Training a Chihuahua
When thinking about Chihuahuas, the words patient, obedient and submissive do not generally come to mind. It is true that training a Chihuahua can be difficult because of their sometimes defiant and headstrong nature, but it is by no means an impossible task. Following some simple guidelines will make the process of reaching a strong working relationship much simpler for both owners and their dogs.
Socialize the Puppy
Many people consider Chihuahuas to be aggressive and unfriendly dogs with little taste for strangers. The breed may have a stronger tendency towards these characteristics than others, but such standoffish behavior is likely the result of poor socialization when the dog was young. Many Chihuahua owners can attest to the fact that antisocial behavior is by no means their inevitable fate. Much of the breed is loving, friendly and without any problems of this sort. If purchased when it is a puppy, the first step in training a Chihuahua is to expose it to as many kinds of people and other animals as possible as early as possible. This will greatly reduce the tendency of the dogs to latch, onto one of their owners and jealously guard them from all other creatures. It will also make the dogs much more willing to submit to more advanced training at a later age.
Be the Master
The most important factor in training any dog, be it Chihuahua or otherwise, is for the owners to consistently establish themselves in a superior position. Dogs are extremely social animals with thousands of years of pack instincts ingrained into their thought process. They will naturally create a complex social ranking system and it is of the utmost importance that the humans of the house sit at the top of that hierarchy. Some breeds have a stronger desire to be in a leadership position than others, and unfortunately Chihuahuas are frequently among those that have a tendency to immediately assume they are head honcho. This assumption should be broken early and vigorously.
Forcing a Chihuahua into a more submissive state of mind requires a high level of dedication from all members of the household. Small actions, such as not allowing the dog to lay on the couch with humans but making it sleep on its own separate bed can go a long way in training a Chihuahua that it belongs in a different, lower class from its owners. Dogs must be allowed to get away with as little unseemly behavior as possible. Consistence and stating commands in a calm, firm voice will go an incredibly long way in establishing dominance.
Once the entire family has committed to being consistent in training a Chihuahua, it is time to proceed onto the traditional training methods. It is important to remember that positive reinforcement is significantly more effective than negative reinforcement. What this means is that a dog is much more likely to learn a new behavior if it is rewarded for it rather than being punished for the old undesirable behavior. This is relatively straightforward when teaching something like sitting, where the dog can be praised and given a treat every time it performs the trick, but it is somewhat more complex when trying to teach the dog not to run away. In order to realise the full potential of training, it is important that the owner devise a means of rewarding a dog for the actions that they do want it to perform rather than only punishing it for the ones that they don’t. In this case, the owner might give the dog a treat when it returns. This might seem counterintuitive, but this will cause the dog to associate the return with something pleasant and will make it more likely to come back the next time.
This is not to say that negative reinforcement has no place in training a Chihuahua. It is very important that any time the dog does something bad that the owner speak to it in a firm voice that leaves no doubt about its meaning. It is important that the two techniques be used in conjunction to provide positive associations with positive actions and negative associations with negative actions.
Training a Chihuahua is not an easy process, but if patience and consistence are displayed by all members of the household, the result is sure to be a happy and obedient dog.