How to Train Your Chihuahua Dog to Not Growl

Medium
4-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

It's tough sometimes being the smallest dog on the block. If your Chihuahua growls at you or anyone he crosses paths with, it may be because he's unsure of his place within his world. Building up your Chihuahua’s confidence and making sure he understands his place is key in teaching him not to growl. 

Chihuahuas have been bred to be companions for their owners. By nature, they are not automatically social dogs. They need to be trained to be social. Otherwise, they will come across as aggressive. Your Chihuahua may be growling at you or others because he needs training on how not to do this natural behavior. Teaching your Chihuahua to relax a bit around you and others will help to teach him growling is unacceptable.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to relax isn’t as easy as simply telling him to relax. You are going to need to teach him that not growling is your expectation. Your Chihuahua will act aggressively and growl unless he knows other ways to act. The first thing you’ll need to do is socialize your Chihuahua. Once he knows his job is not to protect you and he is allowed to accept others in his world, people or pets, he’ll be better about reacting aggressively when around others. This is easier to train with a puppy, but you can redirect an adult Chihuahua as well. Training will just take more time and dedication with an adult. No matter the age, remember to reward good behavior and redirect poor behavior. Do not yell or hit your Chihuahua; these actions will only reinforce poor behaviors. 

Getting Started

High-value treats are key in training your Chihuahua not to growl. Be sure to set aside some socializing time for your Chihuahua as well as short training sessions to build up respect and listening skills for your Chihuahua. Keep these training sessions short and only socialize at the beginning with people and dogs you know and are comfortable with. And always offer treats for your Chihuahua as well as the other animals you are socializing with.

The Socialized Chi Method

ribbon-method-1
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Step
1
Schedule play
Schedule social opportunities for your Chihuahua. Plan social time with other dogs as well as with people so your Chihuahua gets used to being around both. Make sure you are scheduling social time with other dogs that you know and are comfortable with. Your Chihuahua is a small dog and needs to be in a safe environment, especially while he's learning he should be social himself. Prepare with treats for both dogs.
Step
2
Even field
When you are ready to set up a playdate for your Chihuahua and another dog, be sure to pick a space that is an even playing field for both dogs.This needs to be in neutral space and not your house or the other dog's house. You can meet outside on a walk or at a park. Stay away from dog parks or other dogs, which may distract these two guys from getting to know one another.
Step
3
Set the tone
Using your vocal tone, let your Chihuahua know he is safe and what you are doing with him is okay. He will pick up on any stress or anxiety you have to remain calm and reassuring when you talk with your Chihuahua.
Step
4
Leash and harness
When you are introducing your Chihuahua to a new dog, or even a person, be sure to harness him and have a leash on him. Do not use only a collar and a leash on a Chihuahua because if you need to pull your Chihuahua away from another animal or person before he becomes too aggressive, tugging on a leash and a collar could cause harm to your little guy. A harness fit just for your Chihuahua keeps your dog safe if you have to tug on the leash.
Step
5
Treats
When both dogs meet, immediately offer them both a treat. At first, you do not need to make them work for it. Just give them a treat for sharing the same space together. Over time, as they sniff and get to know one another, you can ask them both to do commands such as 'sit' and then offer them each a treat. This shows your Chihuahua the other dog is on the same level as he is, and they can both earn treats by being nice and being good.
Step
6
Avoid
The two dogs may be apprehensive about getting to know one another, or your Chihuahua may be apprehensive while the other dog is overly excited. Try to give them some space together while holding on to their respective leashes and avoid contact with them if it all possible. Give them a few moments to get to know one another. When you ignore either dog, offer both of them a treat; otherwise, leave them alone.
Step
7
Growling
If your Chihuahua starts to growl at the other dog gently, tug on his leash, which will pull on his harness and remind him you are there and he is safe and does not need to react aggressively. When you see your dog home and not growling, give him a treat. Acknowledging good behavior with your Chihuahua will help him to know that is your expectation.
Step
8
Practice
Keep practicing socializing your dog with other dogs as well as with humans whenever you can. Unless your Chihuahua and the other dogs are extremely comfortable together, keep your socialization sessions fairly short. This will make socializing low stress and rewarding for your cup.
Step
9
At home
When you catch your Chihuahua behaving at home without growling at you or your guests, you’ll know the socializing is working. Be sure to reward positive behaviors with positive rewards such as treat.
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The Small Dog Syndrome Method

