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Double Standard
Smaller v. larger breeds

My neighbor stands in his driveway, his tiny Papillon barking furiously at my dog, Sophie. “Your dog is not socialized, eh?” he says. I point out that it is his dog that is behaving aggressively toward Sophie. “But that’s because she growled at him,” he says.

I have met him several times in the morning while walking my two-year-old Shar-Pei. Each time, his little dog has rushed furiously at Sophie, barking his little head off. Each time, he has done nothing to restrain or otherwise correct his dog. In fact, he often just stops and stares, allowing his dog to continue with his aggressive behavior while doing nothing. Meanwhile, a few doors down, the owner of a Cocker Spaniel yells at his dog, who is also barking furiously at Sophie, to return home. He routinely allows his dog off the leash in his unfenced back yard, and the dog, upon seeing Sophie, immediately reacted to defend its territory.

This is standard behavior for the small dog owners in my neighborhood, I have learned. Next door to the Cocker Spaniel owner lives an older man who walks his small Maltese every morning. Whenever this dog sees Sophie, she charges at her, barking and lunging. He does nothing.

In the small, two- or three-block area where I walk Sophie, there are approximately a half-dozen owners of small or toy dogs. Almost without exception, these owners allow—and sometimes even seem to encourage—their small dogs to behave aggressively towards my dog.

When I first got Sophie, she was very friendly to other dogs she met on her walks, regardless of their size. Now, whenever she sees a small dog, she becomes agitated and starts to growl. It breaks my heart.

These small dog owners are behaving extremely irresponsibly. Not only are they allowing their own dogs to behave inappropriately, but they have now conditioned my dog to react defensively whenever she sees a small dog.

I have a theory that small-dog owners find their pets’ aggressive behavior cute, endearing and funny. They believe that because their dog is small and could never be a threat to any other dog, therefore it’s OK to allow it to growl, bark, snap and charge at my dog.

But it’s not OK.

It seems a double standard exists in the dog world between owners of small-breed dogs and owners of larger breeds. Medium-sized and large-breed owners must make sure their dog is never aggressive to other dogs, but owners of small breeds may give their dogs free rein.

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Submitted by FJM | February 4 2010 |

Interesting that all the owners you mention are male - is that just coincidence? I have toy dogs, and work very hard to socialise them, and to ensure they don't tease other dogs, no matter what size. It can be hard work though - there are a few dogs they always want to bark at when they first meet them, although they will then all be playing happily a few minutes later. Owners of small dogs do seem to be encouraged to baby them, and not treat them as "real" dogs. I know when I wanted a long, light weight lead for training I had to put in a special order - I was told that most people didn't bother training a small dog to walk on a loose lead, as it was easier to just pick it up. Meanwhile the shop was full of tiny designer clothes for dogs ...

Out of interest, do your neighbours' small dogs also bark at each other, or is it a big dog/little dog thing?

Submitted by psvogt | February 4 2010 |

I am an owner of a small dog- a rescued yorkie. She is the second yorkie I've owned, my first dog (as an adult owner) was a 65 pound border collie. I took all of my dogs to canine companion and obedience training classes for socialization and basic training. My first two dogs were easily socialized (I got them as puppies) and had no fear barking problems whatsoever. My current rescued yorkie was very fearful and often barked fearfully when we met other dogs while walking in our neighborhood when I got her at 11 months old. When these outbreaks occurred, I apologized and tried my best to correct her and NOT encourage her in any way. It has taken me months and months to improve her behaviour so that now she only has a rare aggressive response to meeting a new dog. Often as noted in a previous post, after a good sniff, she is playing and enjoying that new dog. In my experience I think too many people want a small dog to treat like an accessory. They forget that it's an animal and NEEDS yes NEEDS training. They are just ignorant of the needs of their dog. They might be embarrassed by their constantly yapping toy dog, but they don't know how to properly correct it. Even my sister in law refused to take her out of control shihtzu-poo (don't get me started on that choice!) to puppy classes- even when the vet and groomer both suggested it. Interestingly enough- Lisa McMillan, the original editorial writer owns a sharpei- my son has a sharpei mix that loves to come visit my yorkie. They play like 2 puppies and have a great time together, regardless of the size difference. The sharpei was raised around yorkies so she's been taught how to play with small dogs without getting too rough. I do understand the fear of some small dog owners because a large dog can kill a small dog in a matter of seconds- sometimes totally unintentionally. So the fear may be coming from the holder of the leash as well as the small dog. It's still no excuse for not finding a training facility near your home that offers positive reinforcement training to improve your dog's behavior and life. Well-behaved, trained dogs are happier!

Submitted by Stef Strosky | February 5 2010 |

My nieghbor's 3 mini doxies do seem to bark at each other every now and then. The one is completely blind and deaf and always barks. I do think its bad that my neighbors never trained the girls (littermates whose mother died giving birth to them). But at least the girls are naturally friendly and know how to greet dogs and people properly.

On the other side we have neighbors who have a MinPin that has actually gone from a crazy dog to a nice one. But then their daughter went and rescued a chihuahua mix that is totally out of control and aggressive to all (she is truly an ankle biter). Now their MinPin Brody is starting to act up again. Now here is the kicker. Before these little dogs, when they first moved in they had a Doberman that was perfectly behaved and had flawless recall. After Logan died from quick onset of cancer they got the little dogs (most likely the moms choice). I can see whenever Frank (the husband and also very tall) is walking the little ones he is annoyed with their behavior, but I still have yet to see him try and correct them.

