If your Chi is still a puppy, he or she may have a habit of randomly nipping or biting at you and the members of your family. This is most likely because the Chihuahua is going through a teething stage. This is a normal process of them trying to help bring their puppy teeth through and trying to alleviate the pain that is involved. This is much the same as a baby teething. The puppy may go through stages of this for the first year of their life.
Chewing may become an issue around the time they start teething. There are toys available that are specifically for teething puppies of all sizes. Some of them are made of thick rubber and can be filled with water and frozen to help numb the gums in your puppy’s mouth. Chewing may also help loosen the puppy teeth when they are almost ready to fall out. If given the appropriate thing to chew on, this may be beneficial by helping ensure that there are no retained puppy teeth left in the mouth as the adult teeth come in.
You should begin correcting your dog for biting from an early age. Do not let the Chi get away with this type of action or it may become a more severe problem down the road. Once a puppy figures out that there is no consequence to biting, it may be harder to train them not to do it as they age. You should never hit or threaten to hit a Chihuahua. Instead, when the Chihuahua snaps at you or tries to bite, use your firm command of ‘NO’ and say it in a louder than normal voice. If this is not effective, you may want to add a form of touch to the command. You may take two fingers and lightly tap the dog on the bridge of the nose, or gently grab around the dog’s muzzle. Be careful not to use too much pressure. Repeat the ‘no’ command during the act of touching the dog.
Giving your dog plenty of rawhides or other chewy type treats may help prevent him or her from trying to find other things (like the legs on your furniture) as teething rings. You may also choose to use and anti-chew spray, which should be available at any pet chain or superstore. This stage will usually pass when the puppy is not teething anymore, but you must also be sure to correct chewing behavior before the dog thinks it is okay to continue it. Otherwise you may end up with a dog who likes to shred things forever.
If you are having trouble with an older dog biting, it may be for other reasons. The dog may have been abused in the past and biting is a method of self-defense. It might be that they are biting others when they come near you. Since dogs learn by repetition, the best thing you can do is to display your unhappiness when the dog attempts to bite and your joy when he doesn’t. You may choose to put him into the situation that causes him to bite and reward him when he does not. Please be sure that you do not allow children of any age to interact with a dog that you feel may be displaying signs of aggressive behavior. Even though Chi’s are very small dogs, they have very sharp teeth and can, as all dogs, deliver a serious bite to a child.
If your dog is displaying other signs of fear, such as cowering, trying to hide, shaking when you reach for him or urinating while cowering, you may have a dog that could become aggressive in self-defense. Reassurance is the best method in this case. Ensuring that you never use harsh punishment with a dog you get as a puppy will prevent these behaviors from happening. If you have a dog that used to belong to someone else, time, patience and love, along with repetition of these behaviors is the only cure. Take one day at a time and develop a solid bond of trust with a fearful dog and they will begin to come around once they feel secure.
If you have multiple small dogs in your house who are allowed out together at the same time, you should watch what they do when they play. If it seems that they are becoming overly-rough with one another, you want to intervene. Dogs tend to pick up behaviors from one another within a pack. If you have a dog in the pack that is overly aggressive while playing, that may become a learned behavior for the rest of the pack. Puppies are highly impressionable and what you teach your dog as a puppy will stay with him or her for the rest of their lives. Be sure that you teach them they can feel safe with you, or you may not get a second chance. Once they fear someone, they will always fear that person.
Older Chihuahuas may be prone to snapping because they can no longer hear or see well and don’t notice that someone is near them until it startles them. Older dogs should always be watched carefully if they are around children of any age. They may not be as tolerant of kids as a younger dog might.
Sometimes aggressive behavior and biting can be the result of a medical issue. There are too many to list here but a Chihuahua that keeps biting with seemingly no cause should be seen by a vet to determine if there is an underlying medical issue related to the behavior.