It’s not a “Napoleon complex,” and small dogs aren’t destined to a life of yapping, nipping, or growling. You shouldn’t have to live with a little tyrant either! The Mobile Vet M.D. team knows no dog is born aggressive, which means all aggression is learned. In small breeds, it is often learned via scary experiences and then unknowingly reinforced by the people who love them most. With proper exercise and regular wellness exams, we can make sure that your small dog is living large so you can both enjoy all of your time together.
How It Usually Starts
Being small means it’s easier to get stepped on by mistake or roughed up by accident. An excited labrador puppy may be the same size as a small dog, but might hurt them and not understand your dog’s cues for “enough is enough.” We’re also more likely to hold small dogs (versus labradors!), and improper handling or dropping can be traumatic. For some dogs, all it takes is a few negative experiences to put them on edge.
How Pet Parents Keep It Going
Then there are the destructive behaviors that owners can unintentionally create. Small dogs are famous for being fiercely protective, but sometimes they can guard their owner and lash out at others who get too close. This kind of loyalty can be endearing, but it’s ultimately stressful for your dog and potentially dangerous for anyone they may hurt. Small dog aggressive behavior like this is also based on fear and often linked to separation anxiety. Every time your dog growls at someone and keeps them away from you, it teaches your dog that they get to have you all to themself. Never scold your dog, which will only increase anxiety. During your next appointment, we can work with you to develop a plan to address this.
When It’s Not Behavioral Aggression
Growling or snapping isn’t always the result of fear or anxiety-based behavioral issues. Sometimes dogs of all sizes might become aggressive because they are in pain. We can see this in older pets with arthritis, but small dog aggressive tendencies can be linked to disease or pain if they come on somewhat suddenly. Any dog who is aggressive is not happy about something, which is why it’s so important to get to the root cause of their behavior.
How You Can Help
Small dogs need to work off their energy as much as large dogs, which means getting the standard two-to-three walks a day. Exercise calms the mind and alleviates anxiety. You can help them avoid stress, which causes aggression, by saying no to situations where they might be at higher risk for being harmed than a bigger dog (such as being petted by a child who does not know correct handling). Above all, we can examine them to check for signs of illness that might be causing aggression. A toothache can make anyone mighty cranky!
Please note: Before any visit, it is always a good idea to confine your pet to a small area. A bathroom works well, or you can get them cozy in their crate. Lots of pets can go running for cover as soon as they hear someone at the door! And this way, we can be sure to provide care promptly.