Any Chihuahua owner will tell you that their pup has a big personality. Chihuahuas can be feisty, quirky, friendly, bold, timid, sassy or even snarky.
That’s part of why the breed is so darn lovable: every Chihuahua is different in their own way.
That said, sometimes a personality trait goes too far.
Overly-timid Chihuahuas can be hard to train. They can have obedience issues in public and may lash out at friends or family.
It’s hard to see your Chihuahua be so fearful. Fortunately, Chihuahuas are a trainable breed. Any shy Chihuahua can come out of their shell with proper training and encouragement.
Why are Some Chihuahuas Timid?
A shy dog is usually a scared dog. Chihuahuas act timid when they are afraid of a situation.
If your Chihuahua didn’t receive much socialization as a puppy, they may be fearful of other dogs or new people.
Perhaps your Chihuahua is only timid in public. Loud cars, bright lights and big crowds can be terrifying when you’re only nine inches tall!
Shyness is sometimes a learned behavior.
It’s natural to comfort our dogs when they are afraid, but treats and snuggles reinforce a Chihuahua’s fear response. They learn that timid behavior leads to a desirable outcome.
Some chis, just like some humans, are just naturally shy. You can’t change their personality, but you can help them to be more comfortable around others.
Finally, shyness may be a sign of a bigger issue. If your Chihuahua is normally bold and brass but recently began acting timid, he or she may be sick or injured.
You know your dog best. Any out-of-the-ordinary behavior warrants a visit to the veterinarian.
Is Shyness Normal in Chihuahuas?
It is perfectly normal for your Chihuahua to prefer your company. Maybe you are the proud owner of a “velcro-dog” that is glued to your hip 24/7.
If you haven’t used the restroom alone in years, you know this type of dog.
So, do you always need to train away shyness? PetMD doesn’t think so.
If your Chihuahua is otherwise happy and content, extra training is not necessary.
But if your Chihuahua’s timid behavior interferes with everyday life, they will benefit from a little help overcoming their fears.
Signs of Shyness in Chihuahuas
Always remember that a shy dog is a scared dog.
A timid Chihuahua will behave as if they are being threatened.
There are several ways that a Chihuahua may display shyness:
- Ears lying flat against the head
- Dilated pupils
- Avoiding eye contact
- Tucking the tail
- Attempting to run away
- Excessive barking
- Snapping or biting
Can Chihuahuas Gain Confidence?
A dog’s personality will never be fully changed by training. The success of training depends on your Chihuahua’s age, socialization and life experiences.
However, even the shyest dogs can learn to trust a handful of people.
Take Mia for example. She is an elderly Chihuahua that has struggled with timidity and anxiety for most of her life.
Well-timed treats and smart practices went a long way for Mia. She was able to gain confidence and behave calmly around a new person after a single training session.
How to Train a Timid Chihuahua
Training your timid Chihuahua can start today.
Stop comforting them when they act shyly. It may be counter intuitive, but comforting a shy dog does more harm than good.
When you comfort a timid dog, they interpret your behavior as reinforcement. They believe they were right to be afraid of the situation.
Instead, ignore your Chihuahua’s shy behavior and reward curious behaviors.
Ignoring a shy behavior shows your Chihuahua that they have nothing to fear. In short, they learn that nothing bad is going to happen.
Eventually, your dog will tire of being ignored and grow curious.
Curiosity shows that your Chihuahua feels comfortable. They may sniff a new person or explore a new area.
Always reward curious behavior! Your Chihuahua behaved bravely, and you want them to know that you approve.
Add structure to your timid Chihuahua’s schedule. Obedience training builds trust between a dog and its owner. This trust can then be expanded.
Even simple rules and boundaries may help your Chihuahua feel comfortable in scary situations.
Shyness in Public
Is your Chihuahua a ball of energy at home but shy in public?
Exposure therapy may help. This strategy gets your dog out of its comfort zone in slow, manageable steps. Consistency and patience are key.
Take your dog into public every week. Start in small increments: a 10-minute walk is better than spending an hour at your favorite pet-friendly restaurant. Your Chihuahua will slowly be desensitized to outdoor stimuli.
Bring a handful of treats with you every time you train your Chihuahua. High-reward treats should reward curious, social behaviors. If you approve of your dog’s actions, let them know.
Chihuahuas thrive with encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Go somewhere new every time you take your Chihuahua out of the house. Exposure to different types of situations will strengthen your bond with your Chihuahua.
Remember to train at your Chihuahua’s pace. If an outing is too much, never be afraid to go home early.
Shyness With Guests
Training your dog to be comfortable with guests is similar to training them to be comfortable in public. You will work in small increments and reward positive behaviors.
Start small. Invite a guest to your home for 10 to 15 minutes, and let them know you are training your Chihuahua.
Your home is your Chihuahua’s safe space, and too much exposure to a new guest will hurt their training.
When your guest arrives, slip them a dog treat to give your Chihuahua.
Smelly treats like bacon work best. Reward curiosity and ignore shyness. If your Chihuahua sniffs your guest’s shoes or walks over to them, have your guest give them the treat.
Your Chihuahua will come to associate new guests with treats.
When your Chihuahua is comfortable enough to lie down next to a stranger, you have succeeded with training.
Don’t be discouraged if training doesn’t work right away. Every Chihuahua is different. They all have their own time-table.
The most important thing to remember is that your Chihuahua loves you. They trust you, and they will grow to trust others as well.
At the end of the day, a timid Chihuahua is still your best friend.