ribbon-method-2
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Step
1
Train
Teach your dog basic obedience commands. This gives him purpose and sets boundaries and rules in your household.
Step
2
Food
Keep your Chihuahua behaving by training him to wait for his food. This sets your role higher than his role in your pack together. Make him wait for his food or work for it by doing basic commands to earn it.
Step
3
Big dog
Treat your Chihuahua just as you would treat a larger dog. Don’t carry him from place to place. Make him walk. Don’t pamper or spoil him unnecessarily. Give him tools such as pet steps to use to get up on your furniture or bed so he acts independently when necessary. Do not take this to mean you cannot hold your Chihuahua, just make him do the things he can on his own. This will help build confidence.
Step
4
Positive behavior
Reward your Chihuahua for positive behaviors when you see them. If your Chihuahua comes to you when called, give him a treat. If someone reaches out to pet him, give him a treat. When he is around other dogs without growling, give him a treat.
Step
5
Growling
When your Chihuahua growls, ignore him and wait for him to stop. Once he stops, give him a treat. Continue to redirect his behaviors this way until you can put your hand up to him or have someone else near him without the Chihuahua growling.
Step
6
Consistent
Be consistent with your expectations as well as with the rewards you offer your Chihuahua when he behaves well. Do not stop rewarding your Chihuahua just because he’s getting more used to behaving well. To keep him behaving as you’d like, reward him continuously as he does well. Once he is more social, you can raise the bar a bit and only reward when he’s not growling at all rather than when he takes a break from growling.
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The Counter Conditioning Method

ribbon-method-3
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Step
1
Pay attention
Spend a few days watching your Chihuahua and noting when he growls and what makes him growl. Write down activities that make him uncomfortable enough to show his displeasure by growling.
Step
2
Conditioning
Once you have a list of activities that trigger a growl from your Chihuahua, set up those opportunities as mini training sessions. If your dog growls when someone comes near him, work by yourself or with someone he knows but is not totally comfortable with. If he growls when the doorbell rings, use this as a training opportunity.
Step
3
Activities
With your trigger list in hand, set up scenarios much like the real trigger event and show your Chihuahua how to stay safe and be comfortable during these times. If your Chihuahua growls when the doorbell rings, simulate that sound using your phone while sitting with your dog. Once he hears the sound, give him a treat. Try to give him this treat before he growls.
Step
4
People
Condition your Chihuahua to be around other people by re-introducing him to someone he knows. Push his comfort level a bit by having this person sit near him and offer him a treat. Do not try to give the treat directly to the dog right off the bat. This person can lay a treat nearby, enticing your Chihuahua to go get it, and work up to hand delivering the treat to your Chihuahua’s mouth over time.
Step
5
Practice
Keep these things in practice with your Chihuahua, conditioning him to the people, pets, and activities that challenge his safety and comfort levels. Replicate events that make him growl offering rewards as he gets used to these events occurring in his daily life.
Recommend training method?
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Written by Stephanie Plummer

Published: 12/27/2017, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Sam
Chihuahua
12 Weeks
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Question
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Sam
Chihuahua
12 Weeks

