I have a 4 year old English bulldog who gets along very well with people and other dogs. One behavior I noticed is that she tends to be aggressive specifically towards small submissive dogs, so usually schnauzers, shih tzus, and so on.

What typically happens is that they'll approach each other, then my Bulldog stands stiff for a moment and side stares at the small dog. Then the small dog will show some disinterest and back away. Suddenly my bulldog will lunge at the small dog with aggressive growling noises while the small dog tries to run away with high pitched squeals. This only happens with timid small dogs. When a small dog approaches with confidence and wants to play then there's never any problems.

This has already happened a few times and luckily she hasn't bit anyone yet. I usually let her go to play with big dogs around, but now when someone adds a small dog in the mix I feel like I have no choice but to leash her back up.

Is there something that can be done to introduce her to small dogs and control her aggression?

You can train your dog and teach her that her behavior is not accepted.

You already understand her body language and see her intimidating small dogs (the stiff posture). This is the exact moment when you should intervene, don't wait until she barks at the dog.

If possible, stand close to her when a smaller dog approaches. The moment she stiffens up, you prod her in the side of her torso or neck and tell her loud and clearly "no!". For the prodding gesture form your hand into a maw (like playing with a sock puppet, just without the sock) and "snap at" her with your hand-maw. You should not grab her and cause her pain, just prodding her with this gesture is enough to reprimand her.

This gesture imitates the natural reprimand of wild dogs and wolves. Contrary to popular believe, they don't bite each other as chastisement, they snap without causing injuries.

If she doesn't stop intimidating, grab her by the collar and physically turn her around so her rear faces the smaller dog and her head faces you. (I do not mean putting her on her back, but facing her around)

That way you (as the highest ranking pack member) put her into a submissive position, since the higher ranking dog sniffs the rear of a newcommer first while the lower ranking dog presents its rear to be sniffed.

After she calmed down a bit you should be able to let them play. But stay close at first in case she takes the opportunity to start intimidating again.

You'll have to repeat this a few times until she learned that she's not allowed to intimidate smaller dogs.

  • Thanks Elmy, I'll give this a go and try to be very consistent on correcting her. – Green Cell Oct 10 at 9:14

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