Are Chihuahuas Hard to Train?
[The Full Guide]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

Chihuahuas have a highly complex character. The main reason being is the small dog syndrome. They will always strive to be an alpha which will complicate the training process. However, with a proper approach, it will be possible to handle your Chihuahua training.

In many cases, tough Chihuahuas temperament is not only caused by the small dog syndrome. Various factors can play a role in your Chi character. We will dig deeper into this problem and discuss correct approaches to their training. Read on for our Chihuahua training tips.

Brief Overview

The Chihuahua is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.

Unfortunately, many people never take the time to train their Chi properly. Most people assume that such a small and cute dog cannot misbehave and won’t get into much trouble.

However, it couldn’t be further away from the truth. Chihuahuas are one of the more aggressive dog breeds and have a stubborn temperament.

It is certainly doable to train your Chi into an obedient but will require a lot of work and effort.

Why Are Chihuahuas Hard To Train?

At this point, you probably realize that Chihuahua is not an easy dog breed in terms of training.

Hopefully, you are ready to embark on the journey of their training. But before we talk about how you can achieve this, it is crucial to understand why Chihuahuas behave the way they do.

Starting with the root of the problem is an essential step in fixing this problem.

Small Dog Syndrome

Chihuahuas are probably the best example of the “small dog syndrome.” The basic definition of this term is that a dog believes that it is bigger and more important than they are. While it can look cute and funny at first, it can become a huge problem if not handled properly. 

Chihuahuas will always try to be alpha’s (especially if you have a male). They will use every single opportunity to show that this is their house and that they are in command. This can be a type of defense mechanism. 

Given that chihuahua is a small dog, they will always try to look bigger to compensate for the size difference. It may not be a big problem when your dog is still a pup (when they depend on you). However, they can become more aggressive with age. Chihuahuas will feel the instinct to test you and your boundaries. If you allow aggressive behavior towards you, it can turn into a slippery slope very fast. This behavior can be dangerous for people around the Chihuahua. 

This kind of behavior can be dangerous to children as they may become a target of their “nurturing process” and get attacked. The small dog syndrome can be dangerous to Chihuahuas themselves. For example, they may attack much larger dogs which will fight back in an unlikely match-up. 

They Are Very Sensitive

All dog breeds are sensitive to our actions, but Chihuahuas are in another league. They are especially sensitive to any signs of anger or annoyance. Even simply raising your voice can upset your Chi.

Therefore, when you try to potty train your Chihuahua and celebrate loudly when they finally poop outside, it can be taken as a sign of aggression. Given their good memory, they will build a correlation that pooping outside means angry owners.

And as you may have guessed, this will completely destroy the whole training process. 

They Get Cold Easily

You might have noticed that it is common for Chihuahuas to shiver even though it can be caused by stress or excitement, it is due to cold weather in most cases.

That’s because smaller dogs have a large ratio of skin to insides. More surface in relation to overall size causes quicker heat loss, and subsequently, your dog becomes cold.

Making matters worse is that Chihuahuas do not have much fat tissue to help preserve heat. This might not be an issue during summer; however, during colder periods (or in colder countries), your Chi might start having some potty training problems.

Chihuahuas are already hard enough to train, but their cold intolerance adds another layer of stress. Under this stress, they will be less likely to listen to your commands or simply ignore them.

At the end of the day, Chihuahuas were bred in the warm climate of Mexico.

One Person Dog

One of the most common questions owners ask is how to train their Chihuahua to stop barking when left home alone.

We need to understand that Chi were trained to be a companionship dog. It is essential for them that you are close. Because of this, they may have severe cases of separation anxiety during which they can start eating furniture or even their own fur.

The separation anxiety is rooted deep in their instincts. In the past, Chihuahuas separated from their pack became very vulnerable due to few defense mechanisms. Such little dogs needed to stick to their group, and those who were afraid of separation were less likely to fall behind. This makes it practically impossible to leave them home alone.

Due to their companionship nature, Chihuahuas will usually get better in a family. They will tolerate new faces but will always be a little suspicious to anyone else but you. It will obviously bring some problems. Your Chi will only listen to your commands and respond only to your training while other family members are likely to be neglected (or even treated with aggression).

The same goes for dogs. While outside at the dog park, your Chihuahua may be aggressive towards other dogs. This aspect of Chi is very likely to frustrate a lot of people. 

They Are Very Alert

As you might have noticed, Chihuahuas are very loud dogs. This is due to them being very alert and observant.

It is very common for them to bark at anything different or new. Their alert nature becomes a problem when they need to be introduced into an unfamiliar environment.

For example, a new house will cause them stress and turn them into a barking machine. The protective and territorial nature of Chihuahuas contributes to their behavior as well.

They will often bark at anyone they perceive as a threat to their territory. It is further fueled by Chi being a very active dog breed. They will bark simply because they are bored.

If your Chihuahua does not receive enough activity in their day, they will look for ways to release it. Most often, it will be barking or misbehaving in general. 

Believe In Your Chihuahua

There are way too many dog owners out there who give up on their Chihuahuas.

Some people are unwilling or maybe too lazy to handle their hard temperament. Instead, they will try to adapt their lives around their Chi temperament. This will only escalate the problem and will show your dog that they can control you.

So which one of you is the owner? Luckily, with enough patience and persistence, it is possible to train your Chihuahua and live a happy life with your little four-legged friend.

After that, you will be ready for bigger and greater adventures together.  

How To Train Chihuahuas?

Start Young

Obviously, to train a dog, you need to start when it is still a puppy.

However, with Chihuahuas, it is more important than with any dog breed. You need to start at a young age and remain consistent with it.

You must ensure your Chihuahua learns their place in the pack. They need to know that they are a family pet. Even though they are obviously loved, they are not in charge.

Chihuahuas need to be shown that they are not alpha dogs and do not have the same privileges as people in the household.

Chi that will be spoiled and treated equally (or even superior) will become really problematic later in adult life. They will see themselves as superior to you and won’t listen to your commands.

Start with basic commands. Like stay, sit and come. This will show your Chihuahua that you are in control. For in short sessions (no more than 15 minutes) so it does not become boring for you and your dog. And remember to add some playtime in between. 

Potty Training

Before getting a Chi, you may wonder: “Are Chihuahuas hard to potty train?”.

The answer is obviously yes. A dog with such a complicated character will be tough to potty train, but it is still possible.

You should also take into consideration that they are small dogs with small bladders. So they will have way more accidents than large dogs.
Their small size may also allow them to sneak into tight or hidden areas in your house out of pure curiosity, leaving an unpleasant surprise for you to find later on.

Being consistent is key once again. You can take them outside and train them but remember that Chihuahuas are not resistant to the cold. I would recommend avoiding starting with pee pads as it can be challenging to then train your Chi to potty outside.

Instead, try to establish a regular training routine. First few days with a pup, set a timer for every 2 hours to take your Chi outside and reward any relief with treats and play.

Always offer a potty break when your puppy wakes up. This will make your Chihuahua used to a daily routine, and it will remember when they can go potty. 

Train To Be Alone

As I mentioned previously, it is very challenging for Chihuahuas to be home alone due to separation anxiety.

One possible solution is to crate train them. This will provide a safe space for your dog and will reduce the amount of barking due to separation anxiety.

However, you really need to make sure that your dog is comfortable in the crate. You should also teach your Chi to relax on their own when left. Gradually make them used to be home alone for short periods. It is best if your dog is tired when you leave.

For example, you have just come back from a walk in the park. This will help your dog fall asleep quicker when you go away and also prevent the “release” of excess energy in the form of destruction. 

Reward Calm Behavior

Chihuahuas are known to be prone to anxious behavior. It is essential that they feel safe and secure around you.

When you introduce them to new situations, pay close attention to their body language. If they are stressed, it is best to remove them from this situation.

Reward their calm behavior with a treat, affirmation, or play. 


Excessive barking is typical amongst Chihuahuas. If it becomes a problem, there are several ways of solving it. The first step is to recognize why they are barking and making sure that you do not reward this type of behavior in any way.

However, one of the most common reasons as to why Chihuahuas bark is simple boredom.

Therefore, more playtime, exercise, and training will help get rid of excess energy. You might want to consider buying some new toys for your dog to keep them entertained.

Eventually, your dog will become used to certain toys, and you can use them to introduce your Chi to new environments.

Introducing puppies to lots of different toys will build up their confidence around unfamiliar objects later in adult life. 

Aggression Towards Other Dogs

Due to the small dog syndrome, Chihuahuas must learn how to be around other dogs (especially those larger). It is valuable to teach them to be calm around other dogs and confidently pass them on a lead.

When your Chi is young, it can be useful to allow them to socialize with larger dogs. At a young age, the small dog syndrome is not as prominent; therefore, it is a perfect opportunity.

The other dog should be calm and well trained to provide a good example. It is best to do it with the dogs you trust. For example, dogs of people you know. You need to be sure that the other dog will not be aggressive, as one bad experience at a young age can cause a life-long trauma.

You can also train your Chihuahua to walk correctly on a leash. Put them on a table or a bench and practice walking alongside them. This will be an excellent exercise to start with.

It will provide a solid foundation for further and more advanced activities for walking on a leash.

Final Thoughts

After everything we have discussed, it is fair to say that Chihuahuas are very tricky to train.

They are a very independent dog breed with well-known small dog syndrome, which only adds to their complicated character.

Therefore, without proper training, they can become quite bossy and act as a pack leader.

If you allow your Chi to enjoy the same or even superior privileges, they will become the alpha in your family. In this situation, it will be practically impossible to handle them.

However, they should not be underestimated. Chihuahuas are rapid learners. They have a huge potential to become well-trained and obedient dogs to your family.

The key is to be firm during the training process. It is crucial to set certain boundaries and discourage their violations.