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How to Train Your Big Dog to Get Along With a Small Dog

How to Train Your Big Dog to Get Along With a Small Dog
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon4-8 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Because big dogs can be intimidating, some small dogs might be a little fearful of your big guy. Big dogs also don't always know their size. Big dogs will try to fit into small spaces thinking that is their size, and big dogs will try to play the same way small dogs play, not truly understanding the size difference between the two. This could also mean your big dog plays a little rougher and your little guy could become injured or even stepped on. 

Training your big dog to get along with a small dog is imperative, especially if you have big and small dogs in your household. They should be able to get along. They should be friends. And hopefully, if you play your cards right, they should play together too.

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Defining Tasks

Training your big dog to get along with your small dog will also include training your small dog to get along with your big dog. Some small dogs are definitely bigger than their bite and can stand on their own, but others are timid, shy, and fearful. This demeanor may encourage your big dog even more. Put these two dogs on the same level when you are training them both and work with them at the same time. Be sure to offer both a treat at the same time if possible. If you give one dog a treat, be sure to give the other dog a treat. This will teach the two dogs that they are both equal in the household.

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Getting Started

You will need lots of tasty treats to train your dogs to play together and be nice to one another. You will also need patience and training time with a big dog and a small dog. If you don't own both big dogs and small dogs, but you still want them to get along, try to find a small dog that you can introduce your big guy to, so he knows that there are dogs of all sizes out in his world and he needs to know how to interact with them. You can do this by organizing play dates through your groomer or veterinarian, or you can take your dog to a dog park and see if anyone is interested in introducing their little guy to your big guy. Be sure to have treats for both dogs at all times.

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The Distance Method

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1

Introduction

When you need to introduce your big dog to a small dog, keep the introduction short and sweet and both dogs confined if it all possible. This could mean have you both dogs on leashes or it could mean having both dogs in crates with the crates side-by-side.

2

Behavior

Pay attention to how both dogs behave during their introduction when they can't get to one another. Notice whether they are interested in one another or are aggressive and growling or barking at one another.

3

Treats

Hold up two treats so both dogs can see. They should turn their attention from one another to you. Hand both dogs each a treat at the same time.

4

Ignore

Ignore them once they both have treats. This will give them a moment to eat their treats and then decide what to do next. Do not look at them; just try to notice what they do once their treats are finished. Giving them time to eat the treats is giving them a moment to be distracted and to rethink how to address the problem at hand.

5

What's next

After your dogs have eaten the treats and have looked at you for more, as they probably will do, they need to address each other again. They will either do this with curiosity after just having a tasty treat or they will turn and be aggressive.

6

Treat again

If they are calm and curious about one another, you can look them both in the eyes and offer them each another treat. If they are aggressive, repeat the steps above where you hold up the treat without making eye contact and then hand one treat to each them wait a moment and then ignore them.

7

Repeat and practice

Continue to repeat these steps until your dogs are no longer aggressive. Once they are curious and showing signs of leaning forward to sniff one another you can acknowledge both of them.

8

Meeting

Once your dogs show very little interest in being aggressive with one another, you can have them meet one another by bringing their leashes closer and letting them explore and sniff, or by taking them out of their crates and letting them interact.

9

Rewards

As long as they are getting along, continue to give them rewards in the form of treats as they explore and play together. If they are not getting along, separate them slightly so they can't fight. Then repeat the steps above.

10

Practice

Once your big dog and the little dog are sharing the same spaces together, continue to practice these steps offering them rewards every time they show no interest in being aggressive or when you catch them sniffing and exploring or playing nicely. Rewards will remind them to get along so they can earn treats together.

The Small Dog, Big Bite Method

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Effective

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1

Aggressive

A small dog who is aggressive can actually intimidate a dog much larger than themselves. A large dog who is intimidated may very well run away or jump around, putting a small dog at risk.

2

Get together

If your little guy is aggressive and you need to introduce a big dog into his world, socialize your little guy as much as you can away from the big dog. Start small by introducing your dog to dogs that are the same size. Keep them on leashes and meet in neutral territory, such as dog parks or even on a walk together. For the first several walks, keep your dog's playmate his size.

3

Go up a size

While you are socializing your little dog with other dogs his size, search for dogs that are a bit bigger than him but not by much. So if you have a small breed, search for something in between small and medium-sized. Repeat socializing these two dogs together in situations where your dog is safe but understands he's a little bit smaller than his new walking buddy.

4

Increase size

Keep repeating this process and socializing your little dog as much as you can away from the big dog. Continue to increase the size of the dog you socialize with your dog. To do this, find dogs at dog parks, talk to your friends, and find people who can go on walks with their dog and your dog together. Keep these social times short and only have one dog at a time playing with your little guy.

