Small dogs almost seem like toys. But just because they stay small forever doesn’t mean they can’t be aggressive. In fact, many small dogs compensate for their size by developing aggressive tendencies—that is to say they:
- Jump on you and your guests
- Lunge forward or charge at someone without making contact
- Bark constantly
- Growl or snarl at other animals or people
- Bite and nip
These aggressive behaviors rise to the surface when your small dog feels nervous, intimidated, threatened or afraid, but that’s no excuse. The ASPCA states that aggression is the number one reason pet parents seek help from dog trainers and behaviorists.
So how do you handle aggression in small dogs? Follow these tips.
Evaluate What Sets Your Dog Off
Some dogs are only aggressive in certain situations. The most common types of aggression include:
- Territorial: The dog attacks intruders, even if they’re your friends.
- Protective: The dog becomes aggressive when he thinks a family member is in trouble.
- Possessive: The dog guards his possessions.
- Fear: The dog becomes aggressive when cornered or trapped.
- Defensive: The dog chooses defense over offense.
- Social: The dog is aggressive toward other animals and people he deems inferior to him.
- Frustrated: The dog becomes aggressive when he’s excited and held back from something he wants.
- Redirected: The dog turns on you when you try to calm his aggression toward someone else.
- Pain-driven: An otherwise friendly dog shows aggression when he’s in pain.
- Sexual: A male dog becomes aggressive in the presence of a female dog in heat.
- Predatory: The dog chases and bites fast-moving things, including children and other pets.
Limit Your Dog’s Access to His Triggers
Once you figure out the type of aggression your dog exhibits, you can limit the problem by reducing exposure to his triggers. Sometimes this is easy: never corner your dog, never allow strangers to touch his toys and shut him in your bedroom when the repairman comes by. Other times it’s trickier, such as if you have two aggressive dogs living under one roof or you have small children your dog wants to dominate.
Still, you are responsible for your dog’s behavior, so if you must lock him in his kennel to avoid exposure to his triggers, so be it.
Become the Alpha Leader: Enforce the Rules
One reason small dogs tend to show dominance more than large dogs is because they’re allowed on the couch and on the bed. These positions make a little dog feel like he’s in control, while you—the owner—are just another member of the pack.
Of course, one of the main reasons to get a small dog is for companionship. Fortunately, you don’t have to deny your pooch a place on the couch or bed to calm his aggressive behavior—you just need to take the Alpha position over your dog. How? By disciplining yappy, whiny or aggressive behavior, instead of allowing it in a way you would never allow a large dog to act.
Strictly enforcing basic commands actually gives your small dog a greater sense of security. He knows you’re the one calling the shots and will trust you to protect him. By facilitating this more relaxed state of mind, your dog should begin to show fewer aggressive tendencies.
Take Your Dog to the Vet
If a painful condition causes aggression, look into getting doggie medication. At the same time, be aware that some medications can alter your dog’s mood and increase aggressive tendencies. Discuss your concerns with your vet to give your dog the best chance of improving his behavior.
If you have questions about your small dog’s aggression, contact Germantown Vet at 240-252-7467 or contact us online!