Saturday, October 30, 2010

Little dogs in action

You need to read the following link to completely understand the topic I will discuss afterwards. It includes more behavior knowledge from one of our supposed "experts" in the field.
It is rubbish. Well let me back up a bit, part of it is true. Height does equal status in dog language for some dogs. Let's never forget all dogs are individuals. And behavior is also very contextual. However his description that carrying small dogs explains why they act stupid towards larger dogs in a dog park setting is just completely incorrect. Smaller dogs go after bigger dogs for several reasons. Fear defensiveness, prey drive, resource guarding, or simple lack of good social skills are just a few of them. The reason they think they can do it has nothing to do with feeling superior because they get carried in their owners arms outside of the dog park. The reasons they react to other dogs doesn't matter in order to answer this question however. They act like dogs because:
A) Some dogs let them get away with it. You see smaller dogs driving bigger dogs away from things all the time. It is about the relationship between the dogs, and social skills of both dogs involved that determines the larger dogs reaction to the smaller dog. No dog purposely does something that doesn't work for them or that they don't think will work for them in some way. Small dog bullies/warns off bigger dog and big dog backs off? That's called reinforcement of the behavior. See it worked! Also remember that a dog in chase/prey drive mode isn't thinking. That dog is in a reactive mode and just acts. (Think about the dogs that get quilled by porcupines repeatedly. The curious thinking dog learns from 1 altercation. The reactive dog tries to grab it every time.)
B) Dogs have been domesticated. This means the chip in their head that tells them "I am outmatched by this dog and he could kill me so I better be careful." doesn't exist. It exists in wolves because fighting is considered to expensive of a behavior and they know that. Fighting means a risk of injury and injury can mean death in the wild. They are not domesticated. Even a tame wolf is not domesticated. Domestication is a process that takes generations to achieve. When dogs fight we step in to save them and/or get them medical help when they need it. We have taken the "survival of the fittest" instinct out of dogs. This is why size doesn't matter to them.
This theory of his is right up there with our president is a bad leader because he lets his dog walk in front of him. ~ sigh ~ Would it kill the man to do some actual dog behavior research instead of making stuff up as he goes along??
Hmmm puppies get carried around a lot. I wonder if this makes them feel superior to us since we are the ones carrying them. OK that is a joke people. I just want to make that clear before someone thinks THAT is a valid issue to consider as a problem! Don't laugh, someone somewhere might think it's true! Scary thought isn't it?
Photo above by Wendy Buretta


puppynerd said...

I think a lot of why small dogs are bullies is that they are *allowed* to be bullies.

Imagine a great dane with the personality of your average chihuahua. That dog simply would not function in human society. At the very least it would get some manners trained into it's head. It is highly likely it would be euthanized. In any case, it is very unlikely it would be bred. Even the least responsible owners would have difficulty living with a dog like that long enough to perpetuate it. In fact, to do so, you would probably have to *really* know what you were doing, which should put you back at point one about training some manners into them.

But a pocket dog? Oh how cute when he growls and acts fierce - you can just pick him up and toss him in the bathroom if he gets annoying - he can't do any real harm.

That's why I like big dogs - they've been selected to be decent citizens.

Marie said...

Oh agreed! So many behaviors you see in small dogs would never be tolerated in larger breeds! It would simply be to dangerous.