Submitted by Stef Strosky | February 4 2010 |

I totally agree with you Lisa. I have been in similar situations countless times. It really angers me when I see these small dogs getting away with horrible behavior; that if our larger dogs acted this way, it would get them put down or we would be fined. Most of the time it is the small dogs, but I have also noticed a lot of new dog owners who don't know a thing about caring or training them. For example my backyard neighbors are a younger couple with three young kids which were already a handful and out of control. But then they went and added a young Boxer pup to the mix. This dog has turned into a menace to other dogs. Scooby is forever charging at our fence in an attempt to attack my 9 year old Keeshond Leo, 5 year old Keeshond Sully, and 3 year old mutt Nero. Scooby is so focused on attacking my boys that he is always running head first into the fence. He has also made moves to attack my other neighbors 3 mini-doxies. What really gets to me is that they freak out and yell at their kids not to go near ours even though the kids were supervised when the grandmother let them meet our dogs during the one summer. These kids have also started throwing stuff like tomatoes at our dogs even when we catch them at it and ask them to stop. Thankfully we won't have to put up with this much longer as we are moving.

On another day our neighbors mini-doxies were being watched by friends and the young boy lost control of one of the girls and she went under our fence to see our dogs. The boy ended up screaming his head off because he thought that our bigger dogs would kill the little one. Thankfully the mother had more sense and calmly she and my mom caught the little doxie. That is another issue facing the bigger dogs and that is that a lot of people think that they are vicious killers. After getting over the annoyance of how this kid acted it did become funny. Especially when we told our neighbors when they got back. They know our boys have never hurt their little girls. They even allow their 2 year old granddaughter to play with my 9 year old Keeshond Leo when she visits.

These little and sometimes bigger dogs that are out of control and aggressive that need to be stopped.

Submitted by Jacqui Naud | February 4 2010 |

I totally agree that there appears to be double standard when it comes to training a large dog or a small dog. I walk my dog twice a day and also take him to a local dog park twice a day (Leo is a rescued miniature Australian Shepherd who requires much exercise). Leo is well trained and behaved. However, I can't count the number of small dogs that approach him aggressively/fearfully barking without provocation only to have the owner smile and barely apologize that he 'always does this' without any attempt at correction. At the dog park I have found myself putting my body between my dog and an aggressive (fearful) small dog many, many times which usually dissuades the aggressive behavior. The irony is that many small dog owners are the first to complain if a large dog even growls at their dog.

I think the first step any dog owner can take to control this situation is to politely let the small dog owner know that his dogs' behavior is not acceptable and to recommend training. It's been my experience that most small dogs that bark at larger dogs do so out of fear, not aggression. The next step is to remind the small dog owner that they shouldn't be surprised if their dog gets attacked the next time their dog acts aggressively towards another dog. As with everything, education is the key to change.

Submitted by Linda | February 4 2010 |

My female greyhound, Gracie, had a bad experience with a female Chihauhua (maybe)- mix (little dog) named Maggie. For months, Maggie barked, growled and lunged towards Gracie and my male greyhound whenever she saw us on our walks. My hounds were on regular leashes, but Maggie was always on an extendable leash. My male dog pretty much ignored the whole thing, but Gracie got very upset. This went on for months, altho I repeatedly asked the owner to please correct her dog, and suggested that she walk the dog in the opposite direction or at least not allow the dog to move at all if she was being unfriendly. One day finally, Maggie ran under Gracie's mouth(I know, it sounds funny) and Gracie bit Maggie's ear. You can imagine how Maggie's owner screamed and shrieked that her poor little doggie was bleeding. To be sure there'd be no trouble, I paid the vet bill, even tho both dogs were leashed and on their own territory (we live in a condo association), but I took Gracie to a behaviorist for an evaluation. The behaviorist said, Gracie acted defensively and appropriately for the situation. I think the problem is that owners of little dogs (certainly Maggie's owner) pick them up and hold them in their arms when the dog behaves in an unfriendly way. This actually reinforces the behavior. Maggie's owner would coo, "Oh, no, you don't have to growl, these are niiiiiice doggies!" all the while, stroking and petting Maggie and holding her in her arms, while Maggie continued to snarl and growl at my dogs. Hello! Seriously, some of my best friends have little dogs, but please, socialize them! Now, however, Gracie is very nervous meeting any dog of any size. Most of the time, I just let her (and my other dog) walk on past other dogs, because she is so anxious, and the last thing I want to do, is introduce an anxious dog to one I don't know. It's really very sad all around. Just because one person couldn't take the time to socialize her little dog. I'd say those of us with big dogs generally don't have that luxury; we'd lose those dogs to Animal Control in a heartbeat.

Submitted by psvogt | February 4 2010 |

I'm the owner of a yorkie (although she is an 11-pound yorkie) that I rescued when she was 11 months old. It has been very challenging to socialize her. She is a fear barker and when she first joined our family she barked at almost every dog we met while walking the neighborhood regardless of size. After months and months of work, she is only rarely barking at new dogs. I am a firm believer in taking all dogs to puppy classes, canine good citizenship classes and basic obedience classes. I've trained all my dogs and feel that they are happier for the experience. Unfortunately many people in today's society want a small dog to use as an accessory- not as a pet. They are ignorant of how to train their dog or even control it. Unfortunately those fear barkers can appear aggressive to a large dog who might just decide to take action with dire consequences. The owners may also have a fear of large dogs which only complicates the problems. Interestingly enough my son has a Shar Pei mix that comes to visit on a regular basis. She and my yorkie are best buds and play like puppies all day long regardless of the size difference. I'm sure Mahoney has helped my yorkie to overcome fear of larger dogs. She also enjoys the company of a large boxer puppy that attends our agility classes. Dog classes have been essential in her training and mine!

Submitted by Jane | February 5 2010 |

Your experience is similar to mine. Over the past 17 years of having a medium to large dog, there have been perpetual problems when we walk at the local park. It does seem to occur more often with small dogs. I wonder if because a small dog is easily "scooped up" by its human, it's easy to think trouble can be avoided? Sorry to hear that so many others experience this though.

Submitted by Carolyn | February 5 2010 |

I have the opposite problem: a small well trained dog (CGC) who is always leashed (6') and doesn't bark. Not only that, she (former stray) is very timid with any dog, large or small, that "rushes" her.

