May issue

May issue
May issue

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A sizeable problem

Can anyone help?

I have a Jack Russell who, like any other dog, loves running around off lead. She plays very well with smaller dogs and we quite regularly meet a Cairn and Yorkie on our walks. The problem is, I do worry about her when larger dogs bowl her over in play. I don’t for a minute suggest these larger dogs should be kept on a lead, why shouldn’t they be allowed to enjoy their walks too? But I was wondering if anyone has any advice or experience of how to keep a small dog from being bowled over?

I haven’t had any experience of any aggressive dogs at all, they all want to play, but I often walk along the towpath of the local canal and would be interested to hear how other owners of smaller dogs cope when on a small path where it is difficult to avoid other dogs. My Jack Russell is very sociable and I do not want to deny her the chance to play, but I worry that due to the size difference between her and larger dogs she could become injured. I used to have a Border Collie and I used to make her go down when a larger dog approached that she may have been nervous of, or when a smaller dog approached that she might have made nervous, but I have tried and can’t do that with my Jack Russell!

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts. Like I said, I have not found these larger dogs to be at all aggressive and know they simply wish to play, I just worry because she is often very much the smallest dog in the group playing.

Thank you.

Jenny Jessop, Hillingdon, Middlesex


  1. Hi - I am replying to this post as i own a Hungarian Vizsla and............ a Chihuahua, and you are right - smaller dogs are more fragile yet they possess a heart far beyond their stature when it comes to play.

    My Viz and Chi have learnt to play very well together, but it took time, and now the Chi can give as good as he gets and the Viz knows when to play at the right power levels - he often plays lying flat down as to not stand over the chi. However this always doesn't happen on a narrow path.

    If you can heel off the lead it works better to walk in between your JRT and the larger dog so that the JRT feels safer and will come out to explore when ready (this also helps to block the other dog). On a lead the JRT may feel a bit more edgy, i call this viewpoint from experience of handling a parsons JRT. The more relaxed the better your dog will respond appropriately to advancing larger dog and the situation. The larger dog should, in theory also be under control too....but in reality this is often not the case either.

    Smaller dogs are hardy, dont panic, be relaxed and the pack will usually equal itself out - sometimes if i meet a pack of 6 dogs on my local walk the Chi will stand off to the side and just chill whilst the others bounce around....they find there place with experience.

    If you would like to understand a little more about the psychology of play and behaviour and why big dogs dont see little dogs as prey etc....then there is a great book by Alexandra Horowitz called Inside of a Dog where she examines dog behaviour between dogs of all sizes and how, irrelevant of size, how dogs communicate their mood and co exist quite happily.

    Hope this helps a little....

  2. Hi, i myself have two jack russell. My two love to play with the labrdors at work, and my oldest jack russell who is 2 years old will oftern start playing rough with up to 3 of them at a time. Jack russell are hardy little dogs, and very strong for such small dogs, and iv found i have never had a problem, and find its the labs that injure themselves more when they crash into things chasing my jacks about.
    This all depends on your dog though, as mine are very confident with bigger dogs. My younger jack who is 1 years old, doesnt like playing rough so comes back to me when they all start up. Try not to over worry about your dog to much, you might find he likes being barreled over from time to time.

  3. There is no way to stop you're dog being "bowled over" by other dogs when off lead on a towpath. You're dog may be good with others but you just never know what the other dogs you meet will be like. When you walk on the towpath you have no choice but to walk head on to other dogs which is inpolite for a dog to do, this can cause problems in itself. I would suggest walking in areas where you have a little more space and only allowing your dog to greet dogs that you know.

    Lucy Parker, Dog Behaviourist, Staffordshire