Why Are Chihuahuas So Aggressive? (15 Tips To Stop It)

Being the smallest breed in existence today, the Chihuahua has a lot of admirers, making them a popular choice.

However, the size can sometimes blind pet parents to the aggressive side of this breed.

A canine example of “small but mighty,” the Chihuahua can snap at visitors and even stand against dogs bigger than it.

While the latter can be admirable, the Chihuahua’s aggressiveness becomes problematic if not well managed.

Why are Chihuahuas so Aggressive?

Chihuahuas tend to be aggressive for many reasons. They have a feisty personality which can translate to aggressiveness when provoked.

They are territorial as well, and just as protective of their owners as a large guard dog is. Added to these is a wariness towards strangers.

We’ll explore the various reasons why Chihuahuas get aggressive, as well as ways to stop this behavior in your dog.

Reasons Why Chihuahuas are so Aggressive

Aggressive Small Chihuahua Dog Indoors on Sofa

Meanness, excessive barking, and even biting are all signs of aggressiveness you might notice with your dog, but these behaviors aren’t random.

We’ll highlight and explain 8 main reasons a Chihuahua can be aggressive.

1. Genetics

This is tied to how the Chihuahua breeders bred your dog, as well as many other small dogs.

These small dog breeds are often bred for their looks because pet parents get them more for companionship and as eye candy.

To earn more, some breeders will try to get the smallest possible dogs—known as teacup puppies.

This experiment is also done on the Chihuahua, and the dogs that are mated to get teacup puppies are small too.

Mating can lead to many problems, including health and behavioral issues.

2. Protectiveness

Though not as big as guard dogs, Chihuahuas are protective of their owners and where they consider their territories.

They play security roles better than dogs their size. Because of their protective nature, these dogs may not appreciate “intruders” invading, even if that intruder is a visitor of yours.

They have many signs to show that someone is trespassing, and once they display these signs towards a stranger, tell the person to back off.

One of these signs is growling. Chihuahuas will growl if they feel threatened by someone.

The growling can be accompanied by a display of teeth, intended to intimidate the stranger. 

Check the body posture too. When threatened, your dog becomes stiff. This is a show of anger and an obvious red flag.

A  stiff dog is likely to attack. It gets worse if you maintain eye contact. 

A final sign to consider when gauging whether a Chihuahua feels threatened is its tail.

A happy dog wags its tail, an angry dog doesn’t. The tail will be erect and moving, a clear sign of tension.

3. Wariness Towards Strangers

Chihuahua Dog Barking

Tied to their protective nature is a wariness towards strangers. This breed shows enormous love towards their family members and can even bond with one another.

But that’s where their love ends. Strangers need not apply. Chihuahuas do not like new faces and their first impression is to bark.

This isn’t limited to people. Chihuahuas don’t like other dogs as well and may not be the best option for multiple pets at home.

These dogs can pick a fight with bigger ones, regardless of their small size. 

If you have a friend who visits constantly, he/she will need to be patient with your dog till the pooch can get accustomed to them.

It takes some time for this to happen, and you can make things easier by keeping your dog busy while a visitor is around.

4. Dominant Attitude

Chihuahuas are small, but they have an attitude bigger than their size. Without sufficient training, this breed might even become uncontrollable towards its owners.

Their bravery can make them take unusual risks, and they like to show they’re in charge.

This attitude will be worse if you don’t enforce your position as the leader when the Chihuahua is young.

This breed is good for first-time pet parents, but to get the best results, even beginners should be confident when training it.

5. Training and Socialization 

Speaking of training, you also have a part to play in regulating the Chihuahua’s aggressiveness.

More will be said in the second segment of this article, but for now, we’ll point out that inadequate training and socialization can make this breed more aggressive than it should be.

Early training helps curb bad behaviors, and a lack of this foundation will show in how much your dog shows aggression.

The same applies to socialization. A poorly socialized Chihuahua will be more territorial and may find it easier to attack. 

6. Anxiety

Anxiety is tied to fear both for humans and dogs. Anxiety is often a trigger for aggression in dogs, and when a dog feels anxious it may react in negative ways.

