How to Train Your Chihuahua Dog to Not Be Aggressive

Medium
1-2 Months
Behavior

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

ribbon-method-1
Most Recommended
3 Votes
Step
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.
Step
2
Add distractions
Practice 'sit-stay' or 'down-stay' in a variety of environments until well established.
Step
3
Change reward
Replace treats with praise and affection for performing 'sit-stay'.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Extinguish Aggression Method

ribbon-method-2
Effective
2 Votes
Step
1
Change 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.
Step
2
Distract aggression
When your Chihuahua behaves aggressively, distract him with a noise maker, or firmly say "no".
Step
3
Reward calm
When your Chihuahua behaves in a calm, friendly manner, provide praise and a treat to reinforce that behavior.
Step
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.
Step
5
Increase expectations
Increase the amount of time you expect your Chihuahua to be calm before providing reward or praise, attention, affection, or treats.
Recommend training method?

The Establish Leadership Method

ribbon-method-3
Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Teach obedience
Teach your dog basic obedience commands like 'sit', 'stay', 'come', 'down', and 'heel'.
Step
2
Be 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.
Step
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.
Step
4
Do not reward agressiveness
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?
author-img

Written by Laurie Haggart

Published: 12/14/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Belle
Chihuahua
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Belle
Chihuahua
1 Year

She can be very aggressive towards some other people an has tried to bite, she is very protective over food weather its hers my other animals or any unattended food, I can't trust her alone with my other animals and scared she will really hurt someone

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sasha, For aggression at this level and in multiple areas, I do recommend working with a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, comes well recommended by their previous clients, and works with a team of trainers, with access to other well mannered dogs too, so that training scenarios with a variety of people and other dogs can be set up in a controlled setting, to counter condition pup to others. I would build respect for you, and trust with strangers. As well as desensitize to other animals and people. I also recommend introducing pup to wearing a basket muzzle so pup can wear that for any up close desensitization once pup is ready for that part of the training, to ensure everyone's safety When pup acts aggressive, nobody should react angrily or by petting and soothing pup - angry can encourage a defensive fear response, and petting and soothing pup when they behave that way rewards the aggressive behavior - training should be calm, firm, and consistent. To build respect for you, don't allow pup to be pushy at home. No climbing onto you uninvited, nudging or barking for attention or food, ect...Anytime pup wants something, even petting, command pup to do something like Down first before giving it to them - have pup work for everything they get right now. Because of the likelihood of a bite, I would have pup wear the basket muzzle often when you are home to supervise, so that you can give and enforce commands calmly without pup being able to use their mouth to get their way. Follow the Working and Consistency methods https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you I have linked some resources for teaching Commands that are good for respect building; Out, Leave It and Off are especially important for giving pup directions right now. Place, Down and Heel are especially good for respect building. Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ If pup is sleeping in the bed, pup should sleep on the floor on their own bed, in another room or in a crate until pup no longer acts possessive at all. To introduce the muzzle, first place it on the ground and sprinkle his meal kibble around it. Do this until he is comfortable eating around it. Next, when he is comfortable with it being on the floor with food, hold it up and reward him with a piece of kibble every time he touches or sniffs it in your hand. Feed him his whole meal this way. Practice this until he is comfortable touching it. Next, hold a treat inside of it through the muzzle's holes, so that he has to poke his face into it to get the treat. As he gets comfortable doing that, gradually hold the treat further down into the muzzle, so that he has to poke his face all the way into the muzzle to get the treat. Practice until he is comfortable having his face in it. Next, feed several treats in a row through the muzzle's holes while he holds his face in the muzzle for longer. Practice this until he can hold his face in it for at least ten seconds while being fed treats. Next, when he can hold his face in the muzzle for ten seconds while remaining calm, while his face is in the muzzle move the muzzle's buckles together briefly, then feed him a treat through the muzzle. Practice this until he is not bothered by the buckles moving back and forth. Next, while he is wearing the muzzle buckle it and unbuckle it briefly, then feed a treat. As he gets comfortable with this step, gradually keep the muzzle buckled for longer and longer while feeding treats through the muzzle occasionally. Next, gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for and decrease how often you give him a treat, until he can calmly wear the muzzle for at least an hour without receiving treats more than two treats during that hour. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s For the desensitizing and counter conditioning around strangers, you will need a controlled setting, with multiple people who know how to be calm around pup. Check out the videos I have linked below. This should be done with safety measures like back tie leashes or a basket muzzle. For this type of behavior I do highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, and comes well recommended by their previous clients. Resource guarding information. Check out the video I have linked below. This would eventually need to be done with other dogs being walked past at a distance pup can tolerate, also rewarding pup for any tolerant responses to the other dogs. So pup is learning don't do that, do this instead calmly. You would start with the other dog at a distance pup can tolerate, then decrease that distance very gradually as pup improves, feeding in small portions, with treats being tossed in when pup responds well. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rt5jxjTvB8k General aggression toward strangers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgmRRYK1Z6A I would do all of this with a trainer who is highly experienced with aggression to help, and ensure safety. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rascal
Chihuahua
2 Years
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Question
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Rascal
Chihuahua
2 Years

