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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 anonomous | February 24 2010 |

To Sophie's owner: you describe Sophie as very friendly. This raised an eyebrow. Does Sophie walk in front of you, greeting the little dogs before you do? Is Sophie greeting these dogs face-to-face? Many larger dog owners are willing to put the "blame" on the small, barky dog, failing to see the signals their dog is showing. The behaviors I just described are basic dominant behaviors and would get a good bark going from my small breed dog. You might want to consider starting a structured (person leads, not dog) dog walking group in your neighborhood and invite the small dogs.

To the guide dog owner: gotta ask... How can you see the little dog lunging at your dog? Why did you stay near a barking dog for 5 minutes? That little dog must have been in real distress...

Submitted by Deanna | February 24 2010 |

I'm probably on the tail end of responses for this issue but I do have to AGREE with Lisa from Ontario. I would have to say, though, that it is the vast majority of small dog people, not all. And while larger dogs are not exempt from being unruly, more does seem to be expected of them. I also think that small dog people tend to train and socialize their dogs less, after all you can just pick them up-eewww! They have four legs for a reason!

LOVE your magazine!

Woof,

Deanna, Dudley, Zane and Zori

Submitted by Judy | February 25 2010 |

I can't tell you how glad I was to read the letter by Lisa McMillan about the problem of uncorrected bad behavior by small dogs. Time after time I have walked away, just shaking my head, after someone allowed their little dog to behave outrageously, sometimes triggering aggressive responses from my dogs. While the situation seemed to be "no big deal" to them, I was sometimes left with 2 very upset 50 lb. dogs nearly pulling my shoulders out of the sockets (of course, my dogs are leashed)! It is not OK. Not OK at all and I do not appreciate having onlookers shift their attention from some little yapper to me and my dogs who make a considerably more impressive display when they're upset. THEY get painted with the "aggressive" brush, and little Fifi and her owner walk away, scott free. Grrrrr...

Judy Johnson
Sebastopol, CA

Submitted by Rhonda | February 27 2010 |

First of all, no, I don't think ALL small-breed owners encourage bad behavior of their dogs, but I DO believe this letter to the editors stemmed from a sense of frustration from a large-breed owner, and I myself encounter this frustration on a daily basis. I have 2 pit bull mixes, although one is so old she doesn't go to the park anymore but I take my youngest one 3-4 times a week and WITHOUT fail, am confronted by this situation at least twice each week, to the point where I no longer enjoy going. (Unfortunately, I live in a very metro area on a main road and have a small yard so our exercise options are somewhat limited). At our park,we have a small dog area and a large dog area. They are NEXT to each other, just seperated by a double gate. Small dog owners REPEATEDLY bring their tinies into the large dog park and then complain about the behavior of the big dogs, which is typically NORMAL dog behavior, but they don't want an 80 lb german shepherd or pit tumbling their small dog. Most of the time the larger dogs are playing in typical dog fashion but they're simply so large it LOOKS bad and their small dogs start squealing and nipping at the larger dogs. This then riles up ALL the dogs and the small dog owners repeatedly complain, "Fluffy or Nipper or whatever doesn't like big dogs, they make him nervous". GO TO THE SMALL DOG PARK. Its right HERE, I'm not asking you to go across town. So, what ends up happening is that in order to avoid conflict, the big dog owners, including myself, just leash our dogs and leave. This implies an arrogance of the small dog owner that I just cannot abide. Not only do they think its okay for THEIR dogs to bite as a defense mechanism and refuse to correct the situation, but we with the big dogs have no right to be out in public because our dogs are "lesser" for some reason.
I also encounter this in my neighborhood when I walk my dogs. Neither of my dogs are aggressive, I've worked hard to make sure my bullies are good breed ambassadors, and are not interested in the smaller dogs in my neighborhood, but I REGULARLY encounter those who let their small dogs remain unleashed in their yards, running amok and squealing their heads off and charging my dogs (and I'm sure other big breeds although there aren't many in my block). Shockingly, these dogs typically belong to the women in my area who sit on the HOA that regularly send out notices to all the homeowners that our dogs must ALWAYS remain leashed when leaving our home (ie to the car, etc). Again, I hate to make assumptions of people I don't know, but this behavior implies to me that they somehow think they're "above" acting acceptably and courteously because their dogs can't physically take you down. I had a neighbor at an old apartment complex who walked her toy poodle on a retractable leash and giggled when he'd bite ankles. Funny, I think if that was my pit bull so much as LOOKING at someone's ankles, I would have been KICKED out of the complex as having an aggressive dog.
So, unfortunately, I have to agree that there IS a double-standard. I agree that its not ALL small dog owners, but it seems as though when I encounter a small-breed owner that doesn't think they're above the "rules" of respect and accountability for their dogs' behavior, that they are the EXCEPTION, not the rule.

