It is terrifying to imagine chihuahuas, that are tiny dogs, weighing not more than 6 pounds, could exhibit various types of aggressive behaviour.
Your Chihuahua is aggressive for a couple of reasons such as fear, insecurity, anxiety and being possessive and territorial amongst other things.
It is important to understand and accept that it is not the dog’s fault, but yours. I know, you may be wondering what I could possibly mean by that.
I would like to point out that dogs are meant to be cared for, trained and raised by us, the owners. They react and behave based on the energy and actions you and your household have exhibited over the course of living and coexisting together as their owner(s) and dog-parent(s).
To better understand your chihuahua’s aggression as well as how to correct it, I have employed my experience of dog-sitting and taking care of aggressive, confrontational dogs, as well as, doing some research to create an informative breakdown of things you need to know and do in the following subtopics below.
I have further broken the subtopics down, into two sections; understanding the problem and implementing solutions.
Section 1: Understanding the Problem
The Small Dog Syndrome
Chihuahuas are tiny little dogs that weigh nothing more than 6 pounds and are 5 to 8 inches in height, this could be an excuse to often ignore and dismiss bad behaviours that larger dogs would be disciplined for.
Small dogs are also known to often exhibit defensive and aggressive behaviours more often than larger dogs would. This could be linked to their small size and their need to compensate for it.
As small dog owners, we tend to fall short in our dog training and punishment, letting bad habits and behaviours slide as being cute or adorable. Habits like your chihuahua snapping, growling and lunging at people and other dogs.
An article in The Atlantic is of the opinion that Pit Bulls are less aggressive than Chihuahua after sampling data a from research carried out by Dognition, where more than 4000 dog owners responded about their dog’s aggression – Out of the 35 most common breeds, Chihuahuas were reported as the most aggressive, especially toward bigger dogs they have not seen before.
Signs of Aggression
There are various signs of aggression that could be exhibited by a chihuahua, these signs can vary and it would be wrong to lump them all together and treat them the same way.
Understanding the root causes of their aggression goes a long way to know what has to be done to control and rechannel said aggression.
Some signs of aggression include:
- Barking at strangers and other dogs.
- Barking at children.
- Barking incessantly at the doorbell.
- Attacking people when they have no reason to be defensive.
Reasons for Aggression
There are various reasons your chihuahua could be exhibiting signs of aggression.
Aggression is not a problem, it is the outcome of a problem.Ceasar Milan
If your chihuahua suddenly starts to exhibit aggression, it is necessary to carry out a medical check to confirm everything is in order. Ask your vet to carry out a full medical check, especially, a thyroid check.
Hyperthyroidism is a condition in dogs where the thyroid glands are not secreting enough of the thyroid hormones, causing your dog’s metabolism to slow. This could result in a sudden aggressive behaviour in your dog.
Hyperthyroidism can be treated by the use of medication such as thyroxine, a replacement hormone compound, to offset your dog’s low thyroid function.
These tests are necessary to both rule out or confirm medical issues and understand how to tackle the various root causes.
Aside from various underlining medical issues that could be affecting your chihuahua such as Hyperthyroidism, we have to look into behavioural and situationally triggered factors as earlier listed at the beginning of this article.
I will be taking them one after the other, summarizing them to make you understand each better:
- Fear/Panic: Take a moment and place yourself in your chihuahua’s shoe by squatting low to its level while you have a friend or family member of yours stand overhead.
You can imagine how ginormous they appear, now, have your friend lean forward and try to pet you. The possibility of feeling like you’re being attacked just doubled.
This is how your chihuahua sees guests that try to pet him, it might feel the need to get defensive and attack.
- Anxiety: An anxious or nervous dog can also be linked to fear amongst other things like past experiences with people or due to the lack of proper socialization.
It is easy to identify an anxious dog by their bark, which is usually high-pitched. An anxious dog is usually stimulated by their eyes and ears, so they tend to keep their eyes fixed at whoever triggers their anxiety.
- Possessive/Over-Protective: Chihuahuas are known to be possessive of their owners, this, in turn, makes them hyperaggressive in most cases. Possessive chihuahuas see their owners as someone they own and have to protect at all cost.
It is unfortunate that most owners think this behaviour is cute and adorable, making them overlook the signs of a dangerous behaviour looming.
- Insecurity: An insecure chihuahua tends to exhibit signs of aggression amongst other signs like hiding, trembling or growling. An insecure chihuahua is also unsure of his/her environment and lacks self-confidence amongst other things.
A chihuahua may be insecure due to stress, heat cycle, age-related degeneration and a lack of leadership.
Section 2: Implementing the Solution
How to Control your Chihuahua’s Aggression
Never punish nor scold your chihuahua if and when it shows signs of aggression, this will only escalate its anxiety and insecurity, thereby doing nothing to solve his aggressive behaviour.
