• Home
  • Training
  • How to Train Your Chihuahua Dog to Be a Service Dog

How to Train Your Chihuahua Dog to Be a Service Dog

How to Train Your Chihuahua Dog to Be a Service Dog
Hard difficulty iconHard
Time icon6-12 Months
Work training category iconWork

Introduction

The traditional service dog you may have pictured in your mind is a Labrador or German shepherd guiding a blind person so they can navigate safely. But in reality, service dogs come in all different shapes and sizes, and perform all kinds of different tasks for people with disabilities, even Chihuahuas! 

There is occasionally some confusion regarding service dogs versus therapy dogs; a service dog is registered under federal law, after demonstrating adherence to standards and being certified. A service dog performs a certain task for a disabled person, such as services to help hearing or visually impaired people successfully function, manipulating objects for people with mobility disorders, or alerting people with diabetes, PTSD or epilepsy to dangerous or debilitating episodes specific to their condition. A therapy dog, on the other hand, provides companionship and helps alleviate symptoms of emotional or psychiatric conditions. 

Chihuahuas often fall in the category of therapy dogs but many Chihuahuas are certified service dogs, trained to perform tasks for disabled persons. Any dog can be a service dog regardless of size or breed, they just need the right temperament and ability. Chihuahuas are intelligent, tend to be loyal to one person, and can easily live in small apartments without difficulty, which makes them excellent candidates as service dogs in certain situations.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Defining Tasks

In order to be certified, a service dog must demonstrate several behaviors in addition to their tasking behavior, that is the task or tasks they perform in order to assist a disabled person. General public access behaviors necessary for service dogs to learn include not being aggressive, relieving themselves on command, not investigating or sniffing, not seeking food or affection, and being calm and not demonstrating excitement or hyper behavior. A dog that is capable of learning these behaviors will need to have a well-socialized personality, be of a calm disposition, and highly trainable. Service dogs that can demonstrate public access behaviors can then learn specific tasks to aid people such as:

  • Alerting a hearing-impaired person to sounds.
  • Alerting a visually impaired person to people and things in their environment.
  • Fetching objects for someone who is mobility impaired.
  • Alerting a diabetic person to dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar, obtaining medical supplies or getting help.
  • Alerting a person with epilepsy to an imminent seizure or obtaining help by signaling emergency services.
  • Alerting someone with anxiety or PTSD to an imminent attack, getting help, or providing deep pressure therapy during an attack. 
  • Reminding people with mental impairments to take medications.

There are many services a service dog can render, and although some, such as providing physical support, require a large dog, most can be performed by even a small dog like a Chihuahua, providing the correct training is provided.

arrow-up-icon

Top

Getting Started

Although any size or breed of dog can be a service dog, not any dog will do.  A service dog needs to be adaptable, sociable but calm, and trainable. Selecting a Chihuahua with the right temperament is important; a nervous or hyper dog will not make a good service dog. A variety of training methods, including positive reinforcement with treats and capturing behavior with the clicker method are used to train service dogs. Service dogs in training are often given vests to identify them as such, to discourage passersby from engaging with the dog and give the dog more public access during training.

arrow-up-icon

Top

The Public Access Skills Method

Most Recommended

10 Votes

Ribbon icon

Most Recommended

10 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Acclimatize for calm

Expose your Chihuahua to a variety of different situations, ignore or restrain hyper or investigating behavior, reward calm behaviors with affection and praise.

2

Estalish vehicle manners

Take your Chihuahua on car rides, practice loading and unloading from the vehicle and riding quietly in the car.

3

Teach off-leash recall

Teach your Chihuahua off-leash recall. Use a flexi leash, or long lead to guide initially and provide reinforcement for coming to call.

4

Teach 'heel'

Teach your Chihuahua to heel, and to enter and exit through doorways. Practice in a variety of places including outside, public buildings, elevators, shopping centers, physician offices, etc.

5

Teach obedience

Make sure your Chihuahua has good obedience commands established such as 'sit', 'stay', and 'down'.

