How to toilet train your chihuahua


Chihuahuas are notoriously hard to toilet train. We get more questions about this than almost anything else apart from barking!  There are a couple of issues that can make it difficult to toilet train your chihuahua: Their reluctance to get cold or wet and the fact they can be a little stubborn. But like any dog with the right encouragement they can be reliable. We often have five chihuahuas in the house and rarely get peeing indoors.

Modern training methods has moved away from the ‘rub their nose in it’ aggressive style to a more reward based positive reinforcement. Your chihuahua will generally want to please you and once they understand that peeing outdoors or in the designated place is what you want, they will try to get it right. But it can seem to take a long time for chihuahuas to pick this up.

It’s also worth noting that it can be 12 weeks before a puppy even has the ability to control its toileting. So, trying too hard to get a very young puppy to be clean is setting yourself up for stress. It’s also recommended that small dogs like chihuahuas stay with their mum until this age, anyway, so don’t rush your chihuahua puppy home too early. If the breeder insists you take the puppy before this time take a good look at who you are buying your puppy from.

In-built behaviour

Your chihuahua will search for a surface that they are used to going on, if that’s a hard floor then this is what they will look for. Although in my experience they do prefer an absorbent surface.

If you get your chihuahua as a puppy, the chances are that they will be used to pee pads. Even better if the breeder has been taking them out on the grass as most of the work will have been done for you.

Your chihuahua will need to wee about 3-4 times during the day and can be expected to hold their poo & wee for an hour for every month old they are to the maximum of 8 hours. But I feel expecting your dog not to go to the toilet for this long is unreasonable (unless it is overnight) and could lead to bladder problems.

Be zen

First, it is vital that you never shout, display anger or upset when your chihuahua has an accident in the house. Going to the toilet is natural to your dog and if you start shouting or making him anxious about it you could end up with him eating his faeces to hide it.

If your chihuahua does have an accident and looks contrite, it’s not because they have any notion of doing wrong, but he is watching and picking up on your body language. If you appear angry or stressed this will frighten your dog. Scientists have discovered that dogs have developed additional eyebrow muscles that allow them to make ‘puppy dog eyes’ at humans, and they use this to appease us.

If an accident occurs, then ignore it and clean it up calmly. If he comes in from the garden and pees in the house, then he simply has not understood what’s required of him or does not feel safe outside.

Tips to successful toilet training

It is not enough to just open the door and expect your puppy to go out and do his business. Also, young pups need to be supervised. It’s not uncommon for puppies to eat their poop, this is a habit that you want to discourage from the off. If you see this happening then have a handful of your puppy’s food allowance with you and throw it in the opposite direction, when he runs off to enjoy his alfresco dinner clean up the poop quickly and quietly.

Quiet spot

Find a safe quiet spot where your chihuahua will feel safe. Conventional wisdom suggest that when you get a result (your pup peeing) then you should make a song and dance. But doing this will up your pups arousal and turn the whole going out for a wee into a game. Definitely reward your chihuahua, make sure it’s high value food and not just one measly piece. But offer it calmly and feed to the mouth. While you are waiting for her to pee stand calmly. She is not out there to play.

Once your chi is regularly peeing outdoors, as you feed the reward start to pair it to a cue, we use “wee wee garden” this then tell our dogs wherever we are, what they are going outdoors to do and what I expect from them.

Timing is everything

Toilet training your chihuahua needs to start with maintaining a regular schedule of toilet breaks. If your chi is a puppy then every hour to start with. This means going out at regular intervals so your chihuahua knows he will have access to the outdoors. As I tended to get engrossed in writing I sometimes would miss the signs, so I put an alert on my phone. (We need to develop a chi-wee app. 🙂

The change in culture to remote working should help with toilet training and in general be better for your pup. If you ever get back to the office arrange a trustworthy person to come in and let them out for a pee. But, no dogs should be left for more than 4 hours and chihuahuas find this especially stressful. Toilet training your chihuahua will be more difficult if you are not home and able to work with her.

