I always joke that my Chihuahua, Diego, is a whopping 5 pounds of attitude! If you have a Chihuahua then you know they have rather large and bold personalities. But, often times, us humans don’t fully understand or know how to handle them. That’s when trouble begins. I recently sent a survey to my newsletter subscribers and found a lot of dog parents are struggling to understand their dog’s aggressive tendencies. If you fit into this category, just know you’re not alone! That’s why I reached out to Linda, a trainer, proud Chihuahua mom, and founder of the blog ChiChisandMe.com. While her tips focus on Chihuahuas, they’re great for all breeds!
Q: Why Do Chihuahuas Get The Reputation For Being Aggressive Dogs?
A: Here is a statistic that not many people know: Chihuahuas are the second most euthanized dog in the U.S. When I tell people this, most are shocked and surprised.
In Los Angeles, only pit bulls out-number Chihuahuas in the city’s shelters. At the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, 60% of the dogs awaiting adoption are pure or mixed-breed Chihuahuas. At the San Francisco Animal Care and Control shelter, Chihuahuas are 30% of the canine population and rising. At the East Bay SPCA, it’s 50%. Their fate is not much better elsewhere around the country, or around the world.
There are simply more Chihuahuas in shelters than they can find homes for. Therefore, they are the second most euthanized breed.
Ask anyone you know what they think about Chihuahuas and see what answers you get. I’ve heard:
- Mean little dogs
- Little ankle biters
- Aggressive little brat dogs
- Mexican Pit Bulls
They sadly don’t have a good reputation.
The reason for this, plain and simple, is a lack of socialization and training. Chihuahuas are very loyal and protective little dogs. Those wonderful qualities can be channeled into very unwanted behavior. This unwanted behavior is often caused, unknowingly, by the owner.
Contrary to what most people think, Chihuahuas are very aware of their size. Yes, they do know that they are not as big as a Great Dane. They react to fear aggressively. They try to bark, growl, and show their teeth, hoping to scare away what they perceive as a threat. If that doesn’t work then they will bite.
Q: What Are The Main Causes Of Chihuahua Aggression?
A: The most common cause is fear.
Just like people, chihuahuas fear the unknown. If they’re just seeing another dog, a child, or person in a wheelchair for the first time then they are going to be afraid.
Another cause is teasing. How many YouTube videos have you seen of people teasing their dog and then the dog growls, snarls, and shows their teeth? People put those on YouTube because they think it’s cute or funny. That is a perfect example of owners unknowingly causing aggression in their Chihuahua.
Q: Why Is It So Important For Chihuahuas To Learn Their Basic Commands?
A: Knowing the basic commands is a must if you want a well-mannered, civilized dog living in your house. It is also necessary for their own safety.
Teaching your dog the basic commands is a great bonding experience and it also teaches them that you are in charge. Not dominate—that’s a whole other post—but in charge.
Chihuahuas are very protective and need to know that you have all the protecting and family care under control. If not, they will take over the job of protector and you’ll be left with a little tyrant on your hands. The good news is—they don’t want to have to be the protector and ruler of the house. They are much happier when they know that job is yours.
What the basic commands are depends on who you ask, but everyone agrees that the most important are:
- Leave it
But for Chihuahuas, in particular, I’d also add “enough.” Being the protective little dogs that they are, they will warn you by barking when they hear someone coming up the driveway, if an unfamiliar dog is close by, or if there is a potato chip bag blowing down the street. They hear things that us humans don’t. As a result, they are known as “little barkers.”
For that reason, they make excellent little watch dogs. You don’t want to make them stop barking altogether, but you need—for your own peace of mind—to teach them when it is “enough.”
Q: How Can Parents Of Young Puppy Chihuahuas Prevent Aggressive Behavior From Ever Starting?
A: Because they are “fear aggressive” the number one advice I give all Chihuahua parents is: socialize, socialize, socialize.
As puppies, they go through a stage of “fearlessness”—a period of time when they are more curious than they are afraid. Puppyhood is, therefore, the best time to socialize them.
When they’re young, introduce them to anything and everything—let them experience all of the situations they may come into contact with throughout their lifetime. That involves:
- Children (with supervision)
- Other dogs (with supervision)
- Babies (with supervision)
- People with crutches
- People in wheelchairs
Also let them walk on all the different surfaces they may have to walk on: Carpet, tile, hardwood, concrete, etc.
Q: What Advice Can You Offer Parents Of Adult Chihuahuas Who Already Show Aggressive Tendencies?
A: Stop it now. I know what you’re thinking: “Easier said than done!” While it may be more difficult, it’s far from impossible.
It will take more patience, persistence, and caution, but start socializing them now. Bring them as many places as you can, and expose them to as many different situations as you can.
Also, start the training process immediately. Like I mentioned earlier, training lets your little chi know that you’re in charge. They have to learn which behaviors are and aren’t acceptable.
Since each situation and dog is different, it would be impossible to address each one here. But my advice would be to start working with your dog now, read up on everything you can about your dog’s particular aggressive behavior, and hire a professional trainer if you are unsure what to do.
A Little About ChiChis And Me
Many years ago, I received the greatest gift I have ever received from another human being. I named that gift Chico. Since then, my husband and I have given a fur-ever home to two more Chihuahuas—Pebbles and Remedy Jane. Chihuahuas became my passion!
Knowing that Chihuahuas are the second most euthanized breed in America—second only to Pit Bulls—it soon became my mission to do something to change these sad statistics and to help educate Chihuahua guardians.
Along with my years of experience, I work closely with other experts in training. I volunteer at our local shelter in several departments, including working with the training team.