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My formerly highly sociable and cheerful 2 year old chihuahua Coco has now become pretty aggresive towards people. She will growl and bark at most strangers who aproach her and try to pet her. I can tell this is fear aggression too as she will immediatly try to hide behind me when someone aproaches, after snapping and she'll sometimes whine and cry after barking at people. This is quite upsetting to me because she wasn't this way at all and this has started to happen very recently.

At first I blamed this change in behaviour in another thread on this forum on my boyfriend teasing her a LOT but after thinking about it for awhile I think I'm to blame as well. I suffered from a severe depression for quite a few months and during those months I tried to avoid people as much as possible, including in Coco's daily walks whereas before I used to greet strangers and let them pet her on our walks. Maybe this led to Coco becoming very antisocial and then my boyfriend's teasing was the cherry on top and now I have an angry antisocial little dog.

My question is, what can I do to fix this? Ive started taking Coco to Obedience and Fitness classes on the weekends as this is the closest thing I could find to a behaviourist here in good ole Mexico and my boyfriend has vowed to stop teasing Coco. I'll stop avoiding people on walks of course but I doubt anyone will want to help me fix this growling, snippy mess of mine. What else can I do to get my happy, sociable little sunball back?
 

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Look up BAT/LAT training. It's a way of using controlled exposure and rewards to help dogs get over reactivity.

It might not have anything to do with you, btw. Age 2 is when a lot of genetic temperament stuff will pop up, because it's when dogs hit maturity. So your depression and the reactivity are probably unrelated. The teasing, though, that's not okay.
 

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Like Amaryllis said, age 2 is when a lot of these issues start appearing. They were perhaps exacerbated by your boyfriend's behavior, sure. I didn't want to say this in the other thread, as it would have been dismissive of the actual problem at hand, but your boyfriend's stereotype about Chihuahuas being snappy little dogs is actually seated in truth. In many bite statistic surveys, while breeds like Pitts and GSDs have the highest number of *reported* bites resulting in injury, Chihuahuas are in reality the breed second most likely to bite their owners/strangers/other dogs (behind Dachshunds).

These problems are exacerbated by people thinking a growly, snippy little dog is "funny" and being "tough" and the proper training not being appropriately managed because 'well, how much damage can a Chihuahua really do?'.

BAT/LAT training would help, I think. I would advise you to not have unrealistic expectations - I have personally not met an adult Chihuahua who is a friendly, outgoing dog with strangers around (I've known about 15 or so). The snapping and growling may be halted with training, but they just aren't known for being super friendly.
 

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Like Amaryllis said, age 2 is when a lot of these issues start appearing. They were perhaps exacerbated by your boyfriend's behavior, sure. I didn't want to say this in the other thread, as it would have been dismissive of the actual problem at hand, but your boyfriend's stereotype about Chihuahuas being snappy little dogs is actually seated in truth. In many bite statistic surveys, while breeds like Pitts and GSDs have the highest number of *reported* bites resulting in injury, Chihuahuas are in reality the breed second most likely to bite their owners/strangers/other dogs (behind Dachshunds).

These problems are exacerbated by people thinking a growly, snippy little dog is "funny" and being "tough" and the proper training not being appropriately managed because 'well, how much damage can a Chihuahua really do?'.

BAT/LAT training would help, I think. I would advise you to not have unrealistic expectations - I have personally not met an adult Chihuahua who is a friendly, outgoing dog with strangers around (I've known about 15 or so). The snapping and growling may be halted with training, but they just aren't known for being super friendly.
You, like most people, have not had the pleasure of meeting a properly bred Chihuahua. (There are so few of them. *sigh*) They are supposed to be very friendly little dogs, happy and confident, too. Not Golden Retriever levels of loves everyone, but they should be social butterflies. I've met a couple of well bred Chis and they are lovely dogs.
 