Peeing in the rain

It can be hard to get your pups to go out if it’s raining. One way to do this is have a sheltered spot that you’ve cultivated from the beginning and got your pup used to. We have a tray of turf in a sheltered section of the garden. We’ve had some success with this but the best way seems to be taking them somewhere different. I put there harness on and take them out to the front of the house. They will instantly be more interested and want to mark their territory.

Maintaining calm

Chihuahua are excitable dogs and can go from zero to one hundred in a heartbeat. Maintaining calm and keeping your chihuahua relaxed will have an impact on how much they pee in the house. If your chihuahua is in a constant state of high arousal then they are more likely to excitement wee or mark. Keeping your chihuahua calm and not letting them rehearse behaviours like barking out the window or chasing the cat will impact on their ability to think and learn. Less excitement means less marking, especially from the boys.

To help with this I give my chihuahua half a teaspoon of Calm K9 supplement. It contains, among other helpful ingredients L-Tryptophan, a natural amino acid found in many proteins involved in the production of the hormone serotonin. A-OK9 also supports the gut and I have noticed a reduction of anal gland issues in Mika and Minnie. I don’t often recommend products but have been impressed with this one and have become a calm supplement partner.

Rescue chihuahua 

If you have rescued your chihuahua you might not know what her background is, or what her expectations are. Under these circumstances it is important to start with a schedule and keep to it calmly. She is already going to be stressed without more upset over toilet accidents.

Learn to read the signs

Chihuahuas, like all dogs will display certain behaviours when they need to go to the toilet. Walking around in circles, sniffing the ground or staring at you. Being able to read her body language will help you toilet train your chihuahua. There is a definite toilet etiquette that all dogs follow. 

You can also be certain that he will need to toilet after:

  • Sleeping
  • Excitement
  • Eating or drinking

Pee pad & litter trays

It is possible to toilet train your chihuahua to use a pee pad or a litter tray. If you live in an apartment, then this might work for you. Make sure it is in the same place all the time, if you move it about, she will find it confusing.

About the author

Louise Kirby

My name is Louise Kirby and I’m a freelance writer and certified Pro Dog Trainer. I adore and train all breeds but have a special interest in chihuahuas and their rehabilitation. Chihuahuas are awesome little dogs, spunky, full of joy, loyal and tenacious. But some present with behaviours that make them a challenge to manage. I’m on a mission to restore the relationship between owners and their dogs. To help you get back the dog you always dreamed of. That’s why dog training is a happiness project!

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13 thoughts on “How to toilet train your chihuahua

  1. KATHY BENSON Reply

    I have pee pads all over my condo and even my chihuahua will go on the carpet. I tried the grass mats too thinking she just liked the feel of grass since she loves carpeting and the grass pad does not work either. Then I tried going back to just one pee pad so she does not get confused and she just looks at me and pees where she wants. I cannot walk dogs anymore and that is why I got a 6 lb chihuahua thinking I would not have to walk her unless I am feeling OK but I give up.I guess my condo will just smell like dog pee.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      Thats a shame, can you get someone to take your dog out for you a couple of times a day. It’s all about being consistent so your chi knows when the next toilet break is coming form.

    • Drena Reply

      But Chi’s need daily walks just as much as any dog..it is cruel if they are just stuck in

  2. Tammy Feagin Reply

    I would like to know how to get my Chi to stop barking from anybody touching me or to close to me? How to make him more secure? And not fill like he needs to protect me all the time?!

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      If she is on your lap, put her down calmly and ignore her, better still if you are at home put her out the room for a few mins. If she growls again (which she will for a while) repeat until her behaviour improves. When she stops doing this then you can start to invite her back onto your lap. Don’t be tempted to offer her treats to stop her growling or pick her up as this rewards the behaviour. If you are out make sure she is on the ground and you just ignore her, when she is calm then you can include her in the gathering.

