Introducing Other Dogs

Chihuahuas love other Chihuahuas. Whether they're longhaired or shorthaired, if that dog is a Chihuahua, your Chihuahua is likely to want to engage her in some good old wild Chihuahua play. Introducing two Chis to each other is therefore rarely a problem. The Chihuahuas will want to sniff each other to check each other out, and then typically one or the other Chi will dip into a play bow and the dogs will be off and running.

On occasion, however, Chihuahuas don't get along at first sight. Signs that the meeting is going slightly amiss include rigidness in a dog's body, standing on tip-toes (to look bigger), a stiffly wagging, raised tail, and of course, snarling, snapping, or lunging. Determining why a Chihuahua is aggressive toward another is more difficult. Here are some questions whose answers may provide a clue:

  • Where are you making the introduction? If either Chi is on her home turf, she could be territorial. Try introducing the dogs in a neutral area, such as a park.

  • Is one of the Chis an intact male? Unneutered males show more aggression toward other males than a neutered male would with other neutered males. Intact males are also more likely to show inappropriate interest in females, to which the female will take exception almost every time.

  • Are both Chis dominant, I-want-to-be-the-leader types? If neither Chi will accept a less-dominant role, it could be difficult for these two to play together.

  • Are the Chihuahuas on leash? Many dogs that clash while on leash would meet and greet just fine if both were off leash. Consider introducing dogs in a fenced, neutral location without leashes.

  • Does one of the dogs have something he's guarding? Even a very submissive dog can become quite ugly if he's got a favorite ball, toy, or chew in the area. Make sure there aren't any of these special objects in the vicinity.

  • Is the Chihuahua protecting you? If you are attached to your dog with a leash, this could very well be the case. Again, take leashes off in a neutral place and stand away from your dog.

  • Is the other Chi just not getting it? Sometimes a dog just doesn't understand how to play fair. This is the bully that keeps picking on another dog even after that dog has repeatedly told him to back off. The bullying dog should be removed from play and required to sit in time out until he's settled down. If he continues to pick on the other dogs, remove your dog.

  • Chihuahuas, of course, can and do play well with other breeds. Fearful or timid dogs may not want to interact with any dogs that are very much larger than they are, so these Chis may be more comfortable associating with other friendly toy breeds. Bold Chihuahuas, on the other hand, may be ready to take on the world, whether this is a safe move for them or not.

    When they are young, Chihuahuas from their littermates learn how to play with other dogs. Once they are in your hands, puppies need to play with friendly, vaccinated older puppies and adult dogs. When your puppy has received her vaccination series, her socialization with dogs will continue in her puppy training class and with your continued introduction to friendly dogs.

    If you have a situation in which a larger dog is involved in the play, before you allow your Chi to join in the fun, observe how the larger dog plays with the small dogs. Some large dogs are incredibly gentle and very aware of where their bodies start and stop and sense what would happen if they even nudge a little dog too hard. Most big dogs, however, simply don't realize that they can't use the same force on a little dog that they do playing with another big dog.

    Some breeds and mixes of breeds have very high prey drives. Depending on the game they were bred to hunt and kill, a Chihuahua bouncing in an open area could be mistaken for prey. Dogs of any breed with a reputation for being cat killers should not be allowed with your Chihuahua — to avoid any fatal chances of mistaken identity.

    Allowing your Chi to play with a dog that is substantially larger than she is involves a certain risk. Keep in mind, too, that even the gentlest of dogs could become angered at something your Chihuahua does — though we'd like to think they are, Chis aren't perfect — and decide to make a correction. To another large dog, this controlled chomp would send the message without injury. To a Chihuahua, the correction could literally be fatal.

    When deciding on which dogs you will allow your Chi to play with and which dogs you won't, it is always wisest to err on the conservative side. A large dog doesn't have to have any bad intentions to seriously injure or frighten a Chihuahua.

