Introduction Chihuahuas are cute little dogs, but they are dogs nonetheless. It is easy to not take them seriously when they behave aggressively. A snarling, snapping Chihuahua may be thought of as “being cute” and the behavior dismissed as not important. This is a huge mistake. Your Chihuahua is a dog, and if he is behaving aggressively, he is not respecting your leadership or other people. Although a Chihuahua may not be as dangerous as a larger dog, a Chihuahua is still capable of biting and causing damage, especially to a child or older person.
Chihuahuas are prone to acting aggressively for the same reasons any dog may behave aggressively, due to anxiety, territorial behavior, or to show dominance. It can not be stressed enough that Chihuahuas are dogs like any other dog, and should be treated similarly with regards to expectations for training and behavior; they should not be allowed to behave dominantly. Obedience expectations and positive socialization should not be allowed to slide as a requirement when caring for a Chihuahua.
Defining Tasks If your Chihuahua is behaving aggressively, try to determine what is behind his aggression. Is your dog experiencing anxiety that needs addressing and requires confidence and experience to be developed? Is your Chihuahua acting dominant, trying to establish himself as a leader? If so, you need to make sure your dog views you as the leader and behaves respectfully toward you, family members, and friends by respecting other people’s space and submitting to having toys or food removed.
Some Chihuahuas become possessive of their owners, biting and snapping when someone else approaches them and their owners. If this is the case, replacing territorial behavior with appropriate, well-socialized behavior is required. Your Chihuahua should not behave aggressively but allow others to approach him and yourself and to take toys or food without a fuss. A Chihuahua should know basic obedience commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘down’ and ‘come’ the same as any other dog. This helps establish who is the leader and what is expected, which also helps reduce anxiety and territorial behaviors.
Getting Started If your dog suddenly starts acting aggressive and they were not aggressive before, you should consider taking your Chihuahua to a veterinarian in case he is experiencing medical problems. Pain or discomfort can cause aggression that can be addressed by relief of the condition. Once a medical condition has been ruled out, make sure all members of the household are on board to counteract aggressive behavior, as consistency is important.
Avoid punishing or yelling at a Chihuahua that is behaving aggressively, as this will only contribute to anxiety and aggression. Instead, be prepared to reward alternate behaviors and provide opportunities for positive socialization and to establish yourself and members of your household as leaders that need to be respected. This will require time, patience, and consistency.
The Alternate Behavior Method
1. Teach ‘sit-stay’ Teach your Chihuahua basic obedience commands like ‘sit-stay’ or ‘down-stay’ in a quiet place, free from distractions. Ask you dog to ‘sit-stay’ and provide a treat for compliance.
2. Add distractions Practice ‘sit-stay’ or ‘down-stay’ in a variety of environments until well established.
3. Change reward Replace treats with praise and affection for performing ‘sit-stay’.
4. Use when aggressive When your Chihuahua starts to behave in an aggressive manner, growling or snapping, or takes an aggressive stance, distract him and provide the ‘sit-stay’ or ‘down-stay’ command.
5. Reward alternate behavior When your dog complies, praise him, this will provide a distraction from aggressive behaviors and provide your dog with a different response.
The Extinguish Aggression Method
1. Change the situation If your dog behaves aggressively when sitting on your lap and approached by other people, do not allow your Chihuahua to sit on your lap while others are present.
2. Distract aggression When your Chihuahua behaves aggressively, distract him with a noisemaker, or firmly say “no”.
3. Reward calm When your Chihuahua behaves in a calm, friendly manner, provide praise and a treat to reinforce that behavior.
4. Remove when required If your Chihuahua behaves aggressively, ignore him. Remove him from the situation if behavior is out of control. You can put your Chihuahua in a crate or another room.
5. Increase expectations Increase the amount of time you expect your Chihuahua to be calm before providing a reward or praise, attention, affection, or treats.
The Establish Leadership Method
1. Teach obedience Teach your dog basic obedience commands like ‘sit’, ‘stay’, ‘come’, ‘down’, and ‘heel’.
2. Be a food provider Establish that you are the food provider. Make your Chihuahua sit and wait while you prepare food. Put his food down on the floor and wait with your dog while he eats to establish you are the provider. Practice removing and returning food so your dog knows what to expect and accept it.
3. Socialize Socialize your Chihuahua. Introduce your Chihuahua to other people, other dogs and other animals in a positive non-threatening environment. Reward positive interaction, remove your dog if aggressive behavior occurs while you continue to interact with others. While socializing, keep your dog at floor level. Avoid picking your dog up or keeping him on eye level with yourself or others.
4. Do not reward aggressiveness Do not soothe your agitated dog when he is behaving aggressively, as this is just reinforcing anxiety and aggression. Do not pick your dog up or hold him close when he is acting anxious or aggressive.
5. Reward appropriate behavior Reward your dog with praise and treats for behaving positively in a situation that previously made him anxious or aggressive. Increase his experiences, expose him to new sights , sounds and places slowly, at a pace that is comfortable for your Chihuahua.