Chihuahuas can bring so much love and joy into a person's life. But whether you decide to bring home a teeny tiny puppy or adopt an adult dog, one of your first concerns for your little prince or princess should be house training. We'll take a look at the how's and why's of house training a chihuahua and give you a few strategies for working with your pup in a way that won't make either of you cry!
House Training a Chihuahua
Let's get this out of the way: Chihuahuas are just as trainable as other dogs! Is perfectly fine to spoil your little wiggly buddy, but at the end of the day they are just as capable of being trained as a German Shepherd, so no making excuses for poor potty habits.
Now, there may be some situations where a chihuahua has trouble housetraining or is unable to house train. Very young chihuahuas will have a hard time holding their bladders for more than an hour or two. Very old chihuahuas or sick dogs may also be more accident prone. In these cases, you may want to consider indoor solutions such as potty pads in combination with some of the chihuahua crate training methods discussed below.
In this article, we're going to look at the different aspects of chihuahua housebreaking including:
- The differences between chihuahua puppy training and training an adult dog
- How to potty train a chihuahua puppy using positive reinforcement
- When and how to use potty pads during chihuahua puppy training
- How to train a chihuahua puppy to use a crate
- When to seek a professional's help for chihuahua training
Is House Training a Chihuahua Different Than Training Other Breeds?
Well, yes and no. While there are different schools of thought on how to train a chihuahua puppy, all reputable trainers agree that chihuahuas are just as trainable as other dogs. However, there are three things which can really derail your potty training efforts: not taking into account your little one's size, being too harsh or too forgiving, and not providing your chi with enough outdoor time.
Given their big personalities, we may sometimes forget this, but chihuahuas are tiny! On average, they are about 1/20th to 1/10th our size which means they are surrounded by scary giants and because of this they can experience a lot of anxiety during their first days in a new home. Now, imagine a giant yelling at you - or even shaking you - every time you do something wrong. Terrifying, right? Keep this in mind while working on chihuahua puppy training, and always avoid using yelling or physical punishment while house training a chihuahua.
On the other hand, a lot of fur moms and dads make the mistake of treating their baby chi like a porcelain statue. Don't let their tiny stature, big sad eyes, or trembling fool you! Even though they have been pampered companions for hundreds of years, Chihuahuas descended from wolves just like every other dog breed and they are capable of learning and adapting to a new home. There is a difference between spoiling your baby...and spoiling them rotten.
Like every other dog, Chihuahuas need outdoor exercise every single day. This includes rainy days and very cold days. Because of their size, be sure to put them in appropriate clothing if it's cold or wet out, but ensure they're getting at least a half an hour outside every day. It's best to split this into a morning and evening walk. Long walks encourage a dog to fully empty its bowls and bladder which will result in fewer accidents.
Puppies vs. Adult Dogs
Puppies are a blank slate and a lot of new owners decide to take on a puppy specifically because they can shape their new dog's behavior. But adult dogs are perfectly capable of learning, too. In fact, your chihuahua housebreaking strategy should be pretty similar whether you take home a snuggly little fluffball or a mature dog.
A lot of websites or guides have suggestions on how to train a chihuahua puppy but do not acknowledge that a lot of dogs are adopted as adults. If a chihuahua was never trained in their previous home, they may need to be housetrained as an adult. Adult chis may have bad habits for several reasons. They may be sneaky and hide their accidents if they have been harshly punished in the past, or they may shamelessly piddle right in front of you if the previous owner never provided their chihuahua training.
Keep in mind that puppies will need extra potty breaks and cannot be expected to be accident-free all day. They also can not handle very long walks, so should be taken on frequent short walks or trips to the backyard. We'll take a closer look at how to potty train a chihuahua puppy below.
Chihuahua Housebreaking Strategies
There are endless books, websites, and training seminars dedicated to house training, so it shouldn't come as a shock that there are varying viewpoints on the best way to house train a new dog. However, the best strategies usually combine positive reinforcement for good potty behavior with confinement when you cannot be home to supervise and correct your dog.
