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I've been told by native speakers that the former refers to little dogs while the latter is for bigger dogs. I also have been told that the latter has a negative connotation. I'm wondering:

  1. how negative is the meaning of 一条狗?
  2. is one used by speakers of a certain age or from a certain region?
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when 狗 is in the word of 热狗 (hot dog), you can not use 条。 you can either use 只 or 个。 probably 个 is better. –  Laguna Jan 10 '12 at 22:04

3 Answers 3

There's no negative connotation, at all.

条 and 只 are used interchangeably in today's Chinese, not just specific to a region. Long ago, 头(頭)were used as a quantifier for dogs or other farm animals. I suspect "head" was dropped because dogs do not have stocky builds as other animals(pigs, donkeys, bulls etc). Also "头" tends to associate "dumb animals" and dogs are perceived as intelligent.

条 in most cases is used to quantify something that's slender, e.g. 一条路(road), 一条河(river),一条虫(worm).

I say 一只狗 because it seems to make more sense considering others animals of simliar size and stature also use 只. e.g. 一只猫,一只狐狸 etc. But this is just a personal preference.

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条 and 只 are interchangeable for 狗, bug not for any other example you give in the answer. (Oh, 一只虫 seems to be possible) –  fefe Dec 27 '11 at 1:44
    
@fefe yes in the context of the question, they're interchangeable. Now I wonder where 一條好漢 came from... –  Jin Dec 27 '11 at 3:40
    
@fefe I don't think 一只虫 and 一只狗 are used often. Rather, 一只小狗 and 一条狗 make more sense. –  gonnastop Mar 19 '12 at 5:01

I'm afraid I cannot agree with you (or with the native speakers who told you so).

The expressions don't have the differences mentioned in your posts. To me they are equivalent. I prefer "条" though, for no reason.

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In most of context, those two just exchangeable. 只 and 条 is measure word, sometimes 只 means 'little' and 条 means 'long' and maybe 'big'. for some person,esp. girls, 'little' hint 'lovable'.

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