Managing Small Dog Aggression Toward Large Breeds, Part 1

At Innovative K9 Academy, we’re proud to provide a huge range of dog training programs for all breeds and dog types out there. From our private training courses to group dog training classes and numerous specific programs in between, we’ve assisted numerous clients and their canine friends with desired training methods and themes over the years.

We love dogs of all shapes and sizes, including our smaller furry friends who may give up a lot of size to other breeds – but may still bark, growl and show other forms of aggression toward these larger dogs. Why might this be happening with your smaller dog, and what can be done about it? This two-part blog will dig into several relevant factors.

Small Dog Syndrome

In some circles, you’ll hear this phenomenon referred to by the title of small dog syndrome. There’s some debate among dog owners and even veterinarians as to whether this is a “real” condition or just a term used to help describe a group of circumstances related to aggression coming from a smaller dog to a larger one.

Such behaviors may include jumping, growling, lunging, snapping, avoidance or fear of larger breeds, or even failure to obey normal commands while around larger dogs. No matter how you term these issues, the important factor here is that you’re aware of how to manage them, which we’ll dig into further in this series.

Usually Not an Alpha Thing

Many of our clients will be familiar with alpha roles and how they relate to aggression in dogs, and may wonder whether their smaller dog is attempting to assert their alpha dominance by being aggressive toward a larger breed. Research, however, has indicated that this is not typically the case I these situations – dominance between dogs is a real thing, to be sure, but it’s more common among dogs that are familiar with each other or sharing a certain resource rather than two dogs who have not met.

Reasons for Aggression

So what are some of the underlying reasons behind some of this aggression you might see? Here are a few common culprits:

  • Fear: Just like other bigger animals, larger dog breeds may be scary to your smaller dog. This is just simple biology in most cases, and the natural defense in some dogs is to put on a big display of aggression. Once they’ve seen this approach work once or twice, your dog might be even more likely to try it again.
  • Painful experience: In some cases, this fear will be based on an actual traumatic experience where your dog was bitten or otherwise attacked by a larger animal.
  • Human stress: They say stress travels “down the leash” with many pets, and this refers to the way your pet will notice your own anxiety or fear around a bigger dog if it’s present. Dogs are perceptive and want to protect their owners, so they may become aggressive toward a larger breed if they can tell you’re also afraid of it.

For more on why your smaller dog might be aggressive toward larger ones, or to learn about any of our dog training programs or solutions, speak to the staff at Innovative K9 Academy today.