How to Train Chihuahuas
Chihuahuas can be wonderful dogs that bring a lot of fun and joy into your life. However, they can be strong-headed and independent, so thorough training is a must. To train your Chihuahua properly, you should focus on rewarding its good behavior and getting it used to a wide variety of people, places, and other animals. With a bit of dedication and persistence, your Chihuahua can be a well-trained and beloved member of your family.
1. Get treats to use in reward-based training.
Purchase training treats for your dog at your local pet store or from an online retailer. Chihuahuas tend to respond really well to rewards-based, positive, upbeat training. This type of training rewards positive actions and behavior instead of punishing bad behavior.
- Ask your vet for suggestions of healthy treats to use with your Chihuahua.
- There are a wide variety of commercial treats available that dogs tend to love and that are low in calories. These are often called “high-value treats.”
2. Start training your Chihuahua when it is young, if possible.
You should start training a puppy when it is about 8 weeks old. The training sessions at that age will be very short but they will set the groundwork for later training and behavior.
- A training session for an 8-week-old puppy will only last a few minutes. For instance, work on getting it to connect the word “sit” with the action of sitting. When the puppy sits, say the word and pet the dog or give it a treat. That can be the whole training session.
- However, if you get a Chihuahua when it is older, you should still work on training. It's never too late for a dog to learn new tricks.
3. Make training sessions short and action-packed.
Give your dog some downtime before you try to teach it anything. You want it to be well rested and ready for some activity when you do training. When you have a training session, work on keeping the dog’s attention and making the activities fun.
- If the dog is tired, it may have a hard time paying attention to your directions.
- While you’re working with your chihuahua, get down on the floor level. These little dogs can feel intimidated if you are towering over them.
4. Give your Chihuahua a treat when it does something that you want it to.
Chihuahuas are smart dogs that quickly understand and respond well to positive praise and treats. Once your Chihuahua understands that its actions cause you to give it treats, it will do it again to get the reward and praise.
- Transition from a food treat to praise and affection as your Chihuahua learns your commands. For example, when your dog sits on command say "good dog" enthusiastically and pet it for a moment. This will help keep your Chihuahua’s diet healthy and will minimize the chance of your dog developing food obsession.
5. Teach a variety of basic commands.
Start by teaching your Chihuahua the command for “sit.” Once the dog responds to that verbal command reliably, then you can move on to others. Some commands that a Chihuahua can learn and that will be helpful for you include:
6. Have realistic expectations.
Training a Chihuahua takes time and patience. A dog is not born understanding your words and body language, so it will take time to teach them. Don’t expect perfect behavior and understanding right away. Also, make sure that you are light-hearted and forgiving when your dog makes a mistake or regresses in its training.
- This is especially important when training puppies, as they are young and will not learn as fast as adults.
House-Breaking Your Chihuahua
1. Take your Chihuahua to go to the bathroom at reliable times all day.
You should walk your Chihuahua about 4 times a day (morning, noon, evening, and before you go to bed). The reason you should aim for the same time each day is so your Chihuahua will know about when it can go the bathroom and how long it has to hold it.
- If you know you're going to be gone when you and your Chihuahua usually walk, then ask your neighbor to walk it for you or hire a dog walker.
2. Direct your Chihuahua to the same bathroom spot every time.
Pick a spot in your yard or on your street where you want the dog to go to the bathroom. Go through the same door to the same place every time so that your chihuahua can get your routine down pat!
- Once it connects the action and time to the action of going to the bathroom, it will be easier for you to connect a command to the action of going to the bathroom.
3. Give positive reinforcement when your dog goes to the bathroom outside.
Tell it “good dog” and give it a pat on the head for a job well done. If you show the dog that it has done the right thing by going to the bathroom outside and that it will get praise when it does that, it’s more likely to repeat the behavior.
- Try bringing out a treat every time you want the dog to go to the bathroom. Only give the treat if the Chihuahua goes to the bathroom quickly right after you give it a verbal command to do so.
4. Reprimand and move your Chihuahua outside if you catch it going in the house.
It’s important to let your dog know that it shouldn’t go to the bathroom inside. Firmly tell it “no” and then take it immediately to the spot where you want it to go to the bathroom if you find it in the act of urinating or pooping.
- You should just show it your disapproval with your words, not hitting or any other physical violence. Your Chihuahua will understand your tone and if you hit it, the dog will begin to mistrust you.
- You have to catch your dog in the act of going to the bathroom to redirect it. If you find urine puddles or feces in the house, it’s too late to punish and redirect the dog because it won’t understand why it is being punished. You will need to wait until you catch the dog in the act.
- Don’t yell at your dog if you catch it going to the bathroom inside. This will simply make the dog scared of you and it won’t understand why you are yelling and mad.
Controlling Your Chihuahua's Behavior
1. Socialize your Chihuahua.
Chihuahuas may be aggressive to unknown dogs or people if they are not used to interacting with strangers. Make sure your Chihuahua is exposed to a wide variety of places, people, and other dogs from the time it 12 weeks to 12 months old.
- You can do this by taking it to a dog park or taking it to another family's house. Just make sure to have your Chihuahua on a leash.
- Make sure that your puppy is vaccinated before letting it interact with other dogs and before taking it to places that dogs often go, such as a dog park.
- Keep in mind that it's better for you to socialize your dog when it is a puppy, but it is never too late to try to socialize a dog better.
2. Let your Chihuahua know that you are in charge.
Chihuahuas are notorious for walking into a house and thinking they are the leaders. With this in mind, you want to show your dog that you are the pack leader as soon as they walk through the door. To do that, make them wait for permission to eat or to do things like jumping on a bed. If they don't wait, take away their food or take them off the bed.
- However, you want to show kindness and that you can be trusted as a good pack leader as well. Give your dog love and affection in addition to being firm about your expectations for their behavior.
- You can help prevent your Chihuahua from developing “small dog syndrome” by expecting the same level of obedience that you would from a Doberman or Rottweiler.
3. Give your Chihuahua its own space.
Make a safe spot where your Chihuahua can go to have some private time or where it can go when it is scared or feels angry or threatened. You could buy or make your Chihuahua a nice soft dog bed. Even a blanket on the couch or easy chair could work.
- Just make sure your Chihuahua can be safe in the spot you give it and that it has easy, constant access to the space.
- If you want to crate train your Chihuahua, consider setting up its private space in the crate. Keep the door to the crate open but put the dog’s bed, toys, and a blanket in there to make it a comfortable space for the dog to get used to.
4. Stop bad behavior immediately.
Biting, growling, and unnecessary aggression with food are all behavior problems that should not be ignored. To stop your Chihuahua from acting that way say, no in a stern, clear voice until your Chihuahua stops. If your Chihuahua continues, remove it from the situation and redirect its behavior towards something it likes to do.
- If you don't redirect and correct that behavior, your Chihuahua will learn that it is perfectly OK.
- Chihuahuas may not be good for families with very small children because a child might handle the chihuahua too roughly.