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

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!”