I've tried to "stand fast" and remain calm and welcoming when being approached by enthusiastic overly friendly dogs. But, it can be very hard to evaluate a galloping dog's intent, especially when it comes out of nowhere. She's never been seriously injured, fortunately, but she has been knocked down, leashes tangled and jerked around etc. Her reaction now is to run behind me putting me between her and the dog.

I hate to, but now I intervene by picking her up. I don't want to risk serious injury and by now, she's terrified anyway. Two GSD-mixes, known to be friendly with neighboring shih tzus (that fit the image of what is described in previous posts), chase and pounce when my little dog tried to dodge them and their behavior is very different evidently based on her timidity. I've also been clawed by a labradoodle who scratched my arms trying to get at my dog while his owners stood there and said, oh he's really friendly.

I think the solution is training, socializing, courtesy and management for dogs both large and small (in a perfect world...!).

Submitted by Troy Riggs | March 7 2010 |

Not only do I agree that many small dog owners tolerate or even encourage their small dogs to be have aggressively, but the prejudice extends to shelters and humane societies as well. It is not at all uncommon to see a snappy, fearful small dog get adopted while larger dogs, especially if someone thinks they look like a Pit, are killed for significantly less aggressive behavior. Not only does this double standard exist, it kills dogs every day.

Submitted by Christine | February 5 2010 |

Yes I have a neighbor who lets her aggressive pomeranian off leash every day and then asks if my dog is "fearful" because he doesn't want to go near her dog. I originally thought her dog was harmless and didn't worry about my dog but realized that my dog correctly reads the aggressive behavior and I should take it seriously. We don't go anywhere near them.

Submitted by Mona | February 5 2010 |

I agree with the author of the letter. I own two Rottweilers and walk them together. When we meet a small dog, it is going crazy and the owner will usually say, "Oh stop it, those dogs could eat you for a snack", meanwhile, not doing anything about the little dog's behavior. And what is worse, a retractable leash is usally attached to the small dog, giving that dog more than 10 feet of free running space. My dogs are trained to sit at my side and wait for the not-in-control-owner to pass, so that WE can't be held responsible for anything bad happening. I also live in a city with BSL laws. If my dogs acted like those small dogs, the authorities would be there so fast and my dogs would be euthanized in the back of the Dog Warden's van!!

Submitted by Anonymous | February 5 2010 |

I agree with everyone here that training is essential for all dogs, no matter what the size. It seems that many people are under the impression that big dogs must be trained to control behavior problems, while with small dogs, all that needs to be done is simply pick them up. There is definitely a double standard. For example, my sister's father in law used to help train Rottweilers for military and law enforcement when he was younger. But he refuses to train his Papillon because he's "too small" (maybe it's a macho thing?)
He's not aggressive, but he is not well behaved. While at their house one afternoon, I saw this little guy do things that I would never even dream of letting my Newfoundland mix do (jumping up on people, grabbing food off the table). And the mother in law just laughed and said, "Isn't that cute? He's so bad!" However, things like that are NOT acceptable with a big dog, she later told me.

Submitted by Karen | February 5 2010 |

I agree that there is a double standard. I have had a similar experience in an apartment complex where a irresponsible owner let their dog out without a leash. The dog ran out and bit my dog on the back leg. Neither my dog nor I saw it coming. For years after that my dog was fearful of other dogs. It was very sad to change my dog's change in behavior. I think dog owners who have small dogs know better, they just don't care.

Submitted by Sue | February 6 2010 |

I agree there is a double standard when it comes to large vs. small breed dog owners, and that large breed owners are not only expected to, but always must make the extra effort to ensure peaceful canine interactions.

That doesn't belie the fact that no matter what the scenario, the fault lies with the human who is not being a responsible pet owner allowing his/her dog to display inappropriate behavior. Whether it is not obeying leash laws, leaving their dogs alone in a backyard with unsecure fencing where they constantly get out not only to possibly get hit but are menaces to the neighbors and their animals, not training their animals not to bolt when doors are opened, allowing their animal to act aggressive towards another animal with no correction, etc., it all points back to irresponsibility on the part of the human. I find that anonymously leaving copies of articles just such as this on the front porch, or even mailed, to the offender(s) sometimes does a world of good.

Submitted by Whitney | February 20 2010 |

My boxer (80 lbs), staffordshire terrier (65 lbs) and I receive many complements while on our neighborhood walks...my constant response is "Thanks, when they are this size it's not a choice". Large dogs HAVE to be well behaved or quickly get a reputation as vicious or end up forgotten by their family and left outside or in the basement. I wish that all dog owners wanted to have well behaved, socialized pets regardless of size. I seems that it's just easier for someone who doesn't want to properly care for their dog, but has one anyway, to get a small breed. Unfortunately, I have come to expect that when I see a small dog they are going to charge at us and when I see a large dog they are going to be fine. I am not wrong often.

Submitted by Cassandra | February 6 2010 |

I completely agreee that there is a double standard when it comes to small dogs. I have had several problems with small dogs rushing my large dogs. I have a Border Collie/Lab mix and a Shepherd/Lab mix and they both have been rushed at by small dogs at the dog park. Owners of small dogs assume that larger dogs are dangerous and going to rush their dogs and hurt them, but they don't seem to notice when their dog rushes a large dog. They think it's cute and usually don't do anything to correct it. It seems that large or medium size dog owners are expected to train and correct their dogs, but most small owners ignore the fact that small dogs need training and correction too. I will admit, my dogs can be barkers at people, but they are more eager to play with other dogs than attack them. I try to keep my large dogs in check at all times, and all other dog owners, large or small should do the same.

