Feel safe on walks with your small dog

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It seems to be more and more common that we hear about very serious dog attacks. This article is going to cover small dogs in particular being attacked and badly injured by bigger dogs. Whilst we realise that of course it happens the other way round too, generally when a small dog is attacked by a bigger dog, they are injured more seriously. So what can we do to a) prevent this, b) if it happens and c) after it has happened?

Firstly, as much as possible, we need the little dogs to be happy around bigger dogs, for them to have bigger dog friends. Not just be surrounded by other small dogs, or even the same breed as them. It is easy just to stick to dogs you know your dog likes (often dogs do really like their own kind) but it doesn’t widen their social circle. If you have friends who have nice, big dogs, who you can socialise your small dog with, that is really good. If your little dog runs up to other dogs barking, then it’s likely they are fearful around other dogs. Never let your small dog run up to an on lead bigger dog, that’s just not fair and really it’s asking for trouble. Ask Dog Comm to help if you have difficulty with any of this.


(small dog and big dog running together after a ball – good example of dogs who get along well)


Small dogs who are more confident around bigger dogs are less likely to get attacked. Unfortunately once a dog starts to squeal or scream, they do become more of a target, and it’s possible that something known as prey drive may kick in too with the bigger dog. So, socialise your small breed puppies with other size dogs. Yesterday at Discover Dogs, I saw a tiny Pomeranian strutting alongside her friend St Bernard. Very confident and lovely to watch. You could join classes with other dogs, all under control and safe to help your little dog feel more confident around dogs who are bigger than him or her.. Activities like scent work, trick training, and enrichment of all kinds around other dogs is great. Hoopers is a ground based agility type activity suitable for all types of dogs, especially little ones.

Try to recognise the signs of a dog who may have poor intentions. Generally a dog who looks loose and waggy, is going to be friendly. Observe the whole dog, not just the tail or the ears or the face. Loose body language is the key. Stiff body language and stillness is usually bad news.


(English setter inviting play with a terrier – both dogs happy to interact with dogs of a different size)

If you do find yourself in the horrible situation of your small dog being attacked by a bigger dog – if you can get away by picking them up and running, do so! Don’t hesitate. However, be aware that once you pick up your small dog, it’s likely that the bigger dog will jump up at you if they really want to get to your dog. Turn your back if you are holding your dog and try to get the owner to come and fetch their dog immediately. You could also try throwing treats on the ground for the bigger dog, although if they are in an over aroused state, it’s unlikely they will want your treats. If you need to throw a jacket over your own dog to protect them, you could do that. If something terrible does happen, always try to get the name and address of the other dog’s owner, as you will need to report it to the Dog Warden. Always have your vet’s phone number in your mobile phone, and of course, don’t forget your phone when you are out on walks.

(chihuahua and border collie, learning to interact beautifully with each other – note the beautiful head turn from the collie)


If your little dog does get attacked, you need to give them a lot of time to recover. Physically and mentally. Don’t take them straight out the next day to meet other dogs because they will probably still be in shock, and quite likely will still be in pain. Even if no puncture wounds, there will be bruising if there was physical contact. They will be traumatised without a doubt. They will need a good week or so of no dogs. When you do venture out again, try and go with friends (yours and theirs). Being with other people and dog friends will boost your confidence. If you don’t have any dog friends, contact us and we can help you, there are other qualified trainers and behaviourists around who can help you too, depending on where you live. It’s a tough balance, letting your small dog socialise with bigger dogs, whilst keeping them safe too.

© Dog Communication 2018