Why Are Small Dogs Mean

Little dogs are not only more inclined to snap at people, but they also tend to be less obedient and poorly housebroken.

Cute! How tiny are we talking about? Everything little, from miniatures to toys to lap and handbags.

For sure not. It’s official, I’m afraid. Small dogs are more hostile to people than huge dogs are.

Ridiculous. Timmy Stitches, my favorite mini-pooch, doesn’t sound anything like that. Why is Timmy Stitches his name?

Long story short, ask me first if you want a cough drop from my purse. According to a University of Helsinki study involving more than 9,000 Finnish pets, smaller dogs are more likely than large and medium-sized ones to exhibit violent behavior.

Obviously, it depends on your definition of aggression. barking, snapping, growling, and biting.

Breeding is the only factor in that kind of behavior. If so, the little, purebred animals do not look good. Labradors were the least aggressive breed, while miniature poodles and miniature schnauzers were the second and third most aggressive breeds on the list.

Perhaps the unfortunate creatures are simply acting out of fear. You might be correct. Previous research have shown that fearfulness is connected with small size, and that anxious and apprehensive dogs are known to act more aggressively toward strangers than relaxed hounds.

That makes total sense.

They are so defenseless. Small canines are frequently less trainable and less obedient.

No comments. It’s interesting to note that owners of little dogs are less likely to address aggressive behavior because they are perceived as less dangerous, which may contribute to the higher occurrence of aggression in smaller breeds.

Aggression must be influenced by factors other than just body size. They exist. According to the Helsinki study, male dogs are more violent than female dogs, and older dogs are more violent than younger dogs.

The issue is that Timmy Stitches is a man, old, and little. That would probably explain a lot of his anger management issues. He might not enjoy living in a purse.

Are you serious? This is Anya Hindmarch. What can be done about our adorable, little, aggressive dogs? The authors of the study recommend enhancing owner education “may lessen hostile behavior toward others.

Do say: “You should have that checked out even if it’s only his method of showing you that he likes you.

Why do little dogs become violent?

According to Serpell, dogs who are small may become more scared and aggressive in self-defense. Because they have more to fear, little breeds may be more prone to take a protective stance.

The evolution of the pups may have incorporated aggression. The effects of being attacked by a Chihuahua are undoubtedly considerably less severe than those of being attacked by a Great Dane or a Siberian husky, according to Serpell. To put it another way, over the ages, people may not have tried to breed aggressive traits out of little dogs because the repercussions of being attacked by large hounds were more severe.

Studies linking aggressive behavior to the growth factor gene that causes little canines to be small lend credence to the last argument. The correlation could simply be a coincidence, but research has shown that little dogs exhibit more extreme aggression-related behaviors than large dogs do, as well as more acute separation anxiety, more frequent barking, and a higher likelihood of urinating indoors, according to Serpell. This supports the hypothesis that the extreme behavior of tiny dogs is influenced by genetics.

Because they haven’t yet investigated the causes of the aggressive behavior of small dogs, scientists are unsure which of the theories is accurate, according to Serpell. Every theory has the potential to be relevant.

The regulation does not apply to all little breeds. The Coton de Tulear, also referred to as the Royal Dog of Madagascar, is one illustration. This dog resembles a bichon frise since it is petite, white, and fluffy.

According to Serpell, “the breed appears to have generally quite restrained demeanor for whatever reason, but it also has a variety of medical issues.” “It’s unclear if this is a result of them possibly lacking a crucial genetic component. Or it might have something to do with the fact that they’re simply less physically fit and able to react strongly.”

Are little dogs predisposed to aggression?

The majority of the anecdotal evidence that supported this hypothesis up until recently. However, a recent study from the University of Helsinki found that medium-sized dogs are 38% more likely to be violent than tiny dogs, and that small dogs are 49% more likely to be aggressive than large dogs. Between medium and large dogs, there was no difference in the risk of violence.

While it’s simple to take this information at face value and think that size is the only thing that counts, the study discovered that aggression can also be influenced by a number of additional characteristics. Age, sex, level of fear, breed, presence of other dogs in the home, and the owner’s interactions with their pets are a few of these.

It turns out that little dogs fare worse than larger dogs in almost all of these categories, which may help to explain why they are generally more aggressive.

Sex and the number of dogs in the family are two characteristics that may or may not affect size. Male dogs tend to be more aggressive than female dogs, regardless of size.