Submitted by Tiffani | February 6 2010 |

I have two dogs. A 14 pound yorkie mix and a 55 pound border collie mix. Both will bark at people and dogs. My little dog is ALWAYS on a chain when outside. She is a rescue that was abused as a puppy. She will bite people. Believe it or not some people think she's cute when she is barking and growling and they come towards her and try to pet her! I actually have to tell people not to come too close. My bigger dog likes to run up to other dogs. She scares people because she puts the hair on her back up when someone is approaching. She has never bitten anyone or any other dog. She is actually very friendly.My problem is not with the dogs, mine or other people's. It's with the people!

Submitted by Terri Mallett | February 7 2010 |

This is exactly the kind of situation that makes me dream of having an 'Etiquette in Public' class for dogs owners - except the people that need to come probably wouldn't, and I'd end up preaching to the choir. While small dogs do seem to get acutal training less often, the rudeness certainly goes both ways. I recently attended my first 'fun-match' with my 18 lb pug, who is CGC/Therapy Dog Certified. We were standing with our backs against a wall when a woman let her Belgian Shepherd walk up to 'say hi' to my dog. Before she could get close enough for the dog to sniff mine, I asked her politely to keep her (leashed) dog at a distance. My reasons for doing so weren't really important - though I had no idea who she was, if her dog was friendly, was 'working' my dog, and had no where to move if things did turn icky! She huffed at us as if we were stuck-up, bu thankfully moved on. I think the most polite thing we can do when with our dogs,in public (whatever their size, and even if it's only on your front lawn) is not to assume everyone loves our dogs as much as we do, and ALWAYS ask before greeting or letting our dogs greet.

Submitted by Melanie Byers | February 7 2010 |

I share Lisa's frustration with the behavior of small dogs, or more accurately small dog owners. We own a Golden Retriever and a Great Pyrenees, whom we enjoy walking around our neighborhood. We work hard to teach our boys good manners, and we keep them leashed when we take them outside of our fenced yard. We make sure they know that humans are the alphas in their pack. In turn we have raised our five-year old daughter to be respectful toward dogs and ask permission before petting strange dogs.

Unfortunately, the neighborhoods' little dog owners are not so considerate. One (thankfully former) neighbor habitually let her unlicensed Shih Tzu run loose, encouraging it to run across the street to defecate on neighbors' lawns instead of their own. When visited by the local dog warden, the owner asserted that her dog was too small to require a license. We called that dog "Pee Dog".

Another neighborhood Shih Tzu literally pulled its corkscrew stake out of the ground as it charged after our boys. Its owner claimed that it just wanted to play. We call that dog "Angry Dog", and warn our daughter to keep her distance.

Now we watch a tiny trio - two Maltese and a Yorkie - who regularly drag their owner down the street. On occasion they have broken loose and charged our daughter. When we caught and returned them to their home, the owners were clueless that the dogs had even been outside their house. Training suggestions fall on deaf ears. Yet if - heaven forbid - anything ever happens between those untrained terrors and our dogs, our boys will be the ones at fault just because of their size.

Submitted by Stef Strosky | February 9 2010 |

Melanie, I have been in your position tons of times with having to return a dog to its owner's house and with them being clueless about the dog even being out.

I think its awesome that you have taught your daughter to ask first before approaching and petting a dog. Once at Petsmart these kids just came up behind my back and started petting my 9 year old Keeshond Leo who was sitting a little back to my left side. Their parents are lucky that Leo is good with kids or else they may have gotten bit. I told the parents to have their kids ask next time they want to pet a dog and in this case they saw the logic of my words. And I am glad to say I have seen this in action; when I took my dog to see the eye vet specialist a little girl asked to pet Leo and also was teaching her 2 year old baby sister how to properly pet a dog. I praised the girl for her actions, and we had a nice chat about dogs.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 8 2010 |

I second Sue's comment (Feb. 6) while there does seem to be a double standard with small dog owners somehow believing they are exempt from training, walking on leash, correcting bad behavior or picking up after their dogs there are big dog owners who are equally clueless.

Responsible dog ownership/guardianship applies to everyone. Do not allow your dog to approach another dog without permission, keep your dog on leash, correct (gently!) bad behavior, clean up after your dog (no matter how small the mess!) and get your dog trained with a responsible reputable dog training group.

Submitted by Sandy | February 8 2010 |

It's an awful thing what these people do You probably wish they'd get a wake up call not from your dog of course.
My Dad does this with his little spaniel cross it's like a cocker and dachshund mix. Penney's about 25lb and supposed to be 15lb she looks like a tiny furry foot stool. I have a pitt cross she's about 45lbs of muscle she loves to play and has asked Penney to play many times I don't know why.He brings Penney over to our house and thinks it hilarious that Penney can put Sadie on her back with Penney at her throat growling and snarling. He even eggs her on. I'm pretty sure family functions would'nt be the same if Sadie were not so sweet. If Sadie were to do that being pitt and all, well I would never allow that.

Submitted by Janie | February 9 2010 |

Your point is so well-taken! Good manners should be the standard for all dogs regardless of size.

Submitted by Candace | February 11 2010 |

As a trainer I was always very disappointed when the owners of small dogs who came to class would refuse to correct some of these behaviors, they found them funny. These were most often the people that would come back in a few months complaining that the behaviors that they had found cute are now turned against them. On the other hand I also had many of owners of small dogs who found it silly that they wouldn't socialize and train there dogs just as if they were large. These were the students I liked having the most, it gave the whole group a much better opportunity to socialize with all sizes of dogs. Unfortunately last summer my 40lb mix breed dog almost had 6 months of physical therapy undone when my neighbors 5lb dog snuck up on us and attacked my dog by jumping on her back and trying to bite the back of her neck. My neighbor then ran out assuring me that the little dog that was snarling and lunging that I was currently fending of my dog was friendly, we have had this happen a number of times and we can now no longer walk in our neighbor hood safely. Many of the people with larger dogs in my complex take there dogs to farther neighborhoods to walk them safely away from a few smaller dogs. Luckily another neighbor has a well behaved smaller dog which has allowed my dog to socialize.

