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

Medium
4-8 Weeks
Behavior

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.

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.

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.

The Distance Method

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6 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Small Dog, Big Bite Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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The Common Ground Method

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Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Buff
AnimalBreed object
2 Years
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Buff
AnimalBreed object
2 Years

We own two smaller dogs and we recently adopted Buff, who is much bigger. We want him to realize how big he is and cant play so ruff with our smaller dogs. Also we still does the puppy biting and we want to train him not to jump.

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Little Dog
AnimalBreed object
9 Years
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Little Dog
AnimalBreed object
9 Years

We recently just adopted a German Shepard, Pyrenees male 3 year old and we are struggling with our Papillon mix mounting him and then him turning around and attacking/hurting the smaller one. Any tips or tricks in how to prevent the smaller dog from asserting dominance and the larger one retaliating?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Natasha, First, crate train both dogs using the crate manners and Surprise methods from the article and video linked below. Feed both dogs in separate locked crates at meal times. Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Second, teach both dogs the Out command (which means leave the area) and make whoever is causing issues leave the area as needed - use this command when the Papillon approaches the older dog dominantly - hopefully before pup even attempts a mount. Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Decide what your house rules are for both dogs and you be the one to enforce the rules instead of the dogs. No aggression, no pushiness, no stealing toys, no stealing food, no being possessive of people or things, or any other unwanted behavior - if one dog is causing a problem you be the one to enforce the rules so that the dogs are NOT working it out themselves. For example, if pup comes over to your other dog acting pushy or rude, tell pup Out. If he obeys, praise and reward him. If he disobeys, stand in front of your other dog, blocking the pup from getting to him, and walk toward pup calmly but firmly until pup leaves the area and stops trying to go back to your other dog. Do this before pup has mounted your other dog, and not in the middle of a fight! Always be aware that a dog can redirect their aggression toward whoever is closest - leading to you being bitten. If there seems to be risk of that, have both dogs get used to wearing basket muzzles and practice the training with pup's wearing basket muzzles whenever in the same room. You can introduce the muzzles ahead of time using treat rewards with each dog separately so that the muzzles are not a source of stress for either dog. Be vigilant and take the pressure off of your dogs - you want them to learn to look to you when there is a problem, and for them to learn respect for each other because you have taught it to them and not because they have used aggression. Reach out to a professional trainer who specializes in aggression and comes well recommended by their previous clients who had similar needs, if things are not improving, getting worse, or you feel unsafe, ill equipped to train this on your own or overwhelmed at any point. Teach both dogs the Place command and work up to having them both stay on their separate Place beds calmly for 1-2 hours. This is a great calming, self-control building, and tolerance exercise. It also helps get them both in a working, more respectful mindset while in the same room as each other. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Finally, work on manners and building respect and trust for you with both dogs, especially the papillon. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Working method and Consistency method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Aska
AnimalBreed object
3 Years
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1 found helpful
Aska
AnimalBreed object
3 Years

Okay, so I had the two small dogs (Westy and Spitz,both females) for a few years now, and they have a sister bond. They squabble from time to time but whenever it escalates, they deescalate it on their own, so we really don't have to break them off ever. Yesterday we found an abandoned Belgian Malinois on a mountain (female, same age as these two) so we decided to adopt her. She is very obedient towards us and humans in general, but she has an issue with these two. Initally she was very friendly, but the Spitz was a bit scared and cautious, while the Westy was a bit neurotic and excited. At first it all seemed okay but as time goes by we noticed that the Malinois doesn't like the caution and fear. She doesn't even like the Westy violating her personal space with simple sniffs. I triex walking them together on a leash and holding them close to eachother but without any big changes. Keep in mind that the Westy is our family dog since she was a baby, while the Spitz and Malinois are rescued. The Spitz had a rough past with bigger dogs so the fear is understandable. The two smaller ones are very protective of eachother so every squabble is 1v1 is like a 1v2. How can I make this household work?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
673 Dog owners recommended