Additionally, the risk of aggression occurring decreases with the number of dogs living together; it seems that they teach each other how to behave. But it stands to reason that owners of smaller dogs are just as likely to own several animals as those of larger dogs, therefore it’s doubtful that this is a factor in the Napoleon complex that many little canines exhibit.

What size dogs are the most vicious?

Researchers from the University of Helsinki discovered that small, delicate breeds like poodles, miniature Schnauzers, and rough collies were the canines most likely to display hostility against humans.

How can I train my small dog to be less hostile?

The idea that little dogs are aware of their diminutive size and are acting out of fear is one prominent hypothesis surrounding small dog violence. The term “Small Dog Syndrome” is used to refer to traits that might be employed as a form of size compensation, such as:

  • Excessively ecstatic behavior
  • Owners, other individuals, or larger dogs jumping up
  • growling towards individuals or canines
  • Taking a swing or a snap at potential hazards
  • fear of or aversion to larger dogs (hiding, running away)
  • Unwilling to follow orders and challenging to train

Although not all tiny dogs exhibit these habits, having to cope with even a few of them can make life challenging for both people and animals.

Nature vs. Nurture

Studies on animal behavior, such as the C-BARQ Profiles (created by the Center for Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania), demonstrate that owners of small dogs report more behavioral issues than owners of larger dogs. Genetics may have some influence on this. Aggression is not a feature that is “bred out of smaller breeds” since it is much less harmful in little dogs than it is in large dogs. As a result, a greater proportion of small canines may display these behaviors.

However, a more likely reason is that owners of little dogs just allow their animals to get away with misbehavior that would be unacceptable to larger dogs. Due to their diminutive stature and tremendous cuteness, unpleasant traits like growling, lunging, jumping, and more are simple to overlook (or even unwittingly praise). However, if a dog is allowed to act aggressively or disobediently, this will just lead to further undesirable behavior.

Dealing with Small Dog Aggression

Even while a toy poodle’s tiny teeth usually can’t cause much harm, little dog aggression can be extremely difficult for dog owners. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to assist in reducing these behaviors:

  • For your pet, establish specific guidelines that you adhere to. Get the whole family on board with the rules and boundaries you create.
  • Small dogs require frequent playtime and exercise to get rid of extra energy and keep their minds active. Make a commitment to a daily play and exercise session for your pet in order to enhance attention, temperament, and to promote positive connections with other animals and people.
  • If your tiny dog is hostile to larger canines, try exposing them to a nice large dog gradually. In order to control the interaction, this should be done under careful supervision with at least one adult per dog.

How should a dog that snaps at you be trained?

If a dog snaps at you, it needs to quit doing so. While your dog must be able to discern a stern tone in your voice, training your dog doesn’t involve beating or yelling at him. Establishing clear boundaries and making sure your dog understands them constitutes discipline.

Can a dog be healed of aggression?

Some people will remark that a dog is simply mean when it growls, lunges, or bites. The truth is more nuanced.

As Dr. Sackman advises, “it’s better to start treating aggression as soon as the first signs develop. When controlling aggression in dogs, it’s crucial to pinpoint the trigger and pay close attention to his behavior. Speak to your primary care doctor or a veterinary behaviorist if you have any worries.


The following are some of the most frequent causes of canine aggression:

  • Fear-based The most common reason for dog aggression and dog attacks is fear. Just like people, each dog has unique phobias that may or may not make sense to other people. Dogs frequently experience dread of other dogs, puppies, kids, humans, and veterinary visits. Fearful dogs will lunge, snarl, snap, and sometimes bite to fend off people or other dogs that are frightening to them.
  • Territorial
  • Your dog may exhibit territorial aggression if his aggressiveness is directed toward a boundary, such as a fence in the backyard, a door, or the windows of a car. Dogs’ need to defend their home is ingrained in their DNA because they were raised in part to be house guard dogs. However, hostility might result from the territorial instinct. When your dog is on a leash walk or within a veterinary office, his personal space may occasionally serve as his boundary.
  • resource protection
  • Your dog is guarding a valuable resource with resource-guarding. The things your dog is willing to fight for, such as a couch, a human, food, food bowls, a bed, or a favorite treat or chew toy, are known as resource-guarding triggers. Never approach a dog guarding a valuable object and attempt to remove it; you risk getting bitten.
  • Maternal
  • Dogs share the inherent instinct of many mother animals to protect their offspring at all costs.
  • Play-based
  • Dogs with play-based aggressiveness become extremely excited while playing and may grasp with their lips or act aggressively in other ways. Although the dog may think that this is merely play, actual damage could happen.
  • Inter-dog
  • In-house dog fighting is referred to as inter-dog aggressiveness.

