Q & A — Aggression

I adopted a 3 year old chihuahua from Miami 6 months ago. He has been a good boy except when he tries to attack anyone who gets close to my daughter. I can’t talk to her other than from a distance, bring her food to the table, etc, without him trying to bite me. He has bit me twice and also bit my 6 year old son. When my kids are with their dad he behaves perfectly. I honestly don’t know what to do.

It sound like you need to start back at square one and get a small crate for him to aid in retraining. Check at PetSmart for the small plastic sided crates, as they give a greater sense of enclosure compared to a crate with wire bars—the crate should be large enough for him to stand up, turn around, and arrange himself comfortably. Put a bed and a soft blanket for him to cuddle in the crate, then start getting him accustomed to spending time in the crate by giving him a tasty treat as you put him inside. 

Ultimately, you want his crate to be a positive, safe place for him. Don’t let the children hit or strike his crate, pick it up, or shake it, as that will make him fearful and cause him to create negative associations with his crate. And any time you put him in his crate, even when you are doing so as a repercussion for unwanted behavior, try to remain perfectly calm and neutral as you put him in it—don’t shove him in angrily or yell at / scold him as you put him in.

Now, with all that said, once you have prepared a crate for him, start confining him to his crate any time you are too busy to directly supervise him and / or when he misbehaves. Growling? Immediately but gently and calmly pick him up and take him to his crate, put him inside, close the door, and leave him there (you can leave his crate in the kitchen or another room where the family isn’t present) for 10 – 15 minutes. Do not let him out until you can hear that he has settled down and is calm in his crate.

Once he is allowed out, maintain close supervision again and if he does something unwanted, same thing: immediately and calmly take him to his crate for quiet time by himself. 

In addition to using a crate as I’ve outlined, you should also be in charge of his food. I don’t know if you are feeding kibble or homemade food, but feedings should happen at two regularly scheduled times each day. I feed my pair of chihuahuas in the morning and evening, for instance, with a small snack or some treats midday if they need something to tide them over. Fresh veggies like green beans, broccoli florets, slices of cucumber, bell pepper, etc. work great as low calorie snacks for midday munching.

Using his food and / or desirable treats as needed, work on training him to obey some basic commands. Sit is a good command he should obey prior to his main meals being put down. You can also teach him to shake / give paw, lay down, turn around, and not to touch food or a treat that you set on the floor until you give him the okay. Again, for example, I can put a piece of bacon or any other delicious treat on the floor in front of my dogs, tell them no / wait, and then stand up / step away, and they will not touch it until I tell them ‘okay, go ahead’.

Chihuahuas, and most dogs, are extremely food motivated. When you control their food and can command them not to touch it without permission, it shows they respect you as the alpha / leader. So between controlling his food, teaching him some basic commands / tricks, and using his crate as a safe place for peaceful quiet time, you can correct the unwanted behaviors.

Hope that helps!

We just got a new chihuahua yesterday. We have a chi-weenie that is primarily chihuahua and she has been the best dog ever. The new dog we just purchased is 4 months old and has basically lived in a cage it’s entire life.

1) We have a toddler that does pretty well with our other dog. Sometimes he will try to kiss the dogs and our other dog does great, this new dog has tried to bite /attack him multiple times. Will this get better or is this something I need to be concerned about?

2) We have potty trained multiple dogs and have always been very successful. It is cold where we live right now and our new dog REFUSES to pee / poop outside. She has even been pooping right when she comes inside from the outside.

Any advice in these areas?

Time, patience, and consistency with regard to the potty training. Constant supervision of the toddler around the dogs. Children are a threat to small dogs,  especially chihuahuas. The growling / nipping / biting is her trying to tell the toddler to back off / stay away because she feels threatened. 

Even well behaved children are a danger to a chihuahua and need to be supervised 100% of the time when they are around them; a child can easily squeeze the dog too tightly in a hug, or drop it accidentally instead of setting it down gently, step on it or kick it without meaning to, simply because they are kids and the dog is very small—those accidents can seriously hurt the dog, which is why the dog tries to warn the child off by growling or biting.

Even teenagers can be careless with small dogs; my husband’s best friend tossed the family chihuahua onto the couch from a few feet away, not meaning in any way to be cruel or harsh, but the dog landed wrong and limped for 6 months afterwards. It was a complete accident, and that was with a 16 year old boy who loved dogs and had been around them since childhood.

For the time being, try to give the new pup time to settle in. If you have a garage or shed outside where you could put a pad, that may be a halfway solution for potty time, until the weather warms up and she can get used to going outside. If you want to soldier through with training her to the outside now (during the winter), make sure she doesn’t freeze (put a sweater on her if needed) and just stay outside until she does her business. Some dogs only poo once a day, others will go almost every time you let them out, so pay attention and learn her poo habits—my girl goes once a day, usually in the morning after breakfast, so I stay outside with her until she goes or I’m convinced she really doesn’t have to, at which point I pay close attention to her so I can take her out when she does need to go.

A gentle belly massage can also help move things along so she feels the urge and goes outside, but mostly you’ve just got to stay with her and direct her to potty until she does. Try not to get annoyed or aggravated, as it may take a while, and if you get stressed she’ll pick up on it and it’ll make her stressed too. Hope some of this helps, good luck!