Submitted by Beverly Payne | February 11 2010 |

I'm afraid I must agree with you and I'm the owner of a small dog (a Boston Terrier). My Sadie has been taught that good manners are important, as she is a therapy dog who visits convalescent hospitals. On our walks however, we have been confronted by snapping, growling, and generally hostile behavior from any number of small dogs, whose owners appear to think this behavior is "cute". Fortunately, Sadie much prefers the companionship of people to other dogs, and tends to simply isgnore bad behavior. I suppose the general perception is that a big dog can do some real damage to a person or another dog; however, my sister in laws Chihuahua bit a neighbor with absolutely no provocation, and was never corrected for that bad behavior!

Submitted by Shawn, MaxEE's mom | February 12 2010 |

I worked at the local low cost spay/neuter clinic and have volunteered at the local animal shelter since oct 2002. As a result we have 15 dogs right now, all have been rescued and range in size from 5lbs (a blind yorkie), to a 120lb 11 year old malamute mix. In our house everyone is treated the same. the small dogs must behave just as much as the big dogs. Also dealing with so many different dogs on such a regular basis I can honestly say small dogs bite much more often than the big dogs but because they are small and don't do as much damamge most people think its ok. One of our small dogs bit me the first time I met him and I ended up with him a month later becuase he wouldn't stop biting his new owners(he belonged to an older woman who passed). He no longer bites anyone since we don't allow that behavior even though his name is still Chooee, cause he used to try to Chooee on Youee! All dogs no matter what size, shape or color need to be good canine citizens.

Submitted by Montagu's HuMom | February 12 2010 |

Anyone who allows their small dog (or any sized dog) to charge and bark another dog suggests to me that they don't really care about the dog, why else would they allow their dog to get into a possibly dangerous violent situation?

There certainly isn't a double-standard with regard to human attitude and the size of their dog, but rather, arrogance and stupidity. Some Golden Retriever and Labrador owners think nothing of allowing their dogs to roam off-lead and when their "sweet" dogs become aggressive toward another dog (on lead), they get all huffy and say "oh my dog has never done that before!" Yeah right.


Oh, and being called a crazy bitch doesn't bother me, as it has kept my dogs safe.

Submitted by Cheryl | February 12 2010 |

I, too, have seen owners of small, toy breed dogs, allow much too much leeway when it comes to approaching a larger breed dog. This definitely happens.

I have worked with small dogs in a rescue capacity for many years now. Owners not taking the time to properly train their small, or large, dog is either expressing ignorance or just plain laziness. At the "end of the day", this is most unjust for the dog.

All dogs, large, small or otherwise; deserve to be properly trained.
Sadly, there are many untrained dogs of all breed types and sizes.
Any way you look at it, it is unjust for the dog. Rendering them anti-social, sometimes even aggressive. This is just wrong on so many levels.

Being much more involved in smaller breeders for several years now, I do have to say that the small dog owner who takes great strides properly training their small dog, and the small dog in general, is getting a bum rap by being tossed under the umbrella of stereo-typing mindsets just because of their stature. This is unfair as it casts a very negative light on small dogs in general.

Many small dogs participate in various dog sports, i.e. obedience, rally-o, agility, etc. Many small dogs make excellent therapy or service dogs. Lumping them all together to label them being ankle-biting noisy little tyrants is not deserved, at least not in any across the board basis.

There are dogs of every size and every breed that are mishandled and untrained. An across the table, one size fits all approach, serves to misrepresent any dog. They all need to be assessed on a case by case basis. Let's take off the blurry glasses and give credit where credit is due. And, this is not only with the larger breeds.
Let's consider each dog, just as we should each person, on a separate case by case basis with honest, and otherwise accurate, assessment.

Perpetuating stereo-typical, close mindedness opinions on an across the board basis is simply wrong.

Many small dog are well-trained and well-managed. Let's not discount these canines and have them get lost in the fray of preconceived bias.

My assertion is that there are untrained, mismanaged dogs in every size, shape, color, breed (mix). Is it right to point fingers at them as the socially inept? NO! I say the blame for this needs to be placed squarely upon the shoulders of owners who for one reason or another, all unacceptable; fail to take responsibility to ensure their dogs are not menaces. Just remember the next time you see any dog presenting unsocial behavior, the blame justly should be targeted at the human, not the dog.

Thank you.
A dedicated, hard-working canine rescue volunteer.

Submitted by FJM | February 14 2010 |

Absolutely agree, Cheryl. As the owner of small dogs, I am sometimes made to feel apologetic for their size, as if they are somehow not "real" dogs. My two are now asleep, after a happy morning of Agility class and a long, wet, muddy walk by the seashore, where they were polite and well behaved with the several dozen dogs and people that we met. Good manners are not related to size - they are down to sufficient socialisation and training. Thanks for a sensible, balanced post.

Submitted by Emma & Sammy's Mom | February 13 2010 |

I was thinking about this while walking my 2 small dogs and came up with the following conclusion:

I believe we see fewer poorly trained large dogs because their owners simply can't take them out in public. They are too strong to walk on a leash without hurting their owners.

Sadly, many are penned up in a back yard and given very little attention or are kept in a family setting until a stranger comes over when they are wrestled into another room.

Irregardless of the size of the dog, no dog should be able to entice another dog into aggressive behavior. Since the "irresponsible owners" won't set limits, it is the responsibility of the "good owners" to set boundaries. I have told people to NOT approach us with their dogs. I have moved my dogs off a trail and had them sit quietly while an unruly dog (and owner) passed by. Some owners get snippy, but I really don't care. It is my responsibility to keep my dogs as far away from threatening situations as possible.

