Sophie is small. She is small and may even look innocent when she sits still like a statue, but Sophie’s size does not limit the capacity of what she can do. At times, she can be loud and obnoxious and if that does not scare you away, then her aggression will. Sophie can be wildly dominating in all that she does. Although you may have thought her loud and abrasive personality made her stand out in the crowd as a Chihuahua, you are now beginning to wonder if there is a deeper reason why Sophie acts the way she does.
The Root of the Behavior
Chihuahuas have bold personalities. Their size will never stop them from conquering their world one small minute at a time and if you have a Chihuahua, you probably already know this! Yet, just because Chihuahuas are small does not mean that they need to be aggressive and scary. Some Chihuahuas and other small dogs develop something called small dog syndrome, which is where smaller dogs begin to growl, bark, become possessive over their things, and sometimes even bite. This usually happens because your dog has not been trained in the house, has immense amounts of fear, or has not yet learned how to have boundary control. Sophie may begin to notice that she is smaller than her Golden Retriever companion, Grace, who happens to be a lot larger than she is, and she will begin to believe that she is treated differently because of her size. Now, Sophie may feel the need to dominate to receive respect but as Sophie's owner, you hold the power to help change that behavior.
Aggressive behavior in Chihuahuas will usually start with poor treatment and lack of rules and expectations that your dog can follow. For example, if someone takes some of Sophie's food away, she is going to learn to protect it by using aggressive behavior such as growling and biting. In between the age of 4 to 12 weeks and the age of 7 and 8 months, your dog will be in the proper stage of growth for training and you can wire your dog's mind with the proper behavioral traits and rules. It is recommended that you take advantage of this time to teach your dog how to react and respond to fearful situations properly. Firstly, you need to treat your dog in the same way that you would treat a larger dog and show them respect. From this, they will know that their small size will not determine how they are treated. Secondly, you want to set rules with your dog if they act aggressively. Show your dog that you are the alpha leader and they are your pet. Create proper rules that they will follow and create expectations that set boundaries and craft appropriate behavior. Your Chihuahua will then return to the small and lovable dog you remember.
Encouraging the Behavior
It essential to let your dog, Sophie, know that you are in charge and you are the leader. You do not want Sophie acting aggressively towards you when you take her on walks or when you feed her dinner. As her leader, you want to teach Sophie to respect you as you respect and love her. If Sophie snaps at you or growls at you, there will usually be a valid reason for it. She either feels threatened by you or is trying to show you her power because of her size. Do not pick your dog up and pet her if she snaps at you, but show her that she cannot act that way.
When you are preparing Sophie's dinner, demand her to sit and stay. Once she follows this command, you can reward her with her dinner and a treat or a verbal affirmation. This will teach her that you are the Alpha and she is to follow you and obey in a calm manner without acting out aggressively. If your dog does acts out aggressively, you do not want to encourage it. You can put her in her crate or demand her to not act that way. It is recommended to also try and train her in the moment of poor behavior. Tell her “no” while she is snapping and if she stops, you can reward her with a treat. This is an excellent way to teach your dog what is right and what is wrong.
Other Solutions and Considerations
A lot of people invest in dogs that are small because they think they will be easier to handle or they think that they will not need to train them at all. Yet, that is not the case! If you have a Chihuahua, you must implement proper rules as their leader and teach your dog that you are in charge. You also will want to teach your dog the basic commands of sit, stay, and lie down. When Sophie begins to growl or snap, you can use these commands with her to calm her down and redirect her attention to following the correct rules. Chihuahuas are fast learners and will respond correctly if you do it right. If you find your dog misbehaving, use these basic commands to help them remember that you are the leader and also try your best not to punish your dog while you are in this process. This can make their aggression worse. If you are still having trouble, consider getting a dog trainer or behaviorist to help you.
Chihuahuas are small but powerful canines that were bred for the purpose of having a small companion that is loving, calm, and kind. Just as we want our dogs to treat us with respect and love, we have to treat them in the exact same way but make sure your dog knows you are the leader. You want to make sure they act appropriately and follow the rules. If you are still having trouble after all this, consider getting a dog trainer or behaviorist to help you.