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If you’re familiar with the smallest of the small when it comes to dog breeds, you’re probably keenly aware of the tiniest breed’s tenacious reputation. The Chihuahua is generally the king of the Napoleon complex, carrying himself with a certain amount of power and strength that is obviously apparent… to no one except him. Chihuahuas can seemingly take on anything, even dogs much bigger than themselves.
There are, however, quite a few individuals who sit on the other end of the spectrum. Timid and shy, these Chihuahuas prefer the comfort of one or two people and little else. For an outgoing owner, a shyness may hinder their Chihuahua from being social and interacting with other people or dogs. Or that shyness may eventually develop into fear and aggression. Luckily, though they may be stubborn, Chihuahuas can also be fairly receptive to training and, with enough patience, can blossom into friendly and all-around polite companions.
Training a Chihuahua who is set in his ways may prove to be a bit of a challenge. Smaller breeds can be hard headed and very rooted in their habits, though that’s not to say that socialization later on in life is impossible. While beginning your dog on socialization sooner rather than later is always preferable, there are steps to take towards a much more gradual method of getting him used to being friendly with others.
It’s worth keeping in mind that late socialization of any breed may take longer than if it were done during the puppy stages. For Chihuahuas, in particular, you may need anywhere between one and three months before you see some progress. Though it may be tempting to rush, don’t push beyond your dog’s ability. Your patience will eventually be rewarded with positive progress.
For starters, you’ll want to get together plenty of treats and toys that your dog loves. These things should be especially fantastic and should be able to draw your dog’s attention even when there are distractions. Special treats like dog-safe meats and veggies that have been cooked are particularly useful and keeping a solid rotation of new or interesting toys can come in handy. Keep these items on you during your training sessions to use as rewards and reinforcement. After all, you’ll want to keep your socialization sessions fun.
The Meet and Greet Method
Go for regular walks
Take your Chihuahua out around the neighborhood or other areas where you may run into other people. Find plenty of opportunities to practice socialization.
Stay at a distance
When you first start, try to maintain several yards between you and other people who you pass by. This can help your dog adjust to seeing strangers nearby without outright confronting them.
Keep introductions simple
As you work your way up to closer meetings, keep them quick and stress-free. Say hello, give your pup a moment to sniff or investigate before moving on after a few seconds. Don’t prolong the meeting, as that may overwhelm your dog.
Offer positive reinforcement
Offer treats during your walks when strangers pass by or during your introductions. These treats should only be used during these encounters so your pup begins to look forward to them.
Visit friendly spaces
Once your Chihuahua begins to get more familiar with the process of socialization, take him to new places such as pet stores or dog-friendly restaurants. Explore lots of avenues for meetings and always offer a positive experience.
The Visitor Method
Be prepared for guests
Know when people are going to drop by your home, if possible. If you can prepare the space for a meeting between your Chihuahua and your guests, it can mean the difference between a pleasant encounter and a stressful one.
Have treats and toys available
Place a bowl of treats or a box of toys near the main room in your home or the entryway. This can allow for your guest to offer rewards during their visit.
Provide an escape
If your dog becomes overwhelmed, have a space in another room where he can go and relax. This can be just a small area in your bedroom or a crate.
Keep guests informed
Let visitors know that your pup is shy or timid. This can help them keep their own behavior in check and recognize that he may not want too much attention.
Share a mutual space
Have another area in the shared space where your pup can go to put some distance between himself and your guest while not leaving the room entirely. Set this area up with plenty of toys or snacks to entertain your Chihuahua and provide a good experience while your visitor is in the same room.
The Body Language Method
Keep the volume low
Ask guests, visitors, or strangers to keep their voices down to avoid startling your Chihuahua. A quiet and calm approach works best for shy dogs.
Get down to the proper level
Remember that your Chihuahua is very small in comparison to most people. Asking people to crouch down or get onto their knees when interacting with him can help your dog feel a little more comfortable with meeting new people.
Direct eye contact can make dogs nervous. Inform others to direct their gaze at your pup’s ears or paws instead.
Know when to back away
Let people know that if your Chihuahua is moving away or trying to hide, that he may not be ready to meet them. Recognize his personal space and be sure to encourage others to not press him beyond his comfort level.
Focus on familiarity
Let your dog learn to smell and investigate people near the back of the hand before they reach to give him pets or affection. Focusing on proper introductions can give him the ability to discern whether or not he wants to be petted later on.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 04/06/2018, edited: 01/08/2021