What's the deal with yappy little dogs?

I have wondered why small dogs seem to bark more than larger dogs, but it seems even more amazing that almost every time a little dog and a big dog cross paths, the little dog challenges the bigger dog, and the big dog always seems to back down!

By instinct, shouldn’t most smaller animals know not to challenge an animal much bigger than itself?

Someone told me once that dogs just have no concept of their own size as a factor in establishing dominance.

As the owner of a pugnacious dachsund (when I was a kid), I am sure this is true. That dog would unflinchingly attack any other male dog who challenged him. True, he often lost those fights (requiring many trips to the vet to close wounds), but the courageous little bastard never backed down. Even when he was losing, we would have to break out the water hose to separate him from the other dog in the fight.

He was not a yapper, though (thank God), and was as friendly as a dog can be to people (even strangers).

All small ‘Yip-yip’ dogs must die.

Just a WAG, but it could be that since large dogs can be extremely dangerous if they attack, a lot of work has gone into breeding them for obedience (german shepards) and/or friendliness (labrador retrievers).

Yappers, OTOH, were mainly bred for appearance, and so have remained blissfully unaware of their position on the food chain.


When I worked in the northern Canadian bush I was surprised at how many Indian camps in the bush have yappy fuzzy little lap dogs instead of (my expected) Huskies and wolf dogs. I found out it was because (a) they don’t eat much, and (b) they raise hell when the bear comes into camp, which is their main job after all.

And soon.

Dachsunds were originally bred to take on badgers. As such they were seriously mean and tenacious little bastards. They had to be. The ‘modern’ dachsund is a far cry from that earlier ancestor but they still retain some of the tenacity they once had which is a good explanation for your experiences.

Some terriers are another breed that has little concept of size. I frequently describe them as BIG dogs in little bodies. Anyone who knows them agrees wholeheartedly.

On the flip side some BIG dogs act like little dogs. Maybe not yappy but Great Danes think they are little. Incredibly gentle, big hearted babies who think they are lap dogs (I’m not kidding either…Great Danes love climbing in your lap).

I think it mostly comes down to a Napolean syndrome on behalf of the little guys. Big dogs don’t back down so much as take a step back as if to say, “You can’t be serious! I’ll destroy you!” Big dogs also tend to be confident enough to take the attitude of, “I know I could kill you but it’s really not worth my time…just being your stupid little self is punishment enough.”

One last note…
I have a cousin who had three dogs. A long-haired German Shepherd, a mutt that looked like Tramp (from Lady and the Tramp) and a Welsh Corgi. The Corgi was maybe 20 pounds, the other two dogs were around 80 pounds. The Corgi 100% ruled her roost. Both of the other two dogs clearly deferred to her as the Alpha dog.

Go figure…

Oh, I don’t think yippers are bad at all. I have a westie, and my grandmother had a little Yorkshire terrier named Jennifer. Jennifer was the TINIEST thing, even for a Yorkie. She was so tiny she fit in a coffee cup as a puppy.
However, she was one tough little bugger. Don’t underestimate those little dogs-Jennifer used to catch and kill RATS. Not mice, rats.

It also has to do with territory. If a big dog enters a small dog’s territory, he’ll know he’s out of his place and will likely backdown under the small dog’s challenge. The small dog will not back down as he is protecting his territory and he has the angels (and hopefully a good vet) on his side! :smiley:

It also has to do with territory. If a big dog enters a small dog’s territory, he’ll know he’s out of his place and will likely backdown under the small dog’s challenge. The small dog will not back down as he is protecting his territory and he has the angels (and hopefully a good vet) on his side! :smiley:

** Cleo **-

Maybe it sometimes has to do with territory, but I really think that the little dogs are just more pugnacious, whether they were bred that way or if they are just completely unaware of their size.

I have a medium sized-dog named Tyler. I had a friend who brough over his Boston Terrier, a little spaz, and the terrier was invading Tyler’s home and barking and yipping and Tyler was so afraid of the little beast!
I was secretly hoping that Tyler would be able to realize that this dog was 40 pounds lighter than he is, but it wasn’t as if he was too mature or too cool as in the “you’re not even worth my time” mentality- he was deathly afraid!

I was so disappointed.

I am going to have to go with breeding, because Tyler’s part golden retriever and as ** Sublight ** pointed out, he was probably bred to be docile because he would be dangerous otherwise.

Although when i think about it, twelve little pekinese dogs yapping and making a charge for me at once would make me run in terror.

Get em off! Get 'em off!

No problem, except that my half wolf hybrid more often refers to them as “appetizers”.

