If you are googling, “why are Chihuahuas so mean Reddit,” you may have encountered the sharp edge of this tiny dog’s huge personality. Chihuahuas are the smallest of dog breeds in the world and are known for their big personalities and their loyalty to their owners. Unfortunately, that’s not all they’re famous for.
Many Chihuahua lovers will argue that this is false advertising and that their dogs are as sweet as homemade apple pie. But for other people with a Chihuahua, it’s worth investing in a calming dog bed and safe space, because studies show that aggression is one of the most common disorders in these feisty fidos.
In fact, Chihuahuas are one of the three dog breeds (with the Dachshund and the Jack Russell Terrier) most likely to be aggressive both to their owners and strangers. If you’re considering adopting a Chihuahua, it’s important to be aware of the potential for these behaviors and be prepared to properly handle your new pet.
Why are Chihuahuas so mean?
Chihuahuas can be mean or aggressive because of their genetics or because of health problems. However, their anger issues are often because of a lack of socialization, fear, insecurity and a tendency for people to overlook behavioral problems, or see them as “cute.”
Before we get into the many factors that can cause meanness in Chihuahuas, let’s first look at a bit of Chihuahua history. This provides a framework to understand how they evolved and what may make them so “mean.”
Understanding the history of the Chihuahua
Chihuahuas are an ancient breed of dog that was essentially bred as companion animals for royalty in Mexico. They are known for their strong personalities, fierce loyalty, and admiration for their owners.
They are believed to be descended from the Techichi, a small, mute dog kept by the Toltec people of central Mexico. The Techichi was known for its boldness, often being used to perform hunting and protection duties.
This same bravery and loyalty that endeared the Techichi to its owners so many years ago may cause Chihuahuas to be overly protective and prone to displaying aggression towards strangers. So it’s possible that some of the aggressive tendencies of their ancestors still remain in the modern versions like the deer head Chihuahua.
However, unlike the Techichi, the Chihuahua certainly is not mute. So we need to look at the many modern factors that make Chihuahuas aggressive.
10 common reasons for Chihuahua aggression
There are many reasons that Chihuahuas can be aggressive, and often more than one factor can is involved. So, let’s look at what creates an aggressive Chihuahua.
1. People fail to recognize their dog’s stress signals
Sadly, dog owners and breeders are the major reason that Chihuahuas can be mean for multiple reasons. And one of the ways they often fail their dog is by not understanding their dog’s communication or even willfully ignoring it
People often unwittingly encourage bad behavior in Chihuahuas and fail to take it seriously. They may even see it as funny, and tease their dog to provoke a reaction. Videos like this one are common on the internet:
Unlike a larger dog, like a Rottweiler or a Cane Corso, many people happily ignore a Chihuahua’s early body language that shows they are unhappy about somebody in their space.
One will often see a Chihuahua start by averting their face, breathing faster, lick their lips, yawning, and showing other signs of stress before they become mean.
When people ignore a dog’s stress signals and continue to provoke them, this behavior will naturally escalate to snarling and eventually to biting. In most cases, just by respecting the dog’s early cues and signs of anxiety, a bite could be avoided. With positive training, they may also feel more secure with a better blueprint for how to behave
2. Chihuahua owners don’t get as much professional help for their dogs
In one study, Deborah Duffy notes that owners of large breed dogs like Pit bulls are more likely to get professional help if their dog is aggressive than owners of smaller dogs, as the small dogs can’t do serious damage.
This means that little dogs are less likely to get the help they need, even when their behavior shows they are struggling with insecurity, anxiety, stress, or even fear.
Often weighing less than 6 pounds, Chihuahuas are extremely vulnerable to their environment. Larger dogs, children, and even their own owners can seem overwhelming and even dangerous, so Chihuahuas often develop aggression as a way to protect themselves. This can lead to severe behavior problems that won’t resolve themselves without professional help.
Another factor that can contribute to aggression in Chihuahuas is their frequent lack of socialization. They are usually considered to be a loyal and devoted lap dog, and many Chihuahuas show any signs of meanness.
However, this isn’t always the case. For some, their tiny size and huge personalities can lead to aggressive and mean behaviors. In some cases, it’s because the dog has never been properly socialized, causing them to see almost everything as a potential threat.
Lack of proper socialization during the critical puppy period of 8-16 weeks often causes aggressive dogs. If the puppy isn’t exposed to a variety of people and situations, they may become fearful and defensive of those new sights and sounds. This is especially true of Chihuahuas, as they are naturally suspicious of new people and circumstances.
4. Chihuahua often don’t get any obedience training
Additionally, Chihuahuas may be aggressive is due to improper training. If a dog doesn’t receive the right kind of consistent training and reinforcement from early on, they won’t know how to behave correctly.
For example, reacting to commands with treats for positive reinforcement rather than scolding is a good way to ensure that your Chihuahua behaves well. Additionally, ignoring bad behavior and rewarding good behavior is key to curbing their aggression.
5. Chihuahuas often don’t get enough exercise
Another reason why Chihuahuas may act mean is due to a lack of exercise. Chihuahuas are known for being lap dogs, but this doesn’t mean that they should just stay in the house all day. They need plenty of physical and mental stimulation in order to stay healthy, happy, and well-behaved.
Without sufficient exercise and mental activity, they may become hyperactive, which can lead to nipping or barking as a way of expressing their pent-up energy.
6. Medical conditions can cause aggression in Chihuahuas
Another reason why Chihuahuas may be mean is due to health-related issues. Chihuahuas may show aggressive behavior due to physical pain or discomfort coming from underlying health issues. They are extremely vulnerable to painful dental problems and hypothyroidism.