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You, like most people, have not had the pleasure of meeting a properly bred Chihuahua. (There are so few of them. *sigh*) They are supposed to be very friendly little dogs, happy and confident, too. Not Golden Retriever levels of loves everyone, but they should be social butterflies. I've met a couple of well bred Chis and they are lovely dogs.
I would love to meet a happy, friendly Chihuahua :) Most of the ones I've met have suffered with the type of owner who finds growling/snapping 'funny', and probably have not been well bred on top of that. The owners who haven't found growling/snapping 'funny' are the ones who hold and cuddle the dog while it acts anxious, therefore encouraging the anxiety.

There *is* a reason Chihuahuas are generally top five on bite percentage lists, though. I can't imagine it's because they're all poorly bred? Or do you think that's a huge contributing factor?
 

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I would love to meet a happy, friendly Chihuahua :) Most of the ones I've met have suffered with the type of owner who finds growling/snapping 'funny', and probably have not been well bred on top of that. The owners who haven't found growling/snapping 'funny' are the ones who hold and cuddle the dog while it acts anxious, therefore encouraging the anxiety.

There *is* a reason Chihuahuas are generally top five on bite percentage lists, though. I can't imagine it's because they're all poorly bred? Or do you think that's a huge contributing factor?
Puppy mills and BYBs are definitely a huge factor, yes. You can't breed poor temperament to poor temperament for generation after generation and expect to end up with a stable, happy dog.

Lack of training and control definitely adds to this effect, but it's not the base cause.
 

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your right on your first reasoning.... your boyfriend being the source of change in behavior... What can you do.. protect your dog from your boyfriend while you (attempt) to rehab your dog to regain confidence in the world that they wont tease, your dog as your boyfriend has...
 

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I'm sure what I am about to say will get jumped on...so be it. What struck me to open this thread was the subject line. Your post gave two very strong reasons for screwing up what was originally a happy, healthy toy dog. I love it that you were very honest and forthright that your boyfriend teases the dog, and that you had/have issues which make you (YOU, NOT YOUR DOG) disconnect from people. I totally appreciate the honesty. And to me...the human element is what needs to be corrected...not the dog.

I have a real problem with "labeling" a dog as reactive, simply because he/she "reacts" to any given situation. All dogs "react" whether favorably or unfavorably to any given stimulus.

I also strongly disagree with the statement: "It might not have anything to do with you, btw. Age 2 is when a lot of genetic temperament stuff will pop up, because it's when dogs hit maturity. So your depression and the reactivity are probably unrelated." When I was breeding dogs, I knew I was dealing with some weird genetic temperament issues from the lines I chose, but I also knew they could be mitigated with early intervention...I was more interested in health and structure that was lacking in my chosen breed(s). Those genetic temperament issues, show up immediately, as young as six weeks, not suddenly as an adult. The whole temperament issues cropping up at maturity is simply dealing with dogs in general...it is getting through adolescence, it is getting through hormone surges. It is up to HUMANS to adjust. Toy dogs mature much more quickly...long before two years of age.

Let me give an example...I had two siblings, male and female...11 months old (these were large breed dog, so it could equate to a 2 year old toy). They were taken to the local pet store at various times throughout their puppyhood and were fine, but alas, at this phase in my life, they weren't taken to the multitude of places my previous young dog were. So suddenly...on one particular trip there happened to be two other families there with several children each.

Melgogs...it is sort of the same thing...for different reasons, we both avoided a lot of contact. My previously two siblings were fine with kids as little puppies, but suddenly, at that one visit, these kids were running around, they have different voices, very fast movements...and my two dogs became very nervous, and they even growled when one of the children came near them. So....is it right for me to LABEL them as "reactive" thus that means their response is somehow THEIR fault...in my mind absolutely not. They simply "reacted" and it is/was my job as a human to fix it AT THAT MOMENT. A funny thing happens when people actually ask for help...some people, hopefully most people, actually will help you...and after asking the parents, I stuck a bunch of food in those children's hands and my "so-called reactive" dogs took that food. They didn't want to bite children...they simply were not used to the very different behavior patterns of children. That doesn't mean these dogs deserved the LABEL of being "reactive." It was ME who failed at properly inoculating them. But they GOT it...the first time they REACTED.

