My chihuahua growls at family members

My chihuahua growls at family members

Does your chihuahua growl at your partner when they come near?

If your chihuahua growls at other members of the family when they come near you, this is your chihuahua warning others to stay away from you.

Do you think your chihuahua is trying to protect you? Sorry that’s not what’s happening. He is trying to guard you for himself.  It’s not cute or funny and it is behaviour that must be corrected.



Why does your chihuahua growl at other members of your family.

Chances are if you’re the one he is guarding then you are ‘his favourite’ and very likely the one who feeds, walks and pets him the most.

Your chihuahua gets everything he needs from you so, to him you are a valuable resource. He does not want your attention to be elsewhere and he sees other members of the family as competition.

So, when they come near you and he is on your lap your chihuahua growls to keep them away. This can escalate to snarling and full on contact bites.

He may also spray or wee on your partner’s or children’s bed or clothes to over-scent them. Or other dogs in the household. (there will be more about how to deal with this in another post)

You are a resource to your dog

We all like to think that our chihuahuas do this little dance of joy when we return home because they love us, and while they probably do, it’s also because you are their main source of food and comfort. If you don’t come home it threatens their survival, so it’s no wonder they are super pleased to see you when you come in.

You mustn’t put up with chihuahua growling at family members

First it must be said that aggression from any dog can’t be tolerated. If a German Shepard bared its teeth ready to snap at a person you would rightly be very concerned. It is no more acceptable or amusing just because the dog is small.

YouTube has lots of videos of chihuahuas in a high state of aggressive arousal. Their owners think this behaviour is amusing and rather than address the issues for the dog, continue to tease it. What they fail to understand is their dog is very stressed and unhappy. If it bites someone it could be seized and destroyed. There is no differentiation between a large or small dog in the eyes of the law.

So, your chihuahua growling at family members is a behaviour that must be addressed.

It’s better for your chihuahua and better for you. It is an error to think that your chihuahua wants to be in-charge. They find trying to negotiate a human world stressful and will feel much more relaxed when they have confidence in the family hierarchy and their place within it. Read more about this here.

How to deal with the situation

The scenario probably goes like this: Your chihuahua is sitting on the lap of his ‘chosen family member’. Your partner or children come near you and your chihuahua’s hackles go up and he starts to snarl at whoever comes near.

The target of his annoyance, your partner or child, quite rightly will move away and sit elsewhere. This, for your chihuahua, is the perfect result and further re-enforces for him the idea that this strategy works.

3 Steps to a calmer chihuahua

#1 Back off

This may be the hardest part; you are going to have to take a back seat in the running of your chihuahua’s day. Your chihuahua needs to see that he also ‘needs’ other members of the family. Your partner is going to have to walk him and feed him while this training is in progress.

#2 Time out

When your dog is sat on your lap get your partner to sit next to you. If your chihuahua growls at them, calmly and without a fuss put him outside the room for a minute (the chihuahua, not your partner). Chihuahua’s are smart, it won’t take him long to make the connection that being removed from you is the consequence of this behaviour. You can repeat this exercise as often as you need to until your chihuahua understands he is not the boss and behaves.

#3 Everything is yours

Revoke furniture privileges. Being allowed on the furniture is a privileged that your chihuahua must earn with good behaviour towards everyone. He is not the boss and he does not get to dictate who sits where.

Every member of the family should be able to move your chihuahua from the sofa/bed/chair without the risk of being snarled at or bitten.

If this is not the case, keep your chi chi in a harness and attach an indoor training lead. Your partner can move him to the floor with a crisp ‘down’ command using the lead. Your chihuahua will be confused and outraged, but it won’t take him long to accept his new position.

Remember he can only be allowed back on the furniture when he is acting calmly and sociably towards all family members.



#4 Family dog

Everyone needs to play with your chihuahua and give him treats or praise when he is good. Teach him some tricks to keep his mind active and make sure he gets plenty of outdoor exercise. Chihuahua’s need the mental stimulation of a good active walk and a sniff like any other dog.

It goes without saying, that at no time should you punish your chihuahua or be aggressive. Try not to humanise dog behaviour. You teach a dog through reward and repetition.

Does your chihuahua seem to hate your partner and run away and hide? This article can help


2 Comments

  1. Adriana
    April 15, 2020 / 8:31 am

    I have two chihuahuas, Wren and Poppy. Wren is clearly the “alpha” and I’ve had her for longer. Both my roommate and I feed/cuddle/walk the dogs, though they do know that I am their main resource provider. When I got Poppy, Wren was absolutely fine with her. Now that I have had her for about a year, Wren growls, snarls, and snaps at Poppy if she gets too near me or my roommate while we are around. I hate this behavior and I know it will only get worse if I don’t correct it somehow. The dogs cuddle in their bed and are just fine with each other. It is only when Wren is near me or my roommate and Poppy joins does Wren show aggression toward Poppy. I would like to follow the steps here of removing Wren from the area when she does this, but I am worried that picking her up and moving her will feel like a reward, OR that moving her to a place will make her feel like that place is a punishment. Any tips for how to deal with this situation?

  2. Libby
    June 18, 2020 / 4:57 pm

    We have just got a chihuahua that came from an all female breeder home. He’s 5 months though and hasn’t been socialised yet so hasn’t met men. Was very quiet the first few days we had him but now on his fourth day has started to growl and bark at my partner (male) it seems he is guarding me and responding badly to any loud noises my partner makes e.g. answering the phone or coughing – things he can’t stop doing that isn’t really excessive. My partner has said he’ll start to feed the dog now and give him treats so he sees that it’s not just me that he needs but I don’t think I can continue with this if he bites my partner. What should I do – is he just settling in still or is this seriously concerning behaviour that we really need to be worried about?

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