To many people, the sight of a tiny Chihuahua barking, snarling and being aggressive is rather funny, as it is so out of context in terms of the dog’s size! However, any dog owner who has ever been on the receiving end of a Chihuahua bite or had to handle an out of control Chihuahua will know that it is no laughing matter, and these small packages can soon turn into miniature dictators if left to their own devices!
Despite the fact that these small pedigree dogs are incredibly popular pets and fairly expensive to buy, they regularly fall into the top ten lists of the most frequently surrendered dogs to dog rehoming shelters. This often happens once their poorly-prepared owners find out that they have bitten off more than they can chew, and that the little Chihuahua is not such an easy pet after all!
Chihuahuas, while small, are very bold and plucky little dogs that were originally bred as ratters, making them incredibly persistent, stubborn, tenacious and brave. Within the domestic environment, if these personality traits and not channelled into healthy outlets with clear rules and guidelines, these little dogs can soon fall prey to “small dog syndrome,” and become thoroughly unpleasant, snappy and even aggressive when they do not get their own way.
Firm positive reinforcement training from the get-go can ensure that your Chihuahua doesn’t get to that stage in the first place, but if you have an adult Chihuahua and things are not going so well, all is not lost! In this article, we will look at how to deal with an aggressive Chihuahua, and how to manage this trait to turn your little Cujo back into a loving, responsive and obedient dog.
Ensure that you make the rules within the home, and not your little dog! Dominant behaviour can soon turn into aggression, so nip this in the bud as soon as it begins to show. You do not have to be mean to your dog to do this, and in fact, negative reinforcement is counter-productive, so use positive techniques to keep your dog in their place.
Decide when and what your Chihuahua eats and stick to it, what furniture they are allowed on to, and what possessions are theirs. Don’t allow the lines to blur over time, and review your dog’s behaviour on a regular basis.
It can be all too easy to inadvertently enable aggression from your little dog; for instance, if they snarl at someone, your first action may be to pick them up out of the way, but this provides its own reward to your dog, and puts them at eye level with the people!
If your dog is growling or eyeing someone up while you are talking to them, do not pet and soothe them, but put them on the floor or their bed, or banish them from the room- the Chihuahua, not the person!
Your little dog should learn that aggression or snapping at you or anyone means that they lose out; treats are withheld, they are no longer allowed to be present, and they do not get to sit on your lap.
If your Chihuahua responds positively to a situation that would previously or commonly cause them to snap or get growly, reward and praise them strongly for being good. Divert the onset of potential bad behaviour as soon as your dog starts displaying signs of aggression with a command, and when your Chihuahua complies, give them a treat or pet them. Let your little dog stay with you or in the room as long as they are good, but as soon as they start to misbehave, banish them from the room. Chihuahuas are intelligent little dogs, and a few repetitions will soon ensure that the message gets through!
It is all too common to see a little Chihuahua that does not know how to walk on the lead because they are used to being carried everywhere, or that has no boundaries in terms of knowing what they may and may not do. Many Chihuahuas do not have even a basic understanding of simple commands and boundaries, and whatever the age of your dog, it is not too old to start teaching them some manners!
Make sure that your dog can walk nicely on the lead, and will respond to basic commands such as sit, no, lie down, leave it, and come.
It is also important to ensure that your Chihuahua is properly exposed to other dogs and people, and is socialised well and knows how to behave around others. Walking around carrying your dog is not enough; they must be allowed to walk at floor-level, and get used to meeting other dogs and people that might be much bigger than them.
It is of course important to ensure that your little dog doesn’t get hurt or scared by those bigger than them, but do not let fear make you neglect their needs as dogs to meet other dogs and people, and learn how to play with them in the right way, without aggression.