Why small dogs are aggressive

We all think of small dogs as being yappier and scrappier than large ones, but is there any evidence for this outside of funny videos?

Whenever you go for a walk in the park, you see dog walkers being dragged in all directions by their charges.

Sometimes you come across something huge like a Great Dane leading the charge, but as often as not it is a diminutive terrier barking the orders.

Perhaps you have also seen funny videos of giant, docile mutts running in fear from pernicious pups.

We asked our readers if they thought smaller breeds of dog were more aggressive than their larger cousins.

Priyanka Habib got straight to the point. "The tinier they are, the louder and crazier they are!"

Alan Clark offered an explanation: "I think a lot of small dogs suffer from small dog syndrome. My teacup Yorkie is terrible for confronting big dogs."

It is easy to imagine why "small dog syndrome" might arise.

As Travis Souders put it: "They're not necessarily mean, but they're certainly more commonly defensive. How would you feel if you were so tiny?"

Small dog syndrome has a human counterpart in the "Napoleon complex", when someone of diminutive stature compensates by being domineering towards others.

This may make intuitive sense, but research suggests this phenomenon is anecdotal at best.

David Sandberg of The University of Buffalo in New York and Linda Voss of the Peninsula Medical School in Plymouth, UK reviewed the evidence for a Napoleon complex in a study published in 2002.

They concluded that "the psychological adaptation of individuals who are shorter than average is largely indistinguishable from others, whether in childhood, adolescence or adulthood."

Still, what holds true for humans may not necessarily be the case for animals.

In a study published in 2012, researchers lead by P. Andreas Svensson of Linnaeus University in Sweden tracked the behaviour of fish called desert gobies.

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