Sausage dogs are the most aggressive dogs
Forget pit bulls, rottweilers and Rhodesian ridgebacks, it's the sausage dog that's the most aggressive breed.
They may be small, but new research found that one in five dachshunds have bitten or tried to bite strangers, and a similar number have attacked other dogs; one in 12 have snapped at their owners.
Known as sausage dogs for their elongated bodies, dachshunds have not, until now, had a fearsome reputation, although they were originally bred to hunt badgers in their setts.
However, they topped a list of 33 breeds which were rated for their aggression, after academics analysed the behaviour of thousands of dogs.Chihuahuas, an even smaller breed, were the second most hostile, regularly snapping or attempting to bite strangers, family and other dogs. Another small favourite, the Jack Russell, was third.
In Illinois last week, Linda Floyd had to have her dachshund, called Roscoe, put down after the dog gnawed off her big toe while she slept. Mrs Floyd, 56, woke up too late because nerve damage from diabetes had left her with no feeling in her toes.
Dr James Serpell, one of the researchers, said smaller breeds might be more genetically predisposed towards aggressive behaviour than larger dogs.
"Reported levels of aggression in some cases are concerning, with rates of bites or bite attempts rising as high as 20 per cent toward strangers and 30 per cent toward unfamiliar dogs," he added.
Until now, research into canine aggression has almost exclusively involved analysis of dog bite statistics. But the researchers said these were potentially misleading as most bites were not reported. Big dogs might have acquired a reputation for being aggressive because their bites were more likely to require medical attention.
The findings have angered owners of small breeds. Chris Moore, secretary of the Northern Dachshund Association, said: "As far as breeders in the UK are concerned, this is rubbish. It is not in the dogs' nature. I have never been bitten in 25 years."
Tony Fitt-Savage, president of the British Chihuahua Club, added: "I have had Chihuahuas for 30-odd years, and they've never put anybody into hospital. They can be a little bit stroppy."
The study, published this week in the journal Applied Animal Behaviour Science, involved researchers from the University of Pennsylvania questioning 6,000 dog owners.
Breeds scoring low for aggression included Basset hounds, golden retrievers, labradors, Siberian huskies and greyhounds.
The rottweiler, pit bull and Rhodesian ridgeback scored average or below average marks for hostility towards strangers.
Joyce Summers, treasurer of the Rottweiler Club in Britain, said: "I have lived with rottweilers for 40 years and they give nothing but love and affection. I am not surprised Jack Russells are up there near the top; they are yappy little things."