dog that killed her. If something like this hasn’t happened to you then you don’t understand and can’t really speak on how it feels to have your dog hurt or killed because or someone else’s reckless actions with their dog. My sweet girl never hurt a soul she was a good girl and did not deserve to have her life taken in that manner.

      • I totally agree…i have a 13 yr old loving yorkie who i was carrying in my arms just walking as she gets tired,we walked by a neighbor who has a huge dog on the porch 24 7…the owner grabs my yorkie out of my arms and tells her huge dog sticking my angels face into her dogs kiss each other i am yelling give me back my dog to late big dog comes over the rail and grabs my Yorkie by the throat.I kicked her dog in the throat shocking him shortly he then jumped on me(Im 4 11…82 yrs old with FRACTURED spine) I pulled my angel above my head and i was next to go when my poor dog started screaming like a fishercat…i was terrified for my baby I am on OXYGEN 24 7…but left it home short walk😭vet said she has Concussion,PTSD, 2 LOOSE TEETH…were going to give her gabapentin as she cant close her eyes..and moves from couch to chair…vet said keep her wrapped tightly..warm soft towel..stay with her..never ever let her near that woman or her dog again..dogs never forget trauma….no going anywhere near big dogs again as it will trigger the trauma..will take months to recover..and my little fur baby loves everyone wont do anything she used to do…always has this wide eyed look at me..like why Mom? where do i go? Confused.. this is not my little baby anymore! I am heartbroken. Cant sleep..just home in January from 6 weeks in HOSPITALS with covid pneumonia…and Angel has a tumor undef her eyelid by the grace of GOD was not ripped out! Told by many to call police..sadly this neighbor is an animal lover..but not all there mentallly…I cant find it to call police but what if this dog does it again to another little dog? I am so confused heartbroken and feel bad for her dog as she put him up to go adyer my angel….

