Are Chihuahuas Smart?

What is the average intelligence of a Chihuahua?

Today I’d like to talk about how smart your Chihuahua might be.  There are differing opinions on the intelligence level of Chihuahuas.  My personal experience has taught me that there are differences in levels of intelligence with Chihuahuas – much like other breeds, and much like people!

The different dogs I’ve had throughout my lifetime have definitely had different levels of intelligence.  My first dog, Tina, was the smartest dog I’ve ever had.  She was quick-witted and eager to learn.  She was very easy to train.  I was a youngster when I had her and even though I was fairly young, I was able to be patient with her and train her.  Of course, the easiest way to train your pet is to use treats to get them to do what you want them to do.

Chihuahuas can be difficult to train.  When they are eager to learn and you spend time with them, working with them consistently and patiently, they can learn very quickly and efficiently.  It all depends on the level of effort you expend with them.  You should use proper training techniques, which include a lot of positive reinforcement.  Be sure to offer affection at the same time.  Tina was able to learn many different tricks.  She could sit up, pray (I would hold her paws together as she sat up and she would put her nose between her paws – so cute!), roll over, play dead, sit, stay, heel, etc.  In fact, she was so talented that one time when there was an informal dog show going on in our vicinity, my mom sewed up a little tutu for her and took me to the show and we entered Tina in the competition.  She did pretty well!

Annoying behavior traits

I’ve found that if you don’t take the time in the beginning to train your Chihuahua in some very basic commands, that they can develop some annoying traits.  They tend to be yappy dogs, and they can have a very high pitched bark – and simply telling them to “stop” doesn’t do the trick.  They must be trained that this behavior is not acceptable.  You have to be the alpha dog in the pack and teach them what is acceptable behavior and what’s not.  Believe me, if you have neighbors close by – and especially if you live in an apartment (because Chihuahuas are excellent dogs for apartment dwellers), you will hear complaints from them if you have a yappy dog.  Nobody wants that.  Chihuahuas are easily excitable and get hyper at the slightest bit of attention.  An example is if they’ve been home alone for a while – even a short while – and you come home. They will be so excited to see you, and they will express that excitement with barking unless they’re trained not to do that.

They also will jump around a lot and jump up on you.  Personally, I don’t have a problem with this because I love their excitement at seeing me and love the fact that they want to be near me.  But when visitors come to the house or you’re out in public walking with them, you don’t want your Chihuahua jumping up on strangers.  You never know how a person will react to this.  They may be afraid of dogs and react badly.

One of our girls, Katy, has always been an ankle biter.  She is completely intolerant of strange people coming around.  In fact, my mom and my sister were visiting us from out of state, and they had been there for a couple of days, so we thought that Katy had acclimated to the situation.  Well, one morning my mom came out of the bathroom after getting ready and walked into the living room where Katy was.  Evidently Katy was taken by surprise and she ran at my mom (who was fairly elderly at the time) and started nipping at her ankles and her slacks.  She actually got her little sharp teeth into my mom’s leg.  Needless to say, my mom was not pleased!

Getting along with other dogs

It’s been my experience that Chihuahuas are typically pretty good with other Chihuahuas.  But if you get them around other breeds – especially larger breeds – and they can be pretty aggressive.  Two of our Chihuahuas, Katy and Ike, are very aggressive with other dogs.  We have cared for a friend’s dog, an elderly poodle, a couple of times while she was out of town.  This little dog is just a bit larger than our dogs, and initially all the dogs got along pretty well.  But there were a couple of times where some snapping at each other occurred.  I don’t know about you, but it makes me nervous when dogs snap and growl at each other.  I definitely don’t want it to grow into a full-blown dog fight, so I step in immediately and stop that behavior.  All of the Chihuahuas I’ve had have all thought of themselves as much bigger dogs than they actually are.  They seem to think they can take on any other dog of any size.  So be careful when you expose your Chihuahua to other dogs.  Early socialization of your Chihuahua to other dogs, especially other breeds of dogs, will help them to be more tolerant when they are around other dogs.

The same thing goes for visitors.  It’s important to expose your Chihuahua and any dog really, to other people.  This will help them accept the fact that they can accept visitors in your house or while out for a walk.

In closing

Chihuahuas, like any breed, have different levels of intelligence.  Some are very quick-witted and easily trained. Others will take a little more effort.  But I believe that any dog is trainable with enough effort, affection, and kindness.  I have to admit, my husband and I could have done a better job in training our four rescues.  They have some pretty annoying habits.  They bark a lot, especially when once of us gets home.  Last night, my husband returned to the house late after being out at a baseball game.  Now it happened that it was storming really badly, so I wasn’t asleep (although I was in bed, trying to sleep).  But when the dogs heard the garage door open, the chorus of barking began.  And once they get started, it’s nearly impossible to shut them up, until Leland gets the truck parked and the garage door shut, and comes upstairs and greets them.  They stay excited and jump up and down and bark for probably about 10 minutes before they finally calm down.  Normally, this doesn’t bother me – it makes me happy that they love us so much and are excited to see us.  But not at 11:30 at night!  So take the time and learn the proper training techniques and train your dog.  You will enjoy a more peaceful relationship!

There is a great website that has a lot of wonderful training resources.  The website is TrainPetDog.com and there is a link to their site below.

Training Resources

Love your pets!


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Julie Harris

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