Submitted by Kate | February 28 2010 |

Small dog owners are no more likely to allow their dogs to behave inappropriately than large dog, medium dog or purple dog owners. There are dog owners everywhere that are irresponsible and disrespectful of others, and it has nothing to do with breed or breed size. My Poms are well mannered and I certainly don't find any kind of aggressive behavior cute. The larger service dogs that I foster are carefully supervised anywhere we go to ensure appropriate behavior. On walks and in pet supply stores we run into owners who have not socialized or trained their dogs appropriately - and the dogs come in all sizes. Generalizations about anything are based on small amounts of data, anecdotal data, misconceptions brought about by the media, and often an individual's minute experiences in the grand scheme of things. People are people - there are those who are responsible and respectful, and many who are not. Generalizing can bring about discrimination - as in bans on many bully breeds. Generalizations and stereotypes are dangerous - bringing about discrimination not just against dogs, but people throughout history.

Submitted by A Doberman Serv... | March 1 2010 |

I have sat here thinking about this whole topic. I grew up with small dogs, chihuahua and chihuahua mixes. Now, my Mom and I never treated them like little decorations, we treated them like a dog. They never had a problem with behavior, we socialized them from a young age and made sure they were well trained. My Aunt, also has three toy poodles that she rescued. All have had trained classes and she has worked on each one's problems. I think the issue is more with people being bad owners. It is NOT ok for a 5 pound or a 105 pound dog to bark lunge, bite, ect ect ..
I now have a 19 month old Doberman who is my service dog and one of the loves of my life. When we got him at 10 weeks old, I worked hard with classes, play dates, ect ect to make him a model of the breed. Now, as he has become my medical alert dog I have worked with him even more. He has several trainers and has been a demo dog in several classes as well as passing his CGC, and almost completed his service dog certification. I will say in some of the classes I have noticed that SOME of the small dog owners have allowed their dogs to have nasty behavior that if my doberman even pondered acting that way he would be seen has a dog who should be put down. However, I also saw mastiff parents and other large and giant breed parents who didn't take their charges training seriously either.
Do I think their is a double standard?? In a way, I think sometimes that the general public expect the large and giant breeds to be exceptional because of their size. I think it all boils down to being a good parent to your dog. Each owner should strive to make their pet amazing. So those who are terrified of a dog of any size will see that there is no reason for it..
Now if we can only get people to chase dogs in purses out of stores and leave us people with working vested dogs alone.. that would be nice too.

Submitted by Jorden | March 1 2010 |

I have a small dog, and I agree that there is a double standard. We have worked hard to train Rosie just as we did our large dog. We constantly get comments on quiet Rosie is, and we feel secure in our ability to do fun stuff with her because for the most part, she listens well. It is a shame that people do not spend the time to train their small dogs as they should, it does the dogs a dis-service as much as the people. The dogs become fearful and as you pointed out, obnoxious. We are fortunate to have a Chihuahua mix that is not yappy and is well trained. She get's lots of exercise (something else many small dogs don't get enough of, adding to the yappiness) and we spend a lot of time working with her and challenging her mind with activities like Agility. We feel blessed to have her in our life and proud that she is generally a very well behaved pup - we have our moments, as any dog owner does - but we keep working on it!
I feel sad for all those small dogs out there who don't get that kind of support from their families and for the other dogs and families who have to put up with them!

Submitted by Adrienne | March 2 2010 |

I would have to agree that some owners of small dogs don't mind the aggressive behavior. I have a 14 lb. cockapoo and when she barks at other dogs, I usually fuss at her to stop. I do believe it's not in a manner of being aggressive, it's more a "hey, can you come over to play" regardless to the size of dogs.
I take her to the dog parks and she does very well playing with other dogs, although I notice she loves bigger dogs.
It really makes you wonder about dogs taking on their owners personality. Bossy dogs, bossy owners maybe?

Submitted by Amy | March 2 2010 |

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.

