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Pet Connection Q&A: Why little dogs often end up in big fights

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 4D

Why do so many little dogs want to pick fights with big dogs? Don't they know they can be killed?

Small dogs are still dogs, and they still act like dogs, even if they're spending a lot of time living in someone's purse. There are some possibilities as to why small dogs seem to have more bluster than is sensible, given their size:

Terrier 'tude: Many small dogs are terriers, smaller versions of terriers or mixes of breeds similar to terriers. These dogs were developed to keep homes and barns free of rodents, and that's a job that requires serious prey drive. The saying, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight; it's size of the fight in the dog" perfectly captures the temperament of these dogs.

The owner factor: Small dogs tend to be a little – how should I say this? – overly indulged. People tend to let little dogs get away with a lot of misbehavior; others think it's funny when their little dog goes after a bigger one. (Though, the amusement ends where the veterinary bill begins.) And sometimes because they're so tiny as puppies, people never properly socialize small dogs.

People at the ends of both leashes need to show some sense and not let little dogs and big dogs escalate snarls and growls into fighting. When that happens, it's almost a certainty the little dog will take the worst of it, and almost as certain that the big dog will be blamed.

Don't take chances.

– Dr. Marty Becker>/i>

The buzz

With two drops a day the itch goes away

• Dogs with skin allergies may be helped by a new technique to build up immunity, using drops instead of shots. In a study presented at the world conference for veterinary dermatologists, Dr. Douglas DeBoer, a professor at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Wisconsin, noted significant improvement in 60 percent of the animals treated twice daily with drops under the tongue.

Currently, standard treatment requires shots every two weeks. DeBoer said the new method of delivery even helped pets that saw no improvement with traditional injections.

• Dog sports such as agility and dock-diving have become more popular, with a result that injuries to canine weekend warriors are more common as well.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation has launched an initiative to better understand the conditioning, nutrition, training and rehabilitation of canine athletes. Free podcasts present an expert lineup of veterinarians.

More information is at canineathlete.

• Veterinary behaviorists say products with pheromones – synthetic versions of calming chemicals that animals themselves produce – can help with many pet-behavior problems, especially those caused by stress or anxiety.

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists and the company that produces Feliway for cats and Adaptil for dogs are co-sponsoring a national tour to help pet owners resolve behavior problems.

Pet fairs in the six cities on the tour will feature board-certified veterinary behaviorists available to answer pet owner questions, educational booths staffed by local veterinarians, shelter booths with adoptable pets and free giveaways. Los Angeles is the only California stop; tour information is at www.keepthelovealivetour .com.

– Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori

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