How to Prevent Your Chihuahua from Behaving Badly

Chihuahuas have gotten a reputation as yappy, high-strung dogs, and thanks to celebrity trends, tend to be treated by some people like fluffy little designer handbags.

However, in spite of all the bad press, with the right care, Chihuahuas can be wonderful, well-behaved pets. Read this article to learn how to behave so that your Chihuahua does too!


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    Research the breed. The American Kennel Club (AKC) describes the breed as "alert, projecting the ‘terrier-like’ attitudes of self importance, confidence, self-reliance." Though these traits can look cute when coupled with a five-pound dog, Chihuahuas have a tendency to become dominant and controlling if they aren't provided with a strong pack leader - and though Chihuahuas are naturally affectionate and loyal, their mischievous side can lead them to exhibit bad behavior. Unfortunately, because of the increase in popularity Chihuahuas have been receiving, more "backyard breeders" have started breeding low-quality Chihuahuas with poor tendencies of being extremely shy or vicious. Always purchase a Chihuahua from a responsible, high-quality breeder, or adopt one from a reliable shelter.
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    Recognize how people often behave around small dogs. People tend to have completely different approaches to behavior from small and large dogs, and this can lead to accidentally reinforcing bad behavior from Chihuahuas. If a German Shepherd growled at a dog in the dog park, for example, the dog would be immediately corrected. If a Chihuahua did the same, people might remark on how cute it is that the Chi thinks he's a larger dog than he really is, or the owner might even scoop him up to "protect" him. Avoid making the mistake of treating a Chihuahua like a baby, instead of a dog - correct your Chihuahua if he behaves badly.
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    Understand dog pack hierarchy. Dogs retain instincts such as the instinct to live within a pack with definite rules and a leader. Domesticated dogs replace the pack with their human family, and expect the alpha of the pack to take control. If your dog believes that you're weak or unable to protect the pack, he'll take over for you! Because we're a different species, it can be hard to distinguish what behaviors count as weak and our desire to see behaviors differently from what they really mean can hamper our ability to properly control our canine companions.
    • As an example, imagine a dog begging at the table. The dog paws at his owner's leg, staring pleadingly up at his owner. He jumps up so that his paws are on the owner's knee and makes eye contact. The owner, whether seeking to spoil or humanize the dog or from feeling guilty or exasperated, throws the dog a piece of beef. From the dog's point of view, he just invaded the owner's personal space by pawing and jumping at the owner's leg, which is a dominance signal, made strong eye contact, which is a dominance signal, and forced the owner into submission (the owner gave him food). The dog may now regard the owner as weak.
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    Socialize your Chihuahua. Socialization is about introducing your dog to various parts of life - taking your dog to a park, introducing him to a young child, and so on. Socialization is extremely important for puppies, and it doesn't stop there - adult Chihuahuas should be provided with new sights and sounds as well. If your Chihuahua is scared by something, resist the urge to comfort and cuddle him; instead, gently but firmly require that your Chihuahua face his fear, whether he's walking on a slippery floor or being pet by a stranger.
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    Walk the dog! Though Chihuahuas generally do provide for their exercise needs through play and activity around the house, always take your Chihuahua on a daily walk. Not only does this provide extra exercise (which is helpful, since Chihuahuas can get chubby easily), it stimulates his mind, socializes him, and if done correctly, reinforces your status as alpha. Your Chi should be in the heel position whenever being walked. In packs, alpha dogs lead the way, and your Chi will see being allowed to walk in front of you yet another sign of your inadequacy as pack leader. The same goes when passing through doorways: go first, and have your Chi follow.
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    Train your Chihuahua. Chihuahuas are highly intelligent dogs (if somewhat stubborn), and training is recommended to stimulate their mind, increase your bond, and to keep them out of mischief. Using a positive reinforcement system that requires your dog to think for himself - such as clicker training - is your best bet. Start with simple tricks such as sit, down, stay, come, and heel, and then the sky's the limit - try crate training your dog, or training it to jump on his hind legs!
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    Toughen up. Chihuahuas are experts at puppy-dog looks, but sometimes it's important to put your foot down and say no. Though you should always treat your Chihuahua well, sometimes you have to skip the extra treat and give your Chi a bath, even if he really doesn't want one. Learn how to be assertive, and know when enough's enough.
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    Teach others. Spread your new-found Chihuahua knowledge around - by doing anything from teaching a young girl that Chihuahuas aren't toys to training your Chihuahua to compete in a dog sport, you'll spread love and respect for this wonderful breed. Most of all, help people learn that Chihuahuas are not vapid accessories for celebrities and fashionistas but are actually wonderfully intelligent little canine beings.


  • When walking your Chihuahua, using a harness is recommended as the Chihuahua's neck is very delicate.
  • Avoid the urge to carry your Chihuahua in your arms, a purse, or a stroller; let your Chi walk!
  • Chihuahuas are sensitive to the cold, and should not be kept outside. On chilly days, put a dog coat on your Chi. If you know how to knit, crochet or sew, you can have a lot of fun making your dog's own specialized coat.
  • Chihuahuas tend to attach deeply to one person, and can become protective of this person; to prevent this, socialize your dog thoroughly and train him well. The wish to have the dog attach only to you is a self-absorbed attitude that can bode badly for the dog should anything happen to you or if you need someone else to care for him, so resist this temptation!


  • Be careful with your Chihuahua; though they should be corrected with a "No!" when appropriate, they are very small and delicate and should be treated with care (to an appropriate degree).

Things You'll Need

  • Obedience classes
  • Clicker training knowledge
  • Harness for walking
  • Treats for training

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