I find this letter childish and ridiculous, and honestly, I was shocked that The Bark would publish such a divisive and ill-thought message. Would you publish a letter from a reader saying pit bull owners get a pass because they play the sympathy/misunderstood card? I doubt it. But it is very easy to pick on the small breeds because they aren't really dogs, are they? There's good and bad dog owners of all breeds. For Lisa to pigeonhole small dog owners because of her situation with her neighbor is small minded. She should get out more and mingle with responsible dog owners of all shapes and sizes.

If we're going to foster a community of stereotypes, the comments I am reading here from other large breed owners fit my own stereotype: Large breed owners are arrogant. My small dog has been attacked not once, not twice, but 3 times by large breeds. Is my dog at fault while she's walking along sniffing trees and doing her thing? Not when I am on the other side of the park and a German Shepherd or Border Collie or Vizsla bolts across the field and grabs my dog by the throat or pins her to the ground. And do you know what the owners of these dogs said to me? "That's not really a dog anyway" or "my dog was just playing" or "lighten up" - all of them laughing while I had to take my dog to the clinic for emergency treatment, once even resulting in eye surgery.

I'm sorry that you are the victim of a barking little dog. Truly. But lets keep some perspective here... you are able to cross the street or walk a different direction to avoid a neighbor with a barky dog. What about being chased by an out of control large breed dog that could not only kill your dog, but seriously injure you. Listen - I'm not saying your neighbor is off the hook. But to label all small dogs & the owners is your problem and will limit your life experience. I am regularly get verbal barbs from people when I'm out walking my dog like "nice rat" or "that's not a dog", but those people are jerks and I move along. At the same time, I have people stop and ask to pet her and cuddle her and go crazy over how cute she is and I try to remember these moments. I can't always keep it in perspective myself because the vehement hatred of small breed dogs that I've encountered is so incredibly mean spirited. It frightens me for the animals in shelters and any dog that just wants a chance at life, but has to overcome nasty stereotypes like Lisa's. I take an interest in my dog's training and behavior, she's wonderful, and she does not deserve the consequences from the stereotypes Lisa's letter perpetuates.

Submitted by Lis | March 7 2010 |

I have a small dog, a Chinese Crested. She was a year old when I got her, and had had some unfortunate experiences prior to that time, leaving her afraid,no, terrified, of larger dogs. I've worked with her intensely over the last three years, and she's made huge progress.

Last summer, I took her to a local nature reserve where dogs are allowed on-leash. At the summit of the major hill, we were hanging out in the sun when we were joined by a family with their off-leash Golden Retriever. The Golden saw my dog, got that goofy Golden look on his face, and bolted over to us--with his dim-witted owners shouting, "Don't worry, he's friendly!"

My little dog put herself into a down, made herself as small as possible, said as clearly as possible in polite doggy language that she was uncomfortable and did not want this approach. The Golden ignored the signal, barreled right up to us and stood over her, with that big, goofy, Golden grin on his face. My terrified little dog jumped to her feet and started barking a clear, warning, get-away bark. She barked. She did not bite, try to bite, lunge at him, anything.

His dim-witted owners finally called him off. And for the rest of the time we stayed, I was listening to jokes about my "Tasmanian Devil dog" and how she "tried to attack the Golden." Even when other families showed up, one with a Cavalier and one with a Lhasa mix, and my dog interacted politely and appropriately with these dogs who were, yes, smaller than the Golden, but also more polite themselves than the Golden had (which, heck, wasn't a hard standard to meet), people who'd been there for the initial incident "warned" the families about my "Tasmanian Devil dog."

All those people went home with yet another story of a vicious little dog attacking a big dog--even though that's not remotely what happened. Facts don't matter; there was a small dog and a large dog involved, so the little dog must have been at fault.

The footnote to all this is that today we were there again, and there was a family there with their two (off-leash!) Labs. The Labs saw us, and started bounding enthusiastically towards my girl, and she threw herself into that self-effacing down again--and this time it worked. The Labs stopped, looked at her, and started a slower, more circuitous approach, at the end of which my dog was feeling calmer and more confident, and was able to greet them in a slightly nervous, but friendly manner.

I've worked with her a lot, but really, the difference was in the "big dogs"--one friendly, ill-mannered lout of a Golden, two equally friendly, and polite, Labradors.

