What Are Chihuahuas Scared Of?
From noisy appliances to fireworks, Chihuahuas are naturally nervous and tend to be afraid of a lot of things. They need patience, consistency, and firm structure to overcome these fears properly.
Chihuahuas have different brains than all other dogs.
Relative to their bodies, Chihuahuas have the biggest brain in the canine world. However, the brain of the Chihuahua is neotenized, and does not mature like a dog’s. A wolf's brain goes through 5 stages of maturity, the tail-wagging domestic dog goes through 4 levels, while a Chihuahua’s brain only goes through 3 levels - almost keeping the disposition of a permanent puppy.
Nervous Chihuahua Syndrome
Chihuahuas have a reputation for nervousness. If your Chihuahua experiences this, you're not alone. Fortunately, Chihuahuas are a very trainable breed and with time, they can overcome their fears.
The Most Common Fear Factors in Chihuahuas
- Strangers and Other Dogs
Never isolate your Chihuahua from people or other dogs. Like any dog, a Chihuahua needs to be socialized from a young age. Starting early is key! This is especially important for this particular breed.
If you introduce your Chihuahua to other dogs and many different people as a puppy, they will be less likely to grow up with this kind of fear. If your Chihuahua is already grown, consult an animal behaviorist or trainer for help developing social skills.
If your Chihuahua is afraid of cars, never walk alongside a road.
Even parked cars can be quite scary, so you need to teach your dog that when they see a car, treats appear then they will associate this scary thing with positivity. Grab lots of your Chihuahua's favorite treats, leash your dog and walk towards a parked car. Walking slowly, take one step at a time, and give your dog a treat for each step forward.
For daily walks, choose a quiet area or park with the least amount of distractions and passing cars until they're comfortable with parked cars.
When your Chihuahua encounters children for the first time as adult dogs, they may become frightened by the unfamiliar size, smells, noises, and sudden movements of children.
Chihuahuas may also develop a fear of children after a painful experience. Children often have a tendency to pull on tails, grab handfuls of fur, take toys away, and even poke places that can really hurt like the eyes. Some dogs are tolerant of children, but Chihuahuas can develop a fear of children after only one bad interaction.
Never leave your dog unsupervised with children and start socialization with children from an early age.
- Noisy Appliances
Chihuahuas can hear at higher frequencies than humans which can result in many anxious behaviors. These fears can also be triggering as they are coming from such a large object. Before running that dishwasher or dryer on full blast, we suggest positive reinforcement with the silent machine.
Always associate these objects with your Chihuahua's favorite treats.
Fireworks can be fun and an exciting way to celebrate our different holidays. However, for Chihuahuas, those loud booms and flashing lights are not so fun. Sadly, more pets run away on July 4th than any other day of the year. If your Chihuahua is crate-trained, make the crate readily available, as that’s probably already used as a safe space for them. If not, put your Chihuahua in a small room with talk radio, music, or white noise to help drown out the sounds of the fireworks. Bringing your Chihuahua's bed, blankets, and special toys into the room can make it very comfortable for them.
We know it is hard to see your Chihuahua seem so fearful during a storm. However, do not carry your dog around when they seem scared. It only encourages the habit.
"Most of the time they don't grow out of it on their own, and many will get worse with time if nothing is done," says Matt Peuser, DVM, a veterinarian at Olathe Animal Hospital in Kansas.
- Being Left Alone
Chihuahuas are most afraid of being left alone. Fiercely loyal, territorial, and protective of their owners, Chihuahuas are very devoted animals.
Whether you are going to work for the day, or just running up to the local store for a couple of minutes, leaving your Chihuahua alone can trigger behavior that is both destructive to their health and your house.
Keep in mind that punishing or disciplining your Chihuahua for this behavior will only make the problem much worse.
When dealing with separation anxiety in your Chihuahua, you should always ignore your Chihuahua when you leave and enter the home. Leave the television running or radio on when you leave and make sure they get a lot of exercise throughout the day.
This type of behavioral disorder is something that can take months to treat. Remain persistent and seek advice from an animal behaviorist or trainer.
How to Train Your Chihuahua to Not Be Scared
STEP 1. Figure out what triggers your Chihuahua
There may be one or possibly multiple people or objects that your Chihuahua will react very fearfully to. Create a list of how many things there are. This will give you a much better idea of the work you’ll need to plan out.
STEP 2. Focus on one fear at a time
Trying to take on one too many things at once can be overwhelming for both your and your little dog. Focus on one fear such as strangers, cars, other dogs, children, or loud noises.
STEP 3. Help your Chihuahua to relax
Before exposing your dog to anything new or what they're already scared off, spend time with your Chihuahua to get them relaxed and comfortable. Just remember to not comfort them in the middle of training when they show signs of fear.
STEP 4. Start the exposure to their fears
Always start the exposure from far away and slowly increase the distance or noise level. Reward them with their favorite treats whenever they ignore the object. If they begin to show visible signs of fear, increase the distance and try again.
STEP 5. Repeat this process with each fear
Slowly expose your Chihuahua to every different thing they fear while rewarding as you get closer and closer.
STEP 6. Positive reinforcement often
Even if your Chihuahua begins to adjust to certain fears, a reminder from time to time that the object is not scary is very important. Expose them to these things as often as possible to reinforce the training you've done so far and to keep the fear from coming back.
It is never too late to help your Chi if it’s scared of many things.
The American Kennel Club refers to this tiny dog as “saucy" as they are bursting with personality despite their little size. Chihuahuas are quick-witted and eager to learn, but it will take time and patience.
When working on nervousness issues, remember that holding, pats, and soothing words are interpreted as praise for the behavior. Anything a Chihuahua is praised for they will repeat again and again. Don’t be discouraged if training doesn’t work right away. Every Chihuahua is different. Training requires a lot of time and patience but it will pay off in the end.