Do big dogs really not see little dogs as "dogs?"

This is a place to gain some understanding of dog behavior and to assist people in training their dogs and dealing with common behavior problems, regardless of the method(s) used. This can cover the spectrum from non-aversive to traditional methods of dog training. There are many ways to train a dog. Please avoid aggressive responses, and counter ideas and opinions with which you don't agree with friendly and helpful advice. Please refrain from submitting posts that promote off-topic discussions. Keep in mind that you may be receiving advice from other dog owners and lovers... not professionals. If you have a major problem, always seek the advice of a trainer or behaviorist!

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Savannah Blue Belle

A Heart of Gold!
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 11:43am PST 
So...that action of shaking things...

My dogs do that all the time. To their toys. But they are imagining prey when they do that? Would you say?

Dubs sometimes shakes her food.

Cave canis- vigilo omnis
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 12:31pm PST 
Savannah, yep. They're "killing" their toys. It's perfectly natural for them to rehearse behaviors like that.
Shiver Me- Timbers- "Charlie"

My Little Dog, a- heartbeat at my- feet.<3
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 1:11pm PST 
Regan was fine with little dogs until one incident. She was a Rottweiler, loved all other dogs, or so I thought. But a little Schnauzer must have found her intimidating, or something, because he was fearful of her and was instantly yipping and barking at her and refusing to go anywhere near her. Regan ignored it for a while, before she leapt up and CHASED this little Schnauzer while it screamed. The owners simply called him, saying it was 'normal' for him to do that. SO WHY WAS HE AT THE DOG PARK? I grabbed Regan before she could do any real damage. Knowing her, she would have stomped her front paws on him and trapped him on the ground, and I didn't want an injured dog, so I leashed her up and ended dog-park time for her.

I have seen it a few rare times however, where a dog mistakes them for prey while they're running, or especially, while they're squealing(yes, I've heard dogs squeal!). A friends Shepherd is like that with little dogs, granted, she's also SSA and reactive, so that's not necessarily something unexpected. I have no doubt in my mind she would hurt or even kill a smaller dog.


The cheese ninja
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 1:17pm PST 
Kody has met a lot of small dogs, and he seems to see them as dogs, and will sniff their butts, play bow, etc. Once, though, we were swimming at a lake, and there was a tiny dog, probably 3 pounds, soaking wet, and bobbing up and down in the water. He kept sort of trying to dunk it by the neck. My friends thought he was playing, but to me it looked weird, and the tiny dog's owner seemed to think something was off, too. It made me nervous enough that I held onto him until the other dog was done playing and out of the water. So I will make a point to be very cautious around tiny, wet dogs if we're ever in a similar situation.

Im just a little- guy
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 2:11pm PST 
I use to think dogs had no concept of size because small dogs often think they are bigger than they are and some act aggressively towards dogs much bigger than them. Then some of the big ones think they are lap dogs and will crush your lab with this mindset.

I don't have problems with big dogs thinking Milton is prey. Milton smells like a dog and has normal dog behavior. He is well socialized and greets dogs before interacting with them. I think most dogs know he's a dog cause he walks up wagging his tail and acting like a dog. Were I live bigger dogs are more popular than the small breeds probably due to climate and lifestyles in the area. Most dogs Milton interacts with are bigger than him.

I think some dog handlers don't see little dogs as legit canines. Or maybe they never let their big dogs meet smaller dogs in fear they will hurt them. Some big dogs don't have much socialization with any dogs. They may of not met enough small dogs nose to nose and don't know these small critters smell and act like dogs. They might start reacting to them poorly and then the owner thinks they don't like small dogs and drag them away or improperly correct them. I think human emotions affect dog behavior. so then these big dogs pick up on the owners emotions when the person sees a small dog. They might think they are a threat cause suddenly their masters mood just changed.