But anytime a little dog starts barking, it's a yappy, vicious, untrained, unsocialized, spoiled little dog, no matter WHAT immediately preceded the barking. And the owners of the big dogs remain secure in their sense of their persecuted victimhood.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 8 2010 |

I am the owner of two dogs. One small Jack Russell and a German Shorthaired Pointer. It has been my experience that not all small dogs are aggressive. Yes there are bad small dog owners but from what I have been around there are just as many if not more bad large dog owners. My Jack is terrified of large dogs because he was attacked for no reason by a larger dog. So yes he will act out but it is out of fear not aggression. Are large dog is new and it has taken me over a week just to get them to be okay seeing each other through a baby gate.

It isn't the size of dog, it is the owner. Blaming only small dogs as being bad isn't right and I am shocked that this story was even published.

Submitted by Kathryn | March 8 2010 |

I would just like to say that not all small/toy dog owners are like this. I have a rescued Miniature Schnauzer mix who has been well trained and is NEVER allowed to be aggressive to people or dogs. He knows what is appropriate behavior and what is not. What bothers me the most about this article is that it implies that all large dog owners are responsible, and all small dog owners are irresponsible. Don't get me wrong, I love big dogs too, and I see where the author is coming from, but there many examples of owners of large dogs being irresponsible.

Lucky and I were recently attacked by two large dogs while the owners stood by and did nothing to stop. This was an unprovoked attack, all we did was walk past them on the other side of a very wide street. Another man who was working out in his yard saw what happened and rushed over to help. He had to kick the other dogs as hard as he could to get them off. Lucky was severely hurt (he had a dislocated hip, two torn ligaments, severe damage to his kneecap, and several deep gashes and puncture wounds), and I had gashes and puncture wounds on my hands and arms from the attack. They still have the dogs, and have done nothing to curb their aggressive behavior. It just goes to show that not all owners of large dogs are responsible, and not all small dog owners are irresponsible.

Submitted by Chris | March 8 2010 |

"But anytime a little dog starts barking, it's a yappy, vicious, untrained, unsocialized, spoiled little dog, no matter WHAT immediately preceded the barking. And the owners of the big dogs remain secure in their sense of their persecuted victimhood"

Liz, your "conclusion" is an extreme, over-the-top, inaccurate generalization that makes clear there is only one person playing up their victim role, and that is YOU.

This is an anecdotal piece voicing ONE person's opinion. Relax. There are responsible and polite dog owners of dog of ALL sizes. There is no universal statement that applies to all dog owners, toots.

Submitted by Kim | March 9 2010 |

Well, how insulting. I live with 6, fairly well behaved, small dogs. Two of my dogs trial in Rally obedience. One of my dogs works with me as my partner when I train. He gets to be the bait dog for all those people with big, out of control, barking, lunging dogs. While their dogs are acting the fool trying to get at him, he is sitting calmly at my side, looking at me, waiting for my next cue.

All dogs, big, medium and small, should be trained to have manners and singling out a group of dogs by breed or size is nothing but predujudice.

Submitted by Lis | March 9 2010 |

"This is an anecdotal piece voicing ONE person's opinion. Relax. There are responsible and polite dog owners of dog of ALL sizes. There is no universal statement that applies to all dog owners, toots."

One person's opinion, originally a Letter to the Editor, "promoted" to a blog post by the editors of the magazine, who tell us (in the print magazine) that "She's not the first to make this observation." And most of the comments have been supporting the letter writer's wholesale smearing of small dogs and their owners.

But somehow her expressing her sweeping opinion based on anecdotal experience is A-Okay with you, but my expressing MY experience is not, and I need to be told to "relax" and be addressed as "toots." Isn't that interesting?

Submitted by thatcrazydoglady | March 10 2010 |

I have 3 med. to large dogs and 3 small dogs. All are well trained, so I do not see this as a large dog v small dog issue. I think this is more of an uneducated owner and under-trained dog issue. Unhappily, should anything happen, the larger dog would most likely be blamed initially (not to mention vet bills, bite laws, other matters like lawsuits, etc.).
To other readers, please remember that this article is merely a reflection of what the author experiences on HER daily walks and it has got to be very frustrating for her indeed!Please cut her some slack and please do not take this personally!
Personally,I tend to be "proactive" in these situations and try to turn them into training moments for both myself/my dog and the owner of/& the other dog.When confronted with this situation,I tell the other owner that I am training my dog and it would be a great help if they could put their dog in a sit/stay(having a treat handy for the other dog does not hurt) and allow me to walk my dog by while their dog sits calmly and without barking or otherwise at my dog. If it works and the other dog can maintain the sit/stay without going nuts, I ask the owner if we could do this again the next time we meet to "help" me with training my dog. If the other dog can not maintain and continues to act up towards my dog I tend to say something along the lines of "what a great training opportunity for both of us! The next time we meet let's take turns having our dogs practice sitting nicely and concentrating on us while the other dog passes by". This gives the other owner the knowledge that THEIR dog isn't in control and they need to work on training, plus you are trying to actively deal with the situation in a nicer, proactive manner.
However, if approaching the owner isn't a possibility, or the owner tells you to bugger off, then I usually try the not so subtle approach of leaving a Dog Law phamplet in their mailbox with the leash and bite law sections highlighted... usually they get the idea. Sometimes though it takes a "bullhorn in a can" to get an aggressive dog of any size to back off, which I do not hesitate to use if it appears an aggressive event is eminent.(I hate to do that, but I also can not allow my dog to be attacked or myself to be bit.)

