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Behavior (Overview)

Behavior and Temperament of Chihuahuas

Is a Chihuahua Right for You?

It is important to understand the expected behavior and temperament of the Chihuahua dog. If you are thinking about getting a Chihuahua, you will want to make sure that having this toy dog breed is a good fit for you and your family. You will want to be sure that owning a Chihuahua will be what you imagine it to be.

If you already have a Chihuahua and you find that their behavior seems a bit out of control or you wonder if it is normal, you will want to find out if you have a training issue or other problem. 

If you are bringing a Chihuahua home, you will want to know what to expect as far as behavior how this dog will interact with you. This is especially important if you have children.

Behavior Overview

Each Chihuahua is different because each has his or her own particular personality and way of perceiving the world. You must keep in mind that the Chihuahua is the smallest breed dog in the entire world. Despite this, there are some that work as service dogs.

Some Chi are fiercely loyal to one certain human. This trait can work well in one-person households or when a family has many members but only one who will have time (and energy) to take care of the dog.  With this said, there are some Chihuahua dogs that do not choose just one human to think of as his "main owner". 

With enough interaction and attention paid to him, this dog can easily attach to many people. Therefore if you have family members in the home, your Chihuahua may become very attached to all of them if everyone is involved with feeding, grooming, playing, command training and taking him for daily walks. 

In general, this breeds gets along very well with dogs and even with cats.  Chi tend to love other Chi; in multiple Chihuahua households, they will travel as a little pack, shadowing each other and staying close.  Some can bond with bigger dogs; even large breeds.  Though, this should be tested before committing to having both a toy and a large breed dog in the same house.  If they show aggression toward other dogs, training can help resolve this.
Both the long haired Chihuahua and the short haired have the same behavioral characteristics. Although a Chihuahua is a very small dog, 2 to 6 pounds generally (.9 to 2.72 kg), you won't be able to convince him. The Chihuahua has the canine instinct to protect and guard its owners.

Even if your Chihuahua is a quiet dog, do expect his behavior to turn up a notch if a stranger comes to the door. A Chihuahua will bark as if he is powerful watch dog, if he senses an unknown person or feels there may be potential danger to its owner. This dog shows no fear toward anything if he is in "protection mode". The final analysis: the behavior of a Chihuahua shows 100% loyalty to its owner and the entire family.

A Chihuahua dog will generally adapt quite well to just about any situation. The type of environment or home that is perfect for a Chihuahua is whichever home his owner is in. This dog will be happy as a clam in a house with a large yard and just as content in a small apartment as long as enough exercise if given to stop hyper behavior that may be triggered by inactivity.

However, a Chihuahua must be an inside dog. And the Chihuahua should never be over-powered. He is so small that he will get scared if strongly intimidated. Some Chihuahuas have to take quite a while to get over an incident if they were hurt or scared by severe yelling. The home should be a peaceful one, where everyone is aware there is such a small animal walking around and he will be happy.

Going for walks and playing around outside in the sun will always be fun for him, but he must never be considered an outside dog. A Chihuahua will not last very long if he is tied up in the cold weather or put into a pen that is in the hot sun. Any owner of a Chihuahua must be 100% willing and able to keep this dog living in the house as part of the family.
black Chihuahua dog sitting up

Particular Behaviors That You May See

Clingy Behavior

Toy dogs are called lap dogs for a reason. Many thrive on human companionship and love to remain close. Some take this a bit too far and will become very clingy. There are way to help a clingy Chihuahua that will benefit both dog and owner.

Extreme Aggression

Although rare, some Chihuahuas will show extreme aggression, such as biting human family members. This is not acceptable behavior and can put small child at great risk. In these cases, it is vitally important to implement strict training. Read more about Extreme Chihuahua Aggression

There are also some owners who are worried that they have a crazy Chihuahua,with out-of-control behavior, however most of the problems can be fixed with training.

More Than 1 Issue

Sometimes, an owner will have a pup or dog that is having more than 1 behavioral issue at a time. This can be very overwhelming...and some attribute this to what is commonly known as Little Dog Syndrome

Shy Chihuahua Behavior

It is not uncommon for a Chihuahua to behave shy. It is important to understand the difference between a dog that is fearful and a dog that is shy. Once determining this, you can take steps to help your Chi. Learn more about this topic by reading about the Shy Chihuahua.

Chihuahuas that Love Rolling Around on the Grass !
Many owners wonder if this dog behavior is normal, and it is usually a big yes ! With many Chi, warm rays of sunlight and grass are their two favorite things.

If your Chihuahua does this quite often, you should first examine your Chihuahua for any signs of health issues that would be causing your dog to feel very itchy and have an overwhelming need to scratch himself. Everything from food allergies to carpet cleaning solution allergies to fleas to skin infections can cause excess itching.

You will want to look for any signs of irritation. Lift up the fur of your Chihuahua and check the skin. Look for:

    * Redness
    * Swelling
    * Sores
    * Bumps

If you do spot any signs, you will then want your dog's veterinarian to perform tests to help find the culprit. If you see signs, you may also wish to read our Allergies section. If all is well and your dog does not have any skin conditions, you can rest assured that rolling around on the grass, rubbing against grass and other behavior such as this is perfectly normal for a dog.

If you find that this behavior is getting your Chihuahua too dirty and you wish for your dog to curb their love of the can try brushing your dog several times each day...this will feel as good to him as the grass does, his "back will be scratched" and it may limit this sort of outside behavior.