5

Super size

Once you have gone through all of the different sized dogs, increasing in size each time while socializing your little guy, bring a big dog into your dog's world's in a social setting. Go for the same walks, go to the same dog parks, and have your little guy socialize with this big dog. If he has been socialized over the last few weeks with other dogs closer to his size and getting bigger over time, this should be a piece of cake for him.

6

Rewards

Make this time with your little dog and the big dog special by offering them both rewards as they walk together and get to know one another.

7

Practice

Put these two dogs in different situations on leashes while walking in your backyard, not leashed while playing at dog parks with other dogs, and inside your home. If these are your two dogs they need to know how to get along wherever they are. Be sure to always reward them for a job well done and for good behavior when they are getting along together.

The Common Ground Method

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Least Recommended

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1

Introduction

Bring food for each dog to the initial introduction of the dogs. If these dogs already know one another and you are trying to train them to get along, bring special treats for them both to your training sessions and reintroduction to one another.

2

On leashes

Whether this is a first introduction or a reintroduction, put both dogs on a leash. For the first several training sessions together, they should both be on leashes. This teaches them that you are master and you are controlling the training sessions.

3

Big dog

Your big dog might be excited to interact with this little guy, especially if the small dog is new to him. Control him on his leash so he doesn't overreact, become too excited, and injure the little dog. As you are introducing the little dog to your big guy, offer him a treat. This will distract him a bit with food as well as let him know that there may be more to earn with good behavior.

4

Small dog

The same as with your big dog, watch the small dog and as soon as he sees the big dog, offer him a treat. This sets the tone for the dogs' meeting and training sessions together. Each dog knows there are treats at stake and they will need to earn them.

5

Commands

If you haven't worked with the dogs individually on basic commands, you may want to try these before the dogs interact much together. If your dogs already know basic commands, start by having them both sit. When they obey, give them another treat.

6

Work together

With the dogs still on leashes, have them do some commands they know together. So when you ask them to sit they both sit at the same time and they both earn a treat. Do as many commands as they can get through while expecting them to react and respond at the same time and rewarding them at the same time. This puts each dog on the same level with you as the master.

7

Gentle play

After some commands and treats, bring the dogs closer together to sniff and explore one another. Keep them on leashes, especially if they have fought in the past or if they are just meeting one another. Let them explore. Remember your big dog is probably bigger than he believes he is and can cause your little dog injury if he is overly excited and jumps around.

8

Rewards

As they are sniffing one another and exploring the other, offer them each treats. Earned rewards for both dogs will remind them that if they both behave, they can both earn treats. Watch both dogs as they're eating the treats you have given them at the same time to ensure one is not aggressive with the other and trying to grab his treat.

9

Off-leash

As your big dog and small dog get more used to each other and are rewarded for good behavior when they're together, try to have them together off-leash. Start this by keeping the leashes on the dogs but completely let go of them. This way, if something happens you can grab the leash pulling your dogs off of each other but without controlling them while they're making their own choices to get along.

10

Unhook leash

When you can trust your big dog and little dog to be in the same space playing or working on training commands together, earning treats, unhook the leashes. Let them practice being around one another without the leashes. Keep practicing with the dogs sharing the same space.

By Stephanie Plummer

Published: 12/15/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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charlie and gaiya

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Kelpie

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Five Months

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Question

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Gaiya is a 5 month old kelpie he is actually very well behaved for a pup except he gets too excited around my 9 year old king Charles cavalier cross shiatzu. its not aggressive in any way so i haven' minded until now ive noticed Charlie' foot is sore after playing and im worried Gaiya is starting to play rougher with him, charlie doesn't want to go outside anymore to go to the toilet because of gaiya constantly jumping and licking him. whenever im watching gaiya behaves but when im inside i can hear them playing and being rough, im just not sure how to control it when im not around?