Submitted by margie doyle | March 16 2010 |

I have been in animal rescue for over 25 years. When I 1st got into the process I did not like little dogs because of the exact behavior that you mention. Now my goal is the re-train the little dog's & their owners. If you go into a store & I'm there you will get an ear full. The store personnel could & should ask you to leave but they won't. Let me tell you that I will, and so should every person there. How dare you expose ANY SIZE OR SHAPE animal without behavior to the general public. Small dogs just like out of control children are not exceptable anywhere. The hardest job rescue or shelters have is fixing poor behavior problems.

Margie Doyle
California

Submitted by Lis | March 18 2010 |

And when the German Shepherd around the corner from barks and lunges and acts like an insane dog when my small dog and I walk by, does that prove that German Shepherds, or dogs of that size, are "just like out of control children and not exceptable [sic] anywhere"--or does it demonstrate that THAT PARTICULAR DOG has not been adequately trained by THAT PARTICULAR OWNER ?

Sometimes that dog isn't out in her yard. Sometimes we walk on by anyway. Sometimes the owner comes out and yells at me for being so ill-mannered as to cause all this noise by walking by and "making" his dog bark. And sometimes we hear that dog starting up, and just turn around and go the other way.

How do you (and the original letter writer, and the editors of Bark who promoted this hate-on-little-dogs rant) figure that this slagging off of little dogs and the owners in these sweeping terms is any different from slagging off pit bulls just because they're pit bulls and have a DIFFERENT severe media image problem?

Submitted by sw | March 24 2010 |

A double standard absolutely exists between "some" small dogs and big dogs.

My big dogs have been bitten by spaniels, JRTs, poms. And I mean bitten to the point of scarring in some cases. I am constantly shocked at the flippant way these bites are non-addressed. And these are trained dogs and handlers.

If my big dogs would bite anything save their kibble - all "you know what" would break out.

As a trainer, I am constantly reminding little dog owners that their dogs have legs and they need to be on the ground to use them. I don't see too many beagle owners walking around in this manner, and I've never seen the handler of a GSD feel the need to carry their dog in and out.

ALL dogs should have manners - big or little.

Little dog owners are often challenged by the "big" dog behaviors that their little dogs try to impress. These behaviors are just as dangerous - just maybe not as loud.

Submitted by Anonymous | March 28 2010 |

sorry, i have to agree with lisa that small dogs are given more leeway when they are aggressive. i have an eight month old pitbull puppy. i have spent six of those months in training with him and he goes for his canine good citizen test in two weeks. he is friendly to dogs, people and even cats. i can't tell you how many times small dogs have attacked him! fortunately he doesnt fight back but i fear one day he will and the blame will be on him, even though he is trained and leashed! even at the dog park he was immediately attacked one day by a cocker spaniel. the owner didnt address his dogs behavior, he simply said that "she was attacked by a pit bull once." apparently his cocker can tell dog breeds apart as well! i dont blame the dogs, they are doing what comes naturally...i blame the owners! just because a dog is small it doesnt make it cute when it attacks! and for the record, my dog has never been attacked by a larger dog!

Submitted by Judy | March 29 2010 |

Kudos to Lisa!

Well said!I couldn't possibly agree with her comments more. As a life long owner of Saint Bernards, I encounter this behaviour on a regular basis. While I appreciate the flattery and curiousity about my dogs, I find it totally unacceptable for anyone (small dog owner or otherwise) to allow their dog to yap, snarl and generally get in my dogs' face.