1) gets really aggressive when trying to put on the leash. 2) gets aggressive when petting the wrong way. 3) got aggressive when pulled away while socializing with another dog

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Merrill, I would start by desensitizing pup to wearing a basket muzzle, using treats to get pup to cooperate with the process on their own. To introduce the muzzle, first place it on the ground and sprinkle his meal kibble around it. Do this until he is comfortable eating around it. Next, when he is comfortable with it being on the floor with food, hold it up and reward him with a piece of kibble every time he touches or sniffs it in your hand. Feed him his whole meal this way. Practice this until he is comfortable touching it. Next, hold a treat inside of it through the muzzle's holes, so that he has to poke his face into it to get the treat. As he gets comfortable doing that, gradually hold the treat further down into the muzzle, so that he has to poke his face all the way into the muzzle to get the treat. Practice until he is comfortable having his face in it. Next, feed several treats in a row through the muzzle's holes while he holds his face in the muzzle for longer. Practice this until he can hold his face in it for at least ten seconds while being fed treats. Next, when he can hold his face in the muzzle for ten seconds while remaining calm, while his face is in the muzzle move the muzzle's buckles together briefly, then feed him a treat through the muzzle. Practice this until he is not bothered by the buckles moving back and forth. Next, while he is wearing the muzzle buckle it and unbuckle it briefly, then feed a treat. As he gets comfortable with this step, gradually keep the muzzle buckled for longer and longer while feeding treats through the muzzle occasionally. Next, gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for and decrease how often you give him a treat, until he can calmly wear the muzzle for at least an hour without receiving treats more than two treats during that hour. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Once pup is okay with the muzzle, then I would practice counter conditioning pup to touch using pup's daily kibble, with the muzzle on, giving the treats through the muzzle's holes, to keep you safe. I would do this twice a day as often as you can throughout the week. Gently touch an area of pup's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold their collar and give a treat. Touch their tail gently and give a treat. Touch their belly, their other paws, their chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. I would also counter condition pup to the leash using the same process as the muzzle, using a slip leash so that you can widen the opening and get pup to poke their own head through it gradually, using treats. Start by simply putting the leash on the floor and sprinkling treats around it, then in your hand with treats, then rewarding pup approaching and sniffing, then rewarding pup putting their muzzle through, then part of head, then head, then letting you adjust while its on, ect... Go slow and watch pup's body language for how to progress with this. You want pup's emotions about the leash to change, not just the external behavior. I also suspect respect and trust needs to be addressed overall. Once pup will tolerate the muzzle okay, then with the muzzle on I would do things like have pup work for everything they get in life, by obeying a command first, and learn obedience commands that can help with respect building. These three methods but especially the working method. You will be doing some of the Obedience method already by teaching the commands I link below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ If you don't see things improve, feel unsure how to proceed, things get worse, or feel you need additional help I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues and will come to your home, like a private trainer, to work with you in person for this. Because you will have to do some of the initial training to desensitize with the basket muzzle without the muzzle being able to be used yet (because you are still desensitizing to it), I also recommend getting some good bite-proof leg pads and Kevlar type gloves to wear during training, to keep you safe. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Fang
Chihuahua
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Fang
Chihuahua
1 Year

Aggressive behavior when picking him up - biting us until we have bled.
Aggressive behavior when he has a piece of plastic we have or a treat.

He will growl and bite.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
239 Dog owners recommended

Hello. Because working on aggressive behaviors in dogs is a multi-step process, I have included a link to a very informative article. There isn't a quick fix for aggression, so plan on working on this issue over the next few months. https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-behavior-training/aggressive-behavior-dogs/

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Question
Pepper
Pomchi
9 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Pepper
Pomchi
9 Months