Anxiety can be caused by a heavy storm, a trip to the veterinarian, loud noises, or your absence.

Chihuahuas are prone to separation anxiety and may express that by barking excessively and ripping through furniture. Fortunately, there are many ways to curb separation anxiety.[1]

7. Abuse

Sadly, some dogs have gone through abuse and may suffer from PTSD.

If you decided to adopt a Chihuahua that has a bad experience with its past owners, it will be hard to gain its trust.

Even a simple touch could cause it to snap. Sometimes you may not realize how bad the abuse was, and how much it damaged your pooch.

To gain an understanding of the past life of any adopted dog, go through its records and ask for information. As you study these records, look for specific details.

What can trigger the abuse? How long was the dog abused? What behaviors has it shown as a consequence of the abuse? 

Once you identify the triggers, avoid them as much as possible. You can also manage the PTSD caused by the abuse.[2]

8. Relocation

Moving from a comfortable area to an unknown place can be stressful for people, but we’re not the only ones who find it challenging to adapt to a new environment.

Dogs can also get stressed and find it difficult to get used to new surroundings.

This breed is a good example, and their struggle to adapt is accentuated by their natural wariness. They also like to be secure and to have a safe space where they can be reassured.

Moving to a new environment takes away this security, and they also have to start getting accustomed to new faces, places, and sights all over again.

This can be difficult for them to do in a short period, and until they do they will display aggressiveness.

9. Health Issues

Another reason a Chihuahua might be aggressive is a health condition. An injured pooch or one suffering from an ailment may snap, bark or even bite when touched or handled.

If you notice any abnormal signs—like your dog limping—take it to the veterinarian for a checkup.

Under the health factor, there is obesity, and an obese dog can turn your living room upside down in search of a treat or a meal.

You might also notice swelling on the teeth or stomach, which causes pain. 

15 Ways to Stop Aggressive behavior in Chihuahuas

Aggressive Chihuahua Growling Showing Teeth

With the different reasons in mind, how do we proceed towards stopping the Chihuahua’s aggressiveness?

Here are some tips you can employ to shape your fiery companion into a dutiful dog.

1. Training

Good training is the first step to curbing aggression in your Chihuahua, and this should begin from a very young age.

One training aspect is obedience training, and to achieve this you teach your dog a series of commands. These include Come, Sit, Stay, and Speak/Quiet.

The Come command is important because you can use it to draw your Chihuahua’s attention when it is angry. The more trained a dog is, the easier it’ll be to call it back when it is angry.

Both Sit and Stay commands can be valuable in getting your dog to remain at a part of the house where visitors aren’t.

The Speak and Quiet commands work together and are useful when you either need your dog to bark or remain quiet.

To teach Chihuahuas these commands, you’ll need patience, consistency, and a lot of treats. With a detailed dog training checklist, training your pup would become easier.

2. Socialization

Socialization and training go hand in hand. This is another indispensable tool that will reduce aggression in your dog.

Socialization involves going outdoors a lot, and if you’re not outdoorsy you should adapt before getting a dog. Regardless of breed, every dog needs socialization.

Walking to a nearby park is a good start. Chihuahuas are small so they don’t need a long walk. Finding somewhere close will benefit your pet more.

Let it meet new people and get accustomed to the outside sound. If you go to a dog park, let your pooch meet other dogs. 

While it is playing with other dogs, watch out for signs of aggression that we pointed out above (growling, stiff posture, upright tail) as well as others like excessive barking or a fight breaking out.

Separate the dogs before one gets injured (which may likely be your Chihuahua.)  

3. Daycare

A good place for your dog to get both training and socialization is at daycare.

The best time to take your Chihuahua to this place is at puppyhood, where it wouldn’t have developed any wariness towards other puppies or aggressive behaviors.

Daycares come with a lot of facilities, trainers, and other dogs with which your dog can interact.

These institutions also have packages to ensure your dog learns well. These packages can include agility training, socialized play, and obedience training. 

Your dog shouldn’t stay at a daycare center for a long time as that could cause more harm than good.

Daycares have numerous advantages, but even at puppyhood, a Chihuahua shouldn’t remain away from its owners for too long.

