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Biting

Chihuahua Biting Issues

 Overview

If your Chihuahua is biting a lot, there are many reasons why he may be acting this way; and most can be resolved within a week or two. 

It is important to know that a Chihuahua does nip or bite without reason. If one pays attention, there is a trigger for just about every type of behavior. Therefore, it can be a huge step in the right direction to first realize the cause.

The reason may be a simple and easy to fix such as a puppy nipping due to teething to more complicated issues such as trouble understanding authority. 

However, no matter what is causing your Chihuahua to bite, you can reverse this type of unwanted behavior.
It is normal for owners to become frustrated; after all the goal of obtaining a canine family member is to have a friendly companion that fits in well with the household. When a puppy or dog begins to bite, it can add quite a bit of tension to the atmosphere. This tension can cause owners to inadvertently exasperate the situation. 

Before we dive into the issues of nipping and biting, rest assured that this can be fixed with training. 
Chihuahua dog with mouth open
Nip VS Bite

It is important to differentiate between nipping and biting. Nipping is a quick snap of the jaws. There may or may not be skin contact. Very rarely does a nip break the skin of an owner; though it can cause a quick sting. 

When a puppy nips, the head juts out, the jaws snap and then in an instant the puppy goes back to what he was doing.

On the other hand, a bite is an aggressive, physical attack. A dog often moves into an defensive position, there is usually a warning growl and the jaws will clamp down on the intended target, making skin contact. 

A dog may bite once or numerous times; though with full force being exerted, the receiver of a bite will be injured. In these situations, a dog may back down but will often not immediately resume normal behavior.
Therefore, when we discuss a Chihuahua biting, in most cases it will be nipping that is actually happening. This is not to downplay the nipping as it can be extremely frustrating and in some cases disturb the entire household. While it may not cause serious harm, it disrupts normal interaction between owner and dog. 

Without training to stop this, it may continue indefinitely. The majority of Chihuahuas that nip are puppies; though adults may show this behavior if they have not been previously trained. There are also cases of an otherwise perfectly adjusted adult Chihuahua suddenly turning aggressive and we will cover this as well.

Top 5 Reasons for Nipping or Biting

1) Teething

The main reason for a puppy to bite is teething, this can be a difficult time and you must have patience. As milk teeth fall out and adult canines erupt, it can cause a great deal of discomfort and/or intense itching. While some dogs will react by chewing intensely, others will also nip and bite.

The first step is to have various chewing elements that will aid in teething relief. This includes:
  • Chew toys specific to teething needs - these will have tiny protrusions that a puppy can work in between teeth and reach areas of the gums that are causing pain.
  • Ice cubes - Ice - either safely flavored by freezing with a clear juice (apple works well) or by itself gives a puppy a great sense of relief and when places on a tiled or linoleum floor will also provide entertainment and distraction.
  • Placing toys in the freezer to make the cold and work well; though they will need to be switched out every 20 to 30 minutes.
You can read much more specific advice in the Teething section.

2) Injury or Medical Issues

This does not always come to mind first, however when a Chihuahua suddenly begins to nip and is not in the teething stage, an injury or health issue that causes discomfort can be the reason for snapping at owners.

The tricky part about this is that an injury can occur without an owner being aware. That dog is then in pain or may only have discomfort when picked up or manipulated into position. Hip dysplasia (dislocated hip joint and socket) and luxating patella (slipped kneecap) are 2 injuries that often work in this way.

For example, a Chihuahua's knee may slip out when outside during playtime. There will be a quick pain at the time that it happens; however for many dogs it will not bother for some time afterward. As internal fluids build up and the area becomes inflamed, pain begins to radiate through the area. 

It is at this time that a Chihuahua may snap or nip when picked up. Some dogs will bite even just when someone comes to close because canines feel vulnerable and threatened when injured and in a weakened state.

If all other causes have been ruled out, it is then suggested to bring your dog to the veterinarian for a full and complete checkup.

See Also:


3) Past Neglect

Most often seen with adult dogs, past abuse and neglect can shape a dog's personality into one of fear, nervous and/or anxiety. If a Chihuahua is fearful, he may bite or nip as a defense mechanism toward a perceived threat. A great deal of socialization training will need to be incorporated.

Shelters and rescue groups - if operating properly - will have a bite history of a dog and will have taken official notes of a dog's behavior and interaction with both other animals and with owners. Anyone looking to adopt a Chihuahua should not pass this information off inconsequential.

A dog that has been labeled as a biter may or may not be able to be integrated into a household. This is of particular importance in homes where children reside.

4) Unclear Hierarchy

Normally, as a Chihuahua matures, he learns a bit each day about leadership in the house. Just the act of feeding a dog and teaching him commands instills the notion that it is the human who is the leader of the house (the Alpha). Issues such as nipping and biting can begin to develop either when a Chihuahua mistakenly believes that he himself is the leader or if the dog is confused about who is in charge.

A dog that does not know his place in the hierarchy of the household may begin to test the chain of command. This often manifests as becoming defiant (refusal to listen to commands, running away, etc.) and may include nipping at his humans.

In these cases, training must be incorporated to teach the Chihuahua his place. By following proper training techniques, a dog can stop nipping, though it does take time and consistent effort on the part of the owner.

