Go Go Devil- Bunnies!
|Barked: Sat Aug 25, '12 7:39pm PST |
|The pick-up thing is a whole topic in itself... I apprentanced under a trainer who worked with a dog that would go after his owner if someone else picked his owner up. Definitely prey-related, but has everything to do with going up and often no other factors at all. It just happens that small dogs are picked up more frequently than large dogs or humans, etc.
Based on many, many experiances... Dogs know the scent that means "dog." However, their socialization experiance may not lend itself to being able to put that scent into context. For example, I have seen Lab or Hound-type dogs become completely confused when presented with a Pug or Old English Bulldog for the first time. It smells like a dog, but instead of a tall, lean body with a long tail, muzzle and drop ears it's a short, stocky little thing with no tail, no muzzle and small folded ears. It smells like a dog, but nothing else about it lines up with being a dog. A stable dog can figure it out with some time and guidance.
So then, given the situation, is there enough time for the larger dog to figure out that the small dog is a dog? Not always, even for a dog who is familar with small dogs. Scent only works if the dog is able to catch a whiff of it. Fox has lost at least one home for killing cats. Last week I walked her within 6 inches of a grey cat sitting still on a pile of stones. She had absolutely no idea it was there. The cat had come up on the pile from down wind of us. Had the cat bolted, Fox would have been on her in a second with no idea what she was actually pursuing. I did have Fox on as short a leash possible for that reason.
And of course, individual personalities. There will always be dogs who couldn't really care less what size or shape you are, and there will always be dogs who are overstimulated by small moving anything, period. And everything in between. On that end, keeping your small dog well socialized can save him - a Chihuahua who is well versed in dog language will know to stop and offer calming signals to a pursing large dog - thus hopefully stopping the chase-grab-kill prey drive, as opposed to a Chihuahua who is afraid and panics just being put on the ground. Small dogs who are physically disabled, have high-pitched barks or otherwise act more like prey, are going to be more enticing to any prey driven dog. I have seen a Fox Terrier hospitlize a Chihuahua for that reason. There's barely a size difference there.
TL;DR - it's an extremely individual issue, both in terms of the dogs involved and how the situation unfolds.
My biggest personal experiance was with Ember. She is extremely prey-driven - of 9+ dogs who met our late pet hedgehog, Ember was the only one who clung to the belief that there must be some way to kill it (she didn't; old age). She was completely unsocialized before she came to me, aside from whatever dogs she met while roaming and she clearly didn't treat them very well.
At the time I lived with Vance, a Bloodhound, a Smooth Fox Terrier, and 5 Chihuahuas. One of the 5 was actually a mix, fairly well socialized and weighed about 15lb. The other 4 were undersocalized rescues with physical disabilites including severe skeletal problems.
Em was with Vance immediately, him being male and the same breed as her and her late brother. Within a few weeks she was also with the Bloodhound, him being a large male tolerant of obnoxious play. Within those same few weeks, we began letting the Fox Terrier and larger Chi out were Ember could see but not reach them. Initial reaction was chase and go for the kill. I began working on finding progressively smaller, tolerant males for her to meet as well as any appropriate females. After a few months of this plus watching and smelling the two through gates and fences, Ember calmed and accepted the large, aloof male Chi as a dog. Shortly after the Terrier joined the "friend" list. So long as a dog acted like a dog, it was ok.
Then the other 4. I honestly had no hope of it ever working, but figured we could try. The first time she saw them I had her restrained. Only two of the Chis entered the room. Both long-haired, yipping, and hobbling. Em (still restrained) immediately lunged forward and down to rush and kill, and as she did so the door closing behind the Chis pushed their scent toward her. She stopped like she'd hit a brick wall, fell to the floor, screamed, began sneezing, shaking, pupils fully dialated, licking her lips and switching rapidly between a hunting crouch and quivering mess.
She had no idea they were dogs. If I had not had her restrained, she would have gotten there and followed through before she ever had time to register a scent. Her confusion and distress gave me hope, though, and we did keep working in short sessions of quick sniffs, rewarding appropriate behavior and finding other, progressively more diverse dogs she could socialize with. It took a full year, but she was eventually able to be with all 4 of them. She currently has no issues with any small dog - I have photos of her rolling on her back with a Pomeranian, and sitting with a Mini Doxie nestled between her paws - but I still wouldn't trust her not to fall into preditory drift if a small dog were running away downwind across a field...
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