Does Size Really Matter?
Should small breed dogs play with the big boys?
A client called me recently asking if she should permit her 9 pound dog to play with big dogs. She read it was inadvisable because a big dog could accidentally bear down too hard and that would be the end of her little dog. This left an imprint of terror in her mind and she never let her little dog around big dogs.
“Oh, no, no, no.” I laughed. “That is highly unlikely. If a big dog kills your small dog it will be by shaking, not accidentally crunching!” This no doubt greatly reassured her. Big dogs do have the capacity to injure little dogs but quite honestly; all dogs have the capacity to injure each other. With some exceptions, small dogs and big dogs do great together.
There are always risks when dogs of any size interact, whether they are neighbors in a kennel, classmates at obedience training, or playmates at the dog park. Dogs may contract communicable illnesses from breathing the same air or swapping spit, as they are wont to do at any opportunity. They may injure each other with highly aroused play or fighting. (Human intervention while inevitable often exacerbates these incidents.) In worst case scenarios these interactions can end tragically, although this is extremely rare.
Humans are familiar with these risks because they are the same risks we run when we socialize. We can pick up viruses and bugs at school and work, children may skin knees or break bones romping on playground equipment. And their friends may try to persuade them to experiment with tobacco, alcohol or other naughty things. Tragic accidents can and do happen.
But, there is also tremendous benefit to social animals when they socialize. They experience joy, sorrow, thrill, laughter, bonding, anticipation, pain, disappointment and closeness to another being. These experiences are what make our lives rich and meaningful and what make us well adjusted, well rounded people able to function in our society.
Dogs evolved as pack animals and as such very social creatures. Therefore, they benefit greatly from socializing for the same reasons humans do. As with people, the benefits of dogs socializing generally outweigh the risks, for the same reasons: A more fun, healthy life and a happier creature. Therefore, most people feel free to allow their dogs to socialize and experience the good and bad alike. They allow the dog to adjust, grow and learn from both of them. Part of socializing is meeting people unlike oneself. For dogs, this means dogs of all sizes.
Of course, some big dogs are not good candidates for pint sized pals. Dogs with high prey drive may mistake a zippy little dog for prey and injure her. Therefore, much like with your human children, it is vital to monitor their friendships. Just any pal isn’t good enough.
With the right friends, however, diversity is as good for dogs as it is people. Playing with dogs of all sizes is a great experience for most dogs. Many small and large dogs get on famously together and appear to have special friendships. In millions of households small and large dogs co-exist and even snuggle! Dogs are far better than humans at choosing their friends by who they are, not what they look like. If given the opportunity, many small dogs will choose big dogs as their pals and vice versa.
So, if you have a small dog, go a head and let her experience doggy friends of all shapes and sizes. Don’t limit her world to those that look just like her. However, like with your children’s friends, you want to use judgment and make sure she is hanging with the right crowd. The good new is, this is FAR easier accomplished with a 15 pound pup than with a 15 year old child!
About the Author:
Anne Hendrickson is a dog trainer and owner of Downtown Dogs Daycare and Boarding. Her passion is helping pets and their people get the best from each other and giving everyone the best quality of life possible. She is a mom to two fur and one human baby.
For more information on Downtown Dogs Minneapolis call (612) 374-DOGS or E-mail: anne@DowntownDogsMinneapolis.com
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