My 12 week old chihuahua puppy
Has started growling aggressively. She started doing this about a week ago when my husband would pick her up which she has always been fine with previously. Just the past couple of days she has started growling at myself when I am settling her for a nap, for me it’s slight little growls at the moment but for my husband it is much louder, she will go over to him to cuddle and then suddenly growl at him and a couple of occasions she has gone to nip him. She has never been hurt by us whilst been held etc, I think it’s when she gets over tired and frustrated because for majority of the day she is fine, but this is not a behaviour we want from her. I’m worried that she will be aggressive to our other dog who is as soft as a bottle of pop! We have had her from 9 weeks old and slowly our other dog is accepting her but we are nowhere near a happy ending yet he is nervous as she does chase after him if given the chance so our living room now has gates up to keep them separated but they can still see each other. Any advice would be great!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ann, I recommend desensitizing her to touch more and working on building respect in general. For the touch, use puppy’s daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of puppy's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold her collar and give a treat. Touch her tail gently and give a treat. Touch her belly, her other paws, her chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. If you are having to grab pup a lot to stop things like destructive chewing or other common puppy mischief I would also keep a drag leash on pup while you are home to supervise and make sure it doesn't get caught on anything. When you would normally need to grab pup, calmly go over and step on the end of the leash and pick it up, then direct pup where you need them to go to enforce your boundaries and rules and commands calmly, so you are being consistent but pup not getting as defensive or learning they can get their way by biting. Respect building - I recommend practicing all three commands with pup for a while. Teaching pup commands like Heel, Down, Off, Come, ect..to make communication easier with pup while also building respect through the training practice itself. Having pup work for what they want more by telling pup those commands for them to obey to earn what they want, like sit before tossing them their toy. Using the steps from the consistency method to make sure pup has boundaries - without having to get overly harsh. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you How are you handling the situation when pup growls or nips? You need to be careful not to give pup what they want when they do so - which can teach pup to use their mouth to get their way, but at the same time you don't want to encourage too much defensiveness. With the drag leash on pup, often when pup gets this way, I will stop the physical touch if pup is protesting that, but suddenly switch into training mode to address the attitude - having pup get off the couch or lap they were on, or picking up the leash and going to an open part of the room and practicing pup's obedience commands in quick succession without any treats being given - this should feel kind of like a drill sergeant telling a cadet to do a bunch of pushups. This should be calm but deliberate, then right after, drop the leash, tell pup "Okay" and let pup go back to relaxing. You are getting pup thinking again instead of in fight or flight, adjusting their attitude to you, and releasing any mental pent up energy that needs releasing. The best way to earn respect overall is calm, confident, and consistent interactions with pup. Not angry but also not pitying pup avoiding addressing the issue. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kirby
Chihuahua/Terrier mix
8 Years
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Kirby
Chihuahua/Terrier mix
8 Years

Kirby (brown) and Rocky (white) are rescues (they were rescued together from a puppy mill yard). Kirby growls at me (male) whenever I am near. We have had them several weeks now. Rocky is 3yrs. The dogs were never socialized with people. Kirby is dominant over Rocky. Neither dog would tolerate being touched when we got them. My wife has made friends with Kirby and can Pet him now and he has submitted and will sit on her lap. She is working on Rocky but he is very resistant. OK, the growling at me. When my wife is gone I can be with the dogs all day and Kirby does not growl at me (I am still not able to touch them without a lot of thrashing around, so I don't). When my wife comes home the growling begins. It is like he thinks he is protecting my wife from me. When I am sitting in a chair or lying on the floor they will both eat treats from my hand. Kirby can be growling and then he stops long enough to snatch a treat and then starts growling again. I have had dogs I had to pin to get them to accept me. I don't think this would be right with Kirby. Do you have any suggestions how I can break through with Kirby. i think Rocky will follow then. Lief