    When Your Chi Is Dog-Aggressive

    You're walking your Chihuahua on leash and another person approaches you with their dog, also on leash. Your Chihuahua hits the end of the leash, rears up on her hind legs, and begins lunging, snapping, barking, and snarling. What do you do?

    First, count your blessings that the other dog, which outweighs your dog by about sixty pounds, is on leash. Two, be thankful that the other dog doesn't respond to your Chi's aggressive overtures. And three, realize that there's nothing unusual about your dog's behavior. Dog-dog aggression is not fun, but it is a form of aggression that can be worked on and diminished or eliminated.

    To work on your dog's aggression issues, begin by making sure that your Chihuahua knows the “Down” command. This is a position of submission, indicating to the Chihuahua that he is not the decision-maker in this situation. Physically, the down also makes it difficult for a dog to bark or even growl. If your Chi is in a full down with elbows to the ground, she'll be quiet. If those elbows come off the ground, she won't be quiet. If she looks like she's thinking about coming up off the down, give her the command again and make sure those elbows are on the ground.

    When on walks, anticipate meeting other dogs. Know your Chihuahua's comfort zone. In other words, will she remain quiet and just observe another dog if the other canine is fifteen feet away? Twenty feet? Try to keep your Chi at this safe distance when walking past another dog. Talk to your Chihuahua. Tell her just how good she is for being quiet, and reward her with a treat.

    Then begin to breech this safety zone. This time you can anticipate that your Chihuahua will attempt to bark at the approaching dog, so put her in a down-stay. Pay attention to your Chi and not the other dog. Praise and reward your Chi for being so quiet. If she tries to bounce out of the down, move her a little farther away and put her in a down (where you know she'll be quiet). Keep trying to move her closer, and make sure she stays in the down.

    If your dog is progressing well and you're able to keep her in a down while on the same side of the street as approaching dogs, you can begin to try to walk past other dogs. Move your Chihuahua several feet or even yards back into the new boundaries of her safety or nonreactive zone. At this distance, keep your dog close to you but on a slack leash. Ignore the other dog and talk in friendly tones to your Chihuahua, tossing her treats periodically for paying attention to you. If she tries to bark at the other dog, put her in a down. Pause. Praise her for her down, release her, and continue walking.

    Your goal will be to pass by another dog on the same sidewalk without your Chihuahua making a sound. If you've done your training well, she'll have her full attention on you, anticipating your next request. Whatever you do, do not give up on your little guy. The worst thing you can do is not walk your Chihuahua. The second worst thing you can do is walk him but not address his dog-dog issues.

    Too Plucky?

    If you talk to enough toy-breed owners, you're very likely to hear a tragic tale of how a favorite pet was killed by another dog and just how terrible some of these other dogs are. There are stories of loose dogs attacking and killing Chihuahuas while on a walk with their owners. These stories are horrifying and even more tragic because if the other dog had been properly restrained, there wouldn't have been an incident.

    Someone told me my aggressive dog might actually be afraid of other dogs. How can that be?

    Frequently, dogs that are afraid of other dogs will appear to be on the offensive. In actuality, these timid dogs are putting on a good show so that other dogs see them as a dog not to be messed with. The timid dog tends to wait until the dog has passed by before acting aggressively. Give this dog more distance between other dogs on walks, work on meeting friendly dogs off-leash (where she feels she can escape), and don't tense up. The leash is a direct line to your Chi. If she senses you're afraid, she won't realize that you're worried she's going to make a scene. She'll think there really is something to fear and is more likely to appear aggressive.

    However, there are also incidents in which the toy dog was the one that was off leash and that initiated the attack against the other dog, which was on leash. The Chihuahua, along with many toy breeds, is feisty enough and has a big enough self-image (that is, doesn't realize she's sorely outmuscled and outsized) to do something like this. Most dogs, however, whether large or small, are going to respond to being bitten and are going to bite back.

    Do not ever allow your Chihuahua to run off leash. Do work on your Chi's recall so if she slips away you can avoid a serious confrontation. Also, do work on reducing your Chihuahua's aggressiveness toward other dogs.

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