It’s Always the Big Dog’s Fault?

October 16, 2018

I was re-reading the August Your Dog newsletter published by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, and stumbled across the following sentence in an article titled When a Big Dog Attacks a Little Dog: “It is never your fault if a larger dog attacks your little one.”

Big Dogs vs. Little Dogs: Why is it always the big dog’s fault?

Now I know that I may be burdened by my personal experience and my predilection to dogs over 125 pounds, but how can fault always be ascribed to the large dog and by the transitive theory of blaming a dog, the large dog’s owner, me?

Small dogs start things

I have walked my dogs around San Francisco for years (always on leash I might add) and countless times a small dog, often off leash or 20 feet away from its pet parent on a retractable one, has run over to my dog barking and snarling.  

Thankfully, the vast majority of the time my dog has looked at me sheepishly and backed up wondering why a dog the size of its head would bark at us.  

But occasionally, and I don’t know why, my dog will bark back.  

And just that bark will cause the small dog’s parent to swoop in, grab their dog, pick them up (so now there is a dog flying above my dog’s head continuing to bark), and then proceed to yell at me to control my dog!  

So who really started it?

I’ve been around enough dogs at dog parks and on the streets of San Francisco to know that there is no upside to me explaining that my dog didn’t do anything and that it was their dog that “started it.”

While I would never condone my dogs attacking any other dog (or anything else for that matter), I’m also not convinced that the smaller dog could never be at fault.  

Am I just too biased it see it as it is?  What do you think?

Thanks for reading.


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5 Responses to “It’s Always the Big Dog’s Fault?”

  1. Karen Whitehouse

    I was walking with my partner,John, my big dog Shiloh and my friend Carol and her little dog Arthur. Everything was fine, both dogs were on leads and it was a beautiful day. 20 minutes later there was a fight between the two dogs and obviously as a result, the little dog came off worse and had to visit the vet. There was no blood and Arthur was walking fine. What really upset me was the assumption that it was Shilohs fault. People around were comforting Carol who was in a terrible state and everyone was asking if Arthur was ok. Even me!!. People were saying that Shiloh was dangerous and that the dog warden should be called. Not one person asked if Shiloh was ok. None of us saw what actually happened to start this off but Shiloh has never shown any aggression to anyone or anything before. Arthur is only 7 months old and has started baring his teeth and growling. John is convinced that Arthur went for Shiloh and that he was just defending himself but not one person considered this, including me at the time. It was always going to be the big dogs fault. I honestly don’t know how to come to terms with what happened and I feel guilty for not considering that maybe Shiloh was the innocent one. Maybe nobody will read this but sometimes writing it down helps . Karen

    • Mark Klaiman

      Let us be the first to ask: how is Shiloh and how are you and John? Thanks for sharing your story with us and we do hope that writing it down and knowing that someone cares helps.
      Stay healthy,
      Mark@Pet Camp

  2. Tais

    I am here and hope more people will be to provide more and more stories for such cases because as the title say “it is always the big dog’s fault” for some reason and that is also what the media like to show.
    So… I am a person who lived in animal loving family and got tons of dogs mainly bigger ones but also some small like jack russell terrier or dakels. Most of my experience while walking both small and big dogs is that it is a lot more common for a small dog to start things. In my opinion there are also a lot more irresponsible small dog owners that often are children themselves and do not know anything about their breed or even dogs in general.
    A close friend of mine had Great Dane. Amazing dog from his teen years which i always loved. One day he asked me for help. He was on crutches then and wanted to take his dog out as normal but could not really keep it in dangerous cases. So we were together with his Argo and my border coli Acantha (what can I say… I still like to study mythologies) in an open park with public barbecue and grill as next to us was a group of kids and one or two teenagers. They had 2 small dogs with them – yorkshire terrier and pomeranian. And they were both loose. I talked it with my friend and we went to tell them to better keep their dogs on leash. The kids did not mind but one of the teenagers confronted us. i will not go into details but they did not leash them. Our dogs were tied to metal bars to the gazebo but it did not help when the pomeranian dared to approach my hurt friend which provoked his overprotective at the moment dog. Before we can help or the kids could come the little one was death and since this is the second wounded dog by Argo (first one literally jumped in their yard) and we could not run… they put the poor dog down. I hated this moment so much, I wanted to broke those children’s necks for how irresponsible they were leading to two dog’s deaths. Great Dane Argo was already old but it still was sad moment maybe even sadder because of that as my friend could not take a proper goodbye and spoil the dog at his last years. This was a case with two death dogs because of all of us, the people who were there could not help it.

    • Mark Klaiman

      We are so sorry for your friend’s loss. It sounds like your friend loved Argo very much.


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