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lief, First, it sound like he is actually possessive of her - which is sort of like pup resource guarding due to a lack of respect for her. Pup wanting to stand on her lap can be related to possessiveness too (but isn't always obviously). I would start by having her gently build his respect for her through obedience practice and having him work for things he wants more, so he doesn't see her as something he can own as much, and when she gives him instruction like Quiet -when barking at you, pup will listen to her and take his cues from her more. Building respect for her can also help pup feel more secure by feeling they can trust her leadership and boundaries. Check out the article I have linked below. In this case, I would have her practice the Obedience method and Working method. Building respect through calm, patient, consistent training. Not overly physical, angry, or loud means. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you The following commands can be good ones for her to practice with the dogs gradually. She will probably need to ease into this very gradually due to pups' past. Leave It method - useful when pup is acting defensive toward you or grabbing something they shouldn't have https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method - useful for the barking toward you. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command - good for pup to practice being in the same room as you with structure and calmness without having to be as close to you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay - great for respect in general: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method, also great for respect in general and learning to follow: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method - having pup come to you instead of someone go get pup is less confrontational and scary for a nervous dog. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Off- section on The Off command - when pup is guarding her from her lap, pup needs to get off her and the couch. Possessive behavior means pup looses position and proximity to what pup is possessing. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Drop It – Exchange method- also avoids extra confrontation when pup grabs something they shouldn't have, rather than having to pry it out of pup's mouth. Practiced correctly, this can build trust. https://wagwalking.com/training/drop-it Say Hi/Touch - good for her to practice sending pup to someone new, like you even, to build trust once pup is ready. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fj1oMlfjPZ8 Watch Me - a good, rewarding way to get pup comfortable with direct eye contact - which people give dogs a lot, without realizing it, and can be intimidating for a dog who didn't grow up around a lot of people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zeZrOPzO-c While respect is being built for your wife, trust needs to be built with you. Trust needs to come first. I definitely do not recommend physically rough methods in your case - you are correct that that isn't the right approach here with this dog and their history. You might damage any future efforts if you go that route and you need trust before respect can be built. When you are ready to build respect, I would build that through obedience, calmness, and consistency, like the above advice I mentioned for your wife. To build trust first though, sit down - so that pup is calmer, and toss pup his dinner kibble one piece at a time without making eye contact. Do this as often as you can. Keep enough distance between you for pup to relax enough to eat the food. As he gets more comfortable, decrease the distance by tossing the treats slightly less far, so that pup has to come closer to you to eat them. Watch pup's body language to determine when pup is relaxed enough to decrease the distance - don't rush this process but do practice often at the current distance. You don't want to trick pup into coming close too soon, you want to spend enough time at each distance that you see pup's body language actually relax before decreasing distance again. Tricking pup into coming too close and touching too soon can lead to a fear bite - watch body language to see how you are changing pup's emotions about you. When pup will come within a foot of your chair to eat the food and is relaxed at that distance, start to practice this in other positions like standing up, sitting on the ground or laying down. When you change positions, you will likely need to go back to tossing the treats further away again because the new position will probably make him nervous again. Once pup will go up to your chair when you are sitting or in one of the other positions and is even more comfortable with you both in general, put on a harness or martingale type collar that pup cannot get out of on pup. Spend time slowly introducing the harness using the method from the video linked below once pup is comfortable enough to get closer to you. Your wife may need to start the harness with pup first. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tn5b8u1YS_g&feature=emb_title Choose a secure, front-clip type harness. Ideally, practice this in a fenced in area since pup may be a flight risk. Clip his leash on the harness and go on a walk with pup and your wife. If pup is nervous, stay several feet away while walking in the same direction as your wife walking pup at first - with your wife holding the leash. As pup relaxes during the walk, gradually get closer until your wife can hand the leash off to you and let you continue to walk pup alone - without her. This might take several sessions before you can do that without pup stopping or tensing up when you gets close. Don't rush this - be aware of pup's body language and any tensing up. Definitely practice in a fenced area if available, even though that will mean walking back and forth a lot. Once pup will walk with you and get close to you, practice hand-feeding him the dog food and walking him regularly to develop more trust. When you get that far, also teach him commands and tricks using positive reinforcement to further build trust. Check out the article linked below as well, and be aware of pup's body language and not putting him into situations that might lead to a fear bite. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-socialize-a-shy-dog/ I would practice the training with the dogs both together and alone - since they will respond differently in both situations and you want pups to be good in both circumstances and not only depend on the other and take cues from the other all the time. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Tia
Chihuahua
4 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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Tia
Chihuahua
4 Months

