As the world’s tiniest breed, they are perfectly pocket-sized and make for a fun companion. Especially when you learn how to train a Chihuahua to do cute tricks! There are plenty of Chihuahuas in competitive sports, shows and in movies, proving that they absolutely can be trained to advanced levels. But I’ve found that for most owners basics like potty, crate and recall training can be a little more challenging in these diminutive dogs. There are also many owners and trainers who struggle with basic behavioral problems with their dogs. These little pups have a reputation among some for being feisty, snappy, difficult and loud. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to help encourage your clever pal to behave beautifully, and it’s not that hard if you use the right methods.
- Are Chihuahuas always hard to train?
- Potty training tips for toy breeds
- Rewards and bonding
- Basic training for Chihuahuas
The Chihuahua’s popularity has grown even more in the past 20 years thanks to so many celebrities who have made mini-me celebrities out of their cheeky pets. However, if you’re considering getting a Chihuahua, it’s important to get a full picture of their training requirements to avoid dealing with some of the common complaints about the breed.
Are Chihuahuas Hard to Train?
The Chihuahua Club of America describes this breed as having a terrier-like temperament. Small terriers were originally bred to fearlessly dive into animal burrows while hunting, so having a “feisty” and combative personality is understandable.
Chihuahuas are also very similar to terriers in that they have a big bark and are not afraid to use it. In fact, one of the most common questions from upset owners is how to train a Chihuahua to stop barking when they are home alone. Chihuahuas were not bred for hunting, though, but for companionship. Therefore, most expect the breed to be more loving and gentler lap-loving dogs.
Lapdogs and Companion Pets
One side-effect of being bred as devoted companions, is a tendency for guarding and resource-guarding aggression. Curbing this behavior is the second most frequently asked question about chihuahua training.
One study revealed that chihuahuas were in the top of aggression-prone breeds, being capable of attacking strangers and members of their own family. That’s why they aren’t recommended for households with small children.
The third biggest question about how to train a chihuahua deals with potty training.
We are always proponents of positive training methods, and chihuahua training is no exception. Positive reinforcement uses rewards to encourage “good” behaviors. For example, if you want to teach your dog to sit, you reward her when she sits.
The goal is for your dog to repeat behaviors that earn her rewards, like treats or affection. Rewards can include food, special treats, praise and petting, playing with a favorite toy, etc.
Just be aware that since Chihuahuas are such small dogs, treats need to be especially small and used sparsely, so as to not cause obesity! So, as you embark on your Chihuahua training, we recommend learning the basics of positive reinforcement techniques, or hiring a local trainer who does.
How to Train a Chihuahua Puppy
The first two components of your Chihuahua puppy training should be thorough socialization and potty training to avoid the top complaints of Chihuahua behavior.
Socialization doesn’t just mean taking your puppy on play dates with other pups. It actually refers to exposure to a wide range of situations and individuals. For such tiny pooches, it’s important for your Chihuahua to be regularly introduced to larger dogs that are very gentle so as to make a lasting impression on your pup that big doesn’t mean scary.
This goes for being around lots of different people, including children. While your pup is still impressionable and inquisitive, introduce her to friends, neighbors, and strangers. Introduce her to children with careful instruction to stay quiet, move slowly, and pet gently.
Handling them with care
Children have a natural inability to regulate their grip until they are 7 years old, so don’t allow small children to hold your puppy or they could end up grabbing her tightly and scaring or hurting her. Being handled by other people is key in socializing your puppy.
Your dog should be properly socialized to gentle and careful handling, teeth brushing, touching ears and paws and tail. This will make trips to the vet and groomer much easier.
Plus, since these dogs are so small even as adults, it’s likely they will be carried around and passed from person to person. It’s very important your pup doesn’t fear being handled, or she could end up biting someone’s face.
How to Train a Chihuahua to Pee Outdoors
Owners who have either bought a puppy that came from poor housing circumstances, or owners who have adopted older chihuahuas tend to have difficulty in this area.
Once a chihuahua has established poor toilet training routines – urinating or defecating in the house or on their own bed, for example – it is quite difficult to re-train them to potty outside.
Tips for Chihuahua Toilet Training
The first of our Chihuahua training tips is to make proper toilet training a priority. Try to avoid starting out with pee pads that claim to help with potty training puppies and difficult dogs. Most Chihuahua owners say that once they’ve started using pee pads, they can’t manage to train them off of them and into a normal outdoor toilet routine.
