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I hear this expression a lot, and I have to say, I have absolutely no idea what people mean when they use it. What I do know is that the phrase implies that there is a fundamental difference between small dogs and big dogs, and that somehow big dogs are superior (or so it seems, as I have only ever heard this expression being used as a compliment). Am I understanding this wrong? What do you guys understand when you read or hear "a big dog in a small dog's body"?
 

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I use that term all the time with my mothers pomeranian, mainly because she's queen of every animal in the house haha! She rules my big dog and isn't scared being around other large animals. I guess that saying in my opinion is kind of stereotyping that all big dogs are fearless and tough.
 

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I think relative size is, for the most part, a meaningless construct for dogs. Polite dog behavior is polite dog behavior, regardless of a dog's size. A small dog acting jerky isn't a "small dog acting like a big dog," it's a dog acting like a jerk. A small dog who is confidently playing with big dogs isn't a "small dog acting like a big dog," it's a dog acting like a dog around some other dogs. I think that these sorts of phrases aren't only confusing, but unfairly attribute a human perspective and unfortunately human stereotyping onto non-human behavior.
 

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I guess that saying in my opinion is kind of stereotyping that all big dogs are fearless and tough.
I see! That's interesting, thanks for enlightening me!

I think relative size is, for the most part, a meaningless construct for dogs. Polite dog behavior is polite dog behavior, regardless of a dog's size. A small dog acting jerky isn't a "small dog acting like a big dog," it's a dog acting like a jerk. A small dog who is confidently playing with big dogs isn't a "small dog acting like a big dog," it's a dog acting like a dog around some other dogs. I think that these sorts of phrases aren't only confusing, but unfairly attribute a human perspective and unfortunately human stereotyping onto non-human behavior.
I agree with this. My dog weighs 5 kilos/11 lbs, so she's small, but before being a small dog she's simply a dog, and that's how I think of her.
 

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I think a lot of the time people who aren't super familiar with dogs tend to presume small dogs are 'easier' to manage than big dogs. Don't get into as much, less energy, easier to entertain, etc. I think that phrase was invented for people like that, to get the point across that certain small dogs are also a lot to handle, just in a smaller package. I don't take it to mean ill mannered, just requiring more supervision and precautions. For example, a big dog might be able to get into a garbage can that most small dogs generally couldn't... unless that small dog is a very determined Jack Russel; then all bets are off.
 

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I think it means that small dogs sometimes don't realize how tiny they are in comparison to other dogs, and the small dog's behavior can get him in trouble if he messes with the wrong bigger dog.

Aidan and I have had two recent encounters with tiny dogs. The first was a friend's 10 lb. terrier mix who bosses other dogs around -- and they obey her! She bares her teeth on one side of her mouth and emits a little growl, and her companion dog and Aidan stopped doing whatever it was she didn't like. I kept close tabs on Aidan in case I had to whisk in and protect him from her. He acted meek around the little dog and did whatever she said to do. Mostly she wanted the other two dogs to get off furniture so she could sit there, or to stop trying to get her to play, or to stop playing so close to her.

The second was a tiny Yorkie who decided to charge across a huge empty parking lot, barking and growling at Aidan. She was scooped up by her owner when she was about 3 feet away from Aidan. I was holding Aidan's harness handle, so he wasn't going anywhere, and my adult son was about to scoop up the little dog, but the owner beat him to it. I bet that lady never ran so fast in her life. Her dog was never in danger because we had our dog under control. Aidan acted exactly like the Yorkie, though, and he is much bigger and much louder.

When we had our rough collie (90 lbs, not fat), we were walking down a 1/4-mile path through woods to get to a dog park. A dog walker came up behind us with 10-12 toy poodles he had just let off leash. They charged Teddy, who was off-leash, too. He laid down, and they climbed all over him, like puppies, only they weren't puppies. He just laid there until they were done exploring him. A lot of big dogs wouldn't have let them do that, and wouldn't have been so passive. The little poodles were fortunate that Ted was like a nanny with *all* animals.
 

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I use the term for tiny dogs with big personalities. so for example at the daycare when a new tiny dog comes in 99% of the time they are nervous nellies for days before they warm up. new large dogs are often only nervous for the first hour before becoming loonies. the tiny guys even when they warm up still tend to play only with themselves and people, tiny dogs playing with one another is really unusual. so when I meet a tiny dog that is all gung ho about playing with anything and everything I call them a big dog in a little dogs body.
 