A dog may be more prone to aggressive behavior as a result of his past experiences. For instance, a dog who has previously been grabbed and bit by another dog may start acting aggressively against dogs he does not know out of fear. There isn’t truly a “kind of dog that is more prone to hostility than another,” with the exception of those who have experienced trauma in the past. It’s a popular misperception that a dog’s breed affects the likelihood that aggressive tendencies would emerge in it.

Dr. Sackman claims that there is no correlation between a dog’s breed and its propensity for aggression. “Like people, there is a hereditary base which can make some dogs more prone to react with violent behaviors. It’s not connected to a dog’s specific breed, though.


It’s critical to spot the warning symptoms of canine aggression. When a dog is exposed to something that triggers aggressive behavior, the aggressive behavior often increases from a low point to a high point. A dog acting aggressively is probably stressed out or afraid of particular stimuli or circumstances, and as a result, acts aggressively. An aggressive dog is probably expressing his discomfort in the situation.

Looking at the canine ladder of aggression can help one grasp this. The more subdued symptoms of stress include licking the lips, yawning out of worry, stiffness of the body, and turning away. The dog may display medium-level indicators of stress, such as snarling, barking, snapping, or lunging to defend himself out of fear, if he is unable to withdraw himself or if the situation intensifies.

Finally, your dog will climb to the highest rungs of the ladder and snap or bite if he honestly believes, “I think I’m going to die.” The majority of the time, your dog attacks because he feels the need to protect himself, and the lunge, snap, and bite are ways for him to remove the source of his fear.


It’s critical to remember that there is no treatment for hostility. Through appropriate treatment with a veterinary behavioral specialist, aggressive tendencies are regulated and minimized. Additionally, it’s critical to realize that violence is a behavioral problem rather than a matter of obedience.

For all of her patients with violence, Dr. Sackman suggests a three-part therapy strategy:

  • environmental control to reduce the trigger’s exposure to your dog
  • Changing your dog’s behavior can help them feel differently about the trigger
  • prescription drugs to treat fear and anxiety

An essential component of controlling violence is desensitization to the trigger. By rewarding your dog for acting quietly around the aggression trigger that causes fear, you can use this technique. Give your dog a very nice prize, such a piece of hot dog, when he approaches the trigger without displaying any signs of hostility, even if it is from a distance. You’re telling him that when he looks at the frightful dog, person, etc., nice things happen.

When do dogs become the most hostile?

Any behavior that poses a threat to another person or group is considered aggressive. It may be done with the intention of preventing the disagreement from escalating further, as a means of displacing another person or group, or with the purpose of causing another person physical or emotional harm.

Dogs who are aggressive frequently make threat or body language gestures such intense staring, growling, barking, snarling, lunging, snapping, and/or biting.

Although displaying hostility against a person or another animal can be a typical way of communication in dogs, doing so is frequently viewed as undesirable or unhealthy.

Predatory aggression is driven by the brain’s hunger center, whereas the majority of canine aggression is affective or emotionally (fear and/or anxiety) motivated. When an animal exhibits predatory aggressiveness, it does it without fear or anxiety with the goal of closing the gap and capturing, killing, and consuming prey.

What are the different kinds of aggression?

Aggression in dogs can be categorized or be of various forms. The motivation behind the dog’s aggressive behavior, the environment in which the behavior takes place, or the intended victim of the aggression can all be used to classify aggression. Here are some illustrations of typical forms of aggressiveness.

territorial hostility aggression aimed against an object or creature that approaches or enters the dog’s perceived domain, which is typically the owner’s house or property.

aggressively possessive. When a dog feels threatened that another person or animal will steal valuable resources—typically food or toys—from him or her, the dog may exhibit aggression, also known as resource guarding.

Protective or maternal aggression. aggressive behavior that is usually displayed by a female dog defending her young or puppies.

