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?