Training a chihuahua is much like training any other dog and is a matter of patience and continually telling them the same thing. It can be a lot of work and effort, but over time it should result in a dog that is incredibly easy to look after and love – both small enough that you can easily handle it, and obedient enough that you don't have to struggle with telling it what to do. Here we will look at some tips that can help ensure your chihuahua gets the best possible training.
How Dog Training Works
Dog training uses principles based on behaviourism and the famous Pavlov's Dogs study. For those who aren't familiar with the study essentially this was an experiment in which the titular Pavlov managed to make dogs salivate at the sound of a bell. He did this very simply by ringing a bell every time he was going to feel them. This then meant that they began to prepare for food every time they heard the bell and eventually they would salivate at the sound of the bell without the need for food to be presented at all. In other words the bell had become associated with the food and the dogs had become conditioned to think of the two as a single entity.
Conditioning works in training then through 'reinforcement' – which means that the dog is rewarded for a certain behaviour. For instance then every time you tell them to sit and they sit give them a treat and they will come to associate sitting with getting a treat or at least a positive emotion. It doesn't need to be a treat either – it can simply be a pat on the back and your telling them that they are a good boy and this will work just as well.
The idea then is to reward good behaviour and to punish bad behaviour. One mistake that many people make is to inadvertently reward the bad behaviour and this can happen in a number of ways – for instance your dog jumps up at you because it wants food and refuses to walk – you decide that the best way to get it to get down is to give it the food. What you've just done right there is to reward the bad behaviour and now you'll have a dog who thinks that every time it jumps up at you it will get a reward. What you should do is to give your dog a treat when it's walking well, and to smack it or shout 'No!' when it starts to jump up.
Note: As chihuahuas are very small dogs, you might be concerned about striking them. If this is the case then there are fortunately several other ways you can make your dog think twice. For instance carrying a small water pistol and squirting you dog can work a treat, as can shaking some keys loudly as it will be unlikely to like the noise.
Another mistake some people make is to punish their pets at the wrong time. For instance if you dog urinates in the house when you're away and you smack it when you get back, it won't associate the smack with the urination and it will be confused. Only smack it when it can make the direct association between the action and the punishment.
Familiarising Your Dog With Routine
If you want to train your chihuahua to do something specific such as to roll over or to sit down when it reaches a curb and wait for you to get there then this is going to require you to demonstrate the movement to it. Of course you can't expect it to just know what you mean by your shouting 'play dead' – you need to use the command and then walk them through the motion a couple of times by forcing them to sit or by rolling them over. Then simply reward them for that behaviour. When dog trainers train dogs to be in films or TV series and they need the dog to walk across the room or something, the trainer will simply walk the dog across the room on the lead a few times and reward it at the end of the behaviour before getting it to go again. This same principle can work for your chihuahua if you want it to perform tricks and behave well.