      • I live in George West Texas in a couple of minutes it will be 24 hours since my 10-year-old miniature Schnauzer Princess Roxxy.. was mauled…. And her entrails left dangling. I was walking her with her little husband Prince Tidbit my miniature poodle who is 15 years of age. Reminding our business and they had just finished theirs and as we approached our porch the neighbors Pitbull mix named Cafe…. Came flying across my property and pounced on my Roxxy I had just enough time to scoop up my little poodle which was on my right side and she was on my left side but her leash was a little longer he was all over her and I heard her cry but I couldn’t tell how bad it was I thought maybe he just had a little leg and maybe he was going to snap it up I was taking trying to get her off of him and trying to get in I hollered at the top of my life crying for help and the only one who heard me was my neighbor across the street who for the second time after being attacked by the same dog a couple of weeks before and also bit my other little dog and adoptee who is a miniature Sharpei mix… I named Chewbacca. My neighbor actually saw the woman whose dogs have came into my yard over six times leaving me answer but luckily my dogs only been attacked physically three by her dogs…. Now I know had intentionally kept him lose what she normally does and allowed him to come attack us and the worst part she did not bother to come and help me. I am not from this town and I’ve been here about a year and I’m hoping to sell my home soon. I live alone and I have had zero cooperation from the police nor the animal control officer nor any person in this town with the exception of my neighbor across the street. Her and her husband have actually made two reports but witnessed three things happening to me. Continuing on … As the owner Mary Dominguez an older woman suddenly called her dog and dropped my ROXXY… AND I IMMEDIATELY BOUGHT THEM IN THE HOUSE I NOTICED THE TROUBLE OF BLOOD AND THEN NOTICE THAT HER GUTS WERE ON THE FLOOR. I AM A WOMAN OF VERY LITTLE MEANS STUCK IN A PLACE WHERE I KNOW NO ONE AND THERE IS NO HOSPITAL HERE NO MAIN GROCER NOTHING. MY NEIGHBOR CALLED THE POLICE WHILE I WAS TENDING TO MY LITTLE GIRL AND SECURING MY DOGGIES AND GRABBING MY THINGS SO THAT I CAN FIND HER HELP EVEN THOUGH I’M BASICALLY BROKE. My neighbor told me of a hospital in Corpus Christi Texas which is an hour away or they might look after my dog without me having to pay. I literally drove after briefly talking to the officer who was not willing to arrest a woman nor taking the dog… Since it was an emergency I left and drove the hour 15 minutes to the hospital we were there from about 830pm till almost midnight. They want it $4,000 down to try and operate her and who knows how much else it would cost but of course I do not have the money in your credit in addition and I don’t know if the doctor was being honest or just because I liked funds but he told me that her intestines were becoming necrotic so she had been basically and shocks and she lost so much blood even though she was alert and drag water as I came into her with my fingers in the car but they they said that if they were able to operate her it was not a guarantee that it would succeed because the other dog’s mouth had so many germs and her bowels have been out for a couple of hours by then. They took her to the back basically took pictures of her cleaned her up wrapped her of course taking in her intros put her in a really big plush and comfy bed with a nice pillow and bothered to me so that I could hug her and be with her till the end they told me that I would have to basically euthanize her because she was under sedation and lots of painkillers but that if I took her home like that once they were off she would die as slow and very painful death. I didn’t want to let her go but find me that almost midnight I’ve been my goodbyes. She was like my daughter and I never had. She love me so much and I adored her… And so did her husband and her other two little companions. We moved here to the country to have a better life away from crime I bought an over having a good property with an ice house that was completely remodeled so that we can live a good life the only thing it was not fenced in and I couldn’t afford it since I bought this house right after COVID… Materials were so expensive they wanted to charge you too much to completely fence it. I drove back with her not knowing what I was going to do with her being broke it was late night and we have had temperatures over 105° daily reaching up to 110. My neighbor while I was at the hospital had advised me to join a Facebook page that helps people in my situation. I forgot to tell you guys that I also had to write a check for $411 and $0.38 that I don’t even have. I work an hour and 15 minutes away and commute either everyday or every other day.. I actually spent my last little gas going to Corpus Christi Texas to the vet because it is an hour and 15 minutes each way. Well I signed up for that Facebook page I got lots of sympathetic comments and one lady actually called with 45 minutes away at 1:30 in the morning to dig the hole herself since I have a little bit of a physical and capability. My neighbor’s sister hurt. It was 5:45 in the morning when she was done. She is an angel who deserves the best I thanked her and promised her that when I sold my home I would have something her way but she said it that was not necessary. She went on her way and I asked you to please call me to make sure she was safe I wanted to follow her home to ensure her safety so she’s older than me I am 56 but I didn’t have to guess to do so. I didn’t get any sleep because I still had to tend to my other doggies and clean up all that blood which to this very moment I can’t do I don’t want to erase the last of her. I took my doggies out before they left to potty and before that I had already took them out to say goodbye to Roxxy. I cried and hollered at the top of my lungs and I don’t think I’ll be able to get over it for a while. Life is not the same without her she was so bubbly and always in my feet she was a real Mama’s girl. I love you Roxxy. Now I’m in debt I’m trying to find a way out of it my little girl is very right here in front of the house by little tree I hope no one disturbs her I’ve had a horrible experience here without a family I believe it or not they were not arrested and the dog was not taking it. I will try to get Justice for my Roxxy… I want you to PD to the animal control and was completely known I don’t know who this family is related to in this town but it obviously have pull. I will be following up because this police department has not done right by me nor my girl it should have protected us cuz I’ve been begging him for a long time to please please not allow that dog and that home and those people to own it but they just ignore me. They promise that it’s a dog ever came back in to my property and attacked my dog to stay with take a man and cyber arrest the owner but they never did. I will be escalating to the state level I need to know why I am not being protected I am a taxpayer and I’ve never bothered anyone since I bought this little home. I understand those of you have lost a baby due to a bigger dog mauling..it is a horrible sight to see. My beautiful Princess Roxxy did not deserve to die this way and I feel so bad that I could not protect her.

    • Lol …. “My little dog likes to chase squirrels” – yeah love right there, read it and think about your “why big dogs attack small dogs” article again

      Hypocritical comment right there.

      Now time to walk my “big” dog and annoy the small dog owners just by being there.

    • My big dog just attacked my little dog right in fount of my eyes which I had to rush to vet cause blood and the little dog is 14 the big dog is a 6 year old American bulldog I’ve rescued from a shelter 2 years ago…for 2 years she was a good dog and now I’m scared for my little one…so she’s being caged until the little one passes..I haven’t decided if I should give her back to the shelter…she has alot of health issues I have under control but this incident has made me think I should give her back…it’s a no kill shelter..but she was there for 8months or more when I got her…a return foster..now she was very good for 2 years till I went into the hospital for 3 months due to a headon collision..so I guess something happened as my friend fed them for me..they took care of themselves basicly..but when I came home the little one was shaking uncontrollable from fear I believe…why I can only guess…I am torn as to what to do.