Aug. 2, 2022

charlie and gaiya's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I would start by teaching the Out command. After you have taught him what Out means, I would also pay attention to the section in the article I have linked below on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, and Using Out to Help Dogs get along. Out: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ I would teach Leave It as well: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite For now I would give the dogs more separation when you can't be around, enforcing the Leave It and Out command when you can supervise, crating or confining in separate rooms when you leave the home to give your older dog a break. Once pup is older and a little calmer, having prevented the constant pestering through your enforcement of rules and giving both space away from each other when you aren't there to train and enforce, they may work things out themselves. If it continues when they are older, low level remote collar training can be done, initially using a long leash with you present and rewarding pup obeying Leave It and Out, and using the remote collar correction to interrupt the puppy when he doesn't obey - so that he fully understands that the rule is to give your older dog more space, and is rewarded for respecting that as well. Once he understands completely, then the remote collar can be used when you are spying on pup out of sight to convince pup that the rule still applies even when you aren't there to enforce it. It's really important that pup understand why he is being corrected through teaching Leave It and Out, and using that long leash and treats with you present when you involve the remote training collar, so that when pup is corrected when he doesn't think you are watching, he understands why and how to stop that correction, and doesn't just associate the correction with the other dog being nearby. This correction would be done on what's called "working level" or sometimes vibration is sufficient in some cases. A working level is a lower level correction, tailored to the specific dog based on the lowest level of correction they indicate they can feel when you stimulate the collar without any distractions around ahead of time - it's not intended to be a high level "shock" but more of an interruption. I would hire trainer experienced with working level remote collar training, who also uses positive reinforcement in their training too, to oversee any remote collar training initially. Only use high quality collar brands for safety reasons, and look for a collar that has at least 60 levels to ensure you can tailor the level carefully to what pup responds to without overstimulating. Start with Leave It, Out, confining separately when you can't supervise, and giving less time alone together without you there at this age, so you can help pup learn respect for Charlie; that and a bit of maturity may be all that's needed. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Aug. 2, 2022

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Bean

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Dachshund

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11 Years

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My significant other and I have been together for a year now. I am considering moving in with them, but a year ago he adopted a Rot mix (Dory). She’s roughly 60lbs at 2yo. Some background info on Dory: At 2 she’s still a puppy and has some behavioral issues. She jumps on people, but does follow some basic commands like sit or lie down. However, she pushes boundaries and personal space. When we want her off a piece of furniture or not around us while we’re eating, we have to ask her several times to leave before she actually does walk away. She occasionally growls at people on her walks and she’s never growled at another dog, but she does get overly excited and jumps, whimpers etc. Some background information on Bean: Bean is a 11yo 7lb miniature dachshund. Bean can be territorial with other dogs when she is on a couch/bed or eating food. She wasn’t always this way. She became more territorial after she turned 5/6. I’m concerned to introduce these dogs because Bean was attacked by my brother’s pitbull (Lucy) on two separate occasions. The first: Bean was being territorial and the pit pulled her out of my lap and crushed her eye socket. The second (1 year later): The Bean and Lucy were outside together and Lucy got too close to Bean and Lucy grabbed Bean on her side and severed her leg off. Bean almost died and had to have her leg fully amputated. Now I have a dog with one eye and three legs due to traumatic injuries. I’m scared to introduce her to my boyfriend’s large dog now, but if we can’t find a way to make the dog situation work, the relationship will more than likely end. I need some real advice.

July 13, 2022

Bean's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kelsey, Unfortunately, there isn't a quick answer to this situation, so I would start by evaluating your commitment to the relationship and committing to the life changes, time commitment, and boundaries that will all be needed to succeed here without having to rehome one of the dogs. Both people need to be willing to do this here - its a good test of whether you are both willing to work through hard things as a team so the relationship can flourish - if the answer is no on either end, there isn't much I can advise here unfortunately. If the answer is yes, then I would start by desensitizing both dogs to wearing a basket muzzle. Have him work on intermediate obedience with his dog, teaching things like Place, Leave It, Out, Quiet, Heeling, and crate training. These things need to be worked up to to an intermediate level of obedience, not just a basic initial level - meaning pup should eventually be able to heel past others while on a walk, leave exciting things alone when told, not jump even when the person jumps up and down, be crated quietly, and stay on Place for one hour. Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Jumping - Leash method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump Muzzle training for both dogs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqM2_vLcQ2Y&t=1058s Crate Training - Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate The overall goal with Dory is obedience, calmness, boundaries, and the ability to tell him to give your dog space and her actually do it. You are dealing with the lack of self-control and over-excitement or rudeness. With your dog, you need to work on her possessiveness of you, resource guarding, and tolerance. For the possessiveness of you, work on building her overall respect for you gently. For the resource guarding you will need to counter condition her to others being around (in a controlled setting with safety measures and at a distance she tolerates, working up to closer interaction very gradually as she improves), and structured obedience - so you can also tell her when to move away and stop a behavior. Additionally, she will need a lot of new rules at home. One being no jumping up on the couch or bed, meals are fed for each dog in their own closed crate, both dogs are crated away from each other when no one is home, basket muzzles are worn by both and drag leashes at first, both dogs have a 1 hour place command they will do - so they can be in the same room peacefully without approaching each other - using a back tie leash to ensure they can't bolt off place at first. Any dog who is rude, breaks a rule, or shows aggression leaves the area - this includes blocking another dog, a tense stare, climbing onto your lap around the other dog, nudging you for a pet or barking to demand something, ect...Things at home need to be a bit like a boot camp at first. Once they get along well, you trust both, and the rules are cemented for both, then you can decrease the strictness but be very strict at first. You both need to evaluate if you are willing to do this. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

July 13, 2022


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