I pains me that people are suddenly horrified that our canine companions innocently "react" to things, and BAM, they get slammed with a LABEL as "reactive." I would suggest that the PEOPLE have the onus to, um, "react" correctly themselves to an unwanted "reaction" from their dog, in order for that particular reaction not to occur again. Nine times out of ten....behavior problems with dogs are people problems, not dog problems.
 

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Not taking a dog out into public for a little while does not make them fearful. It's more likely that your boyfriend's teasing has made her nervous. It could also be something physical, like pain or a thyroid condition or something. I would take her to the vet first to rule that out.

I would not encourage her to interact with people on walks if she doesn't want to. That won't fix anything and will likely make her more anxious if she thinks she has to interact with people when she'd rather not.
 

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I'm sure what I am about to say will get jumped on...so be it. What struck me to open this thread was the subject line. Your post gave two very strong reasons for screwing up what was originally a happy, healthy toy dog. I love it that you were very honest and forthright that your boyfriend teases the dog, and that you had/have issues which make you (YOU, NOT YOUR DOG) disconnect from people. I totally appreciate the honesty. And to me...the human element is what needs to be corrected...not the dog.

I have a real problem with "labeling" a dog as reactive, simply because he/she "reacts" to any given situation. All dogs "react" whether favorably or unfavorably to any given stimulus.

I also strongly disagree with the statement: "It might not have anything to do with you, btw. Age 2 is when a lot of genetic temperament stuff will pop up, because it's when dogs hit maturity. So your depression and the reactivity are probably unrelated." When I was breeding dogs, I knew I was dealing with some weird genetic temperament issues from the lines I chose, but I also knew they could be mitigated with early intervention...I was more interested in health and structure that was lacking in my chosen breed(s). Those genetic temperament issues, show up immediately, as young as six weeks, not suddenly as an adult. The whole temperament issues cropping up at maturity is simply dealing with dogs in general...it is getting through adolescence, it is getting through hormone surges. It is up to HUMANS to adjust. Toy dogs mature much more quickly...long before two years of age.

Let me give an example...I had two siblings, male and female...11 months old (these were large breed dog, so it could equate to a 2 year old toy). They were taken to the local pet store at various times throughout their puppyhood and were fine, but alas, at this phase in my life, they weren't taken to the multitude of places my previous young dog were. So suddenly...on one particular trip there happened to be two other families there with several children each.

Melgogs...it is sort of the same thing...for different reasons, we both avoided a lot of contact. My previously two siblings were fine with kids as little puppies, but suddenly, at that one visit, these kids were running around, they have different voices, very fast movements...and my two dogs became very nervous, and they even growled when one of the children came near them. So....is it right for me to LABEL them as "reactive" thus that means their response is somehow THEIR fault...in my mind absolutely not. They simply "reacted" and it is/was my job as a human to fix it AT THAT MOMENT. A funny thing happens when people actually ask for help...some people, hopefully most people, actually will help you...and after asking the parents, I stuck a bunch of food in those children's hands and my "so-called reactive" dogs took that food. They didn't want to bite children...they simply were not used to the very different behavior patterns of children. That doesn't mean these dogs deserved the LABEL of being "reactive." It was ME who failed at properly inoculating them. But they GOT it...the first time they REACTED.

I pains me that people are suddenly horrified that our canine companions innocently "react" to things, and BAM, they get slammed with a LABEL as "reactive." I would suggest that the PEOPLE have the onus to, um, "react" correctly themselves to an unwanted "reaction" from their dog, in order for that particular reaction not to occur again. Nine times out of ten....behavior problems with dogs are people problems, not dog problems.
Well, I certainly can't speak for ALL 'people', but I personally wouldn't *label* a dog as 'reactive' for a single, isolated incident of reactivity to a particular trigger/ stimulus. I would, however, make mental note of such behavior & watch for future incidents, or a habit being formed.