An extended period in daycare can be stressful for your dog. It is recommended they stay only 2 to 3 days per week.

4. Veterinarian Trips

As we pointed out above, an act of aggression may be due to an injury or a sign of an unnoticed illness.

Pain and other symptoms can put anyone at the edge, including your pooch. Thus, if your dog snaps when you touch it, that could be a sign that something is wrong.

Regular vet trips can help to both prevent a medical condition from getting worse and to get an early diagnosis. X-rays are especially important because some injuries are hard to detect by natural sight. 

Also, the Chihuahua is a toy dog breed, which makes it harder to see any injury on it.

Its small size makes it susceptible to injury as well, plus other issues like swollen joints and dislocation. Veterinarian visits are essential.  

5. Spaying/Neutering

An unneutered and unspayed Chihuahua tends to be more aggressive, especially during hormonal changes or when they want to mate.

The unneutered male is more likely to fight and show dominant tendencies towards other dogs, while the unspayed female may not remain calm when she’s in heat.[3]

Neutering or spaying your Chihuahua will cut off any aggressive tendencies that may be linked to their sexual organs.

If you have multiple dogs or you’re in a neighborhood with other pet parents, neutering/spaying can also prevent mating and a litter of puppies you didn’t ask for. 

6. Housecleaning

Regular cleaning can also work to reduce dog aggression. Like other dogs, this breed has a strong sense of smell.

Having different scents in your house may unnerve the dog and lead to aggressiveness. 

Chihuahuas also mark territories, making the house messier. The urine and poop can turn your house into a dumpster people wouldn’t like to visit. 

Clean your house regularly to remove any intrusive smell and all the after-effects of owning this breed: Poop, urine, and dead fur.

Sterilize your environment too, but keep your pet away while doing this. 

7. The Fewer Pets, The Better

Interactions with other dogs can help your Chihuahua be more social, but when these dogs happen to be pets in your home, it can create more outlets for aggression.

The pack mentality can make a Chihuahua act dominant against the dog it perceives to be the “alpha.”

The best home for a Chihuahua is one in which it is the only pet. However, if you want to have many other dogs, it shouldn’t be more than three in a household. 

8. Is Your Dog Afraid?

Fear and anxiety are strong causes of aggression in dogs. If your Chihuahua is exhibiting signs that it is afraid, it shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Some of these signs include:

  • Frantic pacing
  • An attempt to hide
  • Shaking/shivering
  • Lack of appetite
  • Whining 

When you notice these signs and more, look for what (or who) could be triggering the fear.

If it is the storm, you could take your pooch to a part of the house where the thunderclaps won’t affect it much.

Distance it from a person that might feel threatened, and if it is too much, get help from the veterinarian. Learn more about canine anxiety.

9. Space

Chihuahua Running Outdoor

Just like humans, dogs also need personal space. The Chihuahua needs it more than many other dog breeds.

Being territorial by nature, the Chihuahua loves to have its space to explore. Lack of that can lead to disobedience and even aggression.

You can solve this by creating a territory. When picking out a crate for this breed, buy one that gives it enough space to move around.

Decorate the crate with its favorite toys, and discourage anyone from making the dog unsafe by taking its toys or food.

10. Exposure to Visitors

We mentioned outdoor socialization as an important part of your pooch’s upbringing. However, socialization doesn’t have to be only outdoors.

Your dog should also learn how to have people in the home. This would make it at least polite towards visitors. 

Plus, dogs have a good scent and memory. If someone keeps coming regularly, a Chihuahua will recognize the person with time.

Your visitor can also play games with you and your pet, and feed the dog if possible. 

11. Calmness and Patience

Dogs can be challenging, and even a tiny dog like the Chihuahua can try your patience in many ways.

Its dominant tendencies can show up now and then, leading it to disobey commands. If you respond harshly, you may risk injuring your dog or triggering aggression in return.

The best approach when training your Chihuahua (or any dog, for that matter), is to remain calm and confident.

If it disobeys a command, try another one, and maintain consistency till it starts obeying. Use treats and other forms of positive reinforcement to get it to co-operate. 

