Chihuahuas are small and lightning fast. If your Chi wants to make a break through the front door when you are talking to someone, has a tendency to scramble out over you when you're letting her out of the crate, or is impossible to catch when you're opening the car door, you know just how difficult it can be to handle a Chihuahua that has learned the art of bolting.
As with most unwanted behaviors, preventive training is the easiest way to avoid the problem entirely. With a pup, you'll want to begin training her to wait whenever you open the crate door. Begin this by gently restraining your puppy while saying, “Wait.” Pause and then give the release command, “Okay!” and let your puppy come out and receive lots of patting, stroking and a little treat.
Continue this exercise until your puppy is no longer pushing against you and seems to have caught on to the “Wait” command. Open the crate door and say “Wait” with your hand up (as if you're a traffic guard signaling “Stop”). Pause, and give the release command. Praise and treat such a smart puppy!
Your goal is to work up to being able to give your pup the “Wait” command before you've opened the crate door and have the pup know to stay in his crate with the door wide open until you've given her the release command.
When boarding your trained Chi at a kennel, or if you have someone come to your home to care for your Chi, be sure to tell this person your Chi's release command. Owners who have trained their dogs to wait when a crate or kennel door is opened have recounted stories of the dog refusing to budge when the boarding kennel staff didn't know the proper release command.
First of all, your Chihuahua should always be riding in a secured crate in your car or be trained to wear a safety harness that is designed specifically to attach to a seatbelt and restrains your Chi in this way. Bolting from a car should therefore not be too much of a problem.
However, bolting from an opened crate door can be a problem, particularly when the Chi squirms around and you can't get a leash fastened to her collar. Use the same training principles as you would for the “Wait” command; your goal will be for your dog to stay in her crate, allow you to fasten a leash to her collar, and then be released.
Begin training as you would with the simple “Wait” command. Make sure your Chi understands this and will sit with the crate door wide open when you are inside your home. Then, with your Chihuahua in her crate, gently restrain her (in case she anticipates the leash as her release command), and repeat the “Wait” command once again as you fasten the leash to her collar. Pause. Then release your Chihuahua.
When your Chihuahua is reliable at this level (gets it right at least nine out of ten times), you can work on the same exercise with the crate in the car. If at any time your Chihuahua anticipates the release (and tries to bolt), take her training back a step until she's solid once again on the basics.
It can be downright impossible to grab a scrambling Chihuahua that's determined to slip out the front door and take a run about the neighborhood. With larger dogs, you can usually grab a collar before they burst through the door. But you'd have to be exceptionally fast (not to mention limber) to block a single-minded Mexican torpedo on legs.
If your Chi is solid on her “Wait” command when exiting the crate, you can transfer this training to the front door. A few feet from the door, attach a leash to your Chihuahua, give her the “Sit” command, and then tell her “Wait.” Pause and give her the release command. Praise and reward.
When she's solid with this (nine out of ten repetitions), repeat the exercise. But this time, take a step toward the door and then back to your Chi before you release her. Praise and reward. Only when she is reliable with this (again, nine out of ten times), move your Chi one step closer to the door. Tell her to “Sit,” “Wait,” pause and remain in place, praise and reward. Once she's got this down, add taking a step to the door and step back. Then, add grabbing the doorknob and stepping back. This would be followed by stepping forward, opening the door slightly, closing it and stepping back. Your ultimate goal is to be able to open the door, step through the door, turn around and come back to your Chihuahua without his breaking the “Wait” command.
Though it sounds as if this training process of taking incrementally tiny steps would take forever, it doesn't. It allows you to take your Chihuahua as fast as she is able to learn while minimizing her opportunities to fail at any step.