Managing Small Dog Aggression Toward Large Breeds, Part 2

In part one of this two-part blog series, we went over some of the major themes involved with smaller dogs who show aggression toward larger ones. There are a few possible causes of such behavior, most getting back to stress and territorial behavior, but there are also techniques owners can use to limit this behavior with proper training.

At Innovative K9 Academy, we offer a wide range of dog training programs for a variety of needs, from group classes to private training sessions and a variety of solutions in between. We’ve helped numerous owners of smaller dogs deal with their aggression toward larger breeds, plus have assisted with a wide variety of other issues you may have. In today’s part two, we’ll go over specific strategies we may advise for this area.

Managing Environment

For starters, much of a smaller dog’s discomfort or fear around a larger dog tends to get back to environment. The simple presence of a larger dog itself usually isn’t enough to stoke fear or stress – but when the smaller breed feels threatened or as if it must defend itself, this is when aggression tends to come out.

For this reason, one of your first steps here is managing interactions with such larger breeds. If the only larger dog your smaller breed ever sees is the neighbor’s growling pup, who threatens your dog’s environment, your animal’s general impression of such larger breeds isn’t exactly a fair one. Look for organic ways to expose them to such bigger dogs in calmer, more neutral environments.

Responses to Stress

During or after a stressful experience, your dog will behave differently – and how you respond plays a big role in adjusting their behavior. Punishing them every time they show their stress, especially when it’s fear of a larger dog, will not necessarily improve the situation.

In these scenarios, when your dog is scared and anxious, it’s okay to comfort them. Providing support in those situations helps make them more manageable.

Changing Impressions

In addition to the above, you want to take the proper steps toward helping your dog become more comfortable around larger breeds. This begins with desensitization, or exposing your dog in small doses to larger breeds – again, in the right environments. The goal is for your dog not to react in any strange way at all, even if you have to start 50 feet away and move closer over time.

From here, you want to also practice what’s known as counter conditioning. This refers to rewarding your dog when it behaves well around a larger breed, such as giving it a treat. Over time, you can eventually ween away the treats as your dog becomes more familiar with these situations.


Finally, realize that these areas will take practice. You won’t be able to take your dog out near a larger one once or twice and solve all your issues. Plan to practice for a few minutes at least several times per week, if not more often.

For more on how to help your smaller dog become more comfortable around larger breeds, or to learn about any of our dog training courses, speak to the staff at Innovative K9 Academy today.