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How to Help a Timid Chihuahua

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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.

Let’s take a look at how to help a timid Chihuahua!

Fawn long hair timid chihuahua on black background

WHY ARE SOME CHIHUAHUAS TIMID?

A shy dog is usually a scared dogChihuahuas act timid when they are afraid of a situation.

If your Chihuahua didn’t receive much socialization as a puppy, they might 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
  • Panting
  • Dilated pupils
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Tucking the tail
  • Urination
  • Attempting to run away
  • Excessive barking
  • Snapping or biting

timid chihuahua under orange blanket

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 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.
timid black chihuahua looking scared

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.

USING THE BODY LANGUAGE METHOD TO HELP YOUR TIMID CHIHUAHUA

When you use this method to help train your Chihuahua, you are basically telling everyone that they need to keep their voices down. You are choosing to use a calming and quiet approach so as not to startle your Chihuahua pup.

Body language has a huge role to play when it comes to your Chihuahua. Since they are such a small breed, avoid bending over to interact with them. Instead, get down to their level this means crouching down on your knees. This will allow a higher comfort level to build, and it won’t seem to your Chihuahua to be overly aggressive behavior.

It is also a good idea to avoid eye contact. Instead of looking directly into your pup’s eyes, try staring at their ears or their paws instead.

HOW DO YOU BOOST YOUR DOG’S CONFIDENCE?

As touched on briefly above, boosting your dog’s confidence is essential when helping them not be so timid. Start with basic obedience training and regular walks. Learn how to respect their fears and allow your dog to set the pace when it comes to getting over those fears. Help him from establishing bad behavior by teaching him basic behavior early on. Help guide him through stressful and scary situations and train them so they know how to handle new situations that may arise.

WILL ANOTHER DOG HELP A TIMID DOG?

Allowing a timid dog to spend some time around other dogs can go a long way in helping them feel safe and lower their stress level. With a little encouragement and comfort, a timid dog can do things you didn’t think were possible for them to do.

However, before introducing another dog into your household, consider what would happen if things didn’t work out as you planned. More time will need to be spent with the dogs, along with some more training time.

Chihuahuas are pack animals and are very social, which is also something to keep in mind. They tend to like only their own breed as well. So, it might not work if you try to introduce a timid Chihuahua to a larger dog of another breed. It might just cause their stress level to rise even more.

FEAR AGGRESSION IN DOGS

Fear aggression in dogs is mostly characterized by rapid nips or bites. It is when a fearful or timid dog feels motivated to bite and then runs away. A lot of the time, this kind of aggression doesn’t come with a warning either. They may not show their teeth or growl before their fear aggression comes into full display.

When trying to tell the difference between fear and fear aggression in dogs, remember that fear is a common cause of aggression. If a dog is scared, it will run away from what is scaring him. This is the fight or flight instinct.

Before a fearful dog bites, they may show some signs of anxiety, make direct eye contact, show the whites of their eyes, growl, and show teeth. However, again, if it is fear aggression rather than fear, these signs may not show at all.

TAKEAWAYS

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.

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Angel Taylor Craig

Thursday 4th of June 2020

I'm having a hard time with him walking on a leash. He (Freddie) absolutely refuses and pulls and jerks away it isn't pretty. I'm not exact on his age he still has baby teeth in the back and of course is teething. He is my very first deer head chi. Any advice? Thank you.

Cathy

Thursday 4th of June 2020

We have an article on leash training that may help you here: https://ilovemychi.com/leash-training-dog/

Jessica

Friday 3rd of April 2020

Hello, I got my deer head chi from a disabled owner who got her from a shelter.no history before shelter but it couldn't have been a good life. 5yr perfect white/cream beautiful female it's beyond me why she was there. The owner before me had trouble walking so she would put her outside to go potty alone new place new yard,new mommy. She must have been terrified.she began to hide under the bed so new "mom" would leave leash on her so she could step on leash before she could make it under the bed??. Then her PCA brought 3-4yr daughter with her to work and both PCA and new "mom" let child have the leash of a terrified senior chi and "walking" more like dragging her through the house 5hrs a day 3-5 day a week. SMH. After 2yrs Chi became defiant and would no longer go potty outside so owner didn't want her anymore.owner was acquaintance of my mother oh, my mother would take out of that horrible home as much as possible. Visiting my mother one day this once in a lifetime chi was there. This chi was extremely drawn to my autistic daughter would not leave her. My daughter has seizures and all of a sudden this chi was crying a licking my daughter's face and began to scratch at my shoes I thought maybe it was playing with me. I said good girl and she barked. Then got down in like downward dog and cried continued scratching I thought I'd better get my child away from this crazy dog. When I stood she barked at my daughter and then my child fell over from sitting with back to me it was very mild seizure and only lasted 10-25 seconds. Did this chi just alert me??? Either way if the owner didn't want her we did! FF 4 1/2 yrs later no more seizures for my daughter but she still alerts to ear infections, flu,colds, any illness really. She won't leave that family member's side. My daughter is 12 now and chi really doesn't sick to her anymore and is now stuck to me. At 1st I was I little worried. Was I sick? My friend (foster for Mars rescue) she well you take care of her needs now daughter is not experiencing the need for her (chi)and dog is like 8-9yrs old now. My daughter misses her tho,like I took her dog lol. I've been having daughter take over all duty's with me at first then slowly staying back. Will me backing out of things will this secure their bond or make our fur baby more anxious?

Picture is of the 1st night home with us. She wouldn't even sleep she watched her child all night!

Cathy

Friday 3rd of April 2020

No, I don't think that will make your chi more anxious since she already knows and loves your daughter. Chihuahuas do seem to focus on one person as "their Human".

Katherine Gentile

Monday 23rd of March 2020

My deer head Chi is extremely timid with me, she refuses to come to me but will go with my grandchildren. She cowers when I call her to come to me, although she does get excited & happy when I get home from work. Why would she do this if I have never mistreated her?

Cathy

Monday 23rd of March 2020

Did she ever have an owner before you? If so, you may remind her of that person.

The other possibility is she sees you as the Alpha and is acknowledging your dominance by being submissive around you.

You can practice with her daily by keeping some treats that she loves in your pocket and calling her several times a day. When she comes to you, praise her in a high baby voice (more non-threatening) and give her a treat. Hopefully if you keep doing this, after a few weeks, she will associate only pleasant fun things when you call her to you.