You’re on a walk with your small dog, strolling through your neighborhood, without a care in the world. Then you turn the corner and are met with a couple walking their dogs. Maybe your little dog turns into a raging Tasmanian devil at the sight of the other dogs, acting like she is going to attack with all her tiny might. The people laugh once they get over their shock and walk on, their well-behaved dogs looking offended. If your dog wasn’t so little it would be a really dangerous situation. As it is, it is very embarrassing, and also you feel badly for your little dog. Why doesn’t she greet other dogs politely? She’s fine with all your friends' dogs at home.
Little dogs seem to be more prone to greeting problems than larger dogs. Small dogs rarely continue their aggression past the initial meeting. Shy small dogs typically overcome their fear and get along well with other dogs once the meeting is over. So why do little dogs sometimes have so much trouble with greeting other dogs? Many little dogs have the terrifying experience of being knocked over by an overly rough larger playmate at some point in their early lives. Even if they are not actually knocked over, seeing large dogs throwing their bodies around in play can be extremely intimidating for a little dog.
Teaching your small dog to greet other dogs nicely is all about correcting fears instilled by her small size, and teaching her better ways to react to other dogs. Your little dog must learn to get respect without resorting to overwhelming aggression, or to get away without experiencing all-consuming fear. Problem behaviors around greeting are rooted in insecurity. Giving your little dog confidence in herself and trust in you will enable her to greet other dogs politely while maintaining her own space and respect.
Throughout training, as in all areas of your life with your little dog, it is essential that you keep in mind always how different your experience of the world is from your little dog’s. Try lying on the ground propped on your elbows at the dog park, and watch the big dogs run around you and collide into each other inches from you, and imagine how it must feel for your little dog, who is a tenth or less of their size.
Throughout the process of teaching your small dog to greet other dogs nicely, keep your little dog’s safety and confidence in the center of your mind. One bad experience can set your small dog back a long way. Avoid situations in which you have little control, like dog parks with lots of dogs or very crowded walking places, until you and your little dog have built confidence and trust in one another.
Food replaces fear for dogs, so remember to have good treats available at all times. For all training techniques, food is an essential motivator and also psychological tool to build pleasure with meeting new dogs.