The owners of a small dog nearly ripped in two by a bull mastiff say they feel partly responsible for the mauling.

Mt Eden secondhand trader Allison Doody said she should have called ahead to check the nature of the big dog before taking her dog Shortie to a friend's barbecue last week.

The small affenpinscher was lucky to survive the attack, which left him with a shredded rib cage, split muscles and organs hanging outside his body.

Later that day, a child arrived at the house where the mauling occurred and was allowed to cuddle the big dog, as it licked her face. The father was warned what the dog had done earlier but he was unconcerned.

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Doody described Shortie's wounds as horrendous.

"We walked in and the dog just glided up beside Shortie, clamped down on him and just shook him," she said.

"His mouth was ginormous and when he shook him, the puncture marks turned in to great big holes."

The dog was pulled off Shortie and Doody and her husband Jim rushed their pet to the vet.

Shortie's heart stopped twice and his bowel was hanging outside his body. He had bruised and punctured organs, and muscles split in half.

Doody was upset but did not want to report the dog to authorities because she felt partly responsible.

She said all dog owners needed to be aware but owners of big dogs needed special education. "If you are going to own a big dog like that there needs to be ongoing training."

Doody said Shortie was improving but needed ongoing care, further surgery and was fighting an infection.

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Manukau vet Dr Mary-Ruth Doole said the practice saw several animals every week that had been attacked by dogs. "It is a huge problem but it is usually the owner's fault. Dogs are a prey animal and should never be out without a lead."