Scientist have discovered that like people, dogs can be pessimists or optimists and this personality bias will affect how your chihuahua interacts with the world.

An optimistic dog will happily bounce along assuming all’s right with the world and a pessimist will be more cautious maybe even fearful.  

In the wild it pays an animal to have a more pessimistic view on life. They tend to live longer and get to pass on their genes, while an optimist who happily investigates the rattling bush is more likely to come to a sticky end.

Chihuahuas do tend towards caution, because of their size they are programmed to worry about things overhead that could be an attack from above. But even so, it’s still possible to tell if your chi chi is a bowl-half-full type of dog.

Interpreting events

Events happen to your dog; out on a walk it could be the dog in the distance or at home the bin men or window cleaner arrive. How your dog reacts to the event is likely to be governed by his view of the world.

Minnie is the optimist. ‘Is it food, it’s food isn’t it?’ If it’s not food, then don’t bother me. If she barks at something, it’s usually because the boys started her off.

Arlo is definitely a pessimist; he worries about the dog in the distance or the carrier bag blowing about in the wind, he won’t tolerate incoming dogs on a walk and dislikes novelty.

If your chihuahua is reactive and barks at other dogs when you’re out, the chances are he has a more cautious, pessimistic view on life. He sees something, interprets the event as something to worry about and starts barking to scare the other dog or person away. Although it beats me why they don’t just stay under the radar.

While it pays to be pessimistic in the wild, in a domestic situation it can affect how your dog behaves and how receptive your chi may be to training. A dog that constantly barks and lunges at other dogs out on a walk can be a challenge to manage.

Play games to change their view

The good news is you can change the way your dog feels about things. Shift his world view by playing a few simple games. Games based training is the latest thinking in dog training. Why it succeeds where others fail is because looks at and deals with the underlying struggles your dog is having rather than just trying to train a behavior, which is the output of your chihuahua’s struggle.

Try this simple game with your chihuahuas, how they react will give you an idea of their view on life and help build confidence.

Cardboard Chaos

Collect your recycling over a few days until you have a pile of clean cardboard boxes of different sizes and some plastic bottles that crinkle. (Nothing sharp and nothing that has contained chemicals.)

Lay it out in the garden or kitchen, so it’s in a low heap. Scatter some of your chihuahuas daily food allowance amongst the boxes. Does your chihuahua jump straight in to get the food or take a slower more cautious approach.

Minnie would jump straight in. Mika would watch from the side to see if Minnie got eaten, if not then he would join in, but at a more sedate pace. Arlo would circle around a few times; he would really want to join in but is dislike of novelty and strange noise might hold him back. He would sit at the side and paddle his front paws in frustration.

What this game does over time is build up your dog’s resilience to novelty. Both noise and visual. You can build up the levels of difficulty as your chihuahua becomes more adept.

Another version of this game is using a children’s plastic ball pit. Put a few balls in at a time until your chi is happy rummaging about for his dinner.