The Manipulate Objects Method

Effective

5 Votes

Ribbon icon

Effective

5 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Introduce clicker method

Due to their smaller size, many Chihuahuas are trained to press alert buttons to obtain help, get medications, or fetch dropped or required objects. To achieve this, teach your dog basic obedience commands using a clicker and treats so the dog is familiar with this training message.

2

Introduce tasking item

Present the item required for tasking, such as an alert button, a set of keys or a medication bag. Place the item adjacent to the dog and wait.

3

Reinforce item

When the Chihuahua investigates the item, click and treat. Repeat.

4

Begin shaping interaction

Require more interaction, touching and mouthing the keys or bag, pawing the button. When it occurs, click and treat.

5

Shape complete task

Increase the behavior required gradually, in order to shape the complete behavior of picking up and carrying the keys or medicine and taking to the owner or pressing the alert button. Break the behavior down into achievable steps, and click and treat at each stage until the entire behavior is shaped.

The Alerting Method

Least Recommended

5 Votes

Ribbon icon

Least Recommended

5 Votes

Ribbon icon
1

Identify trigger and task

Chihuahuas are often trained to alert their human partners to situations or conditions, such as sounds for hearing impaired people or medical conditions for those with diabetes, epilepsy, or PTSD. Identify the specific trigger you will want the Chihuahua to respond to, and the specific behavior you will want him to perform to alert his handler, such as licking the hand or nudging a leg.

2

Reinforce trigger

Provide a simulation of the trigger, such as a phone ring, the smell of low blood sugar, or simulate symptoms of PTSD attack. When the dog takes notice, click and treat.

3

Command task

Teach the dog a response to the trigger such as licking your hand. Initially you can attach a command to this behavior.

4

Relate trigger and task

When the simulated trigger occurs, provide the command to 'lick hand'. When the dog performs the behavior, provide praise and affection. Treating may also be appraised at first.

5

Establish task to trigger

Gradually remove threats and verbal command. Break the behavior down and use the clicker method when required, so that the dog learns to perform the alert behavior in response to the trigger.

By Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/22/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

Have a question?

Training Questions and Answers

Dog nametag icon

Nixie

Dog breed icon

Chihuahua

Dog age icon

One Year

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Shes usually calm and playful but the second I bring treats out she gets very hyper and attentive. She will do multiple tricks in a row to get them I don't even have to give a command, but when I do (for example if I tell her to sit) she'll stand up, sit then lay down in the blink of an eye. How do I get her to calm down and do whats asked

Nov. 23, 2022

Nixie's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello, First, I would switch from treats to using pieces of kibble to motivate. Second, work on praising calmly but not giving the treat until she gets the command you asked correct. Like if she was guessing and just running through all the tricks or commands she knows, assuming what you are going to ask, rather than waiting, then hide the treat behind your back for a second, get her eye contact again and slow your request down. When she obeys the correct command, then bring the treat back from behind your back and give it to her. Work on requiring listening before you reward - it can take some eager pups practice. Some dogs will bark out of impatience when they don't immediately get the treat when they guess, ignore that and wait until pup obeys the right command. Start with switching to kibble though to see if that will motivate her to learn without over-exciting her, then also work on making the treat less visible and only presenting it after she obeys, not holding it where she can see if while you train unless you are using it to lure a new trick or command. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Nov. 28, 2022

Dog nametag icon

Trixie

Dog breed icon

Chihuahua

Dog age icon

6 Years

Question icon

Question

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

Thumbs up icon

0 found helpful

How to make her keep her eyes on me

June 18, 2022

Trixie's Owner

Expert avatar

Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

Recommendation ribbon

1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jiselle, I would teach Watch Me, and also periodically reward pup out in public whenever you catch them looking at you on their own. Watch Me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zeZrOPzO-c Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

June 20, 2022


Wag! Specialist
Need training help?

Learn more in the Wag! app

Five starsFive starsFive starsFive starsFive stars

43k+ reviews

Install


© 2023 Wag Labs, Inc. All rights reserved.