Positive Reinforcement for Chihuahua Training
You have probably heard of positive reinforcement but may not know how to potty train a chihuahua puppy using this method. In a nutshell, positive reinforcement means offering something good to your little baby when they do something you like, and ignoring or giving a neutral reaction to bad behavior or accidents. Much like human babies, chihuahuas pay close attention to our reactions and are more likely to repeat an act if they get lots of praise and love for doing it.
Here's how to train a chihuahua puppy using positive reinforcement. When your little one is outside and goes potty in an appropriate spot, praise them in a high-pitched and excited voice the second they squat. Timing is very important so be sure not to offer praise too early or too late. Once your chihuahua is done with their business give them some pets and snuggles. Your chi will begin to associate these positive reinforcers - verbal praise and physical affection - with going potty outside. Since your sweet baby wants to make you happy, they will try to get a repeat of this praise.
Some trainers may advocate offering food treats to dogs during potty training, but this isn't always a helpful chihuahua housebreaking strategy. Even though food treats are one type of positive reinforcer, you don't want your dog associating food with going to the bathroom, and you don't want your dog to refuse to go potty without a treat.
House Training a Chihuahua Using Potty Pads
Potty pads can be either a blessing or a curse. Using them short-term to help your dog avoid having accidents all over the house is fine, but if your dog comes to rely on the potty pads and uses them exclusively instead of going outside, you can set back your little one's house training. Whether they are used for a puppy or an adult dog, make sure to offer your new chihuahua ample opportunities to go outside and only use potty pads for times when you will be away from the house.
For young chihuahua puppies who need to potty frequently, providing them with a pad is a good idea if you plan on leaving them alone for a long period of time. Praise them for using the pad just as you would when they go potty outside. Potty pads are also a benefit when introducing a new, un-housetrained adult chi to your home. Keep the pad next to the door if possible so that you can more easily associate bathroom behaviors with being outside of the home. Do not praise adult dogs for using the pad, and always clean up used potty pads quickly so that your adult dog won't unintentionally be taught that they should use that spot in the future.
Chihuahua Crate Training
It may seem harsh to put your little angel in a cage while you're away from home, but there are some very real and scientifically backed reasons why crate training may be your best tool when it comes to chihuahua training.
Crates come in several styles and sizes. Most that are designed for in-home use are made of wire although plastic airline crates can also be used for chihuahua crate training and so can fancy designer crates made from wood or fabric. Whatever style of crate you choose, make sure there is enough room for your baby to be comfortable. Find a crate that allows them to stand up without touching the top, lay down without touching the sides, and turn around comfortably.
Then comes the fun part! Make their crate inviting and comfortable by putting a luxurious bed or several comfortable blankets inside. Add their favorite toys, and consider draping a blanket over the top. Dogs sleep and raise their babies in dens in the wild, and if you can convince your chi that the crate is safe and cozy, they will treat it like a den. This includes avoiding accidents in the crate since dogs instinctively keep their den clean.
Introduce your little one to the crate slowly if at all possible since avoiding negative reactions to the crate is key to proper chihuahua crate training. Give them treats inside, or only feed them their meals in the crate. This will begin building a positive association with time spent in the crate. If your puppy whines while locked in and separated from you, try to ignore it. If you go to your chihuahua and let it out of the crate every time it cries, it will learn that crying is the key to getting out of the crate.
When to Hire a Professional
If you don't know how to potty train a chihuahua puppy and feel like it is a challenge you can't handle alone, or if you've tried the strategies above and your little love is still having accidents in the house, you may want to consider hiring a professional dog trainer to help you with your chihuahua puppy training. Many trainers will offer either a single session or an ongoing weekly training appointment to help you and your chi master potty training.
While offsite training may be available, it's best if the trainer can come to your house because certain aspects of your routine, elements within your home, or other factors specific to your living space may be impacting your dog's willingness to potty outside. Make sure to find a trainer that is certified, has excellent references, and who has a training style which is amenable to both you and your little one.