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Crazy Chihuahua

When a Chihuahua is Acting Crazy

Crazy Chihuahua dog
Sometimes bad behavior can become so frequent and a dog will not obey commands that a person will wonder if their Chihuahua has lost all control. More than a few owners become frustrated over what appears to be over-the-top, crazy behavior. What does this mean?

Can a dog literally become crazy? The answer is no…(However there is a syndrome called rage syndrome in which a dog can act crazy due to a certain type of seizure that causes them to behave savagely aggressive)….This is rare.

Therefore, we are talking about a dog that seems to quickly turn from a well behaved one, into a “Crazy Chihuahua” that does not listen to commands, is marking without regard, is aggressive…growling…and even biting.

Below is a Q&A with an owner who was at his wits end with his Chihuahua's seemingly crazed behavior.
Question: I have a 9 month old Chihuahua, Turtle, that is my first dog. He has always been well behaved, but has had a disturbing change in behavior.  It seems that he went from being a normal dog to a crazy Chihuahua overnight.

Now, he sprays all over the house, has temper tantrums, kicks his legs out and barks like mad. He is constantly begging for food my food despite having his own), in an almost frenzied way. 

There is also some aggression, which I find unnerving. He even bit me once and drew a bit of blood. He's acting insane; doing things like growling at me if I want to leave the room. Honestly, sometimes he's scary, but I don't want to give up on him. Is there a chance that I've gotten a dog that is literally crazy or has some sort of severe emotional problem? ~ Crazy Chihuahua Owner 
Answer: Do not worry, chances are that your Chihuahua is not literally crazy, however there are some things we should over first.

Can a Chihuahua Literally Be Crazy?

There was an interesting report published the Journal Physiology and Behavior that showed dogs that are caged in kennels for long periods of time have shown signs of extreme duress often linked to mental illness. The dogs had obsessive, repetitive behavior including pacing, spinning and for some - even bouncing off of the walls.

With other dogs, severe cases of separation anxiety can result in a dog working himself up into a frenzy. The Chihuahua may act as if he has little control, sometimes having excitement urination problems and acting with little inhibition when owners arrive back home.
Medical Issues

There are some health issues that can cause a dog to act severely agitated. This includes:

Hypothyroidism - This is a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to produce adequate levels of thyroid hormone. Signs of this include: heavy shedding to the point of bald patches, weight gain and/or aggression.

Neurological Problems - Injury or disease can cause aggression and odd behavior. This includes epilepsy, brain tumors and Encephalitis.

Seizures- Some types of seizures can cause very odd, random behavior changes that include but are not limited to: mood changes, violent aggression and odd posturing. These are sometimes referred to as rage syndrome or rage seizures.   Many times, after the attack, the dog may withdrawn into a depressed state, be unresponsive and/or sleep more than normal. 

Injury - Sometimes when a dog is experiencing pain, he may act completely out of character. An internal injury can through off a dog's behavior; mostly due to the dog feeling vulnerable when in a weakened state.
Step One
Due to the possibility of a medical issue, it is a good idea to have your Chihuahua evaluated by a veterinarian for possible health reasons that may be causing negative behavior.
Step Two

Only if he is cleared of all possible health related causes, you would then approach this as a behavioral issue that is due to the dog not understanding his place in the household.

Dogs need to have order. It is the canine way. All packs (humans and other pets) must have a leader. If a dog does not know who is leader or mistakenly believes that he himself is leader, it can cause all sort of problems such as you described.

The struggle of a dog trying to take command can lead him to act rather crazy at times. Tantrums, being extra hyper, aggression, biting, growling and this very strong out-of-control behaviors can all be resolved with serious and strict training methods.

For anyone who needs to fix this sort of issue, we suggest calling a family meeting so that everyone understand the rules and are all on the same page to not waver, no matter what. Even once a dog learns to calm down and learns his place in the 'pack', certain elements will need to remain in place to reinforce the training.

Here are the things that establish proper hierarchy in the house. Once a dog learns this, he should behave in an acceptable manner and be much more calm.

Feeding Related Elements

1) The dog should always see that his human(s) eats first. In the 'pack' the leader always begins the meal. Food is one of the most important elements in establishing proper hierarchy of the house. We would suggest timing things so that at least one time per day, you can your Chihuahua eat at the same time. 
You will prepare his meal and your own. His is set up high on a counter, while you sit and take several bites of your own dinner. Only once your Chihuahua has clearly noticed that you ate first (most notice right away), it will be time to set down his bowl - by following the next rule. 

2) The next step during this feeding rule - and also any other time that the dog eats at a separate time than his owners - is that the Chihuahua must follow the 'Sit' command before he eats. Obeying a command before sitting essentially forces a dog to admit that his human is in charge.

