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Why are Chihuahuas So Aggressive?

David Fields
Last Updated on
by David Fields

When you think of small, cute dogs, you think of a Chihuahua. And often, you think of the trembling, wide-eyed little animal that can turn into a snarling beast if looked at the wrong way.

So, what makes Chihuahuas so aggressive compared to even other small dogs?

Below we discuss some of the main reasons Chihuahuas can end up aggressive and anxious.

Reasons for Chihuahua Aggression

Reasons for Chihuahua Aggression

In general, chihuahuas are territorial and need stability to be in a good mood. Their aggressive behavior can be seen as amusing rather than a problem, this leads to a lack of boundaries and trust with some chihuahuas.

Why they are more intense than other little dogs is yet to be truly identified.

Here are the main factors that make a chihuahua snap and give the reputation of why chihuahuas are so mean.


For their size, Chihuahuas are very dominant and territorial. They will go to great lengths to let an intruder (which might just be a friend coming to visit) that they don’t want in their space. Pushing their boundaries can trigger chihuahua aggression.

They tend to bond closely with a primary caretaker and a few select others. It takes a chihuahua a long time to warm up to someone, unless you have a very socialized Chi that’s been around various people since puppyhood.

As a breed, Chi’s are defensive and take up arms quickly. By barking, growling, or even snapping, they will make their displeasure known to all. They want to keep themselves, their people, and their territory safe despite their tiny stature.

Outside Factors

Chihuahuas are very loving and loyal animals. So if their trust is broken, it can be a long road to repairing it.

If you have a puppy, it is important to create safety and stability for that puppy. You want them to trust people and be mild around other dogs. Setting boundaries and adequate training will help your Chi be aware of who is in charge and that you are their caretaker.

Here are some of the reasons a Chihuahua exhibits aggression.

Lack of Boundaries

A big mistake many people make with chihuahuas is treating them like accessories or toys. When they get angry, or they are distressed, we often find it cute. Why worry when you can just pick them up and tote them around?

The way you would treat a Great Dane, Pitbull, or other big dog is immensely different from how Chihuahuas are treated. You need to respect their autonomy as a dog and train them. They’re territorial and independent– as anxious and intense as they are– they like to have some control.

Make sure you respect their boundaries. If they are growling, something is upsetting them and they deserve to be respected and have that stressor removed or be taken from the situation entirely. If you don’t, this can be a main reason why chihuahuas are so aggressive.

Lack of Exercise

Sure, they often resemble little potatoes or peanuts, but chihuahuas have impressive capabilities for athletics (this doesn’t account for poor genetics, age, or physical health). A dog that is understimulated can get restless and frustrated.

They get pent up energy that can come out in aggressive outbursts. Chihuahuas might be small, but biting a person is still unacceptable and it might warrant some stitches and a medical bill.

Ensure your Chi is able to get enough exercise during the day. Try to play with them (if they enjoy playtime) and try to get them active and engaged. This builds a trusting bond between you and the Chi.

Lack of Training

This is hand in hand with the lack of boundaries. Since Chihuahuas are so small, some people bypass the need to train them at all. Why worry when you can pick them up in one hand?

Unfortunately, a lack of training and establishing a human in the leader position, it takes control from the dog and could give them a sense of aggressive entitlement. Without a hierarchy and structure, they don’t know what else to listen to beside their own instinctual reaction.

A gentle, reward and redirection training method works well for them. Reward their good behaviors and redirect them when bed behavior arises.

Having them trained will help if they ever manage to escape, and in general it helps them be more manageable and attentive to commands.

Poor Genetics

Some things aren’t due to any lack of training or trying, sometimes a grouchy temperament comes from an aggressive lineage.

Respectable Chi breeders tend to focus on how healthy their dogs are and only breed healthy and mild mannered dogs. Responsible breeders are doing their best to install quality genes and help Chihuahuas live peaceful and healthy lives.

There are puppy mills that pay no attention to their dogs’ health or temperament, only trying to get quick money out of the suffering of the dogs.

Spaying and neutering can help eliminate the suffering of dogs who are unable to have happy homes due to poor health or behavior.

Past Abuse

If you’ve rescued a Chihuahua, there is a chance it was abused before it reached you. Take into account the trauma it could have experienced and internalized. Anxiety is often the source of aggression, so be patient.

They are small animals, and their big attitudes can just be to cover up how scared they are. Try to establish trust and a bond with a Chi to help them understand not all people are bad and cause pain.

Related: Why do chihuahuas shake?


Chihuahua Aggression

So, why are Chihuahuas so aggressive? Not every animal will display aggressive or mean tendencies, but there are a large proportion that are due to reasons people can help minimize by proper care and training.

If you are a Chihuahua owner, or want to become one, here are the main points to focus on to help your dog feel secure and at ease.

  • Respect their boundaries. If a dog is growling, respect it and give them space.
  • Give them a stable environment that they can feel safe coming back to.
  • Adequate exercise and stimulation is important.
  • Basic behavioral training.
  • Establish yourself as their leader so they don’t get overconfident and aggressive towards people.

Not every Chi will struggle with these issues, and a stable upbringing and environment can keep them from lashing out. Of course, like people, every dog has a different temperament and some Chihuahuas might just like their grumpy attitude.

About David Fields
David Fields
David Fields is a long-time animal lover and has been blessed to share his life with many companions. A short list includes ragdoll cats, siberian husky and greyhound dogs, an African Grey parrot, many fish of all sorts, and a pandemonium of parakeet. He writes most of the articles on iPetCompanion and is regularly featured on other popular websites on the Internet.
1 Comment
  1. Absolutely right, Chihuahuas are usually aggressive specially when you treat them like toys. My friend has Chihuahuas and we have to treat them differently from other dogs.

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