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Thursday, January 13, 2011

ASK THE DOG TRAINER, with Terry Lynn Cuyler: Dealing with Little Dog Attacks on the Walk

by Terry Lynn Cuyler, APDT, CPDT-KA
(c) courtesy Barbara K.
Even the Sweetest Dog
Can be Protective or Aggressive
Dear Terry:

While walking my two dogs today we were attacked out of nowhere by a vicious little Yorkie. My 60 pound setter is quite submissive and the attack was focused on her, while my Pomeranian mix just barked at them both to "stop it".

There was no contest between the two in the fight and my Irish girl was backing away and just defending herself, thank goodness. My question involves how to best manage two dogs when one is being attacked. I couldn't let go of the little one's leash or he would have gotten into it. It was tough to keep him separated from the other two.

Finally, the owner ran outside and scooped up her little terrier. She explained that her dog had been attacked as a puppy by a large dog and is now very aggressive toward any dog that is bigger than her. She called it 'little dog syndrome'.

She apologized and there was no harm done, but I hope you can give me with some tips on dealing with this whenever it happens again. That little terrier attacked completely without warning; we did not see her in advance. I did not have a chance to intervene and send her away. That has worked for me in the past but I did not get a chance to do it this time. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Dear Amy:

There are several suggestions for walking your dog safely when there are loose, not-too-friendly dogs about on your walk.  As a start you can make sure your dog is walking close to you where you have more control. He will feel more protected and you can scoop him up if needed or bring him right to your side if he's too big to pick up.  

Try to maintain your own calm, as difficult as I know that is and take deep breaths. Speak deep and low as possible; use your Darth Vader voice, not a scream.  Turn sideways to the oncoming dog which lessens the threat to them and is likely to turn them away.  

Teach YOUR dog to look at you on command because that also helps him feel comfortable and makes him less threatening to another dog.  Carrying a few treats in your pocket that you can toss out at the other dog can keep them busy while you turn away. If you have had many loose dogs coming up to you, I would look into carrying one of the citronella sprays or air blast sprays that can act as a deterrent, but are not harmful.  

Last, if this occurs often, do not hesitate to call your local animal services and let them know about the menace.  If these dogs are coming after you and your dogs, they are a danger to other citizens and children as well.  They need to be contained in a more consistent manner. 

Terry, the Paws Prof

Our ASK THE DOG TRAINER Column can be reached at

For more information on Terry Lynn Cuyler and her training, you may find her at Paws Prof

A personal appointment with a trainer will likely provide more specific information on your dog's issues and your questions.

The PawsProf's advice does not replace an actual consultation with a qualified trainer.

Thanks to Barbara K. for providing the picture of Buddy, our cover model for today. Isn't he adorable? Barbara's hobby is taking photos of Buddy in various poses and costumes, but thank goodness he's not a terror.
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