Funnily enough, when I diplomatically voice my objections to such behaviour, the offending dog owners usually reply: "Foo Foo doesn't like big dogs, or she's not usually like that". All the while, my dog is sitting obediently by my side, while these people can't control an eight pound dog(which is ALWAYS on a retractable leash).

I spend a great deal of time training all my Saints to be respectful, canine citizens., not just because they are giant dogs, but because it is what responsible, caring dog owners should do.

Lisa is absolutely correct when she says that small dog owners find their dogs abborant behaviour "cute & funny".When confronted with that irrational mode of thinking I always ask the people if they would find it equally "amusing " if my 165lb. one year old accidently
stepped on Foo Foo's leg and broke it? That typically ends any further conversation. Respectfully, Judy & Cedric (Newmarket, ON)

Submitted by Dani | March 30 2010 |

I also agree about the double standard BUT I'd like to heavily emphasize that, as with pit bulls and BSLs, it has a LOT to do with the owner.
I worked in a shelter and have seen all sorts of attitudes portrayed by every breed in the book. Some small dogs are beyond excellent (one of my JRTs acts more like a cat than anything else) and the bigger dogs can be heathens. But there are also wonderful "aggressive" dogs that know only peace and love while some of the smaller dogs want nothing more than a taste of your leg. While volunteering at a different shelter they had posters up all over the place saying "Any dog can bite." Yet when I was helping with behavior evaluations they repeatedly pushed and pushed and pushed and ultimately encouraged the bigger breeds to bite while the little dogs were tapped lightly and if they didn't bite they were free to go. That shelter rarely has big breeds for adoption because they put them all down due to "aggression." Meanwhile I and other volunteers have had to keep our body parts and other dogs safe from the littler ones that weren't evaluated properly and show extreme aggression issues.
ANY DOG CAN BITE!!! What makes all the difference in the world is how the handler works, trains, and lives with their dog. Male, female, Pit Bull, Chihauhau, Irish Wolfhound, neutered/spayed or intact, it doesn't matter one bit if they weren't trained and loved properly. Do I think little dogs have an unfair advantage and some are encouraged? Yes. But I think there are just as many big dogs out there encouraged too.
We should all take this article to heart not as a small vs big dog debate necessarily but more as a means to get us to promote safe training and socialization with our pets, no matter what breed we own.

Submitted by anonymous | April 1 2010 |

As the owner of a well-behaved, well-socialized and extremely quiet smaller dog, I am perhaps even *more* horrified by the snarling, yappy little ones than those of you with bigger dogs. "Oh, great... another point for the prejudice," I think. Spoiled, obnoxious dogs of any size are no more appealing than their counterparts among children, and I wish we had some branch of Social Services that would help their humans to be more responsible owners.

HOWEVER, I have an equally large bone to pick [no pun intended] with a certain type of big dog owner who thinks that it's amusing to greet me, and my dog, with casually aggressive comments like, "Oh look, Harold, lunch."

My dog and I will just be walking by, minding our own business, and some macho owner (male or female) struts by, thinking that this is an acceptable and oh-so-witty remark to make. If I had a 120 pound Rottie who, no matter well trained, COULD easily attack and kill their dog, would they find a "joke" about that amusing? I doubt it. So although I do apologize on behalf of the smaller dog owners for the badly behaved humans and animals among us, I also ask you to keep your own size-related ego in check.You simply don't notice the well-behaved smaller dogs who go by. PS -- My neighborhood is positively infested (in a good way) with dogs of all sizes, and with only one exception, ALL of the aggressive ones -- the ones people cross the street to avoid -- are in the 50+lb range. But I see them as individuals, not as a new stereotype with which to judge dogs of that size and the people who own them.

Submitted by CynthiaLR | April 8 2010 |

I have to admit, I am becoming prejudiced against, not little dogs, but little dog owners. I've observed the aggression that small dog owners seem to encourage but, even more than this, I've seen these owners completely ignore the rules/guidelines other dog owners have to follow. For example, where I walk my dog it's rare to see a small dog on a leash. Are they not dogs? Are there not leash laws for dogs? The small dog owners so ignore this law that the owners living just across the streets from parks, just open their doors and let their small dogs run to the park on their own and do their business. And that last word, business, brings up another observation of mine. Don't small dog owners ever pick up after their dogs? These people are ruining it for the rest of us and shouldn't be surprised when non-dog owners get together to ban dogs from parks altogether. And a note to store/mall managers and owners - if you're going not going to allow medium or large sized well behaved dogs in your stores/malls you shouldn't allow small dogs in there. Thank you for posing this question which I think needs to be addressed.

