By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
Are Chihuahuas easy to train?
It depends on what you want to train them to do. Potty training a Chihuahua can be very difficult – in fact, Chihuahuas are one of the most difficult breeds to housebreak.
Training a Chihuahua not to bark sharply at every little thing she sees or hears can be difficult – this breed is extremely alert and observent, quick to notice anything that seems "different".
Training Chihuahuas to be friendly (or at least accepting) of strangers and strange dogs can be difficult – a few Chihuahuas are naturally friendly, but most are at least reserved, while many are downright suspicious.
But training Chihuahuas to fit well into your household, listen to you, and be well-behaved is not difficult at all....provided you insist that they do so right from day one. Chihuahuas, you see, can obey you while still maintaining their comical and entertaining personality.
Owners who want to spoil their Chihuahua by treating him like a little baby and allowing him to do whatever he wants usually end up with a Chihuahua who is skittish, nervous, excessively dependent, or downright nasty. These owners give our breed a bad name. Chihuahuas do not need to turn out like this....it's all up to you.
So when you ask, "How easy is it – training Chihuahuas?" my answer is, "Housebreaking, barking, and socialization can be a challenge, but getting them to listen to you is not difficult. But a lot depends on the temperament and personality of the individual dog, plus your own dog training skills."
That's where I come in. Keep reading my dog training articles (and hopefully buy my book, "Teach Your Dog 100 English Words") and I will help you train your Chihuahua to be well-mannered and well-behaved. I've been working with dogs for 35+ years, as a dog trainer, canine psychologist, breed advisor, and author of 15 books about dogs.
Dog Training – What Works, and What Doesn't
Some dog training methods are based on what makes the OWNER feel good, rather than what on actually makes sense to the dog. For example, "positive-only" dog training is a big fad right now. Now, treats can be great motivators for training Chihuahuas, but if your dog will only obey for a treat, then HE is in charge of his obedience, not you. [read more]
Here are my dog training tips for training Chihuahua puppies and adult dogs:
Teach your Chihuahua how to stay alone. That sounds odd, I know. But many Chihuahuas are overly dependent and tend to bark and chew things up when they're lonely. So you don't want to leave your Chihuahua alone too much (more than four hours a day is too much). But you do want to leave him alone sometimes so he doesn't become so dependent on you that he CAN'T stay alone without pitching a fit or becoming fretful, a behavioral issue called "separation anxiety." So you shouldn't stay with your Chihuahua all the time, or cuddle with him all the time. Instead, you need to train him to be independent, to stand on his own four feet and find things to do on his own. Teaching healthy independence to your dog is covered in my dog training book.
Teach your Chihuahua puppy to respect you. Respect is the key to training your Chihuahua to be well-behaved. [read more about Respect Training]
Teach the right words to your Chihuahua. My method of training Chihuahuas includes teaching specific words in specific ways so that your dog not only learns the words but also develops the respectful attitude that makes him happy to obey you. You will need to work especially hard on "Quiet" (because Chihuahuas can be hyper-alert and thus noisy). "Enough" is an important word for your Chihuahua to learn. Chihuahuas often demand attention and too-frequent cuddling. This isn't psychologically healthy for your dog because it can lead to separation anxiety when you're not around. [read more about teaching words to your Chihuahua]
Stop searching for dog training tips for each behavior problem. Honestly, one of the most common questions owners ask me is: "How can I stop my dog from doing (some specific behavior)?" They're hoping I'll tell them where to find a secret button on the back of their dog's head that will trigger a MISBEHAVIOR-OFF switch. :-) Alas, my answer is almost always the same, no matter what the misbehavior is. Here it is.... [read more about stopping dog behavior problems]
Start training your Chihuahua puppy the moment you bring him home. But you need to teach the right things in the right ways. If you use the wrong teaching method, your puppy will begin making decisions about how he wants you to fit into HIS life, and that's a recipe for conflict and behavior problems. Here's my recommended schedule (what to teach, when to teach it) for training your Chihuahua puppy. [read more about training Chihuahua puppies]
Start housebreaking right away. But expect it to take many months before your Chihuahua's miniaturized internal organs are strong enough for reliable control. During these many months, your Chihuahua must not be loosed in the house. It is so easy for them to sneak behind a chair or under a small table, and it takes only a few seconds for the deed to be done. The results can be hard to see and when you don't see it, you don't correct it – and so the bad habit becomes established. If you live in a cold or rainy climate, housebreaking will be especially difficult, because Chihuahuas hate both the cold and the rain. A COVERED potty area is strongly recommended. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary so your Chihuahua can run outside the moment he feels the urge.[read more about housebreaking Chihuahuas]
Socialize your Chihuahua puppy with strangers and other dogs. Chihuahuas can be standoffish, and if you don't teach them early on to be friendly and trusting toward people they don't know, their natural caution can become skittishness or suspiciousness, which are no fun to live with. Similarly, you need to teach your Chihuahua puppy to be calm and accepting toward other dogs. Many Chihuahuas will put on a display of excited ferociousness ("pitching a fit") when they see a strange dog, especially a large one. It sounds funny, but if you don't curtail it firmly, your Chihuahua may end up truly aggressive, which is likely to get him killed by a larger dog. [read more about why your dog acts the way he does toward strangers and other animals]
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