If you’re not comfortable having smelly, urine-soaked pads around your home and bringing them with you anytime you travel, I don’t recommend using them.
Start establishing a daily routine right away. Yours could look something like this:
- Wake up – go to designated potty area for relief
- Potty break
- Play on his own while Mama gets ready for work/school
- Last morning potty break
- Into the crate or restricted play area while Mama’s at work/school
- Mid-day potty break
- 5 minutes of playing outside then back inside
- Mama’s home from work/school – you guessed it – POTTY BREAK!
- Playtime & training
- Play alone/chew toy
- Potty break
The first few days with your new pup, set a timer to take puppy out to the designated potty spot every 2 hours, and reward any relief in the right spot with praise and play.
People often over-estimate these tiny pups’ abilities to “hold it” for extended periods of time. Your puppy’s bladder and abdominal muscles will strengthen to “hold it” longer and longer over the first 6-8 months. Most people rush the process, which is a mistake for tiny breeds.
Additionally, always offer a potty break after your pup wakes up (even from a short nap), eats, drinks, or has a heavy bout of playtime. These activities typically trigger an urge to go potty.
Chihuahua Toilet Training Limitations
By 10-12 weeks, with a good routine it’s reasonable to think your puppy can “hold it” for about 3-4 hours during the day or 5-6 hours overnight. Yes, that means if you work a typical 8-10 hour shift, you’ll need to come home or have a pet sitter pop by around lunchtime for a potty break. It also means your pup will probably still be whining around 2-3am for a potty break too.
Some adult Chihuahuas will never physically be able to “hold it” longer than 6 hours. So if you work a traditional 8+ hour shift outside of the home, you’ll need to make plans for a dog walker or to bring your dog to work with you.
If you need more detailed help with potty training or have any issues, see trainer Pippa Mattinson’s How to Potty Train A Puppy
Basic Training for Chihuahuas
Once you’ve established a solid foundation for home life, you can move on to other Chihuahua puppy training concepts. Even if your dog is only 5lbs, it’s important to teach him not to jump on people.
You can use our training guide for stopping jumping here.
Learning To Be Alone
To train your chihuahua to be comfortable being home alone so they don’t bark all day, you should consider crate training. Learning how to train a chihuahua puppy to be comfortable in their crate will reduce their chances of barking due to separation anxiety.
A crate will provide a comfortable resting place for your pup while you’re gone. For a detailed guide to crate training a puppy, use this guide.
How to train a Chihuahua not to bite
Most puppies will go through a play biting phase, so if you need help training your playful chihuahua not to nip, you can follow this guide. However, if your Chihuahua growls when you or someone else tries to handle her or bites and snaps at you if you approach while she is eating or playing with a toy, then you need to intervene.
I recommend hiring a licensed canine behaviorist or a dog trainer that is experienced with canine aggression. Many owners of toy breeds are dismissive of aggression.
People often think a small dog cannot do much damage. The reality is that small dogs are most often held near a person’s face, which makes for more dangerous bites. They also can instigate a fight with a larger dog, which will have tragic outcomes for your tiny dog.
Chihuahua Obedience Training
Learning how to walk politely on a leash in public is important. Since your Chihuahua is small, people are dismissive of the need to train them to walk politely on a leash. A detailed guide to leash training can be found here.
One of our specific Chihuahua training methods to walk politely on a leash is to put them on a table or bench and practice walking alongside them. Take precautions for their safety.
Using a target at the end of a stick will also help you train her to stay by your side without back-breaking training sessions. Also, shuffle your feet quietly and smoothly to make as little motion and noise as possible so as to not scare them.
How to Train a Chihuahua to do Tricks
It can be a lot of fun to teach your miniature companion tricks! You can see chihuahuas on TV and in movies doing some great examples. There are also a lot of Chihuahuas in “freestyle” competitions that do choreographed dance routines.
If you’re interested in learning to teach your dog tricks, I recommend learning about clicker training , shaping, behavior capturing, target training, and behavior chains. Each of these range from beginner to advanced training techniques that are used on animals of all sizes and species.
