Adding Some Rules and Boundaries to Help a Chihuahua Pup Learn to Obey and Relax

By: David Codr

Published Date: August 19, 2015

Buddy Chiuahua

Buddy is a one-year-old Chihuahua who doesn’t recall on command, gets possessive and territorial when sitting on someone’s lap and sometimes bites to disagree or correct.

It didn’t take long to see why Buddy was doing these things. He had no rules, could do as he pleased and got anything he wanted (attention, food, etc) whenever he desired. I know of many humans who would get into trouble if they dint have rules or structure to help keep them from over indulging.

I suggested that they start to pet Buddy with a purpose rather than because he looked cute or was near the human. By making the dog do something before getting attention, the dog will start to emulate that behavior on its own as that is the new way to get attention from a human.

Small things like petting for a reason or adding some rules and limits will help the dog start to see himself as a follower instead of a leader. It will be important for the dog to see his humans as authority figures in order to get him to stop trying o control or disagree with humans when they do things he doesn’t like. If a dog sees himself as a follower, it would seem inappropriate to correct or disagree with a human who is an authority figure.

I started out by showing the guardians how to use simple hand movements to recall the dog and deliver a treat. When you start training a dog, you offer a high value treat or reward the instant the dog does the thing you want while repeating the command word over and over. This is called “marking” and its how we condition a dog to do specific actions on demand.

Small dogs often are on the twitchy side of things as they are often seen as prey. Additionally many humans will try to snatch a grab a dog with a quick movement which can cause them to loose some trust with the humans. You can spot a dog who has experienced this snatching interactions when you see a dog who takes a treat and moves away or only sits at a distance from the person.

I spent a few moments showing his guardians how to use the sit command to build up a little more trust with the dog. By keeping one treat in their hand while offering another and keeping the hand still and in place, we can help the dog learn to relax a bit. The second treat keeping the dog in place also allows us the ability to pet the dog with our other hand while its chewing the first treat.

Once Buddy was recalling and sitting while looking calm and comfortable, I tried to teach him how to lay down on command. I used a few techniques I have used in the past, but none of them worked. But after a little trial and error, I discovered that once I put the dog into a sit, I could gently push the treat forward towards the dogs nose to edge him into a laying down position.

I ran through the new technique with the dog several times in a row to help him build up a little muscle memory. As I practiced, it was easier and easier to get him into a lay position. Because people say lay down differently and its a two word command, I suggested that they come up with a unique one word command for the action.

The guardians had some difficulty coming up with their own command word so I suggested the one I use “crash.” Each time I got the dog to lay down, I popped the treat in his mouth while repeating the word for as long as he chewed. After enough repetitions the dog will start to associate the command word or “crash” with the act of laying down. Once this happens the dog will lay down on command.

I had the dog’s guardians practice putting him into a crash position this way for the next few moments so they can repeat the exercise a few times a day for the next week or so to really cement things in to the dog.

Another way to help the dog start to see the humans as leaders is to take over the job of security and answering the door. Buddy had gotten into a habit of rushing in front of his humans to the door, barking at the guest and jumping up on them which is how dogs claim humans as their property.

By controlling and taking over the door answering ritual, we can help the dog start to defer to the humans to handle things.

I had one of the guardians head outside to play the part of a knocking guest, then showed the other guardian how to claim the area around the door. After running through it myself, we repeated the exercise, but this time the guardian answered the door on their own.

This time the dog barked far less and was much easier to move away from the door. The more the humans practice this exercise, the easier it should be to get Buddy to leave the door answering to the humans. By the fourth time we ran through the exercise, the dog didn’t bark once and only needed one correction to stay back.

Buddy isn’t a bad dog, he just didn’t understand what his guardians wanted out of him. Now that he has some rules and limits to adhere to, he will start to hang back and let his guardians handle things instead of getting o=all worked up or trying to control the situation. In time, this will become Buddy’s new way of acting by default.

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This post was written by: David Codr

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