Submitted by Lis | April 9 2010 |

In my neighborhood, if I encounter an off-leash dog, it's a big dog, not a small one. And when I'm walking my small dog, if I encounter dog poop that hasn't been picked up, it's not from a dog even close to her size; it's from a much bigger dog. It appears that it's big dog owners who don't bother to pick up after their dogs--of course, that might be because they're the ones that let their dogs wander, and they don't see when their dogs poop.

Submitted by KC | April 11 2010 |

After reading the article by Lisa and the posted comments I would like to offer the following: in many instances the conversation of the comments has strayed from the topic of whether there exists a double standard regarding aggressive displays in small dogs to the topic of unleashed dogs. I intended to respond only to the first.

A double standard exists for small dogs vs. big dogs. It includes behavior on or off lead. It includes greeting strangers and other dogs. It includes simply scooping the pet up to hold on to it rather than to train it. There is no argument there.

It must be pointed out though that sadly, the double standard applies not only in regards to aggressive or territorial behavior displays and training or a lack thereof. It also applies when little dogs get special privileges and pampering extended to them by airlines, restaurants, shopping centers, hotels, neighborhoods, and other venues simply because of their size.

It frustrates me very much to know that an ill behaved yappy and nervous dog may ride in the presence of his/her owner in the cabin of the plane for a hundred dollar fee, but for a monetary fee of four times that much and countless angst, a medium size or larger dog will be handled as baggage or cargo and ride removed from the owner in the virtual unknown of the plane's belly.

How many restaurants, knowing or unknowingly, allow diners that sneak their pint sized dogs for a meal and air conditioning in an oversized purse or fashion bag, but medium or large dog owners are lucky to find a restaurant that will allow them to sit outdoors with a dog, if outdoor seating is even an option.

The same with the shopping malls, clothing stores, bookstores, and even grocery and computer stores! Seeing small dogs toted in a bag or in the arms of their owners as a fashion accessory while shopping is not an uncommon sight, but when is the last time that any of us saw a medium or large dog (not a service dog) allowed to go shopping?

And then there's the infamous neighborhood association and/or hotel pet policies of ‘no pets over fifteen pounds,’ as if these discriminatory rules are based on the misconception that it is a safe bet the dogs in this size category do not shed, or possibly chew, poop, bite, or bark.

The fact is, we are a whole society of double standards when it comes to small and medium or large dogs – it isn’t just the owners that passively allow or proactively encourage their little dog to act aggressively on a walk.

We need to wake up and start celebrating all dogs, and recognizing that all dogs need opportunities for the same positive socialization, safe travel experience, and time with their people. Until then the bitterness between what seem to be the 'haves' and 'have nots' that comes across in many of the posts to Lisa’s article will continue to fester.

Submitted by Elizabeth | April 12 2010 |

Little dogs often behave agressively toward my three big dogs as well, although I blame the owners more than the dogs. Not picking up poop is a universal problem-I will never understand how dog owners can neglect that portion of their responsibility. In my neighborhood, there is a woman who DRIVES her car to my neighborhood with her dog and allows her dog to poop without cleaning it up. My husband is hilarious, though-whenever he sees her, he runs out and hands her one of our poop bags. :)

Submitted by Lis | April 14 2010 |

KC, you can't "celebrate all dogs" by bashing little dogs and their owners. You have to be willing to actually identify individual bad behavior AS individual bad behavior--and be able to recognize it when big dogs and their owners do it, as well as little ones.

As far as housing goes--I actually am a small landlord, with one rental unit. I lost out on a tenant I would have loved to have had, because she had a Siberian whom I would ALSO have loved to have had here--because my house insurance has weight restrictions, and since my house is a duplex and in this state many insurance companies won't insure duplexes, I can't just switch insurance companies.

When you can't rent with your big dogs whom you may or may not have put the amount of time into that I've put into my little dog, it might not be the landlord's fault. But I'll tell you whose fault it definitely isn't--that little dog you scared and then blamed for reacting to the scare had NOTHING to do with the landlord's ability and willingness to rent to you.

Submitted by RachelM | April 28 2010 |

This article really hit home for me. I have an 80# female Alaskan Malamute who is reactive toward other dogs. I have worked extensively with her on this issue for the past 6 years and go out of my way to keep her away from other dogs. I totally agree with this article. It is *extremely* frustrating for me when we encounter small dogs whose owners seem to think it's "cute" when their little dog growls, barking, and aggresses toward her. Comments like "oh look how tough you are barking at that big mean dog!" are just maddening. It implies this behavior is acceptable, cute, and some how brave while if my dog reacts, that same owner would be screaming she's dangerous.

