Are Smaller Dogs More Aggressive?


Napoleon Bonaparte was a statesman and French military leader who carried out several campaigns during the French revolutionary wars.

Today, that's hardly what he is famous for! Rather, Napoleon's name makes its rounds in conversations owing to his surprisingly short stature. We leave the veracity of this to the history buffs. But here's the question that interests us!

Do small dogs suffer from the Napoleon Complex?


Urban Dictionary defines the Napoleon Complex as "A personality complex that consists of power trips and false machismo to make up for short height and feelings of inferiority."

 In fact, a simple Google search will pull up an abundance of pet parents confused why their small dog is so aggressive! A study led by Paul McGreevy from the University of Sydney which appeared in PLoS One found out that behavioural issues became common as weight and height of the dog decreased. The research centered mainly around the shape of the dog's head depending on whether they were brachiocephalic (Bulldogs) or dolichocephalic ( Greyhounds).

The study was based on the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire profiles of over 8000 dogs from common breeds. The smaller the breed got, the more they were inclined to indulge in destructive behaviours. The study just offers a correlation between size and aggression and confirms our suspicion that aggression is visibly more in smaller breeds. It does not explain why this happens. But you don’t have to let your heart sink yet!

Small Dog Syndrome is actually a learned behavior. Smaller breeds are not inherently aggressive. As Dr. Seuss remarked, “Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Often, when little dogs express destructive attitudes, because of their size, pet parents, instead of nipping it in the bud, often laugh it off.

As they do not look as threatening as larger dogs, their behaviors are not perceived as a problem until it gets too late. In fact, by letting this behavior go unchecked, we are agreeing to their efforts to establish dominance. Correct this in your dog by being on the lookout for early signs:

Jumping:  Your puppy constantly jumps on you, your family members, guests who visit your house and even other dogs.

Barking at other dogs-  Your dog considers every new dog their worst enemy and is quick to bark at every other pupper that passes by.

Growling- Does she growl when you get near her while she’s eating or when someone else stands too close to you?

Refusing to Walk- Either she hates the leash or expects you to pick her up or she pulls at the leash when you go out for a walk. This is also another sign of the pet parent pampering their pet too much!

Begging for Food- You cannot have food without your dog whining and begging for everything you put on your plate! This happens because you might have made the mistake of repeatedly giving in every time they displayed this behavior.

Separation Anxiety- They cannot be without you and displays intense anxiety and discipline issues when separated from you.

If your dog exhibits these signs, they might be suffering from Small Dog Syndrome. Since Small Dog Syndrome is a learned behavior in the first place, the good news is that it can also be unlearned. But since the pet parent is partially responsible for the development of this syndrome, it takes a lot of effort from the pet parent to manage the issue.

The pet parent must be willing to change their perceptions of their dog and should dedicate some time training everyday so their pet can overcome their issues.

First and foremost, as a parent you should understand that dog language is very different from human language. Don’t commit the sin of humanizing your dog as this has grave consequences like this syndrome to begin with.

When your puppy jumps on your lap, you might think they are showing affection, but in the dog world this is, in fact, a way of asserting dominance. And when your dog growls at other people and dogs who get too close to you, they are not protecting you. Rather, they are growling to get their point across that you are their territory/property.

Dog behaviorist, Cesar Milan suggests setting boundaries, limitations and being more calm-assertive to treat dominance in dogs. It can be a difficult journey but waiting for you at the end of the tunnel is a more calm and meaningful relationship for you and your puppy!

Don’t lose hope. With your dedication and commitment, this will be a walk in the park! As always, talk with your vet or team with a trainer to assist you further. Make sure that in your journey to better your relationship with your dog, you choose ethical training and discipline options