Why are Chihuahuas so aggressive?

Chihuahua sitting on the sofa
‘Who, me?’ (Picture: Getty)
When it comes to Chihuahuas, the saying ‘small, but mighty’ has never been so accurate. The Chihuahua is one of the smallest breeds of dog, named after what is now known as the Free and Sovereign State of Chihuahua. Colonial records suggest that the Conquistadores – the Spanish explorers from the 18th to the 18th century found these small dogs in the Mexican region. Popularised by the likes of Paris Hilton ’s iconic pet, Tinkerbell, Chihuahuas now make up a certain type of pampered pooch.

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Despite often living in the lap of luxury, some Chihuahuas have a reputation for being scrappy, boisterous and not afraid to square up to dogs of much larger stature.

What’s the reason for this?

Why are Chihuahuas aggressive?

There’s never been any real proof that all Chihuahuas are moody little blighters, it’s more anecdotal and observational.

The reasoning for small dogs being more aggressive are generally ascribed to a few repeating factors.

Chihuahua getting a head rub
Of course, some are perfectly zen creatures (Picture: Getty)

The first is the genetics of the dog.

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Unfortunately, smaller dogs are sometimes used more as an accessory. Because of this, improper breeders will try to make the dogs as small as possible – these are called teacup dogs.

To create teacup dogs, breeders pair the so-called runts of the litters to make the smallest animal possible, says Dr. Cathy Meeks, a board-certified internal medicine specialist and a group medical director at BluePearl Veterinary Partners in Tampa, Florida.

But sometimes the dogs selected for breeding are small because of a birth defect or other medical condition. This causes genetic defects to be passed on that could explain the breed’s often aggressive behaviour, including arthritis, tooth decay and gum problems, and hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

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chihuahua inside red hand bag, wearing tiara
Though they are small and often called ‘toy’ breeds, a Chihuahua isn’t a toy and needs to be properly trained (Picture: Getty)

Another factor could be, well, us.

Owners have a responsibility to train their dogs – train them how to interact with other people, animals and general behaviour.

However, some might think that a dog so small doesn’t need the same level of training for whatever reason – perhaps a small dog is seen as less capable of causing real harm, but a Chihuahua that constantly nips can get itself hurt, or end up eventually landing a nasty bite on another animal, a child or even an adult.

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Despite there being no concrete proof that all small dogs are more aggressive, one peer reviewed study conducted by scientists at the University of Sydney and University of Pennsylvania had found that shorter dogs tended to show more aggression.

A hypothesis for this indicates this might be a genetic thing. The report suggests that dogs of short stature might have an aggressive temperament because, historically, these shorter dogs would have been more adept at chasing prey underground.

Chihuahua dog running across grass
Chihuahuas were discovered in Mexico, where the breed were thought to be adept at hunting smaller animals (Picture: Getty)
A further study from the University of Helsinki using more than 9,000 Finnish pets has found that smaller dogs have higher odds of behaving aggressively than large and medium-sized ones – with aggression counted as barking, biting and nipping.

Be Diligent about Vet Visits. “Don’t wait for the signs,” Dr. Becker stresses. Focus on “prevention first.” Pets age fast, and when it comes to illness they are programmed to mask weakness, “they’re naturally secretive.” One to two visits a year is ideal, but if you suspect a problem, don’t hesitate, and don’t self-diagnose. “In the last two years I’ve seen four or five cases where people went to the internet for help, and by the time they get to the vet it’s too late,” says Dr. Becker.

Barking is an interesting point to mention, because many might be mistaking a Chihuahua’s proclivity to regular barking as a sign that its being aggressive.

Sometimes, though, a bark is just that – all bark and no bite.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) explain: ‘Chihuahuas, like any dog, are likely to make some noise and this will be down to the individual, their personality and training.

‘The good news is that as they are clever dogs, they can be taught not to bark excessively but this needs to start from a young age, ideally before they develop the habit. If you’re having trouble with problem barking, we’d recommend seeking the advice of an accredited behaviourist.’

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The benefits of getting a Chihuahua

Every dog has its day, and we’re not here to give Chihuahuas a complex.

Sleeping chihuahua
A Chihuahua can make a wonderful best friend (Picture: Getty)

For balance, let’s look at why Chihuahuas – when properly trained and cared for – can make an excellent companion.

  • Excellent for apartments/city living – the small stature of the mighty Chi means that people living in cities or smaller homes can still enjoy having a pooch
  • Great watchdogs – Chihuahuas are thought to have excellent eyesight and hearing (perhaps an inherited trait from their origins in Mexico, where they’d hunt small rodents and insects) – great for keeping an eye on the place
  • Easy to train – if you’re prepared to put in the time, Chihuahuas are recognised by several sources as an adaptable breed that’ll pick up training quickly
  • Low maintenance –short coated Chihuahuas don’t shed as much as other breeds, and long coated Chihuahuas just need brushing a couple of times a week
  • Loyal –many sources say the same thing: Chihuahuas are incredibly loyal to their family.

Spay and neuter your pet. Studies have shown that pets that are spayed and neutered live healthier, longer lives. Plus, spayed a neutered pets are less likely to develop behavior problems.

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