I'm fairly certain that many (if not most) people would only label a dog as 'reactive' if their particular temperament led to numerous incidents of 'reaction' over a wide variety of triggers/circumstances. And it is absolutely true that there are certain dogs that are genetically predisposed to being more quick to react to novel situations/stimulus. Others tend to be more 'bomb-proof' (ie - non-reactive when presented with the novel or unusual)

And, bottom line - this OP has a dog that has become generally, highly reactive to strangers (males in particular), so I'm not sure how your theory of "Let's NOT label the dog!!!" is supposed to be helpful?
 

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I agree with the suggestion of looking into LAT & BAT exercises to help your pup learn alternate behaviors & how to better deal with strangers that make her uncomfortable.

Whether this can be attributed to your boyfriend teasing her, your avoiding of people in general, or simply the dog hitting a different maturity level, is completely beside the point & unimportant. You simply need to deal with the issues at hand & the dog that you have in front of you today.

I'd suggest continuing with the classes to help her learn to be around others in a safe & controlled environment. Do not allow people to approach her randomly. Run interference & protect her from them. Allow her to decide at what pace she wants to interact & respect her choices! In other words - if she doesn't want to approach a stranger for petting, that's more than fine! She doesn't have to. Keep her at a safe distance, offer high-value treats for remaining calm in the presence of people that might have made her uncomfortable & allow her to move on.

The more she realizes that she doesn't HAVE to interact with strangers, and that you will keep her safe (she can count on you to protect her) you should start to see a reduction in her undesired reactions, because she will no longer have need of them to keep 'scary' people away. (again - read up on LAT/BAT methods)
 

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To add, make sure she is getting plenty of exercise if possible. A dog is going to have a lot more control over its emotions, in my experience, if it is properly exercised mentally and physically.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Like Amaryllis said, age 2 is when a lot of these issues start appearing. They were perhaps exacerbated by your boyfriend's behavior, sure. I didn't want to say this in the other thread, as it would have been dismissive of the actual problem at hand, but your boyfriend's stereotype about Chihuahuas being snappy little dogs is actually seated in truth. In many bite statistic surveys, while breeds like Pitts and GSDs have the highest number of *reported* bites resulting in injury, Chihuahuas are in reality the breed second most likely to bite their owners/strangers/other dogs (behind Dachshunds).

These problems are exacerbated by people thinking a growly, snippy little dog is "funny" and being "tough" and the proper training not being appropriately managed because 'well, how much damage can a Chihuahua really do?'.

BAT/LAT training would help, I think. I would advise you to not have unrealistic expectations - I have personally not met an adult Chihuahua who is a friendly, outgoing dog with strangers around (I've known about 15 or so). The snapping and growling may be halted with training, but they just aren't known for being super friendly.
I disagree with adult chihuahuas not being friendly. Just as you've met around 15 poorly behaved adult chihuahuas in your lifetime, I have met just as many and more that were complete sweethearts that completely defied the stereotype most americans seem to have of chihuahuas. Of course, I live in Mexico and over here its chihuahua-land so I tend to meet chihuahuas at least once a week. I also disagree that a chihuahua has to be well bred to be a friendly, sociable little dog. My uncle's chihuahua was a puppy rescued from the streets and he's the sweetest, calmest old boy you could ever meet. My best friend's old chi was a shelter pup and she was also a calm old gal who loved greeting people and asking strangers to pick her up.

My chihuahua-hating boyfriend (who isn't mexican) lived most of his life in the us and developped his hatred for these little dogs over there. I think americans are more likely to coddle their chis more than mexicans do, NOT because we mexicans are better at handling animals or something (far from it!) but because many american owners tend to baby-fy their tiny dogs more and that's why there's tons of poorly behaved american chis feeding the tiny devil dog stereotype.

I need to look up BAT some more, Im getting a bit confused by the results I get on google...
 
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