12. Schedules

How do schedules make a dog remain calm? The answer lies in routine.

When a dog has a set time for feeding, exercise, and grooming each day, it reduces stress. If you have no schedule and these activities are being done randomly, it can lead to aggressiveness. 

A schedule helps both you and your pet keep track of each activity in ensuring that these activities line up each day.

This makes the Chihuahua feel safer, a state of mind that guards against aggression. 

13. Toys

When you need to distract your dog from launching an attack on someone, toys come in handy.

The best type of toys for this are toys that squeak or interact. That way, even if the dog is fixated on the person, it will hear the sound and turn towards you. Also, use the command Come.

Pick a toy that it is familiar with when a visitor (or the plumber) is coming to your house for the first time.

Using the toy, you can call the dog back to your lap or their crate. When carrying the dog on your lap, do not let anyone touch it. That could cause distrust later on. 

14. No Spoiling 

Small dogs are cute, and it is tempting to spoil them. Many pet parents hold bigger dogs to different standards than small ones, leading them to ignore behavioral issues till it gets out of hand. 

Another problem with spoiling your dog is that it can become obese, which would lead to it being unbearable when it wants food and treats.

It’ll also become very protective of its meal, creating more avenues for aggressiveness.

Have the same boundaries for your Chihuahua that you would for a big dog. Give it regular training, exercise, and socialization. 

15. Leadership 

As the pet parent, you have to establish your position as the alpha to counter the dominant tendencies of the Chihuahua.

When this breed recognizes you as the leader, it’ll be more likely to obey you than otherwise.

An unfortunate reason many Chihuahuas get out of control is that the owners are too laissez-faire.

When training, issue commands with a stern and confident voice. Do not shout or be harsh, but don’t be too lenient either.

You can also take further steps to let your dog know you are, including the following:

  • Be consistent with the rules.
  • Do not feed your dog until everyone else has been served.
  • Remain calm when dealing with your dog. Flipping out is not wise.
  • Do not be nervous or anxious around it. Dogs can read this behavior. 

Should I Get a Chihuahua? 

Recent studies have shown that Chihuahuas are more aggressive than notorious breeds like the Pitbull.[4] This may lead potential pet parents to wonder if it’s a good idea to get this breed.

If this is you, do not fret. The Chihuahua has a lot of good qualities and is an excellent companion. Regardless of the challenges, you’d gain a lot from owning this breed.

Here are some of the advantages:

  • Chihuahuas have a long life span and will be long-term companions.
  • They are easy to exercise and groom.
  • Chihuahuas are very intelligent dogs.
  • They are good watchdogs.
  • They are good for travel. 
  • They are good for apartment dwellers.
  • They are adorable!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is a Chihuahua more aggressive than a Pitbull?

The pitbull is bigger, more notorious, and has caused more damage than the Chihuahua. However, studies have shown that the Chihuahua is more aggressive and more likely to attack someone than the pitbull.

Why does my Chihuahua growl at me?

Growling is a sign of aggression, and there are many reasons a Chihuahua might growl at you. It could be out of fear, defensiveness of its toys, or reaction because of pain. 

What are Chihuahuas known for?

Chihuahuas are the smallest dogs in the world, known for their loyalty and need for attention. They are loving to their family members, but wary towards strangers. 

Will a Chihuahua bite me? 

Chihuahuas do bite, and though they are too small for the bite to have any lasting damage, they can still inflict pain. On kids, their bites can be serious, so be careful leaving your young ones alone with this breed.

Wrap Up 

The Chihuahua is no stranger to aggression, but fortunately, that’s not where the information ends.

With proactive steps from you, you can stop your dog from being aggressive.

Training, socialization, and firm leadership are some of the many ways you can curb a Chihuahua’s aggressiveness. 

Authored By

Robert Miller

Robert Miller is a dog behaviorist and professional dog trainer. With more than eight years of hands-on experience in the field, Robert relishes sharing his vast knowledge to help prospective pet parents choose the right dog breeds that suit their lifestyle and provide dog owners with the information they need to ensure they raise a well-behaved canine companion. ...