Also some people don't like small dogs. I received a comment last winter from a guy with a big dog off-leash on a trail when I had my much smaller dog off leash on the same trail. The dogs interacted normally and there were no indications the big dog did not know Milton was a dog. he made a comment indirectly towards me. He said some thing like this to his dog, what is that boy?

My dog is seldom the smaller dog. He almost always avoids reactive dogs. Recently he slipped his collar and walked up to a growling chihuahua. He tried to greet the dog, but the dog bit him. It was one of those tiny ones. He did it again to another tiny mean chihuahua. I think he knows they are smaller and not really able to injure him. He treated them like normal dogs, but the chihuahuas were not having it. These were dogs less than half his size. He has never gotten within reach of a bigger reactive dog. Yesterday he was off leash and a lab on a chain reacted to him aggressively. He walked up to about 4 feet from dog and did not get any closer. I think he knows differences in sizes. I have to tighten his collar now on walks in fear he will slip it and bother chihuahua handlers.
Sanka- I'll Miss- You

The ground is my- newspaper.
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 2:25pm PST 
So the big question is then:

Is it seen as normal for large dogs to chase and/or catch/kill small dogs?

Not acceptable, but just, dogs will be dogs?

Or is the act of chasing small dogs like prey more abnormal? A sense of that it can happen, but is more often associated with individual cases rather than just regular tendencies of dogs.

Speaking in terms of just naturally occurring or genetic predisposition, not training.

dog-sitter in- charge.
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 2:58pm PST 
larger canids in the wild often will kill smaller canids, specifically targeting them. Wolves will kill coyotes and jackals, as well as Vulpines like foxes. I would say that probably there are some dogs that do recognize that small dogs are dogs but will attack them anyway, not due to poor socialization but due to the very fact that the dog is smaller and more vulnerable and easier to kill.

but, i suppose dogs are largely what we want them to be, as a man made and largely domesticated animal. So if we say that it's unwanted and unacceptable for dogs to chase and kill smaller dogs specifically cause they are smaller, than I guess that's what we want them to be.

Gunna get \'em!
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 3:23pm PST 
Sanka, I have three dogs. Two bigger dogs (38 and 45 lbs) and a smaller dog (13 lbs). In my experience, if ANYTHING or ANYONE runs, Paisley is going to chase it. If I run, Gunner runs, the cat runs, a cow runs, or the fish swims too fast--Paisley is on it. It's part of her drive.

There is a black mouth cut puppy I know who chased down another family members little yorkie because it ran. And I've already cited the Greyhound at a local rescue.

I think your question CAN BE breed specific. A BMC, for instance, especially if bred to hunt and not raised around small critters, is highly likely to chase down a small dog. A standard poodle, though, is unlikely to do such a thing in anything but play behavior. These are, of course, extremely broad examples.

It is my thought that this isn't normal or abnormal behavior. I would not fault a hunter for hunting. He's a dog, after all.

This applies to small dogs too--but a little fuzzy is no match to a bigger fuzzy if the bigger guy was to have a sinister plot.

Thus, if you have a little be cautious with him. smile

Whippy- The- Whipador
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 3:33pm PST 
I'd still consider it abnormal behaviour Sanka. I've heard of a couple of stories where a small dog has been killed here, but in both situations the attacking dogs had aggression issues to begin with.

Dogs of all shapes and sizes freely mix on walks i take and i've never seen any issues between any of them, Sighthounds included!

Little rascal
Barked: Wed Aug 22, '12 3:34pm PST 
My dog Sharna who was a Ridgeback was a cat chaser but she also went after small fluffy dogs. I remember once incident (when I look back she shouldnt have been offleash but I was only 15. I didnt know much better) when we where on the beach and Sharna spotted a toy poodle and she took off after it like it was prey. She only wanted to chase small fluffy dogs though. So I do think large dogs can see little dogs as prey but it also depends on how high of a prey drive the dog has. Sharna has a high prey drive being a Ridgeback because they were bred to hunt and chase.
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