Elements such as how and when a dog is fed and how both owner and Chihuahua enter the house are 2 main methods of establishing leadership.
Another technique is to place a Chihuahua on his or her back when they bite. This should be done gently yet firmly. This puts the puppy in a submissive position. 

He or she will struggle and wiggle around...your hand should remain firm to hold them in place, but obviously not too firm as to cause pain... 

Only when they stop moving and relax should you let go...That is their sign that means: "I give you, it is YOU who is in charge". Along with other training methods, it is a remarkably easy way to teach a puppy to listen. Read more details in the Aggression section.
 
5) Instinct to Protect

The canine instinct to protect may be one of the causes of why Chihuahuas bite. 
Even though a Chihuahua is a very small dog, he still has the same instincts to protect as larger breeds.

A female Chihuahua will snap or bite to protect her puppies, this is completely normal behavior. A dam will bite your hand in a second if she feels you are a threat to her litter.

A dog may also display this behavior if he is protecting his territory, another normal canine instinct. It is done to protect what he considers his own personal space. This can be fixed by proper training (more ahead).

How to Stop a Chihuahua From Biting

Once a behavior like biting has been established, it will often continue until owners step in with clear, solid and consistent training.

One problem that often occurs is that dealing with a Chihuahua that bites and nips can be so exasperating that owners fall into the mistake of yelling or slapping the dog. This rarely works and in most cases will only make things worse.

If a dog is yelled at or intimidated, this may stop him from nipping temporarily as he retreats in fear but rarely resolves the core problem. Yelling or hitting will be detrimental to what can be a wonderful friendship and rewarding relationship.

Time and repetition are the key to stopping any dog from nipping or biting. When beginning this training, it will be importation for all member of the household to be on the same page. If one owner tries to train a Chihuahua to stop biting, but that dog can simply jog over to another human who pats and gives attention, this will rarely succeed. 

So, the first element will be for everyone - including children - to understand the goals and what will be needed. Once everyone is on board, there are the rules:

1) Any time that the Chihuahua bites, there should be an immediate reaction of being shocked - even if this must be faked. This is done simultaneously with one loud and firm 'No!".

2) Immediately change positions. The goal will be to position yourself into one of authority. For example, if you were sitting on the floor with your puppy, stand up. If you were both on the sofa, place him on the floor and sit back down or rise up.

3) All humans are to immediately ignore the puppy. Some owners shy from this and wonder if non-action can truly work to stop nipping. It must be understood that to a dog, the family represents his 'pack'. In the canine world, to be ignored by the pack is akin to a serious and grave event.

When done the right way, ignoring a dog sends a stern message of temporary banishment. And that banishment is only rescinded when acceptable behavior is displayed.

Ignoring must be done in the whole sense of the word. With zero talking and no interaction at all, the dog must be ignored as if he is invisible. Any yipping or attention seeking behavior should be absolutely disregarded.

It can take a puppy anywhere from 1 to 10 minutes to even notice that he is being overlooked. He may retreat to play with his toys or leave to get a drink of water. When he does indeed notice, he will begin to act uncomfortable and uneasy. He may lie down and remain quiet, looking at his humans or he may begin to bark in an effort to be noticed. At this point, allow a full 10 minutes to pass.

During a moment of calm, the owner can then begin to speak a bit but withhold physical contact. With good behavior, after another few minutes, return to the exact position that you were in when the bite occurred. 

For example, if you were both on the floor playing, return to the floor with your Chi. If you were both sitting on the couch, gently pick him up and return to sit with him.

If he does not nip at you, immediately give praise. If he continues to behave well, a treat can be given. The key to this, is that if the Chihuahua bites once again, the process goes back to the beginning: Feigned shock, a loud "No!' and the isolation from the pack.

Done religiously and without wavering, this type of training can be successful within just a week or so.
Tips 

While following the above guidelines to stop nipping, be sure to also give praise when your Chihuahua is playing or interacting with you and does not nip.

When you perform teeth cleaning or groom around the face and mouth, be sure to give lots of praise if nipping does not occur.

A tiny dog such as the Chihuahua does not need to live up to its infamous reputation of being a barking, snippy dog. They can be cute and friendly and just as wonderfully trained as any other breed. Behavioral issues such as barking and nipping will often not go away on their own. However, with a little time and effort, once training is complete, it will last a life time.
Saying No and Meaning No

If you implement one thing at all, it should be that your dog has a clear understanding of the command word "No". When an owner says "No" to too many things, the word loses important meaning. You may be saying it more times than you think. Try to keep track for 1 day and see how often it is said when it could have been replaced with something else that was more appropriate.

For example, if your Chihuahua always sits and watches you cook dinner, you may say "No' without thinking about it. When said at times like this, a dog will become confused. How can watching you prepare a meal and biting you have the same value of bad behavior?

Instead of saying "No" when your dog watches the soup boiling, you can say anything else such as "Silly dog, you're not getting any of this". Save the use of your command word for when you really need it and have its meaning be solid and strong.
Related: Chihuahua Chewing Problems - What causes this and how to react when a Chihuahua chews excessively at his body.
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