    • Totally agree.. too many people bring their litlle dogs into the large dog side of a dog psrk and A think it’s cute when their little precious taunts the big dogs and B.. BECOME INDIGNANT when the big dog has had enough and snaps back at the little gem.. STAY on the small dog side and precious will be safe..

  2. This is a very informative article to a point. Most if not all cities have leash laws – therefore both small and large dogs should be retrained at all times. Second, the article states that the large dog should be retrained until the “owner is confident.” This is another problem, the confidence of the owner is often misplaced. The owner can easily have a blind spot about the possible aggression of their own dog or think they have trained the dog to ignore triggers, such as the frightened yelp of a small dog or overreaction of the small dog’s owner. This is the reason most cities have mandatory leash laws.

  3. I am a dog walker/pet sitter and unfortunately I often encounter large dogs off-leash while I’m walking a smaller dog. We have Civil Codes that states this is unlawful, but haven’t seen any police enforce this. It’s not until a dog or human is attacked that the police or animal control officer may become involved. The best way to stop the larger dog is to get behind the large dog and grab the back legs a few inches from his paws and pull up. I once had to quickly tuck my dog’s leash under my belt (you could also tie around waist) and lift up the back legs of the large dog. We call it the ‘wheelbarrel lift’. The higher you can pull up the hind quarters the better. If the large dog owner is present, instruct him/her to get behind their dog, grab the legs a few inches from the paws and pull up. If the large dog owner isn’t comfortable doing this, have them take the leash of your dog and then you can disable the large dog.

  4. When a large dog attacks a little dog or a puppy at our dog park, my 145 pound 30″ Newfoundland pushes between them so the little dog can get away. Sometimes he distracts a teenage dog by getting him to play, sometimes he just knocks the large dog over. But it rarely comes to that point, he just has to trot in their direction and the large dog moves away. Little dogs trust him. Not all big dogs are the same!! I’m a lot more scared of a smallish pit bull (and yes I’ve known some sweet ones) than a Newf or a St. Bernard or an Irish Wolfhound. This article is talking about medium to large breeds with a strong prey drive and no training, not giant dogs.

  5. I agree that this overemphasizes large dogs as the aggressors. They are not always. Every dog is different and often the small dogs incite the large ones (out of fear or not, they tick off the otherwise calm larger dog). So both large & small must be properly trained. My 80lb dog (a rescue, so I don’t know her backstory) is mistrustful of most dogs except puppies, but is less frequently aggressive towards small dogs (unless they are barking and snapping or lunging at her) than dogs her own size or larger. She’s fine with all calm dogs, but any quick movement towards her or incessant barking sets her off. It’s sufficiently unpredictable that I would never take her to a dog park. She’s had 5 tussles (2 larger, 1 same size, 2 smaller, all but one of the smaller dogs were off leash – she was always on leash ), none with injuries, thankfully. The last one was with a larger dog she was becoming friendly with (a reversal – IT didn’t react well to HER enthusiasm unrelated to it … and it was her yard) has made her wary of that dog. So we have to start from scratch again with the two dogs, though both are otherwise friendly dogs. There are lots and lots of dogs in the neighborhood and on walking paths, most owners are good about leashes. Off leash is a problem. I now carry pepper spray. The problem isn’t usually the dogs, large or small, it’s the owners.

  6. Often small dog owners think their dog’s behavior is “cute,” no matter what, even if they would condemn the same behavior and find it scary in a larger dog. Too many small dog owners do not train their dogs, figuring they can handle them. ALL DOGS BELONG ON LEASHES IN PUBLIC SETTINGS. The idea that it is “never” the small dog owner’s fault is ridiculous.

    • Look my dog literally just died from and attacked while in my yard. While I agree with you, small dogs can’t kill another dog, or its very rare to happen even if they started the fight. Same goes for humans, cats etc….. everyone should train they dogs and obey the laws. But in my case and 6 pound yokie just chilling by me in the yard getting killed by and 80 or so pound pit mix….this happen more than it should leaving a trail of blood and heart ache.

      • So sorry for your loss! My reason for this internet search on this topic is because my neighbors small dog was attacked and killed by another neighbors German Shephard while sitting on her porch with her owner. The big dog was on a leash but somehow got away from his owner and unprovoked attacked the small dog.
        I’m not biase, I don’t feel like this article is biased. I respect all of the opinions referenced in the comments but I don’t understand why anyone would critize this article when it’s stating facts. All dogs in public should wear leashes! All dog owners should be concerned with the well being of humans and other animals in their pets company!!!!!!! I’m so sad for both dog owners. They both care a great deal for their dogs!

