Is my Chihuahua messing with me?

Posted by jenifferlee
Mar 13, 2013
My boyfriend and I have a black Chihuahua named Vader (15 months old). Vader had a rough first year of life (he changed households 5 times (all family, but still moved 5 times) and was attacked by a coyote when he was 8 months old )but he seems to be doing well overall. Both my boyfriend and I spend several hours of quality time with him every day and he goes on 25-40 minute walks every day. Although he could be described as a "typical" Chihuahua, he definitely has some unique behavioral problems.

Vader is sweet, well-mannered, and listens to commands..on his terms. He learns tricks quickly and will do them reliably IF there is a treat in your hand (i.e. will not make eye contact if there are treats around). Sometimes he'll pretend that he can't do a trick (e.g., can't jump) and other times he'll make eye contact and then look away (i.e., understands, but deliberately ignores the command). We've taken treats out of his diet and he does tricks for kibble, but he is still unreliable (and he does at least two 5-minute training sessions a day)