A potentially aggressive small dog barks.

While the image of a slobbering rottweiler or a menacing pack of pit bulls might be what comes to mind for most when aggressive dogs are discussed, our smaller canine companions are not exempt from this description. They may not have quite the bad rap that dobermans or German Shepherds can have, but pint-sized pups can carry quite the pugnacity as well. 

Understanding why the aggressive small dog has so much attitude can help pet owners to better train and enjoy their pets. No judgement here from the staff at Androscoggin Animal Hospital, we are here to help. 

When Small Dogs Are Aggressive

Although it is difficult to remember at times, mighty mastiffs and petite chihuahuas are all members of the same species. For the most part, small dogs bite for many of the same reasons that big dogs do.

In fact, when we look statistically at which dog breeds are most likely to bite, it is pretty representative. Chihuahuas and cocker spaniel are right up there with bulldogs and pits. 

Dogs exhibit aggressive behavior for many reasons. These often include:

  • Fear
  • Protecting food or valuable items
  • Possessive behavior over a location or person
  • Self-preservation
  • Reactivity to stimuli
  • Pain
  • True dominance

As humans, we are less likely to recognize these behaviors in smaller dogs, and many times they go for quite some time without being acknowledged or corrected. 

In fact, many of us are guilty of rewarding aggressive behaviors in small dogs, even if inadvertently. It may feel flattering and protective for the Yorkie in your purse to bark and growl at strangers or be funny when your tiny poodle guards her toy, but positive attention for these behaviors are reinforcing, which is the opposite of what we want. 

These behaviors often seem harmless or even cute at first, but they often escalate when not addressed. Even though an aggressive small dog may not cause as much harm as a bigger dog, their behaviors can limit your ability to enjoy and share them with others.

Preventing and Navigating Ankle Biters

Preventing and treating behavioral issues is an important part of pet wellness care and helps to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. 

Stop trouble in its tracks by:

  • Using positive reinforcement to reward good behavior (not barking at house guests, allowing you to take a favorite toy)
  • Taking your small dog to training classes to learn socialization skills and basic manners
  • Addressing unwanted behaviors instead of ignoring—if you wouldn’t let a lab do it, neither should your lhasa
  • Encouraging self-confidence in your pet by not carrying or coddling
  • Using a well-fitted harness or collar and a non-retractable leash to avoid problems and instill confidence
  • Avoiding putting your pet in potentially difficult situations such as a busy dog park with new dogs or crowded events

Be sure to call us for an appointment if your pet is exhibiting signs of aggression. We will want to rule out pain, illness, or other treatable issues and help you to fix the problem. 

Understanding the source of your pet’s problem is key to fixing it. Whether the issue stems from a medical problem or a behavioral one, it is important to communicate with us so that we can help you to enjoy your relationship with your pet. An aggressive small dog can be a real issue, and we are here to help.