Why Are Small Dogs More Aggressive

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.”

Study cohort and demographics

A cross-sectional convenience sample of 9270 dogs, including 1791 dogs in the high aggressive behavior group and 7479 dogs in the low aggressive behavior group, was gathered to study the factors associated with aggressive behavior in Finnish pet dogs. The owner-completed online questionnaire was used for this study. The dogs ranged in age from 2 months to 17 years, with a mean age of 4.6 years, and 53% of them were female. The Supplementary Table S1 displays the number of dogs in various breed, sex, and aggressive behavior categories. A manuscript regarding research participants is now being written.

Factors associated with aggressive behaviour

Age, sex, fearfulness, breed, number of family dogs, body size, and prior dog ownership experience were explanatory variables included in the final logistic regression model for aggressive behavior (Table 1).

Aggressive behavior was positively connected with age, with older dogs being more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior than younger canines (Fig. 1a, Table 1). As predicted, male dogs were more likely than female dogs to exhibit hostile behavior (Fig. 1b, Table 2). There was no difference in the likelihood of aggressive behavior between medium-sized and large dogs, but little dogs had a higher likelihood of aggression than medium- and large-sized dogs (Fig. 1c, Table 2). Moderately scared dogs likewise had higher odds of acting aggressively than non-fearful dogs, with highly fearful dogs having odds of acting aggressively nearly five times higher (Fig. 1d, Table 2).

The likelihood of violent behavior varied by breed (Fig. 2). Rough Collie, Miniature Poodle (toy, miniature, and medium-sized), and Miniature Schnauzer were the breeds with the highest likelihood of displaying violent behavior after accounting for other factors in the model. The Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever, and Lapponian Herder were the breeds with the lowest probabilities of displaying aggressive behavior. Lagotto Romagnolo, Chihuahua, German Shepherd Dog, and Miniature Schnauzer much more likely to exhibit violent behavior than Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever, as we had previously hypothesized (Table 2). The Rough Collie and Labrador Retriever, Miniature Poodle and Labrador Retriever, and Miniature Schnauzer and Labrador Retriever showed the biggest pairwise differences (OR = 5.44, P = 0.0011), 5.13, and 5.08, respectively. The Supplementary Table S2 contains the remaining significant pairwise breed comparisons, and the “Supplementary Dataset” displays all pairwise breed differences.

Environmental factors, in addition to demographic ones, had an impact on aggressive behavior. The likelihood of aggressive behavior was higher in dogs living alone than in households with other dogs (Table 2, Supplementary Fig. S1). In addition, dogs belonging to first-time dog owners were more likely to exhibit violent behavior (Table 2, Supplementary Fig. S1) than dogs whose owners had previously owned at least one dog.

Do little dogs typically exhibit more 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.

Why do giant dogs seem friendlier than little ones?

Compared to most small dogs, big dogs have less barking, are better with kids, and are simpler to train. These dogs make wonderful family pets.

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.

What kind of dog has the most anger?

According to a recent research of more than 9,000 pets, rough collies are the most aggressive breed of dog.

Smaller dogs are more prone than mid-sized and large dogs to act violently, snarl, snap, and bark, according to research from the University of Helsinki. German Shepherds, Miniature Poodles, and Chihuahuas have all been shown to exhibit violence, yet no dog breed is inherently vicious.

The research, which was published in Scientific Reports, found that male dogs are more aggressive than female dogs, and that a puppy’s disposition can influence whether or not it would act aggressively around humans.

According to Professor Hannes Lohi of the University of Helsinki, the Long-Haired Collie, Poodle (Toy, Miniature, and Medium), and Miniature Schnauzer were the most aggressive breeds in his dataset. According to earlier research, Long-Haired Collies exhibit fearfulness while the other two varieties exhibit aggressive behavior toward strangers.

The research team discovered in other parts of the study that dogs who spend time with other dogs are generally less hostile. Unsurprisingly, Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers are two of the least aggressive breeds.

Before choosing a dog, Professor Hannes stresses the value of doing your homework, saying: “The popular breeds of Labrador Retriever and Golden Retriever, as expected, were on the other end of the spectrum. People who are thinking about buying a dog should educate themselves on the history and requirements of the breed.”

Are aggressive traits in little dogs inherited?

Chihuahuas and other little dog breeds have long been popular choices for owners. However, despite how cute they are, they have a reputation for being aggressive. These canines often act larger than life despite their diminutive size.

The largest, most powerful canine breeds, like pit bulls and rottweilers, are frequently thought of as the most frightening. Evidence, however, indicates that smaller dogs are actually more likely than their larger counterparts to be aggressive.

Why is my tiny puppy acting so cruel?

Additionally, if a dog is not getting enough exercise, it is likely that they are not being taken for frequent walks outside.

A dog is more prone to be scared of things and act defensively if they aren’t often exposed to novel surroundings and outside stimulus.