It’s more than just that the big dogs don’t take the little ones seriously - most big dogs just seem to have no interest in fighting. I think Sublight has a good point, that they’ve been bred that way.

I used to have a little miniature dachshund-cross mutt, and she would chase larger dogs down the street. Once when we were walking through a field, a horse approached at a gallop, so I picked her up and held her in my arms to get her out of the way. As the horse passed (still galloping), she leapt from my arms and started chasing it, barking.

My mother’s chihuahua, Paco, once leapt from her arms to chase Duchess, a German Shepherd.

Duchess slowly turned and moved off at a casual pace as Paco raced after her as fast as his four-inch legs would carry him.

After about 20 yards, Duchess turned and Paco caught up. She placed a paw on Paco’s head, holding him to the ground. Paco chomped her. Duchess growled, then released him.

I think Duchess was saying, “Ok, then, let’s have at it.” To which I think Paco replied, haughtily, “I think I’ve made my point.”

By now my mother had caught up with him and scooped him up. He still was growling when she carried him off.

Little dogs have alot of balls, but not necessarily alot of brains.

FWIW, Rastakitty would challenge a freaking lion if one were to wander into the room.

Fortunately, lions are in short supply in central Illinois…

I’m certain that I read in one of my dog books that little dogs are quite aware of their size and vulnerability, and if they are aggressive and noisy, it is their way of saying, “Don’t tread on me,” and letting bigger critters know that it would be wise not to mess with them.

Having said that, I have to point out that being small does NOT automatically make a dog yippy and obnoxious. Plenty of small breeds are perfectly calm and gentle, and even within breeds reputed to be yippy and aggressive, there are many individuals who belie their breed’s reputation. I’ve seen them myself.

In addition, think of the savings in fencing and dog food . . .

Pugs forever!

Please continue – let’s have more stories about little-bitty dogs being nice to have around, because I’ve never met one that didn’t have a rotten attitude and behavior to match.

Their owners were a varied mix of no-nonsense folks and animal-spoilers, but the dogs – terriers, poodles, chihuahuas – obnoxious terrors who’d piss on your leg after you’d just given them a treat or a belly rub. Who mentioned Napoleon? Appropriate. But without the charm.

I didn’t mean that to sound so snotty. I really do enjoy hearing people talk about their nice small dogs – maybe this bias will go away. We’ve always had a large dog, and that’s partly because of the awful little ones we’ve known.

It’s nice to know that little dogs aren’t all rotten beasties.

I used to own two small dogs at different times (and came to the conclusion that cats beat ANY dog hands down when it comes to pets…but that’s another discussion.) -Here’s the thing I remember one of my cousins telling me about dogs (and most predatory animals in general) ; they smell fear, and they hesitate when it’s not present in the prey.

Even in the wild, smaller animals that show a lot of aggression have a fighting chance againt predators bigger than they are (I can’t name any off the top of my head but I’ll repost and name some as soon as I can remember them.)

Hence, I’m thinking the yapping and the aggression shown to dogs that are bigger is a defense mechanism; “Back off! I’m not food…I got teeth and I will use em!”. The bigger dogs conclude that the smaller dog is too much trouble to kill and is too small to be a worthy snack, let alone a meal.

This, however, doesn’t explain why some bigger dogs are actually scared of smaller dogs. The bullying and bolster of smaller dog is probably reminiscent of training by the bigger dogs’ handlers and owners (you dominate the dog when you train him-ie alpha male and all that) so the dog will respond immediately to its training. Most smaller dogs don’t need much obedience training, so they don’t have that response trigger too ingrained in thier minds.

Just a couple of theories…hope it helps :slight_smile:

No offense taken, AuntiePam. It’s my pleasure to relate stories about our good doggies.

First off, I knew a chihuahua who was the sweetest, calmest little guy in the world. My friend owned him and a golden retriever bitch. The GR behaved as if the chihuahua was her pup and they played together like mom and child. The little guy would lie across her front paws on his back and they would pretend to bite each other gently. He also liked to have company over to the house and would sit on strangers’ laps and ask for petting. I have to admit that he was unlike most other chihuahuas I have known.

Then there are all the pugs that I own and have owned. To a dog, they are happy, unyappy, confident, sociable little things. They love visitors and are unafraid of big dogs and tolerant towards cats. I’ve been to a lot of pug specialty shows, and you might see one barky pug among dozens of quiet ones. I guess you can tell I adore the breed?

Truly, though, I love all dogs, big, little, purebred, mixed breed, all of 'em. I just like to have an easy-care, small, manageable dog as a pet. Besides, it’s like having a real, living teddy bear to cuddle, except they love you back.