Does Size Matter?


A Royal Mail worker in southern London recently alleged that six-year-old Louie had bitten and drawn blood when she attempted to deliver the mail.  Three police officers arrived at the home of the Anslows, a couple in their 60s, to confiscate Louie. Armed with “a lead that would fit a Rottweiler,” the officers quickly discovered that Louie was…a Chihuahua. Louie was not seized, but instead given a “behavior order.” (Story here.)

A police investigation confirmed that two people had reported being bitten by Louie. Owner Linda Anslow’s comment was, “I think this is just stupid and everyone is being a bit silly. The dog hardly even reaches your ankle.” But is it silly? What if Louie had been a Rottweiler, biting a postal worker two others? More than likely, Louie would have been seized and possibly even euthanized. While it’s true that a Rottweiler can do a lot more harm than a Chihuahua, when it comes to laws made to protect people from dogs, should size matter?

As a canine behavior specialist, I often see small dogs who have bitten multiple people. These dogs have bitten family members, visitors, the gardener…you name it. And yet, they are still living happily in the home with no complaints against them. I suspect this is partly because, especially for men, it might be embarrassing to show up at the local Animal Control office complaining of a bite from a Chihuahua. But a bite is a bite. Even a tiny dog who bites is inflicting wounds both physical and psychological. Imagine the young child who is bitten by a dog and grows up fearing dogs. That bite has a lifelong impact. Or the elderly person with paper-thin skin that gets torn when that cute little dog sinks its fangs in and pulls. And the scenario doesn’t even have to be so dramatic. The problem is, people excuse the behavior of smaller dogs all the time. Who do you think is likely to seek professional help for their biting dog first, the Chihuahua who’s bitten seven people or the mastiff who’s bitten one? And which dog do you think is likely to have complaints against them, or end up euthanized for their behavior?

While the amount of damage inflicted may vary, again, a bite is a bite is a bite. Owners need to take responsibility for their dogs’ behavior regardless of the dog’s size. Those police officers in the U.K. should have treated little Louie exactly the same as if he had been a larger sized dog. Laws do not apply only to certain breeds and not to others. Owners of small dogs with aggression issues need to take just as much responsibility for their dogs as owners of large dogs do, and others need to stop making excuses for them.
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7 Responses to Does Size Matter?

  1. starwarsanon says:

    Love this post! I was bitten by someone’s toy poodle and they laughed it off. I was so annoyed and frustrated. A bite is a bite is a bite.

  2. So far, my only dog that has bitten anyone was a collie x redsetter which bit ME when I foolishly got between her and a GSD having a territorial tussle when I visited the new boyfriend. It was my own fault, and as it was obvious the 2 bitches would not see eye to eye, I rehomed mine before moving in. As far as I know, she lived a long and happy life as a working dog on a farm. I am not a n expert like you, but would certainly think twice should my dog bite anyone.

  3. Jenny H says:

    But even more important, in the case of ‘dog fights’. Too often I have seen small dogs attack large dogs, while the owner looks on saying dumb things like “isn’t he cute/brave!” or “He thinks he’s a big dog.”
    But this can be a death sentence for the large dog IF it reacts to the little ones aggression.

  4. Susan Close says:

    A bite is a bite is a bite. Size does not matter. Whilst the outcomes of seizure may vary, the law should be applied equally and equitably, regardless of size.

  5. juliabarrett says:

    We’ve always had large dogs. German shepherds. We’ve never had an incident despite their protective nature. On the other hand I’ve been bitten by chihuahuas– as a kid I was chased on my bike, and more recently by my neighbor’s mini Aussie. Real bites, not play bites. You’re right– the authorities and the owners don’t care when it’s a small dog doing the biting. If my GSD was to bite someone? Even if he didn’t injure the person? He’d be taken away from me in a New York minute.

  6. Great post, Nicole. The most dramatic, “on-purpose” directed bite I ever experienced was from a leashed Chihuahua with a couple I was working with on basic manners, just adopted a few weeks out of the shelter. It was the second visit. We were out front on the street to meet for training purposes vs in the house (big territoriality). Instead of going for my ankle which was 5 ft away from owner/dog, she leaped up to get to my face but caught my hand instead. I was holding a carry bag between me and the dog thankfully as well.She also made a second attempt. If it hadn’t been for the carry-bag, she might have reached my throat. After we discussed possibly returning her to shelter because they wanted to have children soon (!) they said “I guess we should think about getting more help when we are expecting the baby! ” Also, one of the grandmothers couldn’t come over due to thin skin and the dog drawing blood ;-( So yes, small dogs should have the same laws as big dogs! Thanks for a great post!

  7. A very sad and true story that unfortunately is happening all over the world. I have a company The Dog Safe Workplace and I hear stories all the time from people who have been bitten by small dogs. One in particular from a gentleman who fits blinds, he had his achilles tendon severed by a Chihuahua.

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