Little dogs, big attitude problems

One of the reasons I’m not overwhelmingly fond of little dogs is that I’ve met very few well-behaved ones.

My theory is this: Little dogs are often extremely cute. If they misbehave, it’s easy to excuse their behavior as an adorable tantrum and not give them any discipline or structure. If a little dog jumps on you–or even growls at you when you try to approach it or take away its toy–it’s easily ignored. They’re so tiny! What could they do? This is not the case if you have a big dog. Big dogs demand obedience training, because they can’t get away with bad behavior as easily as little dogs. If your lab or a German shepherd is out of control, you need to handle that problem ASAP. If your chihuahua or yorkie bites people, well, it seems like no big deal. Because they’re so cute and their teeth are so tiny!

This is not to say that everyone who has a big dog trains him; if only that were true! Rather, my generalization is that people with little dogs, especially toy breeds, seem to have a tendency to skip obedience training altogether. The result is fluffy-faced miniature terrors who become behavioral nightmares, despite only weighing a little more than five pounds.

Case in point. I got really, really frustrated with a woman and her two bichons on Sunday when I was out walking Bo.

Bo is a big, handsome golden retriever. He’s friendly to everyone, but with other dogs, he’s usually quite shy. He always wants to go up and say hello, but he slinks around them. We were walking up the sidewalk and I saw a woman on her cell phone walking two bichons on retractable leashes. I noticed that one of the dogs crouched down in a predatory way as we approached and locked eyes with Bo.

I moved off the sidewalk to let them pass and stepped into the street, giving them quite a wide girth. However, as we passed, this predatory-looking bichon charged after Bo, snarling and snapping at him. The woman did NOTHING to rein her dog in, and since he was on a (#*!@) retractable leash, we had to keep running into the street to get away from him. The dog ends up biting Bo on the back leg as we keep trying to run away from them, made difficult by the dog on the line that won’t be reined in. She laughed and asked me, “Is your dog a puppy?” “What? No,” I said, distracted and still trying to get away from her and her white demons. “Weird. He usually attacks puppies! Isn’t that cute?” she said, and kept walking away. “No, that’s NOT cute,” I said, but she wasn’t listening.

People out there with dogs: How is this in any way acceptable? If I let Bo do that to other dogs (especially other people’s PUPPIES!), I would get written up. I really wanted to bless that lady out. Instead, I just kept walking, fuming. (I admit I was also imagining this scenario playing out if I had a dog who wouldn’t tolerate such nonsense from such a little brat…) Bo seemed fine after we kept moving on, but I was still riled up about it when I got home.

What would you have done in this situation? Is there anything appropriate to say to people with little dogs who don’t do anything to train or control them?

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5 thoughts on “Little dogs, big attitude problems

  1. Little white fluffy dogs (not necessarily bichons, but people don’t necessarily groom their dogs so that I can tell what they are) are the bane of my walks with Elka. It seems as though there are 6 or more in my town, that we occasionally encounter on the sidewalk or in the park, and not a one of them has been trained. This ranges from snarling and barking at the end of the leash while the owner smiles fondly and says “I can’t stop him” (oh? I’m doing an okay controlling this NOT BARKING Doberman), to a pair of them running snarling at Elka and I.

    The pair were not on leashes, were in the park, and the owner was calling them in a lazy, airy, high pitched voice that they were clearly accustomed to ignoring. I put Elka in a sit, put myself between her and the dogs, and made hard eye contact and told them to go away. One did immediately, the other didn’t until the owner was closer. Then I gave her the rough end of my tongue for having unleashed dogs, and she said “Well, I have the leashes” (hung around her neck). I said “They are supposed to be on the dogs.”

    If another dog BIT Elka on a walk, with a person describing previous attacks holding the leash, I would call the police. I would take pictures of the dog, and the owner, and the bit site (wound or not) and call the police. That is not acceptable. I don’t care how big or small your dog is; train your dog. If my Doberman threatened everything that moved and barked and lunged and snarled, you can bet people would take notice.

  2. The important thing to always keep in mind..its the owner…not the dog. The dogs have not been given the chance to become the best dog they can be because the owner has ignored all the training. That upsets me when I hear stories like this because it gives all smaller dog owners…or to people who do not understand, small dogs, a bad rap. I have a lovely, mellow, and kind bichon cocker – his natural personality may have something to do with it, but we never neglected the training process when he was young. Now he is a joy to have.

    I am sorry you have had those bad experiences with small dogs and owners. Those experiences are so understandably frustrating.

  3. Small dog != a baaaaaaaaaby, and should not be treated as one. Nor should it be seen as an accesory….I’ve chewed people out when their small dogs have been annoying me, and in one case I told the woman that she had the count of three to get her teacup terrier-monster away from my leg which it was biting, or I would kick it away (OF COURSE I wouldn’t, at least not the dog…the cow standing there beaming at her dog biting a stranger, on the other hand…). She got furious, to which I offered to call the police…gah,some people!

  4. Un-freakin’-believable! I’d be HORRIFIED if one of my dogs attacked another dog (or person, for that matter), no matter how severe the damage.

    Regardless off the size of the dog, that kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable. I think what one of the other commenters said about smaller dogs (or even just some dogs in general) being treated like babies, rings very true.

    My in-laws have a dog (the brother of one of my dogs, actually), who basically runs the house and jumps on anyone and everyone, scraping his sharp nails down their thighs whenever he wants attention. If they don’t indulge him, he nips at hands. He has broken skin/drawn blood on me more than once and they offer a pathetice “no” or “down” at the time, which he always ignores.

    I know it’s not the dog’s fault, but it doesn’t make me any less disgruntled. I’ve since managed to set some boundaries with him but it hasn’t changed his behaviour towards other guests.

  5. I agree with Jen. I believe it’s appropriate to call the police if another dog bites yours. That’s the only way some people will learn.

    Unfortunately, the dogs themselves are suffering. If they’re frightened or angry enough to attack another dog, they’re not any happier than Bo was to be attacked.

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