Even the best dogs with the best owners can sometimes do the worst things. Too often distraught owners get their training advice from the next-door neighbor or dog trainers who don’t have a scientific background in dog behavior. Veterinarians can sometimes offer advice, but few are extensively trained in behavior.
Fortunately, great strides have been made in recent years in canine behavioral therapy. Before despairing, consult a certified canine behaviorist, who may employ a combination of conditioning and drug therapy to achieve a cure. As a first step in any serious Chihuahua behavior problem, a thorough veterinary exam should be performed.
If your previously house-trained adult Chihuahua begins to urinate or defecate in the house, it could indicate a physical or emotional problem. A physical examination is warranted any time a formerly house-trained dog begins to soil the house. You and your veterinarian will need to consider the following possibilities:
- Older dogs may simply not have the bladder control they had as youngsters; a doggy door or doggy litter box, plus a veterinary exam, are well recommended
- Older spayed females may “dribble”. Ask your veterinarian about drug therapies.
- Frequent urination of small amounts, especially if the urine is bloody or dark, may indicate a bladder infection. A veterinary exam is indicated
- Sometimes a house-trained dog will be forced to soil the house because of a bout of diarrhea, and afterward will continue to soil in the same area. If this happens, restrict the dog from that area, deodorize the area with an enzymatic cleaner, and revert to basic house-training lessons.
- Male dogs may “lift their leg” inside of the house as a means of marking it as theirs. Castration will often solve this problem; otherwise, diligent deodorizing and the use of some dog-deterring odorants may help.
- Submissive dogs, especially young females, may urinate upon greeting you; punishment only makes this submissive urination even worse. For these dogs, be careful not to bend over them or otherwise dominate them and to keep greetings calm. Submissive urination is usually outgrown as the dog gains more confidence.
- Some dogs defecate or urinate from the stress of separation anxiety; you must treat the anxiety to cure the symptom. Dogs that mess their cage when left in it are usually suffering from separation anxiety or anxiety about being closed in a cage. Other telltale signs of anxiety-produced elimination are drooling, scratching, and escape-oriented behavior.
One of the most common, and commonly misunderstood, dog behavior problem is home destruction. Even a tiny Chihuahua can do considerable damage when properly motivated. Owners too often assume their dog is spiting them for being left. They’re wrong. Owners who continue to believe this erroneous idea never cure their dogs.
Separation anxiety: Being left alone is stressful for highly social animals, including dogs. Chihuahuas and their people tend to bond closely, and Chihuahuas often become so dependent on their people that they are highly stressed when those people are gone.
They react by becoming agitated and trying to escape from confinement. Perhaps they reason that if they can just get out of the house they will be reunited with their people. The telltale signature of a dog suffering from separation anxiety is focus of destruction around doors and windows. Most people punish the dog for this behavior. Unfortunately, punishment is ineffective because it increases the anxiety level of the dog, as she comes to both look forward to and dread her owner’s return.
The proper therapy is treatment of the dog’s fear of being left alone. This is done by leaving her alone for very short periods of time, gradually working up to longer periods. Take care that the dog is never left long enough to become anxious during any sessions. When you return home, refrain from a joyous reunion scene.
No matter what the condition of the home, greet the dog calmly or even ignore her for a few minutes, to emphasize the point that being left was really no big deal. Then have her perform a simple trick or obedience exercise so that you have an excuse to praise her. It takes a lot of patience, and often a whole lot of self-control, but it’s not fair to you or your dog to left this situation continue.
Entertainment: Not all home destruction arises from separation anxiety. Puppies are natural demolition dogs. The best cure is supervision. Adult Chihuahuas still may destroy items through frustration or boredom. The best way to deal with these dogs is to provide both physical interaction, such as chasing a ball, and mental interaction, such as practicing a few tricks, an hour or so before leaving.
Have a supply of toys handy that give your dog only when you’re gone. Rotate which toys you hand out so your dog doesn’t get bored with them.
Even the bravest of Chihuahuas can develop irrational fears. The cardinal rule of working with a fearful dog is to never push the dog into situations that might be overwhelming. A program of gradual desensitization, with the dog exposed to the frightening person or thing and then rewarded for calm behavior, is time-consuming but the best way to alleviate any fear.
Never coddle your Chihuahua when she acts afraid, because it reinforces the behavior. It is always useful if your dog knows a few simple commands; performing these exercises correctly gives you a reason to praise her and also increases the dog’s sense of security because she knows what is expected of her. Whether it is a fear of strangers, dogs, car rides, thunder, or being left alone, the concept is the same: never hurry, and never push the dog to the point that she is afraid.
In some breeds aggression often results from a dog’s attempts to dominate its owners. This is virtually never the case in Chihuahuas. True, some Chihuahuas can be little dictators, but most of them are simply one-person dogs that are either protective of their special person or of their own safety.
Chihuahuas are at the mercy of the people around them. Consider how they must feel when you pick them up and hand them to a stranger. If you do this, hand them rear end first, which seems to be less intimidating for them, and less likely to cause them to snap.
Some dogs are afraid of children, either because they don’t understand what they are or because they’ve had bad experiences with them. Introduce dogs and children carefully, encouraging the child to offer the dog a treat and stroke her gently.
Puppies naturally greet their mother and other adult dogs by licking them around the corners of their mouth. This behavior translates to humans, but in order to reach your face they need to jump up on you. Of course, Chihuahuas would need to pole-vault to reach your face, but they still try, instead succeeding only in scratching your knees to shreds.
Most owners can’t resist the temptation to bend down and pick up the little jumping bean. That’s fine, but it does teach the dog that she will be rewarded if she jumps on you. It’s better to teach your Chihuahua a special command that lets her know when you want to pick her up.
Having a doggy doorbell can be handy, but there is a difference between a dog that warns you of a suspicious stranger and one that warns you of oxygen in the air. The surest way to make your neighbors dislike your dog is to let her bark unchecked. Allow your Chihuahua to bark momentarily at strangers, and then call her to you and praise her for quiet behavior, distracting her with an obedience exercise if need be.
Isolated dogs will often bark from frustration or as a means of getting attention and alleviating loneliness. Even if the attention gained includes punishment, the dog will continue to bark in order to obtain the temporary presence of a person. The simplest solution is to move the dog’s quarters to a less isolated location.
For example, if barking occurs when your pup is put to bed, move her bed into your bedroom. Do this before she goes to bed and starts barking, so she doesn’t think she’s being rewarded for raising a ruckus. If this isn’t possible, the pup’s quiet behavior must be rewarded by your presence, working up to gradually longer and longer periods. The distraction of a special chew toy, given only at bedtime, may help alleviate barking. The pup that must spend the day home alone is a greater challenge. Again, the simplest solution is to change the situation, perhaps by adding another animal – a good excuse to get two Chihuahuas?