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My 4-yr old Chihuahua has become mean and aggressive

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My 4-yr old Chihuahua has become mean and aggressive
  • I don't really know when this started happening - maybe 2 months ago - but it's getting progressively worse. 

    Petey is a 4-yr old Chihuahua; I just had him to the vet for a check-up, and she said that health-wise, he was fine.  He gets a walk every day and is fed good food and gets regular attention and activity. 

    Initially, I noticed that when our almost 2-yr old daughter got too close during feeding time, he'd growl, and that was about 2 months ago.  I thought some of his behavior was normal because she was suddenly interacting with him more and that there was something of a leaning curve with learning to handle him gently/softly.   But, 1) it's progressed beyond just growling at her during feeding time, and, 2) our other dog, Winnie, is sweet and complacent and totally gentle with our daughter, no matter what our daughter attempts. 

    We can't let DD around him anymore at all because he will be fine one minute - she might not even be touching him or interacting with him - and suddenly he'll lunge and snap at her.  But, it's not just at her: he's bit Winnie.  Fortunately, it wasn't serious.  Several times when I've been holding him to pet him, he's turned on me suddenly, growling, snapping and then jumping out of my arms and running off (and it's very hard not to react in a scared/shocked manner).  He's become agressive with my husband, too, snapping at him and almost breaking skin a couple of times. 

    I don't know what other details to include.  His behavioral changes are really sudden and unexpected, and, as I said, they don't seem dependent on what we're doing.  He can be sitting quietly in his crate while I do the dishes (a twice-daily activity) and suddenly come barreling out at me, teeth bared, growling and mean. 

    It's to the point where DH and I are considering giving him up because we can't have an unstable dog in our home with a 2-year old, but I feel like his behavior must somehow be our fault and that we need to check it out first.

     

  • Currently have 2 chihuahua's right now...the FIRST thing that always clicks in my mind is to check their teeth. This breed is notorious for having weak teeth, even if they're in great shape doesn't mean one isn't broke...this is one thing that will make a happy dog get angry quick.

    My chi's teeth are clean, yet, both have lost a tooth to breaking them.

    Does your Chi' have issues with luxating patella's, also VERY common with this breed, and winter time can make them cranky in general, because these dogs don't have much hair.

    I always end up putting sweater's on my 2, even in the house, as anything below 60F outside and they really can't keep their warmth, even if the house is set at 70, they still feel the chill.

    Also, keep in mind, chihuahua's are NOT kid dogs, they do not like kids in general and that's something that your daughter may have to learn her boundries of; it can be worked out. I have 2 nephews that live with me, and they know the chihuahua's are not to be touched, unless they come to them only.

    Regarding her 2yrs of age, your daughter, it may take time and that's where you have to come in at. But as long as your dog is given her own space and not hovered over by your daughter, she should settle back in.

    Have her teeth thoroughly checked over, they are tiny and hard to look for, but pay particular attention to the top 4th premolar; also have her checked over for knee issues. And, keep her warm, I know in Colorado right now it's warm today and both my chi's are happier too.

  • I would bring her to the Vet.  Sudden behavior problems are often a result of some kind of pain or illness. 

  • Use NILIF, small dogs are easier to develope aggression because the owners are way more protective of them than a regular size dog, that makes them believe that they can get away with more things. They might start to "manipulate" the owners to do stuff they want or dont want them to do, just because the owners always see them as "so tiny and cute". If you treat your dog like if he is a husky, lab or any other medium to large size dog you will see some difference aka no picking him up, no allowing him on furniture, no over nurture him, etc.

  • When did you get Petey??? Have you had him his whole life or did you get him as an adult??

     What does your vet think about this sudden agression??

    I had a theory but I dismissed it pretty easily. I was thinking maybe he thought he was protecting you from this wild little 2 yr old but I just remembered that hes bitten all of you so that couldn't be it. Wow, you have a toughie on your hands.

     Maybe have a trainer or behavoirist come to your house to observe Petey and try to find out the problem. It's pricey I know but if it lets you keep Petey don't you think it's worth it??

    There are also several Chi books that you could look into so dont give up yet!!

