Why Is My Dog Scared Of Bigger Dogs

Luna, our younger dog, is a very sociable pup—apart from around really big dogs. She almost always becomes frightened around larger dogs. Even though her older brother is a large dog, we do not fully understand why, but we do have a theory. She has a scar on her face that dates back to before we adopted her, and we believe it was caused by a larger dog at her foster home who was known to occasionally bite female dogs. However, it prompted us to look further into the issue in order to discover why and how to deal with a dog’s fear of larger canines.

Why Are Dogs Afraid Of Bigger Dogs?

There are a few possible causes, however we may never know for sure why some dogs are wary of larger dogs:

  • frightening size disparity.
  • trauma brought on by a bad past event (for example, a big dog may have hurt or scared a dog in the past).

How can I teach my dog not to be afraid of large dogs?

Helping your dog overcome fear can be challenging because it is such an ingrained, emotional reaction. Every dog will progress at a different rate, and there is no obvious, simple road to being fear-free.

The best methods we now have for assisting a dog through their fear are desensitization and counterconditioning. Here’s a quick rundown of how it functions:

  • Determine your dog’s comfort level. How close to a new puppy may your dog approach before showing apparent signs of anxiety (see the list above)? The distance might be 5 feet or 100 feet. At the beginning of your training, try your best to never let your dog get any closer than that.
  • Adapt your dog’s perception of other dogs. Your dog currently reacts emotionally negatively to other canines. We want to alter that for the better. You can accomplish this by training your dog to believe that the appearance of another dog from a safe distance heralds the beginning of something amazing. You transform into a Pez dispenser with your treats if a dog shows there. Give them quickly, one at a time, until the dog is no longer in your dog’s field of vision.
  • Utilize the best rewards you can. In this type of training, bland, prepackaged treats or old, boring food won’t go you very far. Select a few extra-special meals that your dog loves and only give them to them when you are attempting to desensitize and countercondition them. Hot dogs, liver, and other smelly foods usually work the best, and infant food scented with meat is a perennial favorite.
  • Develop your skills through practicing. Practice your desensitization-counterconditioning techniques whenever you can. As long as you have the appropriate snacks on hand, you may do this while strolling (just be sure to keep your distance beyond your threshold), relaxing in a park, or even sitting on your front porch or stoop.
  • Reduce the separation between your dog and other canines. Reduce the buffer zone after your dog can observe another dog passing by calmly at their starting threshold. If you were 100 feet away when you started, aim for 75 or 50 feet. Try three feet if you began at five feet. When another pup is present, try to quickly treat your dog in a Pez dispenser-like manner to sway his viewpoint from your new vantage point. As you gradually reduce the threshold distance, let your dog signal when they are ready to move forward. They are likely prepared to get a little closer if they can observe a dog passing calmly without displaying any symptoms of anxiety.

Do larger dogs frighten the smaller dogs?

Your small dog may be acting afraid or even aggressively toward larger dogs because they are afraid. We observe the lunging, barking, or snapping at larger dogs as a result. It appears from this behavior that little dogs think they are bigger than they actually are.

How can I train my small dog to tolerate my large dog?

Many professionals think that this behavior can be motivated by fear. Can you imagine how vast the world appears to them from that vantage point? They are much smaller than us and acutely conscious of our relative size in comparison.

There are several ways in which these fear-based reactions can appear:

  • Hyperactivity, enthusiasm, and sometimes yappy behavior
  • jumping up onto other people, dogs, or higher objects
  • barking or snarling at individuals or canines
  • Shaking
  • Lunging
  • Snapping
  • Avoidance techniques include ducking or concealing
  • opposition to orders

Learned Behavior

There is also the possibility that dog owners are promoting and reinforcing this behavior. Small dogs, after all, don’t pose as much of a threat, and the actions of their owners are frequently more forgivable. In essence, they are escaping detection by disregarding the jumps or growls. Even unintentional rewards like reassuring words, cuddling, sweets, etc., could be used to encourage it.

Increasing your awareness of your own conduct is one of the finest methods to train your pet effectively. Ask yourself: Do I want to continue acting in this way? Should I give it praise?

How to Handle Small Dog Aggression with Dog Training

Dog owners who train their pets can manage small dog aggression. It can improve your dog’s interactions with you, your family, and other canines. Here are some ideas to get you going:

  • plan your time for training
  • Make sure the family is on board with the instruction
  • Make rules and boundaries for your dog.
  • Be reliable.
  • Reward the conduct you want to continue witnessing.

