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How I Potty-Trained my “Impossible” Chihuahua

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If you are having a potty training issues, check out this guest post on what worked for Emily.
If you are having a hard time house training your dog, you may want to try this method.

I adopted Luna from a PetCo event in Denver in August 2018. Her pregnant mom had been taken to a “high-kill shelter” in Texas, where she was thankfully found and brought to Colorado to find a home.

It was love at first sight when I saw her in that cage at PetCo, but to say Luna had issues when I first got her is an understatement.

 

For weeks she was incredibly destructive, completely hyper and had zero concept of potty training. She 100% refused to go outside, even after being crated. Even the dog trainers I brought in were perplexed by her behavior.

I became so frustrated with her at one point, that I’m sorry to say I almost took her back to the shelter.

After doing some Googling, I found out that potty training (and aggression) are the main reason that many Chihuahuas are taken to shelters.

I refused to give up, and after a few more weeks of literally trying everything, I finally cracked it. This is how I did it.

  1. Crate training is everything.

It turns out I hadn’t been crate training her properly. I’d only been half doing it, as I’d feel sorry for her.  In order for to work, despite what some other blogs might tell you, you have to do it intensely for a few weeks.

  1. Make sure they sleep in the crate overnight. They will always want to go first thing in the morning so therefore this is the most critical time to train and reward them. I would literally put on my robe and take her outside as soon as I woke up. 
  1. If they don’t pee or poop, return them to the crate again immediately then wait 1-2 hours more before you try again. Keep repeating until they finally go outside.  They are then free to play for an hour. Then, take them outside. If they don’t go, return them to their crate.
  • Commence crate training on the weekend. If you work during the day, see if a friend or family member can continue the crate training or walk your pup in your absence.

For more detailed information on crate training click here. 

white and tan chihuahua pooping

  1. Find out where their “favorite spot” is.

Luna will only pee and poop on nice, green grass. Figure out where your chi likes to pee and consistently take them to that spot. Walk them back and forth around the same spot until they go.

  1. Give the best treats.

Upping the ante (as they say in Poker) works wonders. I switched from giving her a regular dog treat to using fresh chicken or cheese. It made a big difference.

The treat was given to her, along with lots of fuss and encouragement, within a second of her either peeing or pooping.

  1. Do not use pee pee pads.

You want to create an environment where it is not OK, at all, to go in the house. According to my trainer, pee pee pads only confuse pups by giving them the impression that it’s OK to go in the house. It also encourages them to go on other soft surfaces such as sofas and beds.

discipline

  1. Its OK to tell them off (despite what other blogs might tell you)

If ever I caught Luna peeing inside, I would tell her off and immediately (“Luna NO”), then take her outside. I could always tell when she was about to do it as she’d skulk and sniff around.

After following this routine for around 2 months, Luna is now 100% potty trained. I started seeing a dramatic improvement after just a few days. Her other behavioral issues have also subsided and she’s now a real sweetheart.

 

Kisha

Monday 2nd of October 2023

You "Wonderful Person" are a life saver! I have two Chi pups and I was dying inside with the efforts to training them. I think this will work! THANK YOU!

Kim

Friday 26th of January 2024

I do crate my Chihuahua, but it’s more of a doggy playpen than a crate he does use his puddle pad. I did just get him and I’m eager to see if bell training will work. I have put a bell on the back door and hope to get him to use it when he wants to go outside. He is very smart. It took me one day to teach him how to sit And one day to teach him when I say get in your house he will get in his kennel I work five days a week, and I do use the puddle pad system right now. It is winter and too cold for him to go out.

Cathy Bendzunas

Monday 2nd of October 2023

Let us know how it works out Kisha, and remember to be consistent and don't give up.

Saturday 30th of September 2023

I can't belive I got reusable pee pee pads for my chi it's just a waste of money this will help a lot thank you Emily for sharing this with us

Cathy Bendzunas

Saturday 30th of September 2023

I'd save the reusable pads cos they come in handy when it's raining or when you are traveling.

Eva

Friday 29th of September 2023

While I found your Potty Training Post interesting and may be helpful to those Chi owners who use a crate at all. I don't believe in confining my Chi or any other of my dogs over the past 40+ years. I use the intense training by using the same words,ie., "outside", "go potty". Using high praise and love and play after the deed is done. I take them outside immediately after night sleep, naps, water, and or food. While outside, I encourage with "go potty". When finished, the words are "go in". This technique works within 3 days. Never an accident. The key is patience and consistency. Never reward with treat. I've been raising dogs for show in my home. Never kennel over 40 years. I believe crating may cause a dog to become neurotic and impatient. This may also lead to a physical inability to hold. After training is completed, my dogs have always had free roam of the house and are able to go out anytime they wish, even during the night. My dogs are happy, friendly and loving and non-destructive. I've also discovered over the years that a dog is only as smart as the owner allows them to be. We can train any behavior with consistency and patience. Owners who generalize that certain breeds are dumb are the ones who don't understand the proper way to get the behaviors they want. BTW: I used this same technique when potty training my children. They were completely trained out of diapers by age 12 months. I'm certain there are many opinions on what does and does not work with potty training. This is simply my opinion and experience.

Cathy Bendzunas

Friday 29th of September 2023

I actually never crated mine either but when mine were puppies I was always with them. Crates are great for people who are out of the house and can't be there to watch them all day.

sandy

Saturday 8th of July 2023

they can be hard to potty train but after you break through they are very loving and fun dogs and fun to have around. They sometime take a little longer than alot of other dogs, but so worth it.The most important thing is alot of love and praise and of course the good treat will almost always get you the behavior you are looking for. They also need to know when you are unhappy with their behavior. My two hate when they get the stern mommy voice.

Cathy Bendzunas

Sunday 9th of July 2023

Well said Sandy!

Amy Davis

Tuesday 26th of April 2022

Everytime we take our 8 wk chihuahua outside to do her "business" on the grass, all she does is play (no matter how long we have her outside) and when we bring her inside, that's when she pees and poops

Cathy

Friday 29th of April 2022

That's got to be extremely aggravating Amy. Sometimes it seems like they are trying to drive us crazy.