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Honestly, I hate the term for reasons you mention. Everyone uses it differently and it's dumb to me to single out big dogs vs small dogs. They're all just dogs being dogs.
 

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Yeah, I don't like the phrase, either, for the same reasons. I also see it used often in conjunction with 'small dog syndrome' which is another one that ticks me off. Poor behavior and/or training and/or temperament is not a thing found only in small dogs.

I'd call Kylie a whole lot of dog, which might be treading close, but that's as close as I'll get to it.
 

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Roman is a puppy (small dog) in a big dog's body.
Love to keep him that way!
 

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I have told small dogs "you think you're big!!" or "you think you're bigger than you are!" when they do things that seem absolutely fearless for their size. Like... say, trying to jump off exam tables or out of someone's arms to the floor.
 

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Luke is a little dog in a big dogs body too, he thinks he's a lap dog. I guess I really don't see why the phrase would offend anyone, its better than ankle biter and kick me dogs, those phrases make me mad.
 

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I don't use it often, but when I do it's usually to warn people who are considering a papillon that they are not the stereotypical "lap dog" and will need just as much exercise and training as a big dog (I believe that ALL dogs need training, of course; not even the stereotypical lap dog should be allowed to be a jerk). It's not a great phrase, though, obviously, because it seems to mean something different to everyone!
 

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I use it in the sense of I tend to see many small breeds as very frail. I agree that every dog regardless of size needs equal attention, training and exercise. But I see breeds like shih tzus, yorkies, Maltese, etc as very delicate small framed little dogs where to me, a cairn terrier or mini schnauzer for example is a big dog in a little dogs body. Physically they are still small dogs, but they are stocky and sturdy, tougher little dog.
 

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I use it to mean that the dog is a dog. Usually people who don't know much about dogs thinks that all little dogs are fifi. When I say that phrase, I'm trying to communicate that their looks don't always communicate their personality.
 

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When I use it I mean my dog has the energy and stamina of a much larger dog. She can literally go for miles and miles on end. She also has a big dog bark, even though she's only 9lbs. She also doesn't have the dainty look (i.e. thin legs, small paws, teeny face, ect) of a typical small dog.
I'm personally a "big dog" person, and the Dachshund is the only breed, IME, that is a big dog in a little, portable body.
 

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I don't use the term often, but when I do I tend to mean a small dog that has a lot more energy than the stereotypical small lap dog. Then again, I've heard the term "a small dog in a big body" when talking about Great Danes. I don't necessarily think it means big dogs are better or braver... but since I am not a native English Speaker nor a Dutch native speaker, most of my social interactions go through a barrier of... I guess imperfect translation? So I might be wrong in this.
 

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When I think of a dachshund I think of a big dog in a small dogs body because they seem to forget they are small. I use to care for this 4 lb mini / runt dachshund and she would charge any dog she saw no matter the size. she had 0 fear. but then again they were bred to kill badgers which is very intimidating and powerful prey for a little dog. so it makes sense they would not fear much and have the spirit to take on anything.

although...more often i see big dogs that are terrified of the smallest things so I dont know what you would call that lol A 200lb mastiff named Elvis was petrified of small dogs. Petrified. I tried to walk him out of his kennel once while the groomer was grooming a tiny little schnauzer puppy. little tiny thing. not barking just sitting getting a grooming. He wouldnt come out all day to go to the bathroom cause there was quite a few small dog groomings...( i thought maybe he was scared of the noise) so finally I had to man handle his big butt out of the kennel and he pressed his self so far into the wall and took the route as far away from the little dog as possible I wish I had a video camera. he kept glancing at the dog and he would push farther against the wall. 5 lb puppy vs 200 lb mastiff...he also tried to climb in my lap which doesnt work so well with his big bulk.
 

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I just don't like the idea that dogs need to be compared to one another based on size alone. Paps aren't great sports dogs because they're 'big dogs in littler bodies' or because they're 'border collies in tiny packages'. They're great (arguably the best small breed) agility dogs because papillons rock. Simple as that.
 

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I don't love the phrase in most of it's usages. It does seem to imply that big dogs are superior and just a few small breeds can match up.
 
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