Carefully Introduce Your Small Dog to a Big and Friendly Dog

If this is the behavior you desire, you must put effort into making it easier to live as a small dog in a big dog world.

Follow your tiny dog’s cues and move slowly if possible. You don’t want to endanger either dog. To ensure that you and the other owner are in charge of this relationship, make sure leashes and collars are tight. Future interactions may benefit from this exposure and become simpler with time.

Try Exercise

Small dogs are really energetic! Keeping them moving can be beneficial. More casual encounters with various places and animals may also help lessen anxiety and panic. Your small dog can benefit from this exposure if you visit a park (or, if it’s mature enough, a dog park).

The globe is a vast and lovely place. Just picture how majestic it all appears from ankle height.

Why doesn’t my dog like dogs that are larger than he is?

We can’t ask your dog, so the short answer is that we truly don’t know. However, the following are some plausible causes:

  • Like larger snakes, spiders, and crocodiles, larger dogs are frightening. This is valid for both medium-sized dogs that are afraid of giant dogs and small dogs that are afraid of medium-sized dogs. It’s common to feel threatened by the powerful person when you’re the little guy in a circumstance. The best offensive is frequently the best defense, so the timid little guy puts on a show that causes the dominant individual to back down. And presto, your dog has learnt how to act aggressively in order to scare off intimidating large dogs.
  • (Note: This does not imply that you should ignore your dog’s warning signs; rather, you should teach your dog that large dogs are not frightening and that acting aggressively is ineffective.)
  • Your dog may have been injured or startled by a large dog. Your dog may occasionally be afraid of large dogs not just out of intimidation but also because of a terrible experience. The situation makes sense if you already know that your dog was harmed or terrified by a large dog.
  • The leash can get tense. Say I had a fear of German Shepherds because of a traumatic encounter with a police dog (or a Pit Bull after reading a news story, or a Labrador after one knocked me over as a kid). Later, my Maltese passes a German Shepherd (or Pit Bull) or Labrador Retriever on a walk. I draw my dog a little closer to “keep safe” as I pull more on the leash, my palms begin to perspire, and my breathing becomes more rapid. My dog notices and tenses up as well. The process is repeated the following day, but this time my dog growls a little since Mom is so concerned! My dog growls again on the third day, but I correct him this time. He sees the large dog the following day, and he is VERY concerned. Yesterday, when he approached, Mom yelled at me because she was afraid of him. Oh my, I best make sure to keep that large dog VERY, VERY far away! And there you have it; I used to be afraid of huge dogs, therefore now my dog is too.

If your dog bites larger dogs, it’s rather typical to have a few queries. Let’s discuss those with a brief Q&A first:

Is It Small Dog Syndrome?

Well, possibly. “Small dog syndrome”: what IS it? It’s unquestionably not a recognized diagnosis in the same way that major depressive disorder or hypertension syndrome are.

Small dog syndrome is only a term used to describe the pattern of scared behaviors frequently displayed by fearful, undersocialized small dogs, in my opinion.

These tiny dogs have a tendency to get anxious around large objects.

Don’t you fear a lion more than a cheetah or a house cat more than a cheetah? Bigger things terrify you more when you’re younger.

The owners’ failure to teach their small canines that large objects are not frightening makes the issue worse. The owners don’t expose their pets to frightening situations or teach their small canines that frightening situations are rewarding.

Here, exposure is insufficient (read all about that here). It will take some training for your small dog to understand that other dogs are in fact safe to be around.

Can an Aggressive Dog be Cured?

Oh my God. The unending question in my industry. Every behavior can be changed. And there is always something we can do to improve the situation. An aggressive dog can often, if not most of the time, change enough to “decent enough.

However, it’s impossible to really ensure that ANY dog won’t ever exhibit aggressive behavior. We cannot even promise that about people!

It will take a combination of management, counter-conditioning, and educating the dog to behave differently when he feels tense to successfully treat an aggressive dog.

That’s because punishment will just make your dog feel worse about other dogs, because aggression is typically brought on by a negative emotion. Even if popping his collar or giving him a buttbump could interrupt the undesirable behavior, it won’t prevent him from doing it permanently. Even worse, medication might stop him from lunging or growling as a warning, so he “looks better, but when a dog approaches too closely, he jumps right to biting. Yikes!

Is My Dog Being Alpha?

When owners observe their dog acting aggressively toward other dogs, they frequently assume that their dog is attempting to establish dominance, establish himself as the alpha, or subordinate the larger dog.