Growling at me and company

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Phyllis, First, check out the free PDF e-book AFTER You Get Your Puppy, that can be downloaded at the link below. www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads Specifically pay attention to the socialization and desensitizing pup to touch and handling tips there. Second, I would consider enrolling pup in a puppy kindergarten class for the socialization benefits. Speak with the trainer before enrolling about your current concerns to make sure their class is a good fit for pup. Third, check out kikopup on youtube and her videos on fear aggression, reactivity, shyness, and socialization. When is pup growling at you? Is it when you touch pup, take something, come toward them, ect...? I am guessing that pup is growling at others due to a need for more socialization. Pup might be growling at you because they associate you with punishment, aren't comfortable being touched, ect...But there might also be additional things that need to be addressed, like resource guarding or other forms of aggression starting. I would need additional information to address pup's behavior more accurately. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Bella Luna Duran
Chihuahua
2 Months
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Bella Luna Duran
Chihuahua
2 Months

She’s starting to growl when we’re just trying to move her from her naps or when I’m holding her and my boyfriend try’s grabbing her and vice versa. Is this normal? I just don’t want her to be aggressive.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Celesta, Without being there in person to hear pup's growling and see pup's body language I cannot say for sure - is the growling aggressive or playful for example? I suspect that pup is becoming overly sensitive to being touched because of some bad experiences with being touched or being a more sensitive pup. It's not something you want because it can lead to aggression, but it's not uncommon with some puppies if you don't practice the right king of touches. If you are using any methods that involve physical roughness with your hands, then I would switch to a different method. Work on getting puppy more comfortable with touch and handling. Use puppies daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of puppy's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold her collar and give a treat. Touch her tail gently and give a treat. Touch her belly, her other paws, her chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Each time you pass pup to another person, have the other person offer a treat first so that pup associates the hand-offs with treats, and begins to look forward to another person reaching for them gently. When you must move pup while they are napping, gently wake them up without touching first, such as by saying their name and tossing a small treat over to them when they look. You want to avoid scaring pup by touching them and startling them while sleeping. Some puppies are more sensitive to being woken up while asleep and can feel like they are in danger if they don't realize its you at first. Feeling stressed about being woken up over and over can cause them to act more defensive about being bothered while sleeping in general. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ruby
Chihuahua
5 Years
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Ruby
Chihuahua
5 Years

Ruby is the youngest of 3 dogs. She has started growling as the oldest Chihuahua which is 8 years old. Both her and Yaani would sit on same bed together when inside, but the other day it started where anytime Yaani moved Ruby would growl causing Yaani to stop and not move. I got another bed out for Yaani which seems to help there. But when Yaani goes outside Ruby wil growl at her or keep walking around her. I dont know what to do as my husband is at the point to sell her. All chihuahuas are full blood siblings from 3 different litters

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Karae, For this issue I do recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression to help you. Working with the trainer I would start by increasing Ruby's respect for you through obedience commands and a lot of structure in the home. I would have you be the one to make and enforce all rules between the dogs. You may need to keep Ruby on a drag leash or wearing a basket muzzle if she has ever shown any form of aggression toward you as well, even if that aggression was redirected toward you while they were fighting with your other dog. When Ruby then tries to control your older dog I would calmly step in, picking up the drag leash and make Ruby be the one to leave the area. If needed I would also do impromptu fast paced obedience drill session, where you run through all the commands Ruby knows in quick succession with little praise or treats - just a calm, matter of fact attitude, to get Ruby's focus back on you and into a calmer mindset again. Working method and Consistency method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you 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 Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark 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 Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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