The way a small dog is raised is mostly to blame for the aggressive tendencies linked to small dog syndrome.

Small dogs are frequently improperly socialized, and their owners frequently devote little to no time to their training.

A little dog that lacks structure and training may become afraid and perpetually respond defensively toward other canines and people.

Your little dog will experience undue stress as a result, and it’s unfair that other people and dogs must put up with your dog’s undesirable behavior.

In the end, ALL canines, regardless of size, need to be treated equally.

A joyful, stress-free existence with your dog will be made possible if you raise a tiny dog that is well-adjusted and trained.

Why might my dog behave aggressively toward me?

A dog may act aggressively toward family members for a variety of reasons. Conflict aggressiveness, fear-based, defensive aggression, status-related aggression, possessive aggression, food guarding aggression, and redirected violence are some of the most frequent reasons. An aggressive dog toward family members can make life challenging, hazardous, disappointing, and infuriating (see AggressionDiagnosis and Overview).

Should I keep a dog that is aggressive toward family members?

To have a pet in your life has many fantastic benefits. Our lives are enriched by their companionship, shared experiences, nurturing, amusement, and enrichment, therefore choosing to live with a dog who is hostile toward you is not a decision that should be made lightly. The ability to ensure the safety of those who will be around the dog must take precedence in the choice. The number of family members in some families, daily responsibilities, and other factors could make maintaining and rehabilitating an aggressive dog risky and unrealistic. Placement in a different home may occasionally be an option, although this is not always the case. The only way to ensure a dog won’t become hostile again is to euthanize it for aggression.

How do we assess the risk of keeping an aggressive dog?

Half of the 800,000 people who seek medical attention for dog attacks annually, according to the CDC, are youngsters (see AggressionChildren). Dog bites are not uncommon; they are typical occurrences in everyday family life, and 15% of dog owners are said to have had a dog bite. A dog is more likely to bite after biting because he has demonstrated his willingness to employ biting as a behavioral tactic, at least in that circumstance. Rarely are dogs who are willing to use violence to alter the course of events again healed. The severity of a bite can be determined by carefully analyzing the circumstance, the harm the bite caused, the decisions the dog took, such as his readiness to prevent escalating to a bite by growling, snarling, or snapping, as well as the type of aggression identified. A board-certified veterinary behaviorist may have the necessary experience to evaluate and prioritize this examination in complex circumstances.

Aren’t all bites the same?

Even though all bites should be taken seriously, the situation and decisions the dog made during the incident may provide some clues as to the alternatives the dog explored before acting aggressively. The majority of dogs can generally manage how hard and how long they bite.

“Dogs who will use violence to alter the course of a situation are rarely healed.”

Some bites are prevented and may not leave any skin traces. Other bites may cause the skin to bruise, squeeze, or indent without causing bleeding. More severe bites can result in skin breakdown, puncture wounds that are deep or superficial, many punctures, or tearing or shearing injuries. Some canines’ bites have the potential to break bones. Some dogs bite once and then back off, while others bite repeatedly within the same episode. When provoked or when they are nearby, some dogs bite; other dogs rush from across the room.

How do we avoid aggression and keep family members safe?

The first step in keeping family members safe and starting the behavior modification process is safety and bite prevention. Determine all potential triggers for aggression first, then prohibit the dog from coming into contact with them (via crate or confinement, muzzle, or environmental manipulation), or control the dog in any other situation where a combative circumstance might occur (e.g., leash and head halter control, tie down). In order to prevent future harm and learning, it is imperative that these scenarios be avoided. Although reducing or eliminating the possibility of hostility in these circumstances would be the long-term objective, each new incident could result in harm and worsen the issue. Even within the house, aggressiveness can be controlled and avoided by using a head collar and leash. Even more efficient at preventing bites is a correctly fitted basket muzzle, which may also be useful in specific circumstances. Limiting the dog’s opportunities for more hostile encounters will help prevent the dog from developing new bad habits because the dog learns from every occasion to practice hostility (see AggressionGetting StartedSafety and Management).

When a family decides to start an aggressive behavior modification program, they must continually assess their capacity to keep everyone safe and stop hostile outbursts. The decision to maintain and treat this dog must be reviewed if there are regular safety failures, accidental bites, or fresh bites occurring in novel and unexpected contexts.

Don’t we just need to show our dog that we are alpha or dominant for the aggression to stop?

