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Why Are Chihuahuas Mean And Aggressive?

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Have you ever had the experience of encountering the cutest little Chihuahua and approaching them to give them some affection only to have them growl at you with bare teeth and erupt in a display of barking and nipping?

This is actually pretty common behavior for dogs of this breed.

Many pet owners view Chihuahuas as big divas in little bodies who tend to get aggressive when they feel threatened, when they feel like their territory is invaded, or if anyone gets too close to their beloved person.

These are key traits of the breed, so this behavior can be expected from all purebred Chihuahuas.

Why Are Chihuahuas Mean And Aggressive?

While you will never be able to completely change their innately sassy personality, the right training and care can help keep your Chihuahua’s aggressive tendencies under control.

They will never be as sweet with strangers as they are with their favorite person, but they can learn not to bark and nip whenever anyone gets close.

Truth! My roommate’s girlfriend’s Chihuahua wanted to attack me every time he came over. Territorial…YES! Of course this is a generalization and not every Chi I’ve come across is aggressive. Many are quite pleasant.

Let’s take a closer look at this unique breed and its unique temperament below.

About Chihuahuas

The Chihuahua breed hails from Mexico and is one of the smallest toy breeds in the world.

The average Chihuahua will usually weigh between just 1 and 3 kilos (2 to 7 pounds). Read the American Kennel Club Chihuahua Breed Information here.

These are lap dogs that typically bond fiercely with one person or just a few family members.

They will stick to their favorite person like glue and can suffer separation anxiety when separated and also tend to think they need to defend their owners from most other people and animals.

Chihuahuas are tiny, but they have big personalities.

They tend to think they are much bigger than they actually are when they are fending off unwanted people. But they can also be divas at home, often with an independent and commanding streak.

They tend to be well-behaved at home where they feel safe, but they can be challenging to train.

Are Chihuahuas Mean?

As we have already said, it’s probably more fitting to call Chihuahuas “divas” rather than straight-up mean, but they can certainly display mean and aggressive behaviors in certain circumstances.

Chihuahuas tend to be very protective of the space they consider their home.

This can apply to your entire house, and even your entire yard or street, but will be particularly strong in certain locations, such as where they eat and sleep. If anyone gets too close, their aggressive instincts will kick in.

When they feel threatened or sense someone they love is threatened, the typical Chihuahua will usually start by baring their teeth and growling.

You will also see their body go still and their tail stop wagging. This is a signal that you are in the wrong place. If you back away now, they will probably calm down again.

If you keep approaching, expect them to erupt into more aggressive barking, the occasional nip at the heels, and maybe a butt with their head.

Chihuahuas can respond in a similar way to strangers, including strange animals. It can be unpredictable whether they will ignore a new person or get aggressive and start barking.

Sometimes, they will just bark for a minute or so before eventually calming down, but certain people or triggers can set them off. In this case, they may continue barking until the perceived threat is removed from their space.

It is unclear what exactly sets them off about some people and not others.

They can also take a while to warm up to people and may need to see the same person repeatedly before they decide that they are fine and safe to have around.

Chihuahuas can be especially difficult around children, but this is often a learned behavior.

Chihuahuas are small, fragile dogs, and children often haven’t mastered the delicate touch needed to play with them.

If your dog has been hurt before, they may be wary of smaller people and go into aggression mode to keep them at a distance.

How To Manage Chihuahua Aggression?

Is there anything you can do about Chihuahua aggression? Yes, to a point.

This is a natural personality trait of Chihuahuas, so you will never be able to train it out of them completely, but you can take steps to help limit their potentially aggressive actions.

1. Socialize From A Young Age

The only way to get Chihuahuas to be more accepting of strangers and strange animals is to socialize them and teach them that not all strangers are threats – though they will inevitably see some as threats, especially early on in their training and socialization.

It is best to start socializing in the important 8-to-16-week age bracket.

At this time, dogs go through a fear period where they develop their baseline for what is scary and what is acceptable to them.

The negative and positive experiences they have at this time have a big impact on their future development.

Good socializing at this stage in their lives can make a big difference!

If your Chihuahua is older, all is not lost; you can still teach them to be a bit more social. However, you can expect this to take more time and to be harder work.

2. Obedience Training

You can also control your dog’s behavior to a certain extent with good, consistent obedience training.

If your Chihuahua has a good response to stop, sit, heel, and similar commands, then you can stop them in their tracks when they are about to get aggressive.

Due to their somewhat stubborn nature, Chihuahuas are hard to train.

While they are intelligent, they tend to be independent and strong-willed and believe they know what is best.

Like small children, they also tend to like to be in control and push boundaries to the limit.

Nevertheless, consistent reward-based training can be effective with Chihuahuas if you are willing to commit to the training and be firm.

First-time owners might want to consider getting some professional training help.

Read our complete puppy training guide here.

3. Create A Secure Environment

Stress and anxiety tend to make Chihuahuas more likely to act out with aggression.

This can occur in these dogs when they suffer from separation anxiety because they are expected to spend extended periods of time on their own.

A change in their environment can also cause stress, whether this is moving house or the introduction of a new pet.

Be aware of environmental factors that are affecting your pooch and try to keep them under control to manage their stress and moods.

FAQs About Chihuahuas

Why are some Chihuahuas so aggressive?

Chihuahuas are innately territorial and protective of their humans.

Their small size means they tend to jump into action when they perceive a threat rather than wait to see what happens.

Their small size also means they tend to see the world as more threatening than larger dogs.

How do you fix a Chihuahua’s aggression?

You can manage aggression in Chihuahuas through proper socialization to make them less likely to see people and other animals as threats.

Obedience training using positive reinforcement can also give you some limited control over their behavior.

How do you discipline a Chihuahua?

If you want to discipline a Chihuahua for negative behaviors, you need to catch them in the act.

If you discipline them later, they will not connect the discipline with the act and understand the lesson to be learned. 

You can discipline your dog with a firm voice and a commanding posture to show them that you are the boss and you mean business.

However, hitting and yelling is just likely to make your dog feel threatened and fearful, which can result in an increase in aggressive behavior.

Better than discipline is to show your Chihuahua the correct behavior through positive reinforcement training.

Are Chihuahuas jealous dogs?

Yes, Chihuahuas are very needy when it comes to love and affection from their people, and they can be jealous if they see the affection they crave being bestowed on someone else.

This is one of the reasons why they are not always compatible with households with children.

Chihuahuas: Mean But Lovable

Chihuahuas are a bit of a conundrum.

They are incredibly loving and affectionate dogs when it comes to their favorite person and their family, but they can be mean and aggressive when confronted with strangers and strange situations.

Remember, it is important to see the world from your Chihuahua’s perspective.

They are small and fragile, and almost everything they encounter is bigger and more dangerous than them.

They tend to deal with danger by getting aggressive first rather than waiting to see what happens. It is an instinctive defense mechanism.

The only way to control your Chihuahua’s aggression is to teach them to feel safe in a great variety of situations. The main ways you can do this are:

  • Socializing them around other animals and people from a young age
  • Obedience training
  • Create a secure, comfortable environment for them at home

Is it worth adopting a Chihuahua considering this aggressive behavior?

Their sweet and loving dispositions and unconditional love and companionship is certainly worth it.

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Why Are Chihuahuas Mean And Aggressive? - Two Chihuahua's down on the ground. -

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