If you are considering bringing a Chihuahua home to your family, you’ll want to take a closer look at what it might be like to train him. Chihuahuas are notorious for being difficult in a few ways, so educating yourself on how best to handle these issues should equip you to effectively train your tiny friend.
Find a Good Bloodline
There are so many Chihuahua breeders out there that there’s an incredibly wide variable in genetic temperament, and that’s the very first thing you should be aware of. Though all breeds will take on the characteristics of their bloodline, the Chihuahua is particularly susceptible to this on a more extreme level, perhaps because the “worst” of the breed can be incredibly difficult in many ways.
This means that your first goal in training a Chihuahua should be to ensure you find a bloodline that’s well known for their trainability and a general easy-going nature. Training and socialization are vital to your success in having a well-mannered Chihuahua, but there’s no amount of training or socialization that will change the inherited temperament of your dog.
So, though some breeders will charge less for their dogs, make sure you select a breeder based on bloodline, not on price alone, to ensure you’ll be bringing home a dog that has a good shot at decent adult dog behavior.
What’s Easy and What’s Not
Find a great bloodline, and you’ll find that there’s still going to be some obstacles in training (though that’s common no matter what breed you’re training). For the Chihuahua particularly, you’ll find that training him to listen to you is relatively easily. He aims to please the one he considers his owner, and he’s incredibly alert, obedient, and loyal out of respect and love; just ensure that your tone is firm yet positive with this little guy, and that you rely on positive reinforcement more than discipline.
The biggest challenges in training a Chihuahua will be barking and housebreaking – two things that take direct and intentional confrontation to meet with success.
Socialize, Socialize, Socialize
Socialization is a vital part of training with most breeds, and this is no different for the Chihuahua. Though the Chihuahua is small, you should never underestimate his big personality and the fact that it might just get him (and you) in trouble if it’s not been socialized enough.
The Chihuahua is, by nature, incredibly loyal to his owners, so he can be a bit standoffish towards strangers and other people entering the home. He’s known for being sassy, which, at its worst might translate to “snappy” (biting), so the owner needs to make sure that he spends a good amount of time around other people and dogs as a young puppy to ensure he adjusts well to other people and dogs later in life and understands which behaviours are inappropriate. Even still, it’s important for the owner to know that, while you can work with him on not being “snappy”, no amount of socialization will knock the attitude out of this little guy! Expect even the most well-behaved Chihuahua to bark often, but know that socializing will help ensure that he settles (and quiets) right down when he sees that the “intruder” is a welcome guest.
One of the reasons that housebreaking can be difficult for this little guy is because his internal organs as a puppy are so small that it often takes months for them to strengthen to the point that he’s able to control them. Because the Chihuahua is so tiny, he often runs to relieve himself in hidden places: under beds, behind sofas, in corners… and every time he’s able to do this without your intervention, he feels more secure doing it and a bad habit is formed.
For this reason, your Chihuahua should never have the run of the house as a puppy, and should be closely watched. He also really hates being cold, so he tends to try to avoid going outside in less than ideal weather – as a puppy he’ll avoid doing this as much as possible.
Many Chihuahua owners find that the answer is to create an indoor potty area – a small patch of grass or covered litter area that’s tucked away for the Chihuahua to access indoors at any time. If it isn’t preferred for the Chihuahua to eliminate indoors, it’s strongly recommended that an owner install a doggy door so the Chihuahua has quick access outdoors and can come in immediately without having to wait.
Your Role – Don’t Spoil and Be Patient
If any of your training efforts are going to be successful, you need to refrain from any desire to baby your Chihuahua. Yes – they’re tiny creatures that are adorable and quirky and fun to dress up and cart around, but keep in mind that too much of a “good thing” will turn into a bad thing when it comes to spoiling your little friend.
Many people fall into the trap of seeing these small dogs as babies or puppies well into the adult years, and they treat them accordingly: carrying them everywhere, dressing them up, doting on them and never bothering to teach them appropriate behaviours. If the dog were larger, this would not be acceptable behaviour, so what makes it acceptable for smaller dogs? Rest assured, babying your Chihuahua in this way will ensure that he grows up to be an entitled and stubborn dog who acts of his own free will, not according to yours.
Teach Him to Be Alone
The last thing you’ll want to teach your little friend is how to be alone. Even if he’s well trained, you’ll find that he definitely prefers your company over being alone, and over anyone else. Be that as it may, it’s unrealistic to think you’ll be able to be attached at his hip. If you want him to continue to be well adjusted when you’re not around, and to not bark or chew excessively, you’ll need to intentionally work with him on being alone. Start small by leaving him for minutes at a time, and work up to hours. Every time you come back and he’s behaving, reward that behavior. Though it’s normal to leave your dog for 3-4 hours at a time, Chihuahuas generally won’t do well consistently being left alone for this long on a daily basis.