Q&A: How to deal with house guest’s dog?

My brother and his dog (7 yr old male part Chihuahua, part Maltese, part Yorkie) are currently living with me. Mostly this has gone well but sometimes the dog bites me and not in a playful way. Once was when I was trying to take off his leash, so I just stopped taking off his leash. At least two of the times now have been when the dog is sitting on my lap and does not want to get up and I do. I’m wondering what to do about this, and how to interact with the dog after it happens. Should I not let him on my lap anymore? Are there things that I can change to make this less likely to happen? Thanks, Rai

Ironically, many people think Pitbulls or Rottweilers are the most aggressive breeds overall, but that is far from the truth. Time and time again, smaller breeds like the ones you mentioned score as some of the lowest on the ATTS Temperament Test, whereas the ‘Bully Breeds’ that have such a negative reputation actually score quite high. This is often a combination of poor genetics, poor breeding practices, and lack of training when the dog is young.

If the pup learns he can get the desired result by biting, he’ll continue to bite. You can do a few things here to avoid that.

1. Visit the veterinarian, just in case, to rule out any pain or discomfort that might cause the dog to react when you move. This does happen more often than you might think.

2. Ignore the dog, don’t acknowledge this seeking behavior. Act like the dog is a ghost or not actually present during these times.

3. Distract the pup with a toy, treat, or something he likes. This will cure the immediate issue, but may not help with the long term problem.

4. Hierarchy. I don’t like to recommend ‘Alpha’ behavior or establishing dominance; 90% of the time that is actually the opposite of what you want to do (despite what you may have heard). But, Chihuahuas sometimes can mistake themselves for the ‘leader’ of the house, of more important than other members, which might be contributing to your problem. This happens with other breeds on occasion too, but it is rarer with a positive upbringing and good environment.

Not to say your environment raising the little one wasn’t good; small breeds sometimes don’t ‘adjust’ in the same manner as larger dogs.

5. I have read many times that Chihuahuas lack the ability to perceive size, which perfectly explains their lack of caution. I can’t tell you for 100% that is true, but it is a supported theory. Your mix may suffer from this issue. To deal, you may want to use a more assertive manner.

Body Language
This is probably the largest suggestion I have. Body language is important; dogs read ours very well. Act assertive, don’t flinch, and try to give off an air of authority. Don’t be aggressive, but try to act confident, like the little one doesn’t bother you at all.

If you need to take extreme measures, I would suggest talking with your veterinarian, or the dog’s vet, about mood altering medication (before re-homing becomes an option). The vet will also rule out any possible medical issue, pain or discomfort that could be causing this behavior.

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Junior Watson

Junior is the DogTrainingBasics.com resident "Top Dog". He enjoys walks in the park, chasing invisible cats, and of course... bacon strips!

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