Irritable or pain-related aggression. aggression that is motivated by pain or discomfort and is directed toward a person or animal.

violent predatory behavior. Aggression that is primarily directed against another animal, but on rare occasions, a human, and is driven by the desire to seek, catch, kill, and consume species that are considered to be prey. Predatory aggressiveness is usually silent or vocalization-free, and the bite is frequently harmful or unrestrained.

either redirected aggression or frustration. aggressiveness that occurs as a byproduct of other aggression or emotional stimulation. When a dog’s hostility or arousal is unsuccessful in reaching its intended target, it switches its attention, out of frustration, to another object, person, or animal.

Aggression Connected to Social Conflict. Aggression that is frequently motivated by internal turmoil and expressed during social encounters, usually toward a familiar person or animal.

Sexual assault. aggression exhibited toward another male or female dog during mating activity, such as when a male dog battles another female for access to him.

Aggression Caused by a Disease. Infectious or non-infectious diseases may be linked to aggression toward a person or animal.

Angry behavior prompted by fear or anxiety. Aggression that is motivated by a dog’s fear, which might happen when the dog is approached, cornered, or trapped, or if the animal is worried about an unpredictable or unpleasant outcome.

What are the manifestations of fear and/or anxiety related aggression?

Aggression caused by fear or anxiety in dogs may be the most prevalent type. The majority of the aforementioned forms of aggression, with the exception of predatory and disease-related aggression, probably involve some level of fear or anxiety. Aggression brought on by fear or anxiety can be perplexing because the dog may exhibit defensive or hostile body language.

“Fear or anxiety related aggression is probably the most prevalent type of canine aggression.”

Early signs of fear-related aggression are frequently protective, meant to signal “stay away” or increase the distance from the perceived threat. However, aggression can develop into more offensive behavior with experience. When aggression is shown while getting closer to the imagined threat, it is offensive. However, despite the differences in appearance between offensive and defensive aggression, the main driving forces behind the action are still fear and the desire to eliminate the stimuli.

Aggression caused by fear or anxiety is frequently seen in veterinary settings or when being handled or approached in public. Aggressive dogs are not malicious or terrible canines. Simply put, they are worried, nervous, and terrified of an impending threat or negative event.

Why does my dog display aggression?

When threatened, dogs may have inherited the urge to either fight or flee. Aggression in dogs may be a breed-specific characteristic or genetic (acquired from the dog’s parents). Dogs of a particular breed have been chosen and employed to protect livestock or warn of territorial dangers. Dogs of various breeds have been chosen to exhibit predatory tendencies. Because aggression may have been beneficial in avoiding or preventing an unpleasant outcome, the display of aggression may have been learned from prior experiences.

While some forms of canine aggression frequently appear in the first three to four months of life, other forms are more likely to appear during adolescence or social maturity. The most frequent causes of aggression in young puppies are fear or anxiety. Adolescence or social maturity-related aggression may be sexual, social, or motivated by territorial threats (which incidentally has a fear component).

What are the warning signs of aggression?

The secret to handling aggression is being able to spot the telltale indicators that suggest a bite may occur.

Fear or conflict-appeasing signals, also referred to as calming signals, frequently precede aggression. To defuse social tension, these signals are provided as a means of communication. Following are examples of body language that may be shown as hostility increases:

  • Squinting, twisting the head, or moving the body away from the danger to avoid making eye contact
  • either yawning or lip-licking
  • Tightly pinning or flattening the ears on the head
  • Getting into a crouch, lowering the head or tail, or both
  • freezing or stiffening
  • Growl
  • Snap
  • Bite

Should I be concerned about the display of aggression by my dog?

Yes! Dogs’ aggressive conduct puts people or other animals in danger and is likely to result in physical harm. Infectious illnesses like rabies or non-infectious illnesses that primarily impact the neurological system can also lead to aggression. A dog’s physical and/or mental welfare are probably at risk if it exhibits hostility. The veterinarian of your dog should be consulted regarding aggressive behavior manifestations. The best chance for improvement is to seek therapy as soon as possible.

Is there treatment for aggression in dogs?

Aggression’s root causes will determine how it is treated. Your veterinarian should be consulted about aggression to determine the best course of action. Your doctor might suggest a board-certified veterinary behaviorist for you.

Aggression treatment may be difficult. Although violent behavior can frequently be lessened in frequency or intensity, it may not always be “cured.” In order to prevent the dog from being exposed to situations, people, or animals that set off hostility, it should be encouraged to avoid situations that have previously triggered aggressive behavior.

Medication is frequently used to treat dog aggression, along with behavioral and environmental changes.