Aggression in the Chihuahua
A snappy Chihuahua? Really? Absolutely! This breed is recognized for attaching very strongly to one individual. This is so true the Chihuahua can become aggressively protective of her person and will growl, snap, and charge anyone who dares to come near. This can be a real problem for anybody — even those who live alone.
Preventing this form of guarding requires the same dedication that a person would need to prevent a large, guarding breed from becoming overly protective. The way to teach your Chi that people are friendly and good is to introduce her to as many friendly strangers as possible early on in her life. You want her to recognize an outstretched hand as a sign of a yummy treat rather than an act of aggression.
What your Chihuahua interprets as acts of aggression are not necessarily what any person would interpret as threatening. When working on socializing your Chihuahua with friends, make sure they understand what actions your Chi will think constitute bad behavior on their parts and which movements may increase the probability of her acting aggressively toward them. Any of the following may be interpreted by your Chi as aggressive actions:
Reaching to pat on the head
Direct eye contact
Squatting to the dog's level
Sharp, loud, or deep voice
Leaning over the dog's back
Going nose to nose or face to face
Breaching the boundaries of your Chi's space or specific comfort zone
Everyone loves a puppy, and Chihuahua puppies are no exception. A puppy's first twelve weeks are her most impressionable as far as imprinting social behaviors, so take advantage of this time period! Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, bring as many friends into your home to meet your puppy as you can. Make sure your friends know to allow the puppy to make the approach and not to attempt to pet her. Give your friends little delectable treats to offer her when she comes close. Once she's really warmed up to a person, then she can be given a pat. If she is still skittering away when she sees a hand, have your friends go back to ignoring her and allowing her to make the approach again.
Take your Chihuahua with you in the car whenever possible so that she can see people and places out of the home. If she acts aggressively to people as they pass by your car windows (as in a parking lot), she must know that this is not allowed. Do not yell at her because this will only excite her more. Put her in a down (See Chapter 14, page 195). Wait a moment to make sure she remains quite and then praise her for the good down and reward her.
The reason a Chihuahua that is showing aggressive tendencies is put into a down rather than a sit is twofold. First, the down is a position of submission, which reinforces that your Chihuahua must listen to you. Second, it is very difficult for a dog to bark when she is in a down, so you quickly achieve a quiet dog that can be rewarded for her appropriate behavior.
Until your puppy is fully vaccinated, she is vulnerable to several lethal canine viruses. For this reason, your puppy shouldn't touch the floor in places with a lot of dog traffic. Carry her into the veterinarian's office, have her ride in the cart at the pet store, and keep her in a carrybag from which she can peek out and see what's going on without setting foot in high dog-traffic areas.
Additionally, taking a puppy out of her home on a regular basis tends to lessen the pup's territorial aggression or her possessive protection of her home and yard. Taking regular walks, car rides, and visits to other locations, such as parks, can all help in broadening your dog's horizons, so to speak, and lessen her focus on protecting house and home.
If you've adopted an adult Chihuahua from a rescue or a shelter, you won't have to worry about her showing signs of possessive aggression immediately. She is still working on developing a bond with someone in your household, most likely the person who spends the most quality time with her. This is the critical time period to make sure the Chihuahua does not develop an attitude about other people in the home.
From day one, everyone in your home, as well as those who come to visit on a frequent or infrequent basis (such as the babysitter), should spend time socializing with the new dog and forming a solid friendship. These people should also be able to give your Chihuahua basic commands, such as sit, down, give, and stay. Not only will this give them a little more control over the dog, it will also establish their leadership position with her.
You'll also want to take time walking your adult dog outside the home, taking her for car rides, and visiting other places for play and training sessions. The more time you spend out of the home with your dog, the less territorial your Chihuahua will be of what she considers her space. Also make sure to exercise your Chihuahua. A lot can be said for a tired dog versus one that has pent-up energy and anxieties.
If your Chihuahua has already developed possessive aggression with an individual in your family, seek professional assistance in retraining your Chi. Never jeopardize the safety of anyone in your home. Though a bite from a Chi may not seem too serious, it can be not only physically scarring but emotionally scarring as well.