Chihuahua head shot

I worked as a dog bather long before I owned my first dog. It was the only job I could find, and although I had never so much as lived with a dog before, I quickly got used to dogs of all sizes and shapes coming into the salon stinky and in need of a bath.

At the time, I thought I knew all about chihuahuas. One bit my finger so hard I couldn’t bend it for a week, all because I tried to cut its nails. I didn’t like chihuahuas. They were mean! Why are chihuahuas so mean? I asked myself, tears streaming down my face, as yet another one squacked and snapped over having its glands done.

Fast forward two years of nippy, yappy, mean chihuahuas and my husband and I decided to get a dog of our own. We were planning on a Boston terrier, but a friend of a friend needed help placing an unexpected litter of puppies. You’ll never guess what breed it was.

Suspicion at First Sight

My husband told me I could pick the puppy from the litter since he was choosing the breed. I didn’t want a chihuahua. They’re mean. They bite. It didn’t help that despite telling me that, he had picked up a clearly sickly, runty, on-deaths-door puppy and had obviously fell in love with it.

I chose that one, mostly because I could see how much he loved it. Also, if it died, we could always go get that Boston Terrier.

I looked at the puppy, so weak it couldn’t even properly stand, and whispered into it’s ear, you are not going to act like a chihuahua.

Turns Out, It’s Not The Breed

It turns out, Rocco was suffering from a bad case of worms. They were so bad that he pooped huge batches of wriggling spaghetti for a week after the vet gave him medication for it. Getting rid of all those worms, and being treated for malnutrition caused by the worms, turned him around.

Despite being born a chihuahua, Rocco was the cutest, sweetest, gentlest puppy in the whole world. He liked to thunder up and down the hall, squeak squeaky toys, and eagerly lapped up all the lessons I gave him on sit, down, come and stay.

Why Are Chihuahuas So Mean?

Chihuahuas are the smallest dog breed, and they suffer badly from a respect issue. Nobody takes them seriously. People do stuff to chihuahuas that they wouldn’t do to a Mastiff or a Rottweiler. Take a look at those ‘funny chihuahua videos’ on YouTube, and often people are deliberately antagonizing the dog to provoke those ‘funny’ reactions.

If a Mastiff is uncomfortable with strangers, you put them in another room when strangers come over, and work with a trainer to resolve those issues. When a chihuahua has that issue, you practically set them in a stranger’s lap and wonder why they go off.

Chihuahuas learn early and young they have to be extra loud if they want to be heard. They’re not trying to be mean. They’re just trying to be dogs, and be given the same respect an average dog has.

How Do We Fix This?

After owning Rocco, my view of the breed changed. I now have 4 chihuahuas. Only one of them has bitten, and that one was taken seriously and professionally trained until it was no longer afraid in the situation that caused it to bite. He has never bitten again.

Years later I had Rocco on leash at an event and a dog groomer there was shocked my dog happily shook hands with her, showing no aggression or desire to eat her over his feet. In truth, it’s not the breed.

If you own a chihuahua, give them some respect. Train them like a proper dog. Take them seriously when they are growling. If they are uncomfortable in a situation, remove them until you can teach them better.

Chihuahuas aren’t any meaner than any other breed. They’ve simply found out that humans only listen to 5 pound “babies” when a little tooth is involved. If you want them to stop nipping, you’re going to need to show them you can listen to their concerns even though they’re the size of a tortilla.

After meeting Rocco, most of the chihuahuas I groomed at work suddenly liked me and stopped being “So mean.” But they weren’t any different than they were before. I was different. I was treating them more like the dogs they sought so hard to be.

The next time you see a chihuahua growling, yapping, or nipping, take the time to see why. It may be they’re only trying to get loud because no one listens otherwise. When you start listening, they’ll often be glad to dial back the tension.  

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