If your Chihuahua has bitten you, these 7 reasons are the most common reasons why this behavior is happening:
Fear or Anxiety
A dog who is fearful or anxious of a situation may bite if he or she feels cornered. This is why it is common for veterinarians to muzzle dogs when they perform tasks that they will dislike, such as vaccinations or anal gland expressions.
A dog who bites out of fear or anxiety may not have bitten before, and often will have communicated that they were uncomfortable before biting.
Most dogs will also communicate that they are considering biting before doing so, such as by growling and showing aggressive or defensive body language. By carefully observing a dog’s body language, bites may be prevented.
Teething puppies are the mouthiest of all dogs; they will chew on anything that can fit into their mouths, including the hands of their favorite humans. Bites administered by a teething puppy most often occur because they are uncomfortable teething and seeking relief.
Puppy teeth are sharper than adult teeth, so a puppy may do more damage than an adult unintentionally simply because their teeth are more pointy.
Lack of Training or Socialization
If a Chihuahua is not properly trained to follow commands and listen to their humans or is not socialized with humans, they may become aggressive or bite in certain situations.
For example, a Chihuahua who was raised in a home with gentle and respectful children would likely enjoy the company of other little humans, while one who is not used to the frenetic energy of children or one who was abused by a child may be frightened of them and prefer their distance, or bite if they believe a child will hurt them.
Everyone has things that are very important to them, and while humans understand that sometimes we share and ultimately everything will be okay because you can always have more later, dogs do not understand that concept.
For example, a Chi chewing a bully stick knows that he or she is enjoying the bully stick and the chew is his or hers. They do not understand that you planned to let them chew it for a while today, and are saving the rest for another time. As such, they defend the property that they deem theirs. This is called resource guarding.
Dogs perceive territory and threats differently than we do, especially a dog with an unknown or abused background. If a dog believes that he or she needs to defend themself, their family or their home, this is considered territorial aggression.
When a Chihuahua bites, the reaction of the humans involved will impact the behavior being repeated in the future. If a Chihuahua perceives that they were rewarded after biting someone, this is an example of mistaken positive reinforcement training.
For example, if a Chihuahua was sitting in your lap when he or she bit you, you may think that to get them out of your lap without risking a second bite, throwing a treat for them to follow would be a good way to get them away from you without further handling. However, to the Chihuahua, this likely would be reinforcement because they were given food.
In this situation, standing to push the Chihuahua from your lap while aiming for something soft, or only do so from a low position, would be the best way to extract yourself without mistakenly rewarding the behavior.
Some Chihuahuas may try to play with humans and accidentally bite too hard or too roughly. Sometimes dogs may accidentally grab a hand when intending to aim for a toy, while other dogs may try to bite hands as a way to play with you. Most often, a Chi who was poorly socialized with humans may try to connect with people by playing as they would with another dog, which means attempting to bite or wrestle with the most accessible part of you, your hands.
How to Stop the Behavior
While the answer to stopping a Chihuahua from biting is always training, the methods are not a one size fits all answer. Depending upon the why of your dog’s biting, training will look a little different.
Since biting creates a liability for pet parents, it should be considered a serious behavior no matter the size of the dog. As such, act quickly and with the assistance of a professional dog trainer if you are new to dealing with aggressive behavior.
Remember that training a dog correctly the first time is much easier than having to retrain a dog who was not trained properly.
Keep in mind that I am briefly touching on each topic; each one could easily be its own separate article.
Address the Fear or Anxiety
The best way to help your Chi overcome a situation wherein they feel scared or anxious is to make it less scary with positive reinforcement training. For example:
If your Chi does not like riding in the car, think about why. Does your Chihuahua pretty much only ride in the car to go to the vet, which makes them nervous?
The way to overcome this is to make car rides no big deal. Start bringing him or her in the car with you on short errands such as getting gas, dry cleaning, to an ice cream stand, or a drive-thru restaurant. Be sure to make the ride short and sweet, and to provide lots of treats and praise.
Over time, your Chi will not only learn that every car ride does not lead to doom, but they can even be fun!
If your Chi has bitten out of fear or anxiety, you must proceed very cautiously, as you have the potential to make him or her even more scared, which will only result in more biting.
If you are not sure how to address the situation, consult a professional dog trainer before attempting to work on the issue.
Allow Your Chihuahua to Chew
Chihuahuas of all ages, but most especially puppies, should always be provided with an assortment of appropriate chew toys. If your Chi does not have acceptable toys, he or she will find ways to entertain themselves and you probably won’t like them.
By offering chew bones and toys, you are showing your Chihuahua, no not my hand or my shoe, but yes your toy!
Provide Positive Reinforcement
When your Chihuahua does something right, it is a cause for a celebration no matter the size of the victory because it is a step in the right direction! Whenever your Chi does something right, reward with praise, petting and treats to help him or her understand they did what you wanted.
With consistent training, good faith efforts, and praise, your Chihuahua will learn to behave properly because you are communicating clearly with him or her; mommy gets really happy when I chew my bones, but she does not like when I chew her hand.
Provide Exercise and Socialization For Your Chihuahua
It is critical to your Chihuahua’s overall well-being to receive daily exercise and socialization.
Imagine if you were kept in a house all day, never going outside, never meeting anyone new. You would probably become grouchy and bored, right? Dogs can react the same way.
No matter their size, age, or energy level, dogs need daily walks. Of course, some dogs can walk for over an hour while others may only walk for just fifteen minutes, but no matter the duration a dog is capable of doing, it should be done.
It may feel minimal or unimportant to you, but it is likely the highlight of your dog’s day.
All dogs need socialization with a variety of people and animals as well to be able to be comfortable in everyday situations. Try to go for a walk every day in a place where your Chi can meet different people and dogs; it does wonders!
Establish Rules and Boundaries
One of the best ways to stop biting, or prevent it from happening in the first place, is to set firm boundaries for your Chi. You need to establish yourself as dominant in the pack to earn your dog’s respect. Examples of exercises to accomplish this are:
- Have your Chihuahua sit and wait at every doorway; as the alpha in the pack, you walk through the door first. This shows you are leading the pack, literally. If your Chi goes first, he or she will think that they are leading you!
- Have your Chihuahua sit and wait for their food bowl for every meal. If your Chihuahua comes up from sitting before being released, you pick up their bowl and have them sit again. They do not get their bowl until they remain seated and hold eye contact with you, only standing and going towards the bowl to eat when you have given them permission to with a command such as “okay!” or “break!”.
Understanding why Chihuahuas bite is the first step to addressing the behavior; without knowing why you will not be able to properly address the aggression.
Training your Chihuahua is the answer to ending the biting, but the methods will look different depending on why the biting is happening.
This is not a behavior to allow to continue unchecked; it is very important to address it promptly. Consider hiring a professional trainer, and arrange sessions as soon as possible to prevent future bites.