Hello Aras, It sounds like there may be some doggie-rude behavior going on, some possessiveness, and of course the fear. I would add a lot more structure and boundaries in the household for all the dogs to set the expectation for how they should interact, help increase calmness, and give your fearful dog a bit more confidence due to predictability and you managing their interactions. I would also calmly reward the fearful dog for acting calm around the Malinios when they are in the same room/general area when you catch that - but without the other's dogs seeing you do so, since you don't want them rushing over for a treat too and starting a food fight. First, crate train the dogs using the crate manners and Surprise methods from the article and video linked below. Feed the dogs in separate locked crates at meal times, or at least in different spaces. The crates give the dogs somewhere calm to be when you are away or unable to supervise them together - they shouldn't be left unsupervised yet. Crate manners: https://thegooddog.net/training-videos/free-how-to-training-videos/learn-to-train-the-good-dog-way-the-crate/ Surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Second, teach all the dogs the Out command (which means leave the area) and make whoever is causing issues leave the area as needed - including if pup guarding another dog. Out command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Decide what your house rules are for the dogs and you be the one to enforce the rules instead of the dogs. No aggression, no pushiness, no stealing toys, no stealing food, no being possessive of people or things, or any other unwanted behavior - if one dog is causing a problem you be the one to enforce the rules so that the dogs are NOT working it out themselves. For example, if pup comes over to your other dog when she is trying to sleep, tell pup Out. If she obeys, praise and reward her. If she disobeys, stand in front of your resting dog, blocking the pup from getting to her, and walk toward pup calmly but firmly until pup leaves the area and stops trying to go back to your other dog. If your dog growls at pup, make the one who growled leave the room while also disciplining pup if pup antagonized. Be vigilant and take the pressure off of your dogs - you want them to learn to look to you when there is a problem, and for them to learn respect for each other because you have taught it to them and not because they have used aggression or had to hide all the time. Teach the dogs the Place command and work up to having them each stay on their separate Place beds calmly for 1 hour at a time. This is a great calming, self-control building, and tolerance exercise. It also helps pups get used to each other calmly. Eventually you can give each dog a dog food stuffed chew toy to entertain themselves on Place, but you will have to enforce Place really well or back tie each pup while they are on Place - to avoid another dog leaving their place to try to sleep someone's toy - and causing a food fight. Each should stay firmly on their own Place until given permission to get up. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Finally, work on manners and building respect and trust for you with the dogs. This can help overall listening and having a peaceful household. It also stimulates the dogs mentally - taking the edge off of extra energy, over-excitement, and nervousness. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Heel article - The turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Working method and Consistency method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

A few days have passed and some changes have been noticed, some for the better some for the worst. The Westy got used to her, is a bit more relaxed but still violates her personal space sometimes. The Spitz is still kind of afraid of the Malinois and the Malinois growls at her whenever she gets closer than 2-3 meters. We've noticed that the Malinois is very possesive of me and the humans in the house in general, but mostly me. So on that note, whenever I walk the other dogs she goes crazy jumping around (on the leash). She has a very hostile look towards the Spitz whenever she passes by and it kind of scares me cause I can never assume when she will go crazy. She eyeballs her and we have to warn her, clap our fingers or something for her to drop focus. I mostly order the little dogs to stay away from her whenever she is alone cause it annoys her having them around. I still don't know what to do with them, I have done most of the things you have said to me over the course of these days, some things I knew and implemented beforehand, but I don't see any big and positive changes going on.

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Charlie
AnimalBreed object
6 Years
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Charlie
AnimalBreed object
6 Years

My dog is good with other dogs but when it comes to food he has became aggressive because he has usually only been the only dog and grew up on a reservation but recently me and my girlfriend have purchased two puppies brother and sister and we just want our bigger dog Charlie to be good with them but we are still worried what could happen between them

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
85 Dog owners recommended

Hello, do not feed the puppies and Charlie in the same room. Let Charlie eat on his own somewhere else. This is very important. Don't leave the puppies alone with Charlie at any time. Take the three of them on walks together so they can become more tolerant of each other on neutral ground as opposed to in the house. A few walks a day, over a period of a few weeks will help. As well, read this guide: https://wagwalking.com/training/accept-a-new-dog. Charlie will need even more attention than normal so that he knows he is still top dog. Don't let the puppies bother him, and make sure that Charlie has a place to go to get away from the puppies if he needs peace and quiet. As soon as the puppies have their vaccines up to date, begin their obedience classes. And if Charlie needs a refresher course, that will help to bring harmony to the home as well. If there is continued aggression, you will need to call in a trainer to the home to ensure the safety of all of the dogs. Good luck!

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Nico
AnimalBreed object
3 Years
0 found helpful
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Nico
AnimalBreed object
3 Years

I have two little dogs a male and a female the male (Osito) is a Pomeranian and the female (Gigi) is a Toy Poodle. Gigi is the leader of the pack and Osito just followes her lead. I recently got a male Pit Bull (Nico) and while trying to introduce the three it got a little crazy Nico jumped and barked and just tried to play and it scared my two little ones and they both snarled and ran away. Ever since ive been looking at ways to introduce them in a better manner but i just cant seem to find anything that will work. Im very scared that Nico will end up hurting my small dogs and i just dont want to have to take him back to the shelter.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
91 Dog owners recommended

Hello! It is a good idea to take them all on a long walk together. That tends to be the first step in bonding. Many dog foster parents, or trainers at behavior rehabilitation swear by doing this. Do this for a few days in a row, and let them come around on their own.

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