The Reason Why Small Dogs Can be so Fierce

There are dogs breed that is known to be fiercer and aggressive than others. Breeds such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, even though training does play a part in it, are known to be the more menacing breeds in the dog kingdom. However, studies have shown that dog breeds that tend to be smaller are more aggressive than their counterparts.

Again, the level of dogs’ aggression can also be determined, to some extent, by the training they have been put through. That being said, why is it that, generally speaking, smaller breeds of dogs tend to be more menacing and aggressive than others? First, you have to understand what constitutes a small dog.

Small dogs are the ones that tend to be, when full-grown adults, 20 pounds in weight, which is around 9 kilograms or lower. Chihuahuas and Jack Russell terriers are a quintessence of this. In fact, the aforementioned breeds, according to the Applied Animal Behavior Science journal , are the most likely breed to bite. Biting is not the only form of aggression that small dogs can exhibit. Some of the other forms of aggression include lunging, snarling, and growling.

So why do small dogs exhibit this behavior?

There are a couple of theories that try and explain this behavior. One of the most profound, and probably the best-known, tries to correlate size and behavior. As you’d expect, tiny breeds are more defensive since they try to compensate for their lack of physical dominance with dominance-emitting behavior. This, essentially, is an evolutionary trait, the same way that a porcupine exerts its spikes when it feels threatened or when a skunk emits that unpleasant odor when attacked.

It is a genetic trait created millions of years ago, has improved over the years, and has been passed down from one dog generation to the next. Another alternative theory that explains this behavior correlates with the dog and its relationship with the owners. Dog owners, well, most of them, view small dogs breed as helpless infants, so to speak. This tendency to infantilize small dogs is actually detrimental to socialization behavior.

If a dog is not socialized effectively, it will not be able to form the right coping mechanisms to handle social situations, not only with human beings but also with other dogs. This means that the small breeds of dogs will not know how to handle stressful situations, thus aggression. Dogs have evolved over millions of years.

It is suggested when humans first interacted with dogs and tried to domesticate them, they did not see the aggressive behavior of small breeds as something to worry about, unlike other breeds such as Alaskan huskies and pit bulls. For this reason, the aggressive behavior of small breeds passed down from generation to generation, leading us to today. Perhaps the theory with the most scientific backing is the one that tries to correlate aggression and aggressive behaviors with genetics. Small dogs tend to have a growth gene factor that makes them small.

It may be coincidental; studies have shown a direct correlation between aggression-related tendencies over the years. Research has shown that small breeds of dogs not only portray aggressive behaviors as compared to larger dogs, but they also tend to have severe separation anxiety, bark more than bigger dogs tend to urinate in the house more than larger dogs.

All this goes to show, to some extent at least, that genetics do play a part in the dog’s behavior. Even though all these theories make sense, some more than others, because of scientific backing, scientists aren’t sure which one is the sole cause, if indeed there is one cause to this behavior. This is because they haven’t really studied or tried to deduce the root cause of small dog’s aggression. Ergo, all the theories, right now, hold some water.

However, like everything else, there are exceptions to the rule. Not all small dogs are aggressive. An example is the Coton De Tulear, a breed also known as the Royal Dog of Madagascar. It is small, fluffy, and white, akin to a bichon frise.

This breed, for one reason or the other, has quite a subdued behavior across the board. It also has many medical issues, leading scientists to believe that the behavior and medical issues might be related to the breed’s genetics. The body size of small dogs may not be the only attribute that is associated with aggression and exhibiting aggressive behaviors. According to a study conducted by the PLOS one journal, lower height is associated with some undesirable qualities in dog breeds.

We can see an example of this with dogs with shorter legs. Dogs with shorter legs tend to be more fearful and anxious when interacting with dogs and people they are unfamiliar with. Additionally, they also have a more likelihood of exhibiting owner-directed aggression. No one clearly knows why this is the case, but it is reality. Therefore, you should consider this when planning on getting your next dog pet.


Even though small dogs tend to be more aggressive than larger dogs, you must understand that it is simply a coping mechanism designed for them to get by. Some of the aggressive behavior can be addressed in the comfort of your home, with basic house training and socialization. However, some characteristics and behaviors require more than basic training and socialization to deal with.

In fact, socialization itself is a complex concept that requires the right professionals to instill in the dog. If you have tried everything to mitigate your dog’s aggression without success, then you should consider getting a professional dog trainer. There are many dog trainers out there, and the most effective way to find out if one is qualified enough to handle your pet is through testimonials and referrals from dog owners who have had their dogs trained by that particular trainer.

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