Looking at the very small sample of dogs at our training class, they are all treated the same - small and large. The small dogs behave just like the large dogs - or vice versa. If there IS an difference in behaviour of small dogs, I think it is impressed on them by their owners (or others). The small dog goes for a big dog, the owners laugh and clap - rewarding the behaviour. Plus, often small dogs do not get the same (or any really) training as they are not perceived to need it - they are so small, what harm could they do?
I think people often say this in a bit of an offhand way - "he doesn't know his own size" etc etc. I think from a logical standpoint alone, that's very unlikely. I know I certainly feel the difference in other people's size around me (as I'm rather short) and I think it would be daft to think that dogs have no perception of their relative size to one another. We can, of course, say "we can't know if dogs are aware of their relative size", but we certainly can't categorically assert "dogs are not aware of their relative size". I think, also, that people often don't expect little dogs to actually be dogs, and so they make the comment to indicate that they are as much a "proper dog", with all that comes along with that, as any larger breed.
No, we can't know for sure, but the dog can certainly tell us how he's feeling around any other dogs, by their body language. I wasn't aware before this conversation of any studies which show whether there is a correlation between the size of dog and likelihood of reactivity/fearfulness/anxiety-induced behaviours, but a very quick Google found this one: Dog Behavior Co-Varies with Height, Bodyweight and Skull Shape
"For example, breed average height showed strongly significant inverse relationships (p<0.001) with mounting persons or objects, touch sensitivity, urination when left alone, dog-directed fear, separation-related problems, non-social fear, defecation when left alone, owner-directed aggression, begging for food, urine marking and attachment/attention-seeking, while bodyweight showed strongly significant inverse relationships (p<0.001) with excitability and being reported as hyperactive. Apart from trainability, all regression coefficients with height were negative indicating that, across the breeds, behavior becomes more problematic as height decreases."
It's a single study, but it's not a surprising correlation if it holds up to scrutiny. Of course, correlation ≠ causation, so we can only hypothesise as to why that is the case.
I definitely find smaller dogs are more likely to be snappy yappy and unsociable on walks.
And big ones perhaps over exuberant if anything.
I have always put it down to training and owners. The NEED for lead training just isn't as strong as they aren't going to pull the owner's arm from socket when lunging. If they get a bit snappy and defensive (or whatever) the owner can pick them up and often do.
So size may relate more to training, opportunities, and attitude.
All breeds have certain traits of course but I think having a small dog makes some owners think they need less care or training (not all owners). If they have a problem then they can just pick it up or pull it away, something we can't do with big dogs and so owners of large breeds must be more responsible and train their dogs more effectively (I realise now that I have just repeated what @Jacqui-S has just written).
I know someone who has 2 chihuahuas, one is fine the other is viscous. I know someone else with 2 and both are horrible. They seem very protective of their owners or fellow dogs and I don't think size is the whole issue as there are a lot of small dogs who have wonderful personalities.
Nelly of course is a gorgeous young lady and needn't worry about my generalisation or bad mood this morning. x
I think a lot of small dogs (not all of course) are let down by their owners, through lack of training and letting problems slide but also maybe not building their dogs confidence/helping them to feel safe, leading to the snappy, yappy behaviour. I imagine being teeny tiny could be quite scary.
This is a really interesting point; I've not really had much to do with small dogs until my friend got a Patterdale terrier (not the smallest admittedly, but smaller than labs!). She struggles a bit as her dog is anxious but although she's been through a stack of trainers she hasn't made much progress - so often in difficult situations does pick him up. She was told by one trainer not to pick him up as 'it puts him above other dogs and feeds his aggression' . I guess this is a major part of the issue - because you can pick them up/manoeuvre them, it becomes more about immediate management and less about training. Pretty much repeating what you've all said already, just thinking out loud!
And I suppose if you are worried about your dog being small and vulnerable and you pick it up, you are reinforcing the fear that you have and the dog will sense it and become nervous in future situations - so vicious circle. It's best not to of course but there are a few times I wish I could have picked Maisy up, it would have saved her being attacked a few times - twice by a Jack Russell and once by a daschund.
I think many small dogs are not socialized properly around bigger dogs (either picked up, dragged away, avoid big dogs) out of fear from the owner. Every morning we meet up with a tiny Pomeranian who plays among huge dogs, chasing balls and wrestling. He joins in, and runs behind the big dogs. He truly just acts like a dog. We also have a yorkie who is similar. Everyone ensures play is gentle and the big dogs are naturally careful not to trample them, so they are not fearful at all.
I hope Maxx is better this evening. It's horrid when your dog gets bitten.
Merlin is TERRIFIED of chihuahuas... He's never had a bad experience, he just thinks they are powerful and vocal. Actually, I don't know what he thinks, but he gets all google-eyed and weirdly frightened.
Rory likes small dogs he knows a few and most are lovely. He likes playing with them and is very gentle and respectful. He finds them amusing he often had a really soppy goofy look on his face when he greets and snuffles about with them. His face is soft it's the same with Iver he has a really gentle way with them. Playing with Iver I can see he understands his size and strength, and is so careful and protective.
Poor Maxx, how is he now? I hope he has been able to shrug this off, poor lad . I hope you are OK, not easy when your gentle labrador gets on the ruff end of an encounter.
I do wonder what provoked this spat, it is very difficult though without the context, to know exactly what happened and why on this particular occasion. I presume that some sort of behaviour assessment was completed when the the other dog started training, and any particular needs were catered for, i.e. needs extra space from other dogs. So was this very much out of character? It does make me wonder if there was something that has recently affected the husky's behaviour, underlying pain for example, or a recent situation where the husky was at the receiving end of dog aggression.
Dogs don't just snap for no reason, I do hope the trainer takes a pragmatic, but sympathetic approach, if necessary signposting the other dogs owner to a vet in the first instance, as well as a good behaviourist if needed.
It’s a bit of a misconception that you can reinforce fear, at least in this manner. But what the owner could do is make the nasty thing even worse (because most dogs don’t actually like being picked up) and then the approach of the dog becomes a predictor of that and therefore generates a stronger response than it did before.
Maxx is fine; perfectly normal and bouncy again. His wounds are healing nicely. He is such a happy, 'get on with life' dog and for that I am eternally grateful. Thanks everyone for your kind words and positive thoughts
He treats small dogs in a completely different way to large dogs. He approaches small dogs gently then lets them sniff, has a bit of a sniff back and stands very still and as unintimidating as a dog his size can. However when he is with a large dog he is all bounce and waggy and 'PLEEEEASE play with me PLEEEEZE c'mon, c'mon' which can get annoying for the other dog. He barked in the face of a 3 year old chockie labby the other day and she got annoyed and went WOOF WOOF WOOF right back at him. He was so shocked he sat on the footpath with an audible thump. I was glad the older dog told him off. However OH said when the husky cross attacked him they were quite gently sniffing each other