Smaller dogs are more likely to behave badly

I am reading the summary of a study which was published 2013 about the behaviour of dogs in relation to their size and the shape of their skull. There is also a relationship between behaviour and body weight.

The researchers looked at 36 behavioural traits of companion dogs of 49 different dog breeds. They used a questionnaire by which I mean they sent questionnaires to the dog owners. The number of dogs in the survey was 8,301.

Small dogs are more likely to have negative behavioural traits according to this study
Small dogs are more likely to have negative behavioural traits according to this study. Image: MikeB (Canva).

They gathered information about the head shape, height and body weight of the dogs in the survey which they cross-referenced to 33 different behavioural traits to see whether there was any connection between behaviour and these dogs’ physical attributes.

Connection between certain physical attributes and behaviour

And they found a correlation. For example, they said that the “breed average height showed strongly significant inverse relationships with mounting persons or objects, touch sensitivity, urination when left alone, dog-directed fear, separation-related problems, non-social fear, defecation when left alone, owner-directed aggression, begging for food, urine marking and attachment/attention-seeking”. A lot of negative behavioural traits.

The phrase “inverse relationship” in this context, means that as the dogs became smaller these negative behavioural traits became more obvious. So, to put it another way, a smaller dog is more likely to hump your leg then a larger dog. Or a smaller dog is more likely to urine-mark or demonstrate problems of separation anxiety. And conversely, the larger the dogs the less commonplace were these traits.

In short, they said that “across the breeds, behaviour becomes more problematic as height decreases”.

And they found a connection between allogrooming, which means one dog grooming another, and the shape of the dog’s head i.e. the ratio of skull width to skull length, combined with the size of the dog. In other words, a dog with a round head and a small size is more likely to groom another dog compared to a larger dog with a more elongated head. That is my interpretation of this study’s summary.

Finally, if a dog has a rounded head, they were more likely to autogroom which means self-groom. And these dogs with this particular head shape were less likely to chase i.e. they had a “negative relationship with chasing”.

The study scientists concluded that their research “demonstrates how aspects of [the ratio of skull width to skull length] and therefore brain shape, body weight and height varies in line with their behaviour. That means that they are connected. The behaviour varies as these aspects of the dog’s anatomy varies. They did not delve into the significance of these associations!

It would be wonderful if somebody commented on this study! I will leave comments open to see whether I can attract some because I would like to hear from people with small dogs and big dogs.

Why dogs hump their owners’ legs

As a postscript, it may interest some people to understand why a dog wishes to hump their owner’s leg or some other object. Clearly, dogs become frustrated because they don’t have the opportunity to encounter bitches on heat. That’s the first problem. Secondly, because the dog is socialised to people and is particularly connected to their owner, the dog is a kind of mental hybrid seeing their owner as a dog. But the owner does not give off the kind of erotic fragrance that other dogs deliver and therefore normally the dog companion doesn’t hump their owner’s leg but sometimes due, as mentioned, to frustration it happens. And the study found that smaller dogs were more likely to behave like this.

Why smaller dogs behave less well

I have a thought on the reason why smaller dogs behave badly compared to larger dogs it is probably to do with the fact that they are more fearful. They live in this human environment/world where they are living with giants in effect and this might make them feel insecure. The insecurity brings out the worst in them through anxiety. That is my initial thought on this matter.

Link to study: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0080529

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