Editorial September 2002 Issue

A Little Perspective

Yapping about the dangerous lives of small dogs.

As I mentioned last month, my family is caring for my sister’s family dog, a young long-haired Chihuahua, Mocha, for the summer. Better known as “Mokie” around here, the winsome six-pounder has fit into our household quite nicely. With tons of exercise, lots of toys and chewies, and consistent training, he’s gone from being needy and yappy – a caricature of a bratty little dog – to being genuinely fun to be around. He’s stopped barking when he’s alone in the backyard, he now comes when called ( a huge improvement), and he’s even learned to sit when he wants something.

My sister called a few weeks ago to ask how her dog was doing, and passed along a warning from her husband, a veterinarian. She said, “Bill told me to tell you to watch out for BDLD.” Huh? “That’s what they write in the charts at the clinic – ‘Big Dog/Little Dog syndrome’ – when they see little dogs that have gotten torn up by big dogs,” she explained.

Although I am new to the world of little dogs, I could see how such a thing could happen. Lots of little dogs seem to have chips on their shoulders, and approach bigger dogs with an ill-advised macho demeanor. Maybe it’s bravado – to let the other dogs know at the outset that they aren’t pushovers. Or maybe it’s defensiveness – a fear-based attempt to get in the first punch in case of trouble. But Mokie’s approach to other dogs is good; from puppyhood, he was well socialized with dogs of all sizes. It never occurred to me that a BDLD incident might happen without any sort of provocation from the little dog.

So I was surprised when Mokie got jumped by a bigger dog when we took him on a family backpacking trip recently. We saw other people hiking with their dogs, and most passed by without incident. But one dog, who looked like a Boxer-cross, took one look at the little dog and instantly lunged for him. I think if he had managed to pin Mokie in that first pounce, he would have grabbed and shaken him; he looked just like he was about to dispatch a rabbit. Maybe he thought Mokie was a rabbit.

Fortunately, Mokie squirmed free and dashed to me for protection, and I snatched him off the ground (not easy to do with a backpack on!) as the other dog trotted up and even jumped up on me, still intent on grabbing the little dog.

From then on, my husband (leading on the trail) would call back, “Dog!” whenever he saw one approaching, and I would call Mokie to me so I could pick him up and carry him past the other dog. Several people commented, “Aw, poor little dog; you have to carry him?” And I’d explain, “It’s just a safety precaution; some dogs think he’s food.”

I’m sure they thought, “Little dog owners – what overprotective nuts!”

-Nancy Kerns

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