Do Chihuahuas Really Have a Napoleon Complex?

Does your Chihuahua think he is a big dog and can take on a Wolfhound or a Great Dane?

How many times have you heard that Chihuahuas think that they are bigger than they really are? Also known as a Napoleon Complex. If you have had a Chihuahua (or Yorkie) for any time at all, I’m sure you’ve heard it. But is it true?

I have enjoyed reading some information from Alexandra Horowitz. She teaches psychology at Barnard College, Columbia University and has spent a lot of her career studying dogs and what they see, smell, and know. She has a pretty good idea about the reasons behind some of their behavior.

[beautifulquote align=”full” cite=””]Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read. ~ Attributed to Groucho Marx [/beautifulquote]

She writes about watching a large Wolfhound that spies a little six pound long-haired Chihuahua and runs toward it. When he stands in front of the tiny Chi the Chihuahua demurely looks away. The Wolfhound bends down to the Chihuahua’s level and nips her side. The Chi looks back at the hound, who raises his rear end up in the air, tail held high, in preparation to attack. Instead of fleeing from the seeming danger, however, the Chihuahua matches his pose and leaps onto the wolfhound’s face. embracing his nose with her tiny paws. They begin to play. They tumble, grab, bite, and lunge at each other. The little Chi attacks the wolfhound’s face, belly, and paws.

Wolfhound vs Chihuahua

So this is what begins her curiosity about dog psychology. There is such a difference in size between these two that they might as well be different species.

The wolfhound bit mouthed and charged at the Chihuahua, yet the little dog responded not with fright, but in kind.

What explains their ability to play? Why doesn’t the tiny dog see the big dog as a predator? Why in turn doesn’t the big dog see the tiny Chi as dinner?

Is it because the Chihuahua has delusions about his size, as some people think? I’ve always heard that Chihuahuas think they are big dogs. Turns out that is not true. Neither is it just plain instinct taking over.

There is one difference between breeds.

There is much literature about the differences in breeds. There has never been a scientific comparison of breed behavior differences. Not one with a controlled environment giving them the same physical objects, the same exposure to dogs and humans, the same everything.

In other words, if you present various breeds with a nearby running rabbit, for instance, it would be a mistake to assume that a Dachshund  or a Jack Russell will chase that rabbit because that was what they were bred to do. Individuals within that breed will react differently to the same objects. That is why it is a mistake to assume that a certain breed of dog will be aggressive.

So-called aggressive breeds.

After world War II the German Shephard was considered to be the most aggressive breed. In the 1990’s it was the Rottweiler and Doberman. Now it is the pit bull. Apparently, the breed considered to be the most aggressive depends more on recent events and public perception than with the inherent nature of that breed.

There is no gene that develops into a retrieving behavior or any other behavior for that matter.


So, the conclusion of the matter between the tiny little Chihuahua vs the great big Wolfhound is that the little guy does know that he is much smaller than the Wolfhound and the Wolfhound knows that the Chihuahua is much smaller than he is. What they know is that they are both dogs….. and dogs just love to play!