Normal Sleeping Behavior

It is normal for a dog to sleep a lot. How much does a Chihuahua sleep? On average, 12 to 14 hours per day. However even 18 hours is not considered abnormal for a Chihuahua. This includes naps.There are 2 types of sleeping. One is a lighter sleep (called slow wave ) and the other is the deeper sleep (known as REM - Rapid Eye Movement).

Dogs, just like humans do have these 2 different types of sleep. It is the REM deep sleep that really allows a person or dog to rest the body and begin fresh once again! The difference with dogs, including the Chihuahua, is that they wake much more often than we do. You may not notice, however dogs wake very often (even if it is just for a minute) and then go back to sleep. Because of this, a dog must sleep for many more hours than we do, to receive all the deep sleep that is needed. It is expected for older, senior Chihuahua dogs to take more frequent naps.

If you spoil a Chihuahua just once, look out because he'll expect preferential treatment from that moment on. For this reason, giving in just one time to offering table scraps is something you may regret. It's best to plan what you'll feed your Chi for both meals and snacks. If you're passed this point, there are way to stop a Chihuahua from begging
Mood Swings

This breed can tend to become exited rather fast and can also be sensitive to changes in the home environment that can affect his moods.  If your Chihuahua appears to have drastic mood swings or is acting out of character, this may point to a health issue or environmental factor in the household that must be addressed. Learn more about when a Chihuahua is acting moody
Chihuahua behaving silly

We have had many inquires regarding a Chihuahua hyperventilating. This can be a medical issue or a behavioral issue.

If your Chihuahua hyperventilates, please be sure to first have your dog given a full medical checkup. Kennel Cough and other respiratory health conditions can mimic hyperventilation. In some instances, it can be a sign of an allergic reaction. 

In the case of an allergic reaction, a dog may lick or eat something and then very quickly will begin to hyperventilate. In severe cases, the dog must then have a shot of adrenaline, given by the veterinarian or animal hospital, to help slow down the dog's heart rate. It is important to first rule out any of these causes.

If all is ruled out and your Chi is 100% healthy, you can then begin to address this as a behavioral issue.
Dogs can hyperventilate when they become very excited. Some dogs, the Chihuahua is certainly one of the breeds, become overexcited very easily. If this is the case, there are a couple of things that you can do. 

When a person is hyperventilating, they breathe into a paper bag. You can help your Chihuahua by slightly covering his mouth, so that he breathes back in a bit of carbon dioxide to slow down or stop this.

You can also try to establish what is happening at the time when your Chi begins to do this. Does it happen when you come home and greet him? Does it happen when you are going to take him for a walk?

If you can pinpoint the situations that are causing your Chihuahua to become overexcited, you can then begin to train your Chihuahua to become used to those situations, at a slow and steady pace, so that he is better able to handle them.

For example, if your dog gets very excited when you enter the home, you will want to show your Chi that while this is a good thing, it is not a reason to lose control.

Train him by entering and exiting the home. Each time you enter, do not greet your dog (yes, it is tempting, but do not do it). Just read the mail for a minute, get a drink or do some activity that is quiet and takes a minute or so. Then, kneel down to your Chihuahua and in a very calm and matter-of-fact voice, greet him. Do not shower him with hugs and kisses. Just gently pat him and say hello. Once he is used to your presence, you can then begin to play with him.

You can use this type of training for just about any situation that is causing his excitement and hyperventilating. Always look at the situation, break it into smaller pieces and give your dog once piece at a time. Within a few weeks, your dog will learn that there is reason to be happy, but will be able to control himself and should no longer be overexcited.

More Tips for Helping a Chihuahua Behave

There is a bit of a stereotype against Chihuahuas in the fact that some people believe that small breed toy dogs are "snappy" and bark a lot. This is not true. The behavior of a Chihuahua can be extremely calm and friendly; it depends on the particular dog and what type of training you give to him. A huge deciding factor in the personality of a Chihuahua is how the puppy is raised. 

The home environment that you offer, the way in which all family members interact with the Chi, how negative behaviors are handled, how much positive reinforcement is given and successful socialization all come into play.
A Chihuahua will usually bark quite a bit if the dog is feeling threatened. He may recoil or become nervous if being bothered while trying to eat his meal, handed too roughly, etc.

This breed does not do well with scolding; if a Chihuahua misbehaves, scolding will not usually produce lasting results. The Chihuahua may become fearful or submissive, yet since he has not learned what behaviors are expected, he is sure to repeat mistakes.  Far better is to reinforce acceptable behavior via praise, pats and treats.

A huge element that all Chihuahuas need is to be taught how to handle the world around them. Noises, other people, dogs, events and situations; most Chi need a gradual socialization to these things in order to gain self-confidence to observe and interact in a healthy way. 

With guidance, an understanding of proper hierarchy and consistently taught lessons, a Chihuahua can learn to behave as a loving and friendly canine family member. 
You may also be interested in:
How to Stop a Chihuahua From Eating Poop - The 5 steps to stop coprophagia for good. 
Feeding a Chihuahua - Choosing the right food for both meals and snacks is plays a huge role in keeping a dog healthy. 
Chihuahua Potty Training - How to successfully housebreak your Chihuahua, avoiding the most common pitfalls. 
How to Stop Chihuahua From Eating Grass - It's not uncommon for puppies and dogs to ingest grass, however it has many risks and there are some effective methods to stop a dog from doing this. 
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