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Chihuahuas: Petite Pups, Big Training Challenges

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When considering adding a Chihuahua to your family, you must get to know the breed to be sure it is a good fit. Chihuahuas are often more difficult to train than other breeds. Consider these reasons why Chihuahuas are hard to train to see if these are reasons that you believe you may be able to overcome to properly train your Chi:

Most Chi parents will run into these issues during training sessions with their Chihuahuas:

black chihuahua in grass

Napoleon Complex

As a breed, Chihuahuas often have a “Napoleon Complex”, which means they can be bossy, domineering, or aggressive, because of their small stature. Chis with this head honcho attitude can end up running their human’s home with an iron paw that only accepts their way or the highway.

This breed is best suited to humans who can maintain healthy boundaries with themselves as pack leader. This means not “babying” your Chihuahua and holding them accountable for good behavior through training and consistency.


Due to the Chihuahua’s shoulder height of 5 to 8 inches estimated by the American Kennel Club (AKC), it can be tricky to reward good behaviors promptly; it can take a moment to get out a treat, then get it down to your Chi, which if not done quickly, can miss the window of time wherein your Chihuahua would understand what behavior was being rewarded.

A good way to overcome this is finding a way to reward efficiently without having to first dig for a treat and then having to stoop over, such as putting dog-safe peanut butter on a spoon. Or just praise your fur kid like they just solved world hunger.


Some people may baby their Chihuahuas due to their small size and end up treating them like a Teddy bear. They may spend lots of time holding their Chi, which means the dog does not receive very much training. When this happens, unwanted behaviors tend to surface and then stick quickly. Thereafter, training becomes more difficult.

long hair chihuahua baring teeth

Resource guarding

As a breed, Chihuahuas are prone to resource guarding. A Chi who is constantly held and babied may begin to snap at people who get too close to their human, or if a Chihuahua has a chew toy or treat that they do not want to share, they may snap at people or animals who get too close to their valued item.

This behavior is called resource guarding, as they are guarding the person or item that they consider to be their valued resource.

This behavior cannot be ignored, as it is a liability to have a dog who will bite people and other animals. In most cases, resource guarding takes significant training to overcome and is best handled with the assistance of a professional dog trainer, as the average pet parent may struggle to work through it.

Tips For Training Chihuahuas Successfully

Consider these tips as you begin training your Chihuahua to get ahead of, or push through, any issues that you may encounter.

Be patient and consistent

Training takes time, practice, and consistency to be successful. It will not happen overnight. Be willing to put in the effort, and with time, you will see the fruit of your labor.

long hair chihuahua in pink coat looking at the treat hand is holding

Find high-value treats and use them the right way

As money talks to people, really good food talks to dogs. If you want to effectively communicate that a behavior was correct, you must have a high-value reward. It is not enough to simply have really good treats though; you must use them the right way.

Reserve these high-value treats only for training sessions to keep them of high value in your Chi’s mind.

Especially with these high-value treats, but even with regular treats given separately from training sessions, treats should never be given for no reason or they will lose their value. If you want to give your Chihuahua a treat outside of a formal or focused training session, ask him or her to perform one simple command in exchange for the treat.

Remember that your Chihuahua’s job is being well-behaved, and treats are his or her compensation. It is not being mean to make your Chi work for treats; it is providing mental stimulation. Life is boring without any purpose not just for us but for dogs too!

fawn chi looking up

Do not be afraid to seek professional help

Chihuahuas have one of the longest life spans of all breeds of dogs; the American Kennel Club (AKC) estimates their life span to be 14 to 16 years but they can live to their 20’s. If you are struggling to coexist with your Chi in your home, that would be a long time to deal with unwanted behaviors.

A professional dog trainer can help you get through rough patches and get you and your Chihuahua to a point where your bond can grow even stronger.

Some dog people really love their dog’s companionship while others enjoy training. Basic dog training is always a part of responsible ownership, but some pet parents take it a step further with more advanced training and tricks.

If your dog is a little trickier to train than basic obedience and dog training is not your thing, there is nothing wrong with seeking the assistance of a professional dog trainer.

Taking a group class is a good opportunity for socialization and seeing the perspectives of other pet parents. However, if your Chihuahua has a specific behavioral issue that must be addressed, hiring a professional dog trainer for private sessions is recommended, as you would not be able to get very much one on one assistance in a group class.

dark chihuahua puppy in dog bed in car

Final Thoughts

Chihuahuas can be difficult to train due to the “their way or the highway” personalities prevalent in the breed, or because of how humans baby them. If you have fallen into a rut with your Chi that you are struggling to get out of, consider enrolling in an obedience class or hiring a private professional dog trainer to work through it. Your bond will grow stronger on the other side of your training sessions!

Cathy signature with cartoon chihuahua
blond woman holding white chihuahua

Cathy Bendzunas

Pet Blogger

I have had dogs all my life. I have been a pet groomer, worked in a pet hotel, and a kennel, and have bred and showed dogs.