To be very honest, there is no proof that this is the case. Studies that led researchers to believe that wolf dominance hierarchies were rigidly rigid and enforced by violence have been disproved.

Dogs, let’s face it, aren’t wolves. They act very differently from one another. Even when they are fully grown, they resemble wolves puppies much more.

So even though your dog may act rudely toward larger dogs, it’s not because he’s attempting to show dominance.

Dogs can exhibit dominance, but it only occurs in certain situations where two individuals are competing for the same resource. Therefore, aggressive behavior between two unfamiliar canines is unlikely to be a result of dominance.

Can you heal a fearful dog?

It is doable! The majority of fearful dogs progressively get better with practice, training, and trust. However, if they have an anxious or shy nature, they are unlikely to become outgoing. Hope exists!

How can I help my dog become more confident with other dogs?

Give your dog enrichment exercises and relationship-based training to help him gain confidence more generally. You may help your dog become more confidence by feeding him using food puzzles and involving him in nose work (which, by the way, is entertaining for both dogs and their people). When you train your dog with positive reinforcement, you show him that making choices and interacting with you and his surroundings will result in rewards like cookies and praise. After all, your dog will be more anxious for new activities and the enjoyment they will undoubtedly provide the more positive ones he has.

Why do smaller dogs growl at larger ones?

When the dog is facing forward, these dogs do nothing; instead, they patiently wait for the large dog to pass by. The little dog shifts into attack mode once his hindquarters are clearly seen. The huge guy has just “gone away,” in the small dog’s eyes. The goal was achieved. They almost seem to be patting themselves on the back in pride.

Breed Predisposition

The little terriers in particular are affected by this. The Latin word “terra,” which meaning “earth,” is where the word “terrier” originates. They were given this name because they were frequently utilized to labor in tunnels to catch prey. Terriers were carefully selected for their “gameness.”

This produced resolute canines that would persist in the face of difficulties. For little working terriers, this meant having the confidence and initiative to handle life-or-death circumstances in their interactions with vermin.

According to Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell in the book Terrier-Centric Dog Training: From Tenacious to Tremendous, these dogs typically have a low arousal threshold, which allows them to move from being absolutely calm to full-blown combat mode rapidly and with very little provocation. She also says,

When the conditions are appropriate, “[terriers] have no real concept of their physical stature and will confront a larger animal in the blink of an eye.”

Additionally, it can be quite challenging to convince a working terrier to listen to you once he is aroused and prepared to chase, fight, or kill.

It sounds like you? The genetic makeup that gave rise to this breed’s tenacity and bravery may not only apply against larger animals like dogs, especially those who approach too quickly, but also to vermin.

Dawn-Antoniak- In fact, Mitchell says that this gameness trend was so well-liked that in the past, terriers were supposed to become excited at the sight of other dogs in the showing ring, and this served as the ultimate “evidence” of the right terrier temperament!

Chihuahuas, like terriers, are renowned for being “small in size but huge in spirit.” In fact, many people compare them to terriers in terms of their lively, assured, feisty, and fearless nature.

Unsolved Behavior Problems

The little terriers are most affected by this. The Latin word “terra,” which meaning “earth,” is the source of the English word “terrier.” This moniker was given to them as a result of the fact that these dogs were frequently employed to operate in caves to catch prey. Terriers were deliberately designed to be “gamey.”

Dogs that were persistent in the face of difficulties resulted from this. This meant having the boldness and initiative needed to handle life-or-death circumstances in encounters with vermin in the case of small working terriers.

In her book Terrier-Centric Dog Training: From Tenacious to Tremendous, Dawn Antoniak-Mitchell notes that because these dogs have a low arousal threshold, they can rapidly and with little provocation switch from being absolutely calm to full-blown battle mode. She then adds,

“[Terriers] have no true concept of their physical size and, given the appropriate conditions, will charge a larger animal in an instant.”

A working terrier is also very tough to convince to listen to you once he is aroused and ready to chase, fight, or kill.

Not familiar? The genetic makeup that gave rise to this breed’s tenacity and bravery may not just be applicable to rodents, but also to larger creatures like dogs, especially those that approach too quickly.

Dawn-Antoniak- Indeed, Mitchell recounts how this “gameness trend” was so well-liked that in the past, terriers were supposed to become excited at the sight of other dogs in the showing ring, and this served as the ultimate “evidence” of the right terrier temperament!

Chihuahuas are renowned for being “small in stature but huge in spirit,” similar to terriers. In fact, many believe that their energetic, self-assured, feisty, and bold behavior is comparable to that of terriers.