Submitted by Kristine Hahn | February 14 2010 |

I am very offended, as an owner of a seven year old Chihuahua and a nine month old Whippet, that anyone would imply that there was a double standard between small dog owners and large dog owners. For every person that lets their little yapper terrorize the neighborhood, their is another person who works dilligently to train their little Napolian well. I am currently suffering through the same situation in complete oppisite. My Chi is a rescue breeder mom and yes, she can be yappy. We have taken her all the way through advanced level obiedience training. We rescued her last January and she was a charm all through winter and into the spring. Unfortunately, Summer in or neighborhood is the season of the off leash Labradors and other large breeds. Everyone brings their large breed dogs (especially Labs) to the public park and plays fetch with them off leash. People barbeque in their yards, have parties, and wash cars and the dogs, large and small are off leash. My little dog, who has had little oppertunity to socialize has been raced up to so many times that she has developed horrible aggresion issues. The chant of off leash Labrador owners in my neighborhood is always, "dont worry he's friendly." I have tried many times to convey to these people that my dog is not friendly, and I am always laughed off, untill the dog gets to close and before, I can pic my dog up, their dog gets bit. Their is no reason for any dog to ever be off leash and out of control in any public place. Dogs in public places are a right and not a privlige. Not only do off leash dogs create problems for other dog owners, but dog owners, who do not control and clean up after their animals are trampling on the rights of non dog owners, who wish to enjoy their public outings without the interference of any dog, large, or small. - Kristine Hahn Fraser, Michigan

Submitted by Sheyna | April 22 2010 |

YES YES YES. I have a reactive dog, he is a min pin, I have worked very hard to get him to where he is today. However, he hates dogs that run up to him, get in his face and lean over him. Or "just want to say hi" as is always the case.

He doesn't want to say hi like that and from what I can tell in dog body language in most cases its the other dog that has been rude in greeting.

Submitted by Pat Hufford | February 14 2010 |

I am afraid that I have to concur with Lisa McMillan; I have had people bring their little dogs into my home uninvited, even when they knew we had a large indoor dog. And then make negative comments about our dog barking from his crate! At the park, they will allow them to rush up to my dog, even when I explain that my dog is not friendly, move my dog off the walkway, and make him sit quietly. It's almost as though they are trying to dare us to respond.

I also see these little dogs in grocery stores and other retail establishments where dogs definitely are not meant to be.

Pat Hufford

Submitted by Stef Strosky | February 14 2010 |

Pat, you brought up another one of my pet peeves. Small dogs in stores where they do not belong. This irks me to no end. I work at T.J. Maxx and there is this one lady who is always bringing in her little Maltese. She always is going on about how the dog is the stores mascot and for some reason the managers allow this. It really bugs me because no one says anything about that dog being there. But when a lady had a larger breed laying in the shopping cart while going around the store, we had tons of customers complaining about the dog being there even though it was totally silent and sleeping most of the time (whereas the Maltese is yappy the whole time its in the store). I really feel like reporting this because in NY State it is illegal to have a dog that is not a service dog in any type of store (exception is the pet stores which have permits). I really blame the celebrities for this happening. I also have thought about taking my big fluffy, although well behaved Keeshond into work one day and seeing how many complaints I get about it. Then bringing that to the attention of the managers.

Submitted by AliKat | February 14 2010 |

We also have people in our neighborhood with small breeds, and for some reason, these people feel that it's not only acceptable for their little dogs to charge bigger dogs, but these geniuses also seem to think that they have control enough over them to walk them off-leash. I have seen this more times than I can count, and not only is it illegal where I live to walk a dog off-leash, but twice, I have seen this small dog run into our busy street in an attempt to charge bigger dogs. All I know is this: If I ever let any of my Chow Chows off-leash, or allowed them to behave badly and found it entertaining, OR, if one of these little dogs charged at my dogs and got attacked by my dogs in self defense or protecting me, they would be removed from my home and put down faster than you can blink because of the discrimination against their breed. Fortunately, I love my dogs and would never do anything as irresponsible as that, and I'm also a considerate pet owner all around.
Another subject for future discussion - the inconsideration of pet owners (and, again, I see this much more frequently in people with small breeds) who think they are above picking up after their pet. Just because its' small, doesn't make it any less toxic!

Submitted by Carol Roberts | February 14 2010 |

I take exception to Lisa McMillan's comments on a double standard because I scold my Pomeranian quite severely any time he is aggressive. On the other hand, I am excluded from taking him to the local dog park because the larger dogs are so aggressive towards him. I believe they could be under the false impression that he is a cat because he is small and very fluffy. I do agree that small dog owners should keep their dogs in check when they don't act right and have made that comment to them whenever I see bad behavior. It only takes one second for a large dog to turn around and do significant damage to an irritating yapper. I witnessed that for myself with our Collie and my aunt's Chihuahua. That's why I am so stern with my small dog to not be aggressive because it's not funny and, in fact, could turn out to be deadly.

Submitted by lynn hays | February 14 2010 |

There are owners who love their dogs, teach them confidence and encourage their dog through positive reinforcement to prioritize the relationship they have with their owner rather than be distracted by or feel threatened by less important stimulus in the environment. These owners always use a leash when the dog is not properly contained or not competing in some sort of trial. Owners with good manners would never allow their best friend, regardless of breed or size, set a poor example or make anyone feel uncomfortable or fearful, sadly it seems lack of manners permeates the dog keeping community(different than those who truly OWN and love dogs) as so many other parts of our lives around the globe are negatively impacted by a sans etiquette mentality.
These owners and the dogs they fail to contain or train are simply to be pitied and avoided, as no matter what those of us say or do or how we say or do what we must to defend ourselves and our dog, they just won't get it. I have taken up putting my dogs in the car and leaving my neighborhood, finding locations where no other people and the dogs they refuse to properly contain or train will visit. Inconveinient most certainly but much better than the adrenaline rush, the angry verbal thrashing I will be forced to launch. My former Police Chief instructed me that I should carry a stun gun, I don't want to hurt someone else's dog simply because they are acting like an irresponsible moron. Failing to train or contain is lazy, as is making excuses or blaming the dog belonging to the party who IS using a leash.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 16 2010 |

Actually i have a long haired chihuahua. And he barks like hes being attacked. Actually more like he is screaming. I detest it. I have tried to correct him and i still do but it just hasnt improved. Even with seeing the neighbours dog everyday he treats it like a new experience each time. I wish i could hire a pro but i have considered sending him to a doggy dayare so he will get more exposure. Its not easy or cheap either. Once a Dog hasnt been properly socialized at a young age its hard to correct that habit.