Try to work on command training at other times during the day; however even if you must manipulate the dog into a sitting position, it should be done, along with saying 'Sit'. Once that rump touches the ground, the bowl can be placed down.

This should be done with all meals and additionally with any snacks or treats that the dog is given. Ideally, you will want to reserve treats as rewards during command training.

3) Never feed your Chihuahua any food from your own plate. To a dog, this can be taken to mean that both dog and owner are on the same level; which is a statement you do not want to make if a dog is acting crazy.
The Order of the Pack

1) To a canine, the order in which members of the 'pack' (this includes all humans and all pets) enter and exit what the dog perceives to be the 'den' (the house) sends a very strong signal. Many owners do not think about this element and find it normal to let a hyper, active dog lead the way outside or rush back in when the door is opened following a walk.

However, when you have a Chihuahua with frenzied behavior, hierarchy should be clearly established by any and all humans entering first and exiting first.

2) During walks, the dog should not lead. When you watch others walk their dogs, you might notice that in many cases, the dog is ahead of his human. For dogs that are not trying to make a stand as leader, this might not be a problem (other than the fact that proper heeling makes for a much more pleasant experience).

A short 6 foot leash (or retractable leash) should be used along with a harness, which gives an owner much better control over the dog. Starting with the Chihuahua on your left, begin to walk, saying out-loud the command word of 'Heel'. 

Any time that he moves ahead or tugs on the leash in another direction, stop walking. Stand in place, with the leash short so that the puppy or dog cannot explore or find the time to be anything but boring. If he lunges, remain standing firm (with a harness, injury will not occur to the dog's neck).

When he settles down, begin walking ahead and stop any time that he tries to veer off course.

3) When a dog is not behaving, the owners should not sit on the floor with him. It sends a signal to be physically higher than the dog.

4) If the dog is blocking your path, never walk around him. This shows submissive behavior, even though it is not intended. The Chihuahua should be commanded to move. If he does not, he should be gently moved to the side.

5) It is not recommend to initiate a staring contest. However, if you happen to lock eyes with your Chihuahua, do not be the one to look away first. It is a very clear sign of submission.

6) When a dog is acting crazy and out-of-control, he should not be allowed to sleep in his owner's bed. This should not be something that is decided on a day-to-day basis; it should be the rule for an indefinite amount of time. Do may sure that the puppy or dog has a quality canine bed and a quiet, warm area to rest and sleep.

7) Toys dogs that are having problems with behaving should not be allowed to sit in their owner's lap. Some can become very fussy and particular about what their human is doing and movements that the owner makes. This places the dog in a position where e he may be tempted to try and take charge.

The Importance of Commands

1) All basic commands should be taught. Dogs should not be given anything (meals, toys, snacks, etc.) without first sitting. Even if a dog struggles to learn commands, needing to sit before being given any object at all is high motivation for learning the command.

2) The dog should be given the "Sit/ Stay" command when visitors arrive at the house; he can be released from that stance after a minute or so, once you give the "Okay".
How to Handle Tantrums

When a dog acts crazy and throws a tantrum, his main goal is to receive the direct attention of his owner(s). The way to stop a dog from even thinking about doing this, is to make sure that he does not receive what he wants. When his goal is not met, he will soon learn that it is not worth his time and effort to act in this way.

As soon as a Chihuahua begins to act up, he should be 100% completely and utterly ignored. As if he is invisible. Some wonder how doing 'nothing' can actually make a difference. However, to a canine, being ignored is akin to being temporarily banished from the pack. This is a very strong signal that in order to be accepted, he must behave.

Any severe aggression (actual biting, threatening or actions that make a family feel unsafe) need to be dealt in a more serious way and is best handled by a professional dog handler and behavioral trainer. 
How to Handle Growling

When a Chihuahua growls, he is taking charge. He is verbally saying, "I will have it my way, you'd better look out!". He may be warning of an impeding bite or nip... or he may find that the growl is sufficient to make his point. Either way, if an owner does nothing, this shows a sign of weakness. At that point, the dog feels as if his message came across fine and the human agreed with it.
 
If a Chihuahua growls in a threatening manner, he should immediately be given a "time out". This involves essentially quarantining the dog into a room that is VERY boring (no toys, no snacks, no interesting view, etc.) and completely ignored for 15-20 minutes.

Summary

When everyone in the house follows the training (so that the dog cannot seek refuge with a human who may give treats, etc.) and this is done consistently, the dog often learns his place within just a few weeks. 

While there may be times that an owner wants to throw in the towel... and times when it is just easier to give the Chihuahua what he wants, the end result of the training is far worth the effort that is put in.

Do always be sure that your Chihuahua does not have any medical problems before taking steps for a behavioral issues. 
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