Some fun tricks you can work on are:
- Four Paws in a Box
- High Five (target your pup’s foot to your hand using target training)
- Dancing (lure your pup up onto her hind feet and use clicker training to shape the behavior into longer periods of standing or dancing on her hind legs)
- Spin in a circle (use a target pole to move your pup around in a circle)
Kimberly J Hutchings says
I rescued a 3 year old Chihuahua from animal control. She refuses to do her business outside. I’ll take her for a walk and she will not go to the bathroom outside. She chews everything. She has chew toys but wants to eat or chew pillows and anything soft. She chews my hands even. I’m determined to get her trained from these bad habits but don’t know if I can do it.
Hello, I have a dog name teal and he is very lazy and i need help training he can you please give me some advice?
My new puppy off three weeks in the house makes Pipi on the pad because min. 20 degree it is to cold to go out but impossible to let her make kaka on the pad she shits everywhere. What to do? I need help . Thank you in advence. And be safe
Hi , l have three dogs a Suluki cross Chinese crested, a long haired Chihuahua and a short hair Chihuahua. The first two are well behaved, but the youngest who is 3& half , will only come on recall when it suits her , l have tried taking her out on her own for training, and she always comes ,but when with the others she reverts to doing her own thing. Can you advise me? thanking you
I have found myself with the job of dog sitting for two chihuahuas for the next six months. I have known them for about two and a half years. The younger one has always been more friendly with the older one being more standoffish and likely to grow up. Originally, they were being cared for in the owners apartment by others. Now they are in my home. The first day was pretty normal. They are snugglers and are allowed sleep in bed with me. Every time I rolled over or moved the younger one made a fuss of growling and snapping and barking. Her owner informed me that she wakes up crabby when you try and move her. Okay, that explains that. For 2 days now every time I go near her she does the growling and snapping routine. She won’t allow me to pick her up. Sometimes, I will pet her lightly and do hush, shhh,shhh and it works. Other times she becomes almost enraged and, for all practical purposes, attacks the older dog. She will happily crawl in my lap,get in my face with her tail wagging and have a fit the minute I try to pet her. I do not want The six-month period to be the challenge the last two days have been. I know she’s a good dog, but I’m not sure what changed, but would love it to go back to the way it was.
I use a mix of outdoor when I can and pee pads when I am away from home. They are a godsend and it’s really petty that people dismiss the use. All situate different and little dogs are smart and can do both.
So true, my chihuahua prefer to goes outside but as a owner things happen and you you can’t or don’t take them out as planned. When this happens my chihuahua uses his pad. Thank God! He was 4 months when I realized he was fully trained. Now he’s a little over 5 months and continues to relieve himself outside or on a pad. So happy and proud of him. I absolutely adore my pup but not being house broken is a deal breaker for me.
I adopted my gal about two months ago she is 3 years old and a sweetheart considering she was found on the streets here in Mexico. She came to us with her shots in order and she had been spade. She was not house trained and had lived in a crate. She now is trained to go outside and I use the pads, because I am in a 6th floor condo, and because of my age I cannot be taking her out as often. She is terrified of big dogs and it takes her a while to even be friendly with small dogs. But she gets car sick, any suggestions? We take her wherever we go.
Laurie Fay says
My dog hates to go out in in-climate weather. I finally decided to put his pee pads in the shower where clean-up is easy. Once this box is gone I’m turning to washable pads or newspaper to help with the environment.
I use washable pads. You can find small ones in a medical store for people. They work great for my 2 pups.
Anahi J. says
I Definitely Agree As Well. These Pee Pads Or ( Wee Wee Pads) as My Husband and I Call Them, Are And Have Been the Greatest Thing Ever. We Lucked Out Actually, Because My husband Was Able To Train Our Puppy when she was about 8/9 weeks old To Go On Her Pads And it worked Amazingly to where she had An Accident here and there but Hey That was Nothing Compare To Her Going On Her Pad 95% of The Time. So Yeah I Would Definitely Recommend Pads And Hey You Just Pick Up and Throw Away.
Gemma Johnson says
I think pee pads come in handy for night times only. And only in the first few weeks. In a world where we need to drastically reduce plastic use to save our planet, I do not encourage using unnecessary plastics.
Teresa Mitchell says
I have raised these puppies and no matter what i do they cannot be potty trained. I take them out at least 5 -6 times a day and I have a potty pad that looks like grass and only one and she is a mixed breed uses it.