Submitted by Pit Bull owner ... | February 16 2010 |

Small dog owners seem to think it's OK for their dog to act like this because they are small, and "can't do any damage" like a "big dog" can.

Some think it's cute, and unfortunately, it's not.

Submitted by Sarah | February 16 2010 |

My dog is a 9 lb shih tzu. I don't go to off-leash dog parks anymore because of small dog owners. I've decided that people who are inclined to think of their dog as tiny humans in dog suits tend to congregate at the small dog sections of dog parks. I am so tired of seeing aggression interpreted as play by owners who would never tolerate that behavior in someone else's large dog.

Submitted by Anonymous | February 16 2010 |

It's a shame when people do not make sure their animals behave well. I've seen one person regularly walk their dog around the neighborhood off leash, despite there being leash laws. The dog has tried to bite people several times, once chasing a child for quite a distance. The woman laughs and says the dog is completely friendly and would never hurt anyone. One owner lets their dog out in the front, where they have no yard, to do its business. Despite having a back yard, he opens the door, lets his dog out without supervision, and several minutes later lets the dog in...after it pooped all over the public sidewalk! Some people let their dogs stand on the roof or hang their head out of house windows and bark for hours at anyone or anything that moves. One woman parked in a corner spot that everyone had to walk past and then yelled at me for getting too near her car when I was walking my dog. She expected me to walk in the street, braving passing cars to walk around her car so as not to agitate her dogs inside of the car, instead of parking in a spot just two places over where no one would have to pass her car. One owner ties his very big dog to a flimsy porch railing in the front of the house with no front yard. As a result, the dog sits on the steps on the edge of the public sidewalk or on the public sidewalk. I was completely freaked out when the dog lunged aggressively at me when I didn't see the dog behind the bush while walking my dog. I just do not understand owners like that! I've had my dog for many years, and we've always taught our dog proper behavior. Our dog is expected to stay in our yard at all times, and we have a constant eye on it when it goes outside to do its business. It's allowed to play in the fenced in back yard unsupervised, but even then we can see it through the window just in case something happens. If my dog displays any kind of unacceptable behavior, we are quick to correct it, putting our dog inside if necessary. We certainly don't allow the constant barking! It's a nuisance, and the owners should be held accountable for their dog's actions.

Submitted by scottie momma | February 18 2010 |

As a retired breeder of Scottish Terriers I have run into this kind of problem in our liberal city more times then I care to remember. I live in the middle of a fair sized city on the west coast, our city government has set up a lot of public land to be used as off lead dog parks,some are solely for the use of dogs and others have off lead hours. It is convenient to be able to walk two blocks to the unfenced dog park for off lead hours with my dogs on a lead, but for some reason most others will not leash their dogs on the way to the park. To make matters worse the smaller dogs that are allowed to run loose, do try to start fights with larger dogs,and mine are larger, and these owners are all to ready to sue if their little dog gets hurt, but will ignore the person that tries to remind them that the laws governing appropriate play in the park apply to them, as well as the big dogs. I can no longer go to the dog park two blocks away. In the process of training my many puppies over the years, I spent many hours over in the park with them,teaching and letting them play. Now the park is not a suitable place to take a dog to train,which was one of the reasons for creating the off lead hours in the parks inside the neighborhoods. I would advise this woman to remind the owners of small dogs that the laws apply to them too, and to not be afraid to call and complain if necessary. OH YEAH,your dogs are probably smaller then mine! or about the same!

Submitted by Anna | February 19 2010 |

Is there a double standard? I would have to say yes. My family are giant breed owners. My sister has 2 great danes, a 105 pound female and a 175 pound male,and I have a 105 pound female dane. When we take the 3 of them out togheter we constantly have to be on the look out for small dogs because the owners seem to think it is ok not to pay attention to what their dogs are doing. Can our dogs be dangerous yes anyone's can. We try to be good dog owners, when we go out of our yard the dogs are not only leashed but are on pinch collars,usually short leashed, and have been to training classes.
I think that the larger breeds attacks get more media attention because of the damages that the larger breeds are capable of, but I think smaller dogs probaly bite more offen.

Submitted by Debbie | February 20 2010 |

I don't know about a double standard.
I just think that some people like their dogs having
attitude. Look at all the videos on TV where
small dogs are encouraged to be food aggresive
or 'protective' of their owners. It's so irresponsible!
Large or small, ALL dogs need to learn
to be good citizens. We'd have a lot fewer
dogs in shelters if owners were more responsible.

Submitted by jessica | February 20 2010 |

I disagree with this theory that small-dog owners find their pets' aggressive behavior cute, endearing and funny. I'm sure there are plenty of dog owners out there who don't mind their dogs' aggressive behavior and I've witnessed these owners at parks and around the neighborhood. And they aren't ALL small dogs.

I am a small and big dog owner--I have a papillon and a golden retriever. My papillon is yappy. She barks at other dogs. She growls and tries to lunge. I find it completely annoying.

I have done all I can to curb this behavior, but I simply cannot do it. I walk her twice a day for 40 minutes, I have consulted her veterinarian, I've bought her a citronella collar, I've bought her several different kinds of halters. I tried having her walk on a treadmill to get rid of more energy. I ride my bike with her. I've tried positive reinforcement, I've tried scolding her. I've hired a dog trainer, I've taken her to obedience classes. I even submit a video to dog whisperer (Though they never got back to me.) And I've been told the same thing by everyone-- she is simply one of those dogs that just has this type of personality.