I swear some owners actually encourage the behavior and seem to be goading their dog into reacting at her more. I've had words of several owners who even had the nerve to stop in front of my dog and let Fifi aggress at the end of his/her leash all while laughing at how "cute".

I do not see this owner attitude with medium or larger size dogs. And I'm not biased against little dogs - I'm a professional dog trainer and have worked with hundreds of little dogs. But they should be held to the same standards of behavior as bigger dogs. But it's not the dogs' fault...it's the people.

Submitted by Brian | April 30 2010 |

We walk twice daily with a GSD, Rotty mix and a mastiff, always on leash. During the past five years, our dogs have never uttered a sound at another dog on walks, although they are vocal when someone walks down the street. We were recently rushed by a small dog who came at us from a porch where it's owner sat laughing at her dog. I stopped, said "Sit" and everyone sat then I said, "Ok, how 'bout a show of paws, I say we eat him." I was kidding of course but the owner shot down the steps and picked up her dog and retreated. We haven't seen that dog at large since.

We carry pepper spray on walks because there have been several dog on dog attacks in recent years; the aggressors were mid-sized dogs. I've only had to use it once and not even directly on the interloper, just in his general direction, he got the hint.

We like all dogs although we prefer owning large ones. A friend has a Yorkie who loves our mastiff, they are best friends. We don't see dog size as a either / or proposition.

Submitted by Joyce | May 10 2010 |

I love your response and the fact the no one was upset or hurt by it! Congratulations to you for training your dogs to sit quietly while a small dog runs up barking. I have three dogs two of whom weigh about 50 pounds. I once had a woman tell me to walk my dogs on my own street when her little dog came running up to my dogs and they reacted to her little dogs aggression. I now have pepper spray to take with me on walks.

Submitted by Lis | May 1 2010 |

Rachel, I can't express how happy I am that our trainer (who owns an English mastiff and a Lab), our neighbor (who owns two Rotties and an American bulldog), another pet therapy volunteer in our group (who owns pit bull), don't share your "unbiased" confidence that only owners of little dogs are guilty of that "my dog is so TOUGH!" attitude. The fact that we do have these people and their dogs around us has meant that I have been able to teach Addy that dogs quite a few times her size can be friendly and not scary.

Because, sadly, we DO encounter big dog owners who, almost regardless of how friendly or how aggressive their dogs are, think it's clever and amusing to "joke" that "My dog could eat your dog in two bites!" and have no awareness of the fact that their dog rushing up and standing over a smaller dog is not polite behavior and that the little dog might legitimately be scared by this and react accordingly.

Brian, we need more like you and your dogs.

Submitted by Colette | May 13 2010 |

I'm sorry I'm late posting this comment, I read your letter to the editor entitled "Double Standard?" and I concur with your opinion. There is no excuse for pet parents to assume that a small dog is either funny or cute when being aggressive. When I worked at a doggie day camp, the majority of snapping and aggressive bites came from untrained, small dogs. Shameful behavior was constantly exhibited when pet parents were informed that their unsociable pet was no longer welcome at the facility. Sophie's story should wake people up to this double standard, personally, I have never been gnashed at by a large dog, my own shelties will respond to any command for a hot dog, but I have to say, a toy poodle once broke my skin, (I'm not bitter).
Regards, Colette

Submitted by Rachel River | May 16 2010 |

It is a double standard and one that can end in tragedy. There was a small terrier that was allowed to run loose in our neighborhood. Little nasty thing (due to no training). He would come over and bark, pee at, antagonize my big male Akita. My boy is so good with other dogs, retired show dog, well trained. One day he had enough, over a 5 ft chain link fence, one bite/shake and that was it. (I was in the yard, heard the chain rattle and was instantly behind my boy but was too late) I had repeatedly asked the neighbor to contain that dog but no...it was small not bothering anyone. Well yes it did bother someone, big time. The little dog lost his life due to bad owners..what a shame. Now, people would say my boy was the problem, mean dog, vicious dog... nope..he had enough and I don't blame him. Till he passed on, he was so wonderful with dogs and cats, it was that one dog and I really disliked that dog too. My neighbor understood and after that there were no loose dogs.

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