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Chihuahuas are insanely cute, but despite their very small size, they can have a reputation for being a bit out of control. Chihuahuas are an ancient breed, originating from Mexico. They come in a variety of colors, two coat types, and several head types, but one thing all Chihuahuas have in common is their miniature size. To be registered with the AKC, the Chihuahua can be no more than six pounds. While many pet dogs grow larger than this size, in general, we can assume our Chihuahua will be pint-sized.
Despite their miniature size, Chihuahuas are full of charisma. They can seem fearless as they take on people and other dogs much bigger than them with tenacity.
Though it may not be obvious while your Chihuahua is a puppy that basic obedience will be important, Chihuahuas benefit greatly from obedience training. Training will develop self-control and build confidence, both of which are extremely important for your Chihuahua.
It is best to start obedience training while your Chihuahua is young and eager to learn, and before any problem behaviors have arisen, but even if your Chihuahua is older she can readily learn basic obedience. Before you can begin obedience training, you should establish where your dog is with trust and confidence with you. If she is skittish or wary of being touched, or if she is prone to growling or nipping, it is best to address those issues before beginning basic training. Acclimate your Chihuahua to your hands moving around her body and to watching you in anticipation of a treat before you ask any behavior of your Chihuahua.
Depending on what motivates your dog best, treats, toys, and affection can all be useful for training. Since Chihuahuas are so small and gain weight easily, it is best to use very low-calorie treats or even your Chihuahua's own kibble as lures and rewards in training. Chihuahuas have delicate necks that can easily be injured by a neck lead, so always use a well-fitted harness that puts no strain on the neck when leash training.
Chihuahuas are eager to please as well as being sensitive and somewhat prone to being fearful, so be careful during training that your pup is enjoying the activity as much as you are.
The Lure and Reward Method
Sound means reward
Choose a sound, either a clicker or beeper or a spoken word, and repeat the sound, giving your Chihuahua a reward whenever she hears it, until she is looking to you for the reward whenever she hears the sound.
Train 'watch me'
Ask your Chihuahua to "watch me" and reward her for looking at you. Ask her to 'watch me' to get her attention during training.
Lure, praise, reward
Lure your Chihuahua into the desired position, using a reward as bait. As soon as your Chihuahua is in the position, make the sound for a reward and give a reward.
Name the behavior
Once you have successfully lured and rewarded a few times, say the name for the behavior as you begin to lure.
Ask for the behavior
Once your Chihuahua is confidently being lured into the desired position, ask for the behavior before luring. If your Chihuahua doesn't perform the behavior, go back to luring first for awhile before trying again.
The Capture the Behavior Method
Get reward when you hear the sound
Accustom your Chihuahua to getting a reward whenever she hears a particular sound.
Wait for behavior
Wait for your Chihuahua to perform the desired behavior. This is a good way to train dogs who are nervous about being worked with.
Reward the behavior
As soon as you see the desired behavior, make the reward sound and give your Chihuahua a reward.
Give a command to the behavior
Soon your Chihuahua will be volunteering the behavior in hopes of receiving a reward. When she does this, begin naming the behavior when she does it, then making the reward noise and rewarding.
Request the behavior
Try asking for the behavior before your Chihuahua does it, and see if she makes the connection. If not, wait for her to do it herself before naming and rewarding the behavior again. Do not repeat the command or it will become meaningless to her.
The Model Behavior Method
Form a bond
Spend time with your Chihuahua until you are very close, and she wants to follow you and be close to you all the time. Chihuahuas are naturally very loyal, so many are prone to this anyway.
Model a behavior
Model a simple behavior like lying down or going backwards. Make the behavior seem like a game to your Chihuahua.
When your Chihuahua does the activity as well, reward her enthusiastically and model the behavior again to see if she will mimic you again.
Once your Chihuahua is copying you, name the behavior as you are doing it.
Ask for behavior without modeling
Once your Chihuahua seems comfortable with the behavior, ask for it by name without moving. If your Chihuahua hesitates, move a little to remind her, and if she is still uncertain, go back to doing it with her for some time before trying again.
By Coral Drake
Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021