As someone who struggles with this kind of behavior from her dog, I think it's unfair to say that all small-dog owners like this kind of behavior.

Submitted by Michele | February 21 2010 |

Is there a double standard between the accepted behavior of large dogs and small-breed dogs? I believe the answer is an emphatic yes, with very few exceptions.
Most good dog trainers understand that the toy-dog is an actual dog, subject to the same rules as any other. A loving small-dog steward treats her dog with respect, care and protection. She allows her little Rover to be a dog, and expects him to behave like one.
She doesn't allow him to snap at humans from the protection of her arms, meanwhile cooing that he doesn't mean anything by his bad behavior (he does). She doesn't allow him to yap endlessly out her car window when she picks up her fast food order. Definitely, absolutely, she does not allow him to rush willy-nilly at strange or known dogs while barking his little head off. While no dog should be allowed to approach a strange dog without careful supervision, tiny dogs are even more vunerable to great, bodily harm than dogs of average size.
Ours is a four dog household: Luke, a mixed-breed, weighing in at eighty-one pounds; Tess and Naomi, basenjis; and Stella, a rescued chihuahua who weighs less than five pounds. Each of our dogs is trained and expected to exhibit good manners at all times, including Stella. I want my dogs to be well received where ever we go, including Stella.
Little dogs are often allowed to behave like maniacs. I see it all too often. If Luke were allowed to rush up, unleashed and out of control, to another dog, we would probably find ourselves at the wrong end of a lawsuit. But, far more disturbing, when small-breed dogs are allowed to misbehave unchecked, caretakers often become tired of dealing with the little monsters they helped create. Countless small-breed dogs are abandoned or destroyed because of bad behavior.

Michele Lommasson
Albuquerque, NM

Submitted by Anna Nirva | February 21 2010 |

I was saddened to read the Letter to the Editor in Bark's Feb/Mar 2010
issue. I saw the ugly root of bigotry in that letter, which is the
tendency to demonize that which we don't understand. And I saw "Bark,"
my favorite magazine, enthusiastically employ this polarizing topic to
build readership on their blog. It is disheartening. Our fur family
includes a Great Dane, a Coonhound mix, and a foster American
Staffordshire Terrier (pitbull) mix and my work includes some online
marketing, so I have a closer view of these topics than some readers.
Plus, I am a long-time volunteer at our rural county shelter and I
watch small dogs get adopted within days or weeks, while our lovely
large dogs wait for up to 18 months. I watch our larger dogs
dispiritedly follow the movements of visitors who pass them by and
don't seem to notice them at all; it truly hurts my heart. Small dogs
are much more popular everywhere it appears, and heart-felt support
for "underdog" large dogs can breed insidious contempt for small dogs
and their owners, I know. But I reject this feeling. It is unfair and
I would assert counter-productive to building a stronger animal
welfare movement that should, that must be blind to breed and size

The small dog owner who appeared to approve of his dog's aggressive
behavior and find it appealing is not typical of the majority of small
dog owners in my experience. Of course there are some, but let's not
unfairly paint all with the same broad brush. Try this: replace the
term "small dog" with "pitbull" or "guard dog" and now the bigotry
should be more apparent. Stop that line of thinking. The true issue is
education or lack of it. Those owners who allow inappropriate
aggressive behavior in their dog may simply be unaware of what
aggression is, what the behavior markers are, why it is unacceptable,
or how to retrain it. Those owners may not knowingly be perpetuating a
double standard; they may be simply ignorant about the inherent
aggression found in all dogs to varying degrees. The effect Lisa
McMillan, the letter writer, identifies as a double standard might
instead by the tendency for some uneducated animal lovers to choose
small "cute" dogs over large dogs and of course the tendency of anyone
to react aggressively when confronted about their ignorance. I would
say to Lisa that a compassionate response to the small dog's
aggression would be to initiate a non-judgmental conversation away
from the dogs and to provide empathy and support to her less-informed
neighbor. Remember that everyone started out ignorant once. And I
would say that Lisa has a responsibility to her dog to provide
counter-conditioning that helps overcome the fear of small dogs,
instead of just complaining about it.

Humans are inherently aggressive as well, the blog comments seem to
indicate. When will our thoughts and comments evolve beyond our
unfortunate tendency to overgeneralize and engage in fruitless

Kind regards,
Anna Nirva
Founder, www.sunbearsquad.org
Genoa, Wisconsin

Submitted by Mary | February 22 2010 |

Just received your magazine as a gift and read the piece regarding double standard with respect to small dogs being allowed to behave badly. As an owner of small dogs all under 5 lbs. I strongly disagree. I have found that people with small dogs do not ordinarily train their dogs and if the dog is doing something the owner feels is unacceptable, they simply pick the dog up. Often they are poorly socialized which can add to the drama. All of my dogs are trained and we keep working on it daily, can't say that is the norm. There is nothing cute about a dog that growls, snaps or charges another dog or an owner that doesn't put in the time to train even the tiniest of dogs.


Submitted by Maura | February 23 2010 |

Well I've waited a while without commenting because I just didn't know how to react to all this bashing of the small dog community. I could agree with Anna Nirva's comment more. You can pick any group of dog owners to critisize for this reason or that but it sure isn't fair to generalize on the matter. I have 2 chihuahua mixes that I work with daily on barking issues and I know a lot of people in my same boat who work their butts off to socialize and train their dogs to not have these problems.
No dog is perfect- I'm sure yours has some issue that we could find to discuss too! I wouldn't just sit back and watch this happen tho, I would definetly be proactive and talk to these people you disagree with- maybe you can even help teach them something (since you know it all)!


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