Ask Alecia: My Chi Snaps at My Kids!

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Dear Alecia,

I just brought home a 5-month-old chihuahua on Thursday and he was fine at first but now he is snapping and growling at my husband and two kids, ages 4 and 11. How do I get him to stop? Do you think he is still getting used to them? He does not do that to me at all. – Ayanna

Hi Ayanna,

What a great name!  My sweet beloved Arctic mix shares your beautiful name. I found out it means: Eternally blossoming flower.

Congratulations on your newest family member.

From his age, I am assuming he has not had too much trauma in his life. So we will proceed from there to give you a couple of ideas.

Several things could be going on here.

  1. He could have been excited at first thinking it was a fun day trip now he is realizing he is not
    going to be with his doggie family.
  2. Did anything happen that would make him feel insecure or uncertain of himself?
  3. If you had to guess does his aggression seem like its anger or fear?

Chihuahuas are little dogs with big personalities.  Often times you will see them acting out looking aggressive but they are actually fearful and they tend to prefer one person in the family over others in the beginning- usually the person feeding them and they see them as theirs and try to protect them.  Many times when people get Chi dogs because they are so little people think they don’t need training.  Every dog on the planet, no matter what size, knows a proper and clear  chain of command is essential for a harmonious pack that functions together. This happens with clear, consistent boundaries, that the puppy understands and accepts your “yes’s” and your “no’s”.

Most often a little dog may feel overwhelmed if there is a lot of activity going on and needs a safe place, sometimes in your arms where he can feel snug and secure.  He may feel overwhelmed at how much bigger your husband seems to him or how high energy your kids may be so barking at them and trying to nip is his strategy for keeping them away.

If he attempts that what I would do is hold your puppy in your arms in a bit of a snug hug, which does not allow the puppy to squirm, when the puppy learns he cannot squirm he relaxes.  When he relaxes he is present and calm and from here it would be wonderful to do 3-5 minute intervals of training where you can now help him focus his mind on you while building his confidence that he can handle anything, still listen to what you need him to and you will take care of him.

By refocusing his attention, this also shows him that what he is perceiving as a threat is not and he can better handle himself within the situation.

I suggest you start with these basic training intervals by teaching him sit, stay, come and leave it (one lesson at a time during the 3-5 minute sessions).  I would rather you break them down into different times during the day and stay consistent with that, this way you are maintaining consistency and clarity with your pup all day long thus making training a natural part of your lives and way you are together.  And as you do these sessions, invite your husband or your children in to work with the puppy along with you.  If the puppy gets barky, simply pick him up, and start him over again.  It’s ok to go slow and less is always more.

There are many great basic training videos out there.  If you would like, I will be happy to send you the Walk In Sync™ 7 Basics Commands for you to work with.  I would begin here with these basic steps to get your little guy back on track.

You are lucky in that he is only 5 months old so you don’t have a lot of baggage to undo just some boundaries to set with him.  Remember to keep all your sessions light, fun and praise him for the good job and effort he is putting in.  I would also consider putting him in a front clip harness that assists in his walking with you not leading the walk.  I love the Walk In Sync™ System to assist aggression and fear issues as it works so fast.  www.WalkInSync.com

Wishing you major success!  Let me know how it goes.

Paws Up!

Alecia Evans, HDT, MA, Inventor


Do you have a holistic training question for Alecia? Send it in on our online form!

Alecia Evans is the inventor of The Walk In Sync™ Humane Dog Walking and Training System with her exclusive 5 Minute Manners Makeovers using the Walk In Sync™ Harness and Accu-Grip Leash, along with her Walk In Sync™ 3 Easy Steps to teach any human/dog duos to Walk In Sync in just minutes.

The former host of the award-winning GrassRoots Aspen TV Series, The Whole Animal-An Alternative Approach to Animal Care, Alecia takes a natural approach to dog training and health care. Her work has been featured on Fox and Friends, The Sandra Glosser Show, NY 1, and in Aspen Magazine, DogTipper.com, The New York Daily News and Woof Report.

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Paris Permenter and John Bigley are the award-winning authors of over 30 pet and travel books as well as the founders and publishers of CatTipper and DogTipper.