This is a common question asked by many potential Chihuahua owners, and there is usually a common answer: Chihuahuas and children do not mix well. The majority of breeders and trainers do not recommend that people with small children get a Chihuahua. This is probably good advice in most cases, but with proper, consistent training it is actually quite possible for children and Chihuahuas to co-exist harmoniously, but it takes a lot of work.
The main reason it is not recommended for Chihuahuas to be placed into homes with small children is the amount of time, discipline, and training it takes to ensure that a Chihuahua is child safe. Most people who have small children do not have the time it takes to properly train a Chihuahua, and because a small child or baby's safety is at stake it is usually recommended to simply avoid the situation altogether. While a Chihuahua is no threat to an adult, they have the potential to inflict serious injury on a baby or small child. Conversely, the Chihuahua can also be seriously hurt by a child, if the child is not properly instructed on how to handle a Chihuahua. A Chihuahua has very small bones that are delicate, and can break very easily. Children can unintentionally be very rough with animals. When a dog gets hurt, it is natural for them to react and retaliate at whatever is hurting them, in this case, your child. Interactions between Chihuahua and child should be supervised until you are confident that both can be trusted not to harm one another.
- As with any sort of dog training, consistency is key. Because of the delicate situation of children being involved, you will need to invest some time each and everyday working with your Chihuahua and your child until you are confident that they can be trusted around each other. Even then you will need to reinforce this training from time to time.The younger you start training your Chihuahua the better. At a young age a Chihuahua is developing habits, learning about their environment and what is considered normal, and what behaviors are acceptable.
- As mentioned before, allowing your child and your Chihuahua to socialize is an important step in getting them used to each other. If your Chihuahua is young, you can allow your child to hold the puppy for a little while a few times a day. If it is an older puppy, and you are just starting to train him, skip this step.
- If your dog is not ready to be held by a small child, it is still important that they socialize together. Just some simple supervised petting is a good start. If the Chihuahua begins to growl or show their teeth, stop the petting and tell them "no" or "bad dog" (or any command of your choice, be consistent) in a low, scolding tone of voice. You can follow up a verbal command with a snap of the fingers. I find it more effective to snap after saying no. It is also ok to lightly touch them on the neck or thigh to reinforce the command. After the correction, take a break and resume later.
- While petting you can have your child give treats to the dog and praise him when it is not growling and being receptive to the petting.
- Having your child play a game like fetch with your dog is another good socializing/bonding technique. Tug-o-war is not recommended.
- If your dog does bite the child. Immediately correct the dog and take the dog to a timeout area that is used for discipline. If your dog sleeps in a crate at night, you will want to take him to an alternative place for punishment.
- Get your dog spayed or neutered. Having your dog spayed or neutered will alleviate some aggression, and decrease the risk of bite related behaviors.
There are exercise pens that can keep your Chihuahua safe inside and outside your home.