Neither dominance nor social standing are likely to be factors in aggression toward family members. This is a widespread misunderstanding that may result in the aggressive conduct getting worse and ineffective treatment methods. AggressionDiagnosis and Overview, Dominance, Alpha, and Pack LeadershipWhat Does It Really Mean?, and Canine CommunicationInterpreting Dog Language all discuss how these emotions are frequently the driving forces behind a dog’s aggression. It follows that training programs intended to enforce the human family members as alpha or dominance using confrontation or intimidation-based interventions will increase rather than decrease anxiety and associated aggressive responses if underlying anxiety and fear are the cause of aggressive responses. Strategies intended to establish pack leadership, alpha status, or dominance over your dog do not address the root causes of the issue, which are fear, anxiety, and a lack of knowledge about what to anticipate or how to respond in a certain circumstance. While maintaining control and having regular encounters with the animal is ideal, these goals should be attained in non-confrontational methods that lessen tension and conflict rather than boosting these underlying feelings.

How do I gain effective control of my dog?

Family members should establish themselves as capable parental figures as soon as possible in their relationship with their dog. Good dog owners care for their animals in a similar manner to how good parents or teachers care for their charges. It’s crucial to provide consistency, patience, persistence, regularity, and predictability as a pet owner. Rewards for positive activities give the dog information, and this information acts as a guide for the dog’s interactions with you. assuming the role of the leader or “in control means that the dog’s behavior is proper and will remain so without severity or punishment. Reward-based training, physical restraints, and supervision are used to achieve this. By teaching your dog which behaviors will result in rewards and which ones won’t, consistent responses lessen anxiety and conflict in your dog. In a sense, your dog learns control over its actions while you acquire control over your reward system by “giving you the actions you want it to practice (see Learn to EarnPredictable Rewards). Because some puppies are more assertive, excitable, fearful, easily distracted, or difficult to motivate and as a result more difficult to train (see Training Basics), the methods needed by the owner to become the leader will depend on the individual temperament and genetic predisposition of the puppy. Learning, Training, and Modifying Behavior; Getting Started; AggressionDiagnosis and Overview; Behavior Management Products; Teaching CalmSettle and Relaxation Training; and Handouts on How to Train Specific Commands).

Equally crucial is the ability to spot deference when it occurs. When your dog turns away from you, lowers its head, or avoids you, especially when you are correcting it, this is an act of deference, appeasement, and submission as well as an effort to put an end to the interaction (see Canine CommunicationInterpreting Dog Language). From the dog’s perspective, the interaction is over, and if the human continues to correct or punish the dog, the dog may react out of fear or with defensive actions. Do not assume that because the dog deferred once, he will do so again. Each situation is distinct, and the response takes the dogs’ desire for the resource into account.

How can I treat my dog’s aggression?

Teaching your dog what you DO want him or her to do will be the first step in any treatment plans. A training program based on positive reinforcement typically accomplishes this. The tasks that are taught will vary depending on the dog and the circumstance, but they may include teaching a dog to go to a containment area when called, sit and remain in exchange for rewards, or get off/on furniture when told to (see Reinforcement and Rewards, Learn to EarnPredictable Rewards, and Working for Food). Leashes and head halters help with control and safety without using harsh, strong corrections, and they also reduce the likelihood of aggression (see Training Products) Head Halter Training and Training Materials (Synopsis of Head Halter Training).

Once safety and aggression-avoiding precautions have been put in place and fundamental control exercises have been mastered, advanced exercises can start. Traditional counter-conditioning, desensitization, and exposure gradients are some behavior modification techniques for particular problematic interactions that prevent the dog from becoming overwhelmed to the point of aggression or defensiveness. Instead, the dog is gradually exposed to previously arousing stimuli at such low levels that no arousal occurs, and is then rewarded for the appropriate response. The dog is simultaneously in charge of adhering to new instructions and is lavishly pampered for making fresh, sensible choices.

What can be done if my dog refuses to obey my commands?

Any conflict or circumstance that could result in harm or in which the owner would not be able to gain control safely must be avoided. It could be feasible to create conditions and an atmosphere that force the dog to conform. Forcing or confronting your dog is ineffective because this could result in resistance and violence. Instead, determine whether or not compliance can be attained in each case. If not, do not move forward; instead, alter the circumstance to effectively achieve the desired result. As previously indicated, fitting the dog with a remote leash and head halter that may be used to lead the dog on walks and remain attached while the owner is at home will provide you more immediate control (except for bedtime). The leash and head halter can be utilized each time a command is issued to the dog and it is not obeyed to attain the desired result. You won’t have succeeded until the dog responds to your vocal orders without the need for leash pulls, even though the head halter and remote leash are fantastic tools for success and physical control.

What is the prognosis for dogs that show aggression toward their family?

Dogs that are willing to use violence to influence a situation’s result are rarely healed, but they are frequently controllable. A good daily routine of exercise, play, and social engagement, as well as the avoidance of situations that cause anger, can all contribute to improvement. Some dogs, however, might still pose a threat to individuals who live with them because of their violent behavior toward family members. It might be impossible to safely rehabilitate an aggressive dog while protecting people in some family scenarios. Each case needs to be evaluated by a veterinary behaviorist, and development in each case must be monitored regularly (see AggressionIntroduction and AggressionGetting StartedSafety and Management).