Q&A: How to deal with an aggressive small dog?

dog-jumpingMy dog (4yrs, pit terrier- about 45 pounds) came from a large yard to a town-home community late last year. She’s acclimated fairly well to the leash/harness and it’s training after some struggles.

We have a neighboring home that has two dogs — a larger pit bull type and a tiny toysized dog. This neighbor frequently lets his tiny dog roam (without the owner being around) and has shown aggression to not only my dog but me as well when we encounter each other.

When I’m lucky enough to see the tiny dog in advance, I try to pick up mine for her safety. However, there are times Dixie struggles down and attempts to protect me before I get her away from the situation as quickly as possible. After these encounters, my dog is very mopey and disinterested in her toys or even sitting next to us on the couch. The welfare of my dog is my highest priority. How do I handle this in the future when I encounter this dog on one of our walks? ~Cassandra

Hello! I love all subjects related to dog socialization, because I think it is a very important subject. Let’s see if I can help you!

So, first of all, though I love all dogs and try to understand their behavior no matter the breed, I honestly can’t think of a single toy breed off hand that was solely bred for its intelligence. In fact, many experts say some small breeds aren’t able to perceive size, so don’t actually understand the danger they put themselves in.

On top of poor breeding practices, many owners of these small breeds (Chihuahuas are notorious) never bother to try to socialize their dogs at a young age. I can easily see exactly what you are talking about; I’ve both seen personally and heard many stories of these smaller dogs running right up on animals 30 times their size and acting very aggressive. Understand this isn’t ultimately the small dog’s fault; it should have been the owner’s responsibility to socialize their pet, or control it if they can’t.

What You Can Do
You probably can’t control how this small dog acts, since he isn’t yours. If I had this problem, I wouldn’t think twice about talking to the owner. Be polite and courteous about the situation, no matter how furious your neighbor’s lack of responsibility makes you, because that way your neighbor is most likely to listen to what you have to say.

Ask your neighbor to please keep their dog off of your property.
You might suggest having a fence installed. 3-4 ft. chicken wire is all that is needed for most toy breeds, and not that expensive.
Politely explain the danger the neighbor’s dog places himself in by confronting other dogs.
If nothing else works, you might threaten to contact animal control. This should get your neighbor to step up. Though this may mean the smaller dog ends up being sheltered, it is preferable to death. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that. This way, you also have a record of having contacted animal control, if you ever do end up facing legal matters.

No pet owner should simply let their dogs roam around un-restricted; that is very irresponsible! Other animals aside, what if they get hit by a car? What if they end up chasing other animals and run off? What kind of pet owner allows their dogs to roam free with so many possibly dangerous outcomes?

Your Dog
If these two dogs end up fighting physically, my worry for you would be about the legal repercussions you and your pet may face if your mix ends up killing the smaller dog. Look up the laws and pet regulations in your district. Be sure you are prepared if your fears do come true, and capable of handling the outcomes. You also have to worry about your neighbor’s larger dog reacting in defense of the smaller.

Next time you see your vet, try asking for advice. Also, make sure your dog is updated on all vaccinations so she doesn’t end up contracting anything from these other two. If your dog is leash reactive around these other two, there are good YouTube videos available for free on how to handle the situation.

In the End
You can’t ultimately control what your neighbors do, and can’t be responsible for their dogs too. But you can prepare yourself to handle any outcome you might face. Try to be extra vigilant on your walks, and avoid that area or walk the other direction if you need. ~Cassandra

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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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