So, you’re trying to make a good impression at the mother in-law’s, but it’s clear that Mr. Tickles the chihuahua has taken an instant dislike to you. Once you get through the front door and make it to a chair, any attempt to get up is met with the evil eye and the chihuahua ‘curled lip of doom’. Sudden movement may get your ankles nipped. This is a favourite target for an agitated chi.
Clearly, the way to the mum in-law’s heart is going to be through her chihuahua, so how are you going to win over the reluctant Mr. Tickles. Don’t despair it can be done, especially if you start to look at things from Mr. Tickles’ perspective.
First don’t assume that Mr. Tickles is, as the French might say, ’chihuahua terrible’. Chihuahuas who display aggression towards strangers are often a delight at home. They just take a dim view of strangers in the house. To him, you are a giant unknown and it is in his nature to defend his people and his space. Consider this again from the dog’s point of view and be impressed. It’s like you taking on Kong.
Here are some steps to help you get your relationship off to a good start.
Don’t scare the dog by insisting on rushing up to him and petting him, this is likely to get you bitten and sour your relationship forever. Only fools rush in!
- Be relaxed around the dog and ignore him until he has calmed down, give him time to check out your body language.
- Don’t bend down over him and try to pet his head, dogs see this as an act of aggression. So is making direct eye contact.
- Don’t try and pet him when he is picked up either. If he is in his owner’s arms and you try and pet him, chances are you will get snapped at or bitten. Being picked up will have reinforced his idea that you are a threat.
- Let him come to you. It is always best to let the dog come to you on his terms and on his level, not yours.
- Let him sniff you when he is ready and just let him get on with it, don’t stare at him or try to touch him. Glance at him from time to time (but not in the eye) and keep your face relaxed and smiley and your voice calm.
- Crouch down to his level, which puts you both in an equal position and makes you appear less of a threat to the dog.
- Check out the dog’s body language and if he looks less scared then slowly extend your hand for him to sniff. (Flat ears and tail down are signs the dog is still not sure).
- Get out your sausage! Now might be a good time to introduce a high-value treat, none of the dry kibble nonsense. We are talking serious sausage or cheese. Finding out what his favourite treat is before you go is always a good idea. Offer it in your hand or if he is still not sure then drop it on the floor and look away. Do this a few times and move the treat closer to you. Eventually, he may take them from your hand. But don’t assume cured and try and pet him or you will undo the work you have done.
- If you feel the dog is ready to be touched then do so by approaching him in an arc, not head on and don’t touch his face. A scratch on the back of the neck or behind the ear will be appreciated.
- Don’t stress if you don’t get this far with the dog in one visit. It can take some time to build a dog’s trust. Just keep calm and work with him on every visit. Keep treats coming maybe a new toy or chewy on the next visit.
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