  3. DAWN DEAN Reply

    I trained my little man to pads indoors , had a few accidents but not many. I then put pads in a cage outside, under carport so he could use that if outside. After a while I removed indoor pad and he uses th ones in the cage all the time. No pooper scoopers needed as he doesn’t go anywhere else. The only downside to this is he will wait till we come home to use his cage! x

  4. Linda Reply

    I have a very moody snappy young male Chihuahua at times you can’t even touch him without him growling & snapping at you. What can I do to stop this bahaviour.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      Hi, Linda
      Firstly, if this is new behaviour then take him to the vet to check if he is in pain. Also, has there been a change or an addition, like a cat or another dog, that might upset the balance? But, assuming neither of the above are issues then I feel your chi has got the wrong idea about who is in charge.

      Chis can be prone to this. They like a nice ordered ‘pack’ and like to know who is in charge and if they feel that there is a gap at the top of the pack then they feel compelled to step up and will start to behave like you are below them in the order of things. Do you think he might be bit spoilt? It can be easy to do.
      This behaviour may manifest itself in snapping when things are taken off him, growling when he is on the sofa and he is moved or you sit near him, or being aggressive with people in the house.
      There are a few articles about this on the blog, read:
      Dealing with Chihuahua Behaviour: Furniture Guarding
      Dealing with Chihuahua Behaviour: It’s Mine!
      Why You in Charge = Happier Chihuahua
      Dealing with Chihuahua Aggression: I want my own way!
      Chihuahua Behaviour: Aggression towards other dogs
      Does your Chihuahua Have Celebrity Syndrome? Guest Post by Nigel Reed
      Look under the tag ‘behaviour’ and these will come up.
      In addition to following some of the advice in these posts, make sure he is getting plenty of exercise and goes out for a good walk for 30 minutes every day. It might be a good idea take him to training classes as well as it will further enforce where he is in the pack. You might want to look at what he is eating, if you are feeding him dry dog food maybe change to raw dog food like ‘Natural Instinct’ or home cook.
      If nothing improves then I suggest that you get some advice from a dog trainer who will be able to observe you 1;1 and make suggestions.

  5. Sharron Bostridge Reply

    Our chihuahua is amazing at going for wee’s and poo’s outside and always has been. He is 3 years old now. He loves walks and goes in a couple , every day!
    Thing is when we are at work or not watching, he wee’s on furniture. Beds, sofas and up things!
    His wee has stained our expensive new carpet and I just don’t know what to do?

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      Hi,
      He needs a schedule and to be taken outside at regular times during the day, this is going to be difficult if you are at work. Can you arrange for someone to take him out during the day. How long are you leaving him for? Ideally he should not be left on his own for more than four hours if that. If he is weeing up things when you are home he may be marking his territory, do you have other animals in the house he may feel he is competing with? Clean the spots where he likes to wee with a special urine deodoriser so it takes away the smell. But the key is take him out every couple of hours and before he goes to bed. Reward him when he gets it right, but make sure it is straight away so he associates the reward with the action of peeing outside.

  6. Kathleen Houghton Reply

    We have 3 Chihuahua one from a baby and the other 2 have been rescue dogs. the boy (rescue) is great at using the cat flap and toilet trained main problem with him is barking which we r working on and he does not like men very much. The one girl we had from a baby very stubborn won’t use the cat flap unless we put her through it and won’t go to the toilet unless told and we have to stay with her (husbands fault) lol the other girl that we rescued had a very bad start in life found in a bag and left on a country road thank god she was found she is so funny can now use the cat flap toilet training hit and miss but it will get better and we love them all.

  7. Mariam Magued Reply

    My 9 weeks chihuahua isn’t potty trained yet I âme him to his potty place every 2 hours but he still pee and poop everywhere
    Idk what to do I tried treats but he pee on the pads a little to take his treats then go pee somewhere else
    What should I do??

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      9 weeks is very young. Studies have shown that small breed dogs often have no ability to control their toileting until they are around 12 weeks. Keep taking him to th the pads but don’t expect much until he is older.

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