Studies show that hypothyroidism is connected to aggression in dogs. Pain can also be at fault. With their delicate bones, Chihuahuas are prone to getting hurt. But a variety of neurological issues like epilepsy or brain tumors can also aggressive behavior
A visit to the vet can help identify any underlying health issues and provide treatment to give your Chihuahua some relief.
7. Genetics can often be the root cause of aggression
On the other hand, some mean Chihuahuas are mean simply because of their breed and bloodlines. On a positive note, they were bred to be courageous, alert, and protective, but they can take these characteristics to the extreme. As a result, they can be suspicious of strangers, bark excessively when they sense an intruder, and lunge aggressively at anything they don’t trust.
On a more negative note, breeders and owners alike often ignore temperament problems in their dogs. One study shows that Chihuahua owners are less likely to plan for their dog before they get it.
Breeding dogs for extremely small sizes is also linked with a strong tendency to see them as “babies.” This causes breeders and owners to ignore genetic anxiety and aggression, passed down from parents to puppies.
In fact, the study compared motivations for people who bought dogs from different breeds. It found that:
- Health and other traits were most important to people who bought Cairn Terriers.
- Personality and temperament was more important to people who had French Bulldogs and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.
- The more behavioral problems Chihuahuas had, the closer their bond tended to be with their owner.
These findings show us that, sadly, for many breeders, there is no pressure to breed for good temperaments. This allows anxiety and aggression to be common in many bloodlines. The only solution is make sure you support ethical Chihuahua breeders who breed for good temperaments.
8. Fear-based aggression and “small dog syndrome” in Chihuahuas
Contrary to popular belief, Chihuahuas don’t really believe they are bigger than they are. The truth is that smaller animals are often extremely aggressive as a defense mechanism. We see this with other small animals like the honey badger or wolverine.
Due to their size, Chihuahuas are vulnerable and use what little power they can get to protect themselves. Real aggression is actually quite rare in this breed. What dog trainers see more often is fear-based reactivity, or a tendency to lash out when they feel threatened or nervous.
Of course, many smaller dogs genuinely are fearless. We will usually see this in terriers like the Scottish Terrier, Miniature Schnauzer, or Smooth Fox Terrier. But in the Chihuahua, what we are often seeing is usually not courage, but rather aggression in response to fear, anxiety, stress, or insecurity.
That said, some Chihuahuas often have very dominant personalities. This combined with peoples’ tendency not to correct their little dogs’ behavior can cause them to become tiny tyrants.
9. Chihuahuas often show territorial behavior
Chihuahuas can be particularly protective of their owners, which is why they’ve been known to display aggressive behavior toward other people and animals.
Chihuahuas are easily trained due to their intelligence, but can become very territorial if not taught how to interact with other animals and people from a young age. Without proper socialization, Chihuahuas can become unpredictably aggressive.
10. Chihuahuas guard their resources
Another common feature in Chihuahuas is resource guarding. This is always a genetic problem. You will see it most often in dogs who guard their food and will snarl it at anybody who approaches it. But they may also guard their beds, favorite furniture, toys, and their favorite person.
People often see resource guarding their favorite person as a cute sign of their dog being protective. In reality, resource guarding is a sign of anxiety. The dog is afraid that somebody will take something away from them, so they aggressively defend it.
Resource guarding is not cute, as it indicates that a dog is extremely stressed over a perceived threat to their resources. Thankfully, it is a completely curable problem.
Why are Chihuahuas so mean to their owners?
Chihuahuas often lash out at their owners when their owners ignore their stress signals and mistake problem behavior for being cute. Owners may even encourage aggression if they think it is funny. Other reasons include health problems and tendency to guard high-value items, like their food.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why are Chihuahuas so shaky?
Chihuahuas tend to shake because of their high metabolism and their tendency toward anxiety-related issues. We cover this topic fully in our article on why Chihuahuas shake.
Why are Chihuahuas so dumb?
Chihuahuas are not dumb, but they are independent and are not always highly motivated to do what they’re told. They need plenty of patience and positive reinforcement in life-long training. The key reason these dogs don’t often respond appropriately is because very few of their owners invest in dog training.
Just see this video of Sophie the dancing Chihuahua to see how clever and trainable these little dogs actually are:
Why are Chihuahuas so yappy?
Chihuahuas use any tools they have to make their presence known, so many of them become “yappy.” This is often a sign that they are not getting enough exercise and playtime. It can also be due to a lack of socialization, that causes them to bark excessively at strangers, noises, or other animals.
Why are Chihuahuas so protective?
Chihuahuas are sometimes naturally dominant, and can see protecting their environment and people as part of their job. However, it’s more common for people to mistake resource guarding for protectiveness. In this case, the Chihuahua is actually in a high state of anxiety that somebody will take away their food, or attention from their owner. This causes fear-based aggression.
Why are Chihuahuas so clingy?
Chihuahuas tend to be very attached to one person, who provides them with a sense of safety, affection, and food. Without proper socialization, this can cause Chihuahuas to become hyper-attached and clingy. They may suffer from separation anxiety too.
Why are Chihuahuas so hyper?
Chihuahuas are naturally alert little dogs with very fast metabolisms. This means they tend to have plenty of energy for their size and they may become “hyper” without enough exercise. With daily walks and adequate playtime, their energetic natures should settle down.
Though Chihuahuas can be mean and aggressive, it’s important to remember that these behaviors can often be corrected with training, socialization and a lot of patience.
These are smart and loving dogs who make excellent pets. They only need people to invest time into understanding them, and preventing any kind of teasing that make meanness worse.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.