When it comes to training a Chihuahua, I’m constantly surprised at how many people tell me it’s too hard or even “it can’t be done”.

Suppose you do all the things that the trainers tell you to do. You ask your Chi to sit while luring him in a sitting position, for example. Your dog nips at your hand, squirms around. You say “sit” again, in a firmer tone this time. Your dog squirms and nips at your hand obsessing over the treats you have. This time you yell “sit” while pushing his butt to the floor. Your dog cowers down and you grumble training a Chihuahua is just impossible!

chihuahua holding a tiny soccer ball in mouth and a human finger pointing to ground
Be patient with your dog and yourself. If you get frustrated, stop and try again later

What do you suppose went wrong? Imagine instead, you do all the things that the trainers tell you to do. You ask your Chi to sit while luring him into a sitting position. Your dog nips at your hand squirms around and obsesses over the treats in your hand. You try again and it’s the same thing. You try again and this time he almost sits. You try again and this time he just ignores you altogether. You try again, the same reaction from your dog. You ask him to do something he knows and you treat and praise him. You end the training session this way, on a success. You try again later that day, and the next day, and the next day, and finally ….. tada! He sits! Yea! What a smart Chihuahua you have!

dog training collarsThe single most common reason people fail at training a Chihuahua is patience! It may take lots and lots of patience. Training can be a slow and frustrating process. Success happens when you keep your cool and are consistent. Don’t give up. I promise, there is no such thing as a dumb Chihuahua. Some may be a little slower to catch on, but because they are not yet in tune to and focused on you, not because he is dumb.


It is tempting to just manipulate your dog into the position that you want. But, by doing that you are actually delaying the learning process. When you force or manipulate him he is not engaging his brain or using the muscle skills required to position himself. Instead, when you lure him with a treat or toy to the position you want, he is actually engaging his brain and learning a new skill.

woman with treat and chihuahua putting paw in her hand on white background
It’s much easier when training a Chihuahua to get down to their level

As an added benefit, all that engaging of the brain will also be the stimulation that he needs on a daily basis to discourage unwanted behavior.


When training your dog, you want it to be fun for him. Keep it lighthearted or your dog may shut down for fear of being wrong. Save the word “no” for when he is doing something wrong. If he gets a trick or wanted behavior wrong, he is not misbehaving he just made a mistake. Use another word instead when training, “whoops”, for instance.


As mentioned in the previous posts in this series, timing is essential when training. When rewarding your dog at the end of a session, first praise, then touch – a little scratch behind the ear – and then the treat. In this way, he associates praise, your touch and food reward, and training as a pleasant experience.

man bending down to scratch a chihuahua under the chin standing on green grass
reward in order at the end of a training session, praise, touch, and treat

Go ahead and get started practicing with your dog. Remember, you are both learning something new so don’t be too hard on yourself, either. Be consistent and keep trying.

We will continue in this series and answer the following questions:

  • Should you use words or signals?
  • Adding a new behavior to one he has now learned.
  • How long does it take?
  • Having realistic expectations.

Then we will actually learn how to train a Chihuahua from potty training to some cool tricks! Stay tuned.

Don’t Miss Part IV, The Mechanics of Training

If you missed the first two in this series click the links below:

Part I, Introduction to Training

Part II, Your Job as a Trainer


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