She acts aggressive in the evening when she falls asleep on the couch. I try to lift her gently to move her and recently she started growling and snapping at me. I didn't scare her and I wasn't rough with her and she has never done this before. The rest of the time she is fine, playful and loving so she isn't in pain.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Tammie, When tired I suspect pup's tolerance level is lower. I would start by desensitizing pup to being touched so she has a better association with being touched in general. To work on getting pup used to touch and handling use pup's daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of pup's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold their collar and give a treat. Touch their tail gently and give a treat. Touch their belly, their other paws, their chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. I would then practice saying pup's name when they are sleeping in the evening - but not touching yet, and tossing pup a treat as soon as they wake up a little before they react aggressively. Do this occasionally in the evening but not so often that pup isn't getting to nap either. Work on teaching pup Off and Out. Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Once pup knows those commands, use those commands to get pup to move off the couch instead of lifting most of the time. If pup isn't obeying, have pup keep a drag leash on while you are home in the evenings (just leave their leash on after you take them outside when you get home from work). When pup refuses to move after you have told them to, calmly grab the end of the drag leash and use it to calmly and quickly move them, without direct confrontation. I would also work on building pup's respect for you in general, but I would do this more as part of pup's daily routine instead of focusing it primarily at the time when you know pup's tolerance is lowest. Check out the article I have linked below. Practice the methods found there with pup, I would do the the working method for a couple months, and a little of the other two long term to maintain a good relationship of trust and respect. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Gus Gus
MinChi
2 Years
0 found helpful
Question
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Gus Gus
MinChi
2 Years

My dog is aggressive and protective of his toys food and bed around my 10 year old. But he also snuggles her and they sleep together. I know he loves her

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
942 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jet, It sounds like pup needs a combination of respect building and desensitizing pup to your son being around when there are toys present. I would temporarily remove the bed and pick up all toys when you aren't actively training or pup in their crate or a separate room from your son while chewing on the toy so your son isn't close by when you don't have a safe training scenario set up. I do highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who offers private in-home training, specializes in behavior issues like aggression to work with you in person in your home, and who comes well recommended by their previous clients for behavior issue resolution training. Children are often viewed as another dog would be, so while your dog may respect you enough to not resource guard around you, they likely do not respect your son well enough. You will want to build pup's overall respect for you, then using commands you have taught teach pup the rules around your son, so pup respects them as an extension of you. Since he is a little older, he can also carefully be incorporated into the training to build respect and trust around him directly under your supervision. This usually looks like pup earning what they want by obeying your son's commands, having pup be rewarded by your son tossing them treats (so not direct contact) whenever pup is tolerant when they approach while pup has a toy or the bed, starting at a distance where pup will remain calm and not act aggressive (only reward good responses and calm body language, never while pup is behaving aggressively). It's extremely important to keep your son safe while doing this, to safety measures like a secure back tie leash and a line on the floor your son is not to cross is important during practice. I do not recommend doing this without professional supervision due to safety involved. For the overall respect building, I suggest a combination of teaching pup directional commands, keeping pup away from your son right now until things improve when you are not there to directly supervise or have safety measures in place, and you being the one to create and maintain rules calmly in your home. Pup needs a bit of a bootcamp as far as structure and boundaries being increased, at least for a bit. Check out the following articles and videos on teaching directional commands like Out, Place, Leave It, and Off. Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Off - section on "Off command specifically: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Pup will already be following the Obedience method somewhat with the above commands, but check out the Consistency and Working methods as well: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Do not pet or reward pup when they act aggressive or tense. Be calm, confident and firm with rules. Do reward pup when they are being tolerant and calm. Check out these videos for some examples of safety measures around kids. I would only do this under the supervision of a qualified trainer and with safety measures like a crate, back tie leash, regular leash, or basket muzzle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gblDgIkyAKU https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n0_27XY3z4 Later stage, up close desensitization - even though kids are close, there is still a line and pup is still on a back-tie leash so that pup can't actually get to kids to bite if they tried...This is a later stage exercise for pup once they can do well with the other above scenarios: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Finally, I would desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle so you have that tool as an option when needed. To introduce the muzzle, first place it on the ground and sprinkle his meal kibble around it. Do this until he is comfortable eating around it. Next, when he is comfortable with it being on the floor with food, hold it up and reward him with a piece of kibble every time he touches or sniffs it in your hand. Feed him his whole meal this way. Practice this until he is comfortable touching it. Next, hold a treat inside of it through the muzzle's holes, so that he has to poke his face into it to get the treat. As he gets comfortable doing that, gradually hold the treat further down into the muzzle, so that he has to poke his face all the way into the muzzle to get the treat. Practice until he is comfortable having his face in it. Next, feed several treats in a row through the muzzle's holes while he holds his face in the muzzle for longer. Practice this until he can hold his face in it for at least ten seconds while being fed treats. Next, when he can hold his face in the muzzle for ten seconds while remaining calm, while his face is in the muzzle move the muzzle's buckles together briefly, then feed him a treat through the muzzle. Practice this until he is not bothered by the buckles moving back and forth. Next, while he is wearing the muzzle buckle it and unbuckle it briefly, then feed a treat. As he gets comfortable with this step, gradually keep the muzzle buckled for longer and longer while feeding treats through the muzzle occasionally. Next, gradually increase how long he wears the muzzle for and decrease how often you give him a treat, until he can calmly wear the muzzle for at least an hour without receiving treats more than two treats during that hour. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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