There are various methods of controlling and fixing you chihuahua’s aggressive behaviours and in this section, I will be listing them out.
The various methods to help control your chihuahua’s aggressive behaviours are:
Socialization is an organized exposure of your dog to different people, places, sights, and sounds in a non-threatening and positive environment.
This is important in ensuring your dog grows up happy, confident and well-adjusted.
For an aggressive chihuahua older than 3 months old, socialization should be done in a neutral environment such as the local park, this removes the tendency of your chihuahua getting territorial.
Carefully introducing your chihuahua to new people, dogs, sound and sight could help it overcome anxiety and fear amongst other things that could be responsible for its aggression.
2. Positive Reinforcement
Never yell, hit nor scold your chihuahua harshly, as this would only escalate its anxiety and stress levels. Shock collars are completely out of the question as they do more harm to your dog.
Reward your chihuahua with treats and praises for positive behaviours and progress. This will help in retargeting your dog’s association on what it needs to do for praises and treats.
It is important to never reward aggressive behaviours by picking your chihuahua and petting it. This would most likely be reinforcing its anxiety.
3. Use Distraction
When a situation is escalating, distractions can be employed to return things back to a manageable state.
Some distraction techniques are:
- Using a whistle or a noisemaker,
- Saying No as firmly as possible with a stop hand gesture,
- Practice tricks or ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ commands, rewarding compliance.
- Use a toy such as a kong toy, stuffed with tasty treats. This could be used to take the focus off the stressful situation or trigger.
4. Change Environment
When your chihuahua’s aggressive behaviour gets out of control, physically removing him/her from the situation can help in reducing its stress and anxiety levels.
This can be taking him/her into another room, or placing him/her in a dog crate to cool off.
5. Establish Leadership
With aggressively possessive and territorial chihuahua especially, exerting yourself as a pack leader could really help in controlling your chihuahua better. Remember dogs are descendants of wolves.
You can do this with feeding; eating before your chihuahua, in front of him/her, will indicate that you are in control of its ability to feed, what it eats and when it eats and as such exerts you as the leader of the pack.
With the above methods being summed up, let’s take a look at some select aggressive situations and what you could do to control it.
Controlling a Possessive and Overprotective Chihuahua
Possessive and Overprotective chihuahuas are as a result of their owners letting them exert their dominance as pack leaders. Letting them get away with bad habits overtime which effectively emboldens them to believe their actions are just.
If your chihuahua attacks people when they sit next to you or try to touch you, here are some actions you can take to correct their aggressive behaviour:
- Understand and accept that you have been fostering and permitting the behaviour, knowing or unknowingly.
- If your chihuahua attacks people while sitting on your laps, you need to say bad dog ( or dog’s name) while dropping them quickly, every single time, without fail off your side. Don’t toss or shove him/her, just quickly and gently drop him.
Timing is essential because if you wait too long, the situation could escalate. So, do it immediately he gowls or shows its teeth.
- Do this every time without fail. It is important to do this 100% of the time until your chihuahua understands its place in the pack/household and that its action would result in losing your attention.
- Alternative actions would be to use a dog crate, keep him behind a barricade or quickly standing up, walking away and ignoring him/her.
- When your chihuahua doesn’t react aggressively, praise him and give him a treat.
Controlling a chihuahua that Bark at the Doorbell and Visitors
To control the situation where your chihuahua would bark at the doorbell and at visitors, you have to realise your dog is most likely under immense stress and might also be due to the fact it is lacking adequate exercise.
Check out the various exercises you can do with your chihuahua to keep mentally and physically fit HERE
To control its incessant barking, you should carry out the following judiciously:
- Have someone ring your doorbell and leave. When your dog starts barking, take him/her to the door on a leash so he/she can see there’s no one at the door.
- Repeat the ring again but this time try to distract him/her by refocusing his/her attention back to you with a sit or stay command. Reward him/her for compiling and lead him/her to the door to see no one there.
- Repeat this exercise until your chihuahua becomes less reactive to the ring of the doorbell.
- It might get boring but don’t relent as dogs are animals of habit, they tend to repeat behaviours that are rewarding.
When you show your chihuahua that there could be another outcome to a trigger, it helps take the trigger off.
Chihuahuas that Barks, Lunges and Nips at People and other Dogs
Socializing and exercising your chihuahua can be a great way to tame their aggressive behaviour towards people.
Take your chihuahua on walks, play a game of fetch, let it run around the park amongst other games, to help them burn up their pent-up energy.
An exercised dog is calmer and can focus better on commands and its owner. Thankfully, a chihuahua doesn’t require too much exercise due to their tiny nature, so play with them often to them exercised and then resume training and socialization.
In conclusion, dogs are animals of habit, understanding that would go a long way in training and remodelling their behaviour how you want.