  7. I carry bear spray on my belt. Once a week I practice getting it into my hand and ready to spray. It will not permanently damage a dog, but it will stop him/her from attacking.

  8. I agree with Connie S. It IS at times the small dog’s fault and there needs to consequences for that. I was an animal control officer for several years and ran across a situation where a small dog jumped out of a parked car and attacked a large dog who was on a leash. The small dog got the worst end of it although neither dog needed vet care. The owner of the small dog wanted the large dog owner to be ticketed. I told her if I ticket the other owner for her dog I am also going to ticket you for dog at large and also aggressive dog. She dropped the case.

    • Ok, but that’s not what the article said and I see a lot of angry large dog owners reacting like this- the article does not say “it’s never the small dog’s fault,” it says “it is never the small dog’s fault IF IT IS ATTACKED.” The guilt is on the attacking party, regardless of whether the attacker was large or small and baited or not. It is not biased- no one, dog or person, large is small, is at fault if someone else attacks them. Being attacked is not a choice, attacking someone is. I don’t own a small dog, I have a medium (Bela) and a large (Lily), the latter of which rolled the former in the yard twice, hard enough that she limped for days, and now the Bela is aggressive toward the Lily. I still have no idea how to stop this, but this article was worth reading just for the wheelbarrow tip in the comments.

  9. My dog is a rescue. He has learned to be okay with dogs who are either close to his size, he is a 60 lb lab mix, or a small dog who ignores him. However, many small dogs bark and yap at him, especially when they are on leash. He does not tolerate this and will respond by going at the little one. Many small dogs either bark because they are afraid or because they mistakenly think they are protecting their owner. Either way it sets my dog off and his tendency is to go after the small dog. if my dog is on leash I quickly remove him from the situation, the irritant. If he is off leash I anticipate the possibility of a problem and call my dog to me. The important thing is to know your dog, large or small, his temperament and his triggers.

  10. the information in this articleis well written. if you have the small dog that is the agressor, follow the suggestions here for larger dogs. just switch the titles of the paragraphs. regardless, make sure your dog does not contribute to the “prey” drive by their behavior. maintain control. the suggestion for using treats as a distraction is a good one. i had a small dachshund who was sweetness at home, but a terror to walk on a leash. every dog, person, squirrel was a target. after the walk, i was exhausted from all the behavior, and he was just fine. but i liked the article. thank you.

  11. And…this ridiculous article pops up yet again….third time now. While there is more in here than last time in regards to proper training, the vast majority of it is still directed at the big dog owners. And there is still absolutely no responsibility being placed on the ‘littles’ or their owners. I’m a dog lover and have had dogs my whole life. I don’t want anything to happen that would cause a dog – anyone’s dog, big or little – to be harmed. That said, I WILL NOT allow this ridiculous notion to go unchallenged.

    To restate what I’ve said prior…if my dog (Rottweiler) is sitting peacefully, minding her own business until a ‘little’ charges us, teeth bared, growling and snapping…the little dog is the one that instigated the altercation and the little dog & owner are at fault. That’s just common sense. We were fortunate – our altercation happened at my vet’s office and we were able to separate the dogs before anyone got hurt….but the infuriating part is that the owner of the little dog thought it was funny!

    Having a dog of any size is a responsibility. There are no ‘free passes’ because a dog is under a certain weight limit. If the behavior is unacceptable for my Rottweiler, it’s unacceptable for a Shih Tzu, Chihuahua or ANY OTHER DOG. In short, bad behavior is bad behavior…24/7/365… and a dog behaving badly IS at fault when that bad behavior creates a problem.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. I have owned several Rotties my most recent just passed and was my service dog. He behaved better than any human yet I always kept him on a leash. He was attacked by a little dog several times and even bitten a couple times. They’re very lucky my rotten Rotties was as well trained as he was . All animals need to be controlled at all times..

  12. The article is titled “When a Big Dog Attacks a Little Dog” so of course it is written with that perspective rather than being unfairly biased. An article titled “When a Little Dog Attacks a Big Dog” could similarly be written from that perspective, giving advice on how to manage aggressive little dogs who provoke, and while they are unlikely to critically injure a large dog, could put themselves in a precarious position and so too require firm training and control.

  13. I’m the owner of 2 large and one small dog. I thought I did everything right, I’m the pack leader I socialize from puppies. 2 years ago One day I wasn’t home and my female grabbed my small dog because she went After my other dog. I blamed my husband. After medical treatment my small dog is ok. This week at my sisters her small dog went after the same shepherd and she almost killed him in front of me. You cannot blame the small dogs, us as big dog owners just should not take a chance. Large dogs belong with large dogs. They have prey drive that kicks in even if you think your dog would never, even under supervision it can happen. My eyes opened the traumatic way.

  14. It isn’t always the larger dogs fault, all dogs need to be leashed when walking out for the safety of both dogs. If your little dog is unleashed and charges at the larger dog who is leashed; then it’s ultimately your fault if the little dog gets hurt.

  15. I have been caring for a dog that seems to have been abandoned for about 2 weeks. The first 6 days, i had him off leash until the evening when he attacked a small terrier very severely by the throat. The next day, in the park, i tried him off leash one more time, and he bit the foot of a cocker spaniel. The owner also got a small scratch on his hand. A few days later, he ran down the steps of my place, and attacked a beagle and bit it on the butt. Then finally, this morning, a small injured dog came up, and when it was underfoot, he went off on the poor thing. I think I was able to pull him up before he bit it.

    I am homeless. I am with him alone all day and night. I am trying. I have not hit him a single time. He is very playful with most dogs, big and small.

    He is a Labrador – pitbull mix, and appears to be a couple of years old. He is unnuetered and i would prefer to keep him that way, if i can get him to stop.

    Any advice?

    • You need to leash the dog at all times! and you must watch him like a hawk! otherwise you are putting others at serious risk! I don’t understand how you could let a dog off leash after he has attacked a dog. That is deeply irresponsible and careless towards the safety of others. When you are not watching him actively you need to muzzle him.

      if you want to train him to behave better over time (and this can take months of hard work) you need to distract the dog with treats when he sees a dog, and do “open bar” where you reward him for ignoring the dog. You also need to keep a distance (whichever distance keeps him below his reactive threshold) and with time you can reduce this distance. This all can take months and even years. I speak from experience by the way.

  16. I am glad this forum has taken up the cause of small dogs/ puppies being attacked by big dogs and is lending voice to caregivers/owners of small dogs/puppies like myself who have experienced firsthand totally unprovoked attacks on their protégés, and want to do something about it. Thank you, tuftsyourdog.com

  17. My three month old puppy 19 lbs was patiently waiting to get into petco grooming when the big husky/ retriever 100 pound animal came out and bit my dogs face chipping her jaw and wounding her face to the point she needs staples and can’t eat hard food . No barking no growling nothing . He came out quietly and attacked my dog . Plain evil to attack a baby when your a huge dog like that for no reason. Petco was busy asking for papers to see if dogs have their shots to get their nails cut but what about this type of situation ?? What about protection to other dogs from these types of abusers . I’m sure that dog has bitten other dogs and it can bite children as well .

  18. Are you fucking serious?

    “It is never your fault if a larger dog attacks your littler one.”

    Yeah it is, control your fucking dog if he is aggravating a bigger dog?! Soooo many times people point to the bigger dog when in reality, small dogs are just as likely to provoke aggression. It’s just that they don’t have the weight or bite to back it up.

  19. I am SICK AND TIRED OF LARGE DOGS DESTROYING MY MELLOW LOW KEY BREEDS ON MY OWN PROPERTY. Our pets are EXTREMELY SOCIALIZED and We have never had a single instance our tiny breeds instigated anything. This is especially true of people who feel the need to get “more and more “120-150 lb dogs. It is THEIR INSTINCT TO RUN IN PACKS. Most big dogs are BULLIES and NEVER attack dogs their own size. Even if they are properly trained, when you have too many dogs they never the proper attention. After thousands $$$$$ in vet bills, missing eyes (on and on) I am fed up with irresponsible folks who decide it is ok to own MULTIPLE HUGE BREED DOGS. Just last week I witnessed another “trained and “friendly” large breed attack and harm a much smaller dog unprovoked and for NO REASON. I will not not bhesitate to KILL ALL LARGE BREEDS THAT OUR PETS and if I go to prison, so be it, PUT A LEASH ON out of control bully dogs and quit making excuses.

  20. Completely inaccurate, if you have your small dog off leash and it shows aggression and attacks a large dog, it IS your fault. Keep your small obnoxious dogs on a leash like I do with my GSD.

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