Small dogs: why are tiny hounds more aggressive than big ones?

Not only are little dogs more likely to lash out, they also tend to be less obedient and less well house-trained

Name: Small dogs.

Age: Human years x 7.

Appearance: Like little versions of normal dogs.

Cute! How small are we talking? All kinds of small: miniature, toy, lap, handbag.

Adorable! Adorable, and vicious.

Surely not. I’m afraid it’s official. Small dogs are more aggressive toward humans than big dogs.

Ridiculous. That certainly doesn’t sound like my favourite mini-pooch, Timmy Stitches. Why is he called Timmy Stitches?

Long story, but if you want a cough drop from my handbag, ask me first. A study from the University of Helsinki using more than 9,000 Finnish pets has found that smaller dogs have higher odds of behaving aggressively than large and medium-sized ones.

I suppose that depends on what you mean by aggressive behaviour. Growling, barking, snapping and biting.

That sort of thing is all down to breeding. If so, the small, pure breeds do not come off well. The second and third most aggressive breeds on the list were miniature poodles and miniature schnauzers, while labradors were the least aggressive.

Perhaps the poor creatures are just lashing out because they’re frightened. You may be right. Fearful and anxious dogs are known to behave more aggressively towards strangers than relaxed hounds, and previous studies have associated small size with fearfulness.

That make perfect sense – they’re so vulnerable. Small dogs are also often less obedient and less well house-trained.

No comment. Interestingly, because small dogs are seen as less threatening, their owners are less likely to correct aggressive behaviour, which may in part account for its higher prevalence among smaller breeds.

So this is all my fault, is it? This is science.

There must be other factors besides body size that lead to increased aggression. There are. The Helsinki study found that male dogs are more aggressive than females, and that older canines are more aggressive than younger ones.

The problem is, Timmy Stitches is male and old as well as small. I guess that would explain a lot of his anger issues. Maybe he just doesn’t like living in a handbag.

Are you kidding? It’s Anya Hindmarch. What is to be done about our sweet, tiny, violent dogs? The study’s authors suggest that improvements to owner education “could alleviate aggressive behaviour toward people”.

As long as it’s not mandatory, I’m for it. That’s the spirit.

Do say: “It’s just his way of saying he likes you, but you might want to get that looked at.”

Don’t say: “Bad Timmy!”


The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Down boy: why grumpy dogs are more intelligent than happy-go-lucky hounds
Worried that your canine companion is disobedient, territorial and quick to bark? Research suggests it’s probably a clever clogs

10, May, 2021 @12:58 PM

Article image
Horny dogs: what can Boris Johnson do about his pet Dilyn’s romantic urges?
It’s important to remember that dogs don’t hump things only for sexual reasons – it could be that they are overexcited, attention-starved or have a bladder infection

28, Jul, 2021 @3:10 PM

Article image
Why handbag dogs are going out of fashion
The trend of toting tiny pups around as accessories has subsided, with owners dumping the £2,000 hounds at rescue centres. Is big the new small?

16, Jan, 2017 @1:30 PM

Article image
Eau de pawfum: is it barking mad to buy cologne for dogs?
A runner-up at Crufts was scented with a calming floral spray – but canine perfumes aren’t just for show dogs

09, Mar, 2020 @2:35 PM

Article image
Doggone it! How an 18,000-year-old puppy could change everything we know about dogs
Dogor was two months old when he died and has been well preserved in the Siberian ice. But is he an early modern wolf – or one of the world’s very oldest domesticated dogs?

27, Nov, 2019 @2:48 PM

Article image
Pet parties: the surprising – and occasionally dangerous – trend for animal birthday celebrations
An expensive extravaganza in honour of a dog’s birthday in China ended with the police being called, while three people were arrested after a massive knees-up for a canine in India

11, Jan, 2022 @4:18 PM

Article image
That’s barking! Why all dog owners need a poo wormery
It’s no longer enough to bag it and bin it – the green approach is to let worms munch through your dog’s waste

18, Jan, 2021 @3:26 PM

Article image
Lilac dogs: the cruel new craze that commodifies our faithful friends
Pedigrees are being bred to have a range of unusually coloured fur, including lilac, silver, charcoal and even tiger stripes – as well as a host of health problems

25, Oct, 2021 @1:28 PM

Article image
Wanted, playing dead or alive: the sniffer dog with a bounty on his head
Scamp the spaniel is so good at finding illegal tobacco, crime groups have offered a £25,000 reward for his capture

23, Jan, 2019 @12:57 PM

Article image
Survival of the fattest: how greedy labradors convinced us they were clever
According to new research, the popular pooches aren’t as smart as we think – but they will do almost anything for food

04, May, 2016 @3:15 PM