I stand only four inches off the ground but in my mind, I’m the size of a Doberman Pincher. What I lack for in size, I make up in self-confidence. Maybe it’s something about my breed. I know a longhair Chihuahua that is the leader of the pack in her household, which includes a Labrador retriever, a boxer, and an Irish red setter.

Not all small dogs – and there seem to be an increasing amount of toy breeds these days — possess this trait. Sometimes this quality is not allowed to develop because our pet parents constantly rescue us, scooping us up in their arms when a big dog, even a friendly one, approaches us. I know our owners are just being cautious, sometimes wisely. But their protectiveness can prevent us from cultivating our social skills.

Regardless of our self-confidence, big dogs playing with unfamiliar small dogs can be dicey. It’s not unusual for dog parks to have an area set aside for small breeds like me to prevent tragedies from occurring. Some dogs have naturally strong chase drives and make a run for anything that moves. Others have naturally strong prey drives that stimulate them to catch and shake smaller animals. I’ve heard horror stories about large dogs going after tiny dogs at parks like they would a rabbit and killing the tiny creatures.

Certain behavior in small dogs can trigger canines with strong chase and prey drives to react. Showing fear and running away as well as barking and yelping are two things I know I shouldn’t do in parks. I also shouldn’t be let off my lead around strange dogs that are bigger than me.

As confident as I am, I can’t predict how big dogs will react.