  • Sounds like you need more help than you are likely to find on a forum.  Not that the advice you've gotten is bad but your dog sounds pretty intense and with a child of two it's time for some professional help, IMO.  Try and find a trainer/behaviorist that uses mostly positive methods because aggression as you described will be escalated if you try and use aggression in return.  It's true that many small dogs become aggressive due to their owner's lack of training but if that is the case it's not an insurmountable problem and I hope you can find someone to guide you with your dog. Keep us posted.  Good luck and think positive.

    Definitely would first thoroughly explore all physical possibilities with your Vet.  If no physical reason is found ask your Vet for a referral.

  • I still think before you draw any conclusions, she needs to be seen again by her vet or another vet, sudden onset of aggression is generally due to discomfort or pain. It doesn't just pop and one morning they're angry.

  • espencer

    Use NILIF, small dogs are easier to develope aggression because the owners are way more protective of them than a regular size dog, that makes them believe that they can get away with more things. They might start to "manipulate" the owners to do stuff they want or dont want them to do, just because the owners always see them as "so tiny and cute". If you treat your dog like if he is a husky, lab or any other medium to large size dog you will see some difference aka no picking him up, no allowing him on furniture, no over nurture him, etc.

    I could not agree more!  Very well said, espencer!

  • I did have Petey in to the vet about 10 days ago, and she said he was physically fine, although she was surprised because he growled at her when she entered the room, and he's never done that before.  I like her, and I know she did a thorough exam, and I saw her check teeth and knees.  Her opinion, too, was to contact our trainer.

    As for history: we've had Petey since he was 5 weeks old.  We had some initial problems because of that, but gots lot of wonderful help here.  When we got pregnant, we put both dogs in training, and I work with them to reinforce behavior at least 3 times a week (more if there's time), and generally they're both well-behaved, well-trained dogs.  I did put in a call to the behaviorist we worked with, but she's out of town for the holidays, and I'm hesitant to call someone new when she'll be back in a week. 

    But, in the meantime, I'm frustrated.  I'm just going to have to work on keeping my toddler away from him until our behaviorist gets back and gets my message.  I know Chis are not child-loving dogs, but until a few months ago, Sam and Petey never had any problems interacting, and it was always supervised, and I made sure she was always gentle.

     

  • I know you mentioned that your vet did an exam.  But, did she draw blood?  I've read on here and other places the thyroid can cause aggression issues.  And, since this is so all of a sudden, might be worth looking into.

    Lori

  • Many dogs do not sxhibit aggression until they reach age 3-4.  But, many Chi's and other tiny breeds do it when a toddler first starts "interacting more" with them.  Generally, these are not the greatest dogs with children (I know, someone on the board probably has one that is, but this is "generally", not your dog).  And, a dog that was removed from its litter too early, way too early, as this one was, probably does not have the best bite inhibition or ability to share well with others, hence the "resource guarding" that you saw around the food bowl.  Dogs that do this are not safe with kids, because even though you may be able to train the dog not to guard its food against you, it may not similarly respect a child.  So, separating them when food is in the equation is an absolute must.  The time to have put both dogs in training was way before you got pregnant, although I do at least commend you for doing it then.  But, your experience should be a message to others - there are kids in the universe, and even if you don't have any, train your dog early to accept them!   I would take your vet's word that the dog is fine, but maybe do ask about the teeth if they were not examined at that visit, because that is such a problem with small dogs.  Also, grab a copy of Jean Donaldson's book "Mine! A Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs" and do the protocols.  You can have your daughter interact with the dog, too, just from a distance.  Have an adult hold the dog on a leash.  Then, making sure the dog cannot reach your DD, have DD toss a treat onto the floor where the dog can get it - make sure it's something cool that the dog doesn't usually get.  This has two effects.  One - the dog things DD is really nice.  Two - the dog looks for its treats on the floor, not from DD's tiny hands.  Add a cue every time the treat hits the floor, such as "Say hello", and the dog should eventually look at the floor when she hears it.  Training is fine, but it doesn't change the dog's emotional response to the kid, and this has the power to do that through conditioning.