feisty bundle of teeth
September 19, 2011 4:45 PM   Subscribe

I have a new chihuahua puppy who is a bit too aggressive and not sure how to train it out of him. Details inside, advice needed.

We have two chihuahua dogs both 3 years old, bought as puppies, and both are very good natured and loving and not at all aggressive.

We got a third (and final) puppy earlier this year, he's now 7 months old, and we have noticed aggressive behavior. It increases as he got older, and we thought having him fixed (all our dogs are fixed) would help it, but it hasn't.

He normally is not aggressive towards either of us or our other dogs, but he becomes very territorial over food and toys. If he has a high-value toy or if he is eating, be becomes viscous if either of us humans or the other dogs try to take the item from him (note: we're not teasing him, but if he has something he shouldn't we take it, or if we're picking up toys, etc).

Also, if he is laying and sleeping he becomes aggressive if we try to move him or even pet him. I suppose there's a statement about "let sleeping dogs lie" but sometimes he'll fall asleep ON our laps, etc. and then becomes aggressive if we need to stand up.

He'll first growl, then snap/bite.

We've tried various forms of discipline, starting with sharp "no"s and then, from a puppy training book, gentle tugs on the loose skin on his neck, but we don't feel too comfortable with physical correction afraid of increasing aggression.

This puppy is in obedience training, on our 7th week of class, and he does quite well and obeys commands. We've talked to the trainers and they didn't have any specific advice, actually saying that the other, older dogs will learn to not get between the puppy and his food...

We also walk him regularly and he's very good on a leash, so I don't think i's really a dominance thing...

We want to ensure this aggression is mediated quickly lest he become more aggressive and, while he's only 4lbs, he can tear up fingers (and has).

Advice? Links? Books?
posted by arniec to Pets & Animals (9 answers total)
A few links




With food aggression the basic bit is to feed the dog from your hand so they don't get used to getting fed from a bowl. With toys etc, the key is teaching the dog a drop or leave command (Which they should know anyway).

The real key is making food and toys a reward for the dog. Especially if the dog is responding well to general training. A couple of good options in the above links of ways to work the dog up to the point where he can be left with toys. (This is pretty key, dog doesn't get toys at all until he learns to behave)
posted by bitdamaged at 4:56 PM on September 19, 2011

This sounds like classic resource guardings. There's a lot of advice on the internet, and I definitely think you should talk with a professional trainer. Personally, I don't think punishment is very useful for fear reactions, because it's just adding another reason to be fearful and stressed.
posted by muddgirl at 5:28 PM on September 19, 2011

If it helps to know, I grew up with chihuahuas who growled and snapped when they were moved, and I was under the impression it was a breed trait. Unfortunately, it was twenty-odd years ago, so we just laughed and ignored them and considered it something you put up with. Best of luck to you in fixing it.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:01 PM on September 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, first of all let your pup know this is problem. Make a yelp-y sound like "ouch," in a high aggrieved voice when he acts scary. Also, work with him using positive reinforcement (click and treat) on doing what you want. Eg " leave it" command -- reward any distraction from toy or food with click and treat, then up the ante so your dog waits for a release word like "Done!". This isnt about dominance or who is the alpha dog, it is about you training a scared and defensive dog that behaving ad you prefer results in wonderful rewards. My favorite site for all this is Karen Pryor.
posted by bearwife at 10:08 PM on September 19, 2011

Sorry - in a high and aggrieved voice. . .

And behaving as you prefer . . .
posted by bearwife at 10:10 PM on September 19, 2011

It might help to talk directly to someone who knows lots about Chihuahua aggression issues and go from there. Did you get this puppy from a breeder? If so, they may have some good resources. If you were based in the UK I would definitely recommend you speak to a behaviourist rather than your average trainer - they tend to be a bit more specialised. Since you are in the US , where behaviorists are less common, I would say you should contact your local vet and ask for some direction over the phone. Whatever you do, it is important you find a good training method and stick to it. Inconsistency will only make things worse.
posted by wigsnatcher at 9:36 AM on September 20, 2011

If it helps to know, I grew up with chihuahuas who growled and snapped when they were moved, and I was under the impression it was a breed trait. ... so we just laughed and ignored them and considered it something you put up with. Best of luck to you in fixing it.

As an owner of larger dogs, please don't do this. Its give all dog owners a bad name when you don't properly train a dog because of its size. It pisses my wife and I off to no end when we see poorly behaved tiny dogs who get a pass just because of their size.
posted by bitdamaged at 9:43 AM on September 20, 2011

it seems like he might be stressed from having to share and is trying to keep as much for himself as he can. chihuahuas are infamous for this behaviour.

certainly look into all the training/trainer options you can, but there's a possibility that this pup might not ever be okay with sharing and would be happier in a home where he's top dog.

it might be a very good idea to talk to the breed-specific rescue in your area (or closest) about the issue and see what ideas they have - they are likely to be experts with many potential solutions!
posted by batmonkey at 11:39 AM on September 20, 2011

Some people have already given some great advice! Clicker training is always a great idea, especially with dogs that are stressed and/or aggressing. I would also recommend feeding him seperately, to prevent any altercations one, and to set him up for success, not to mention relieving that stressor on him while he is eating. Our Cheasapeake can be food aggressive toward our Basenji mix, we feed them seperately, and any time he aggresses around any other food (our food even!) we remove him from the room. He's also the same with high value toys (mostly those with food involved). Initially we had to remove those important toys from his line up, now we will allow him to have those specific toys only when they both have one and under our supervision and as long as he sticks with his toy and doesn't go after hers. If he does aggress we usually remove him and his toy. Its seems to work with him because those toys are of such high value and he knows that he won't be allowed to have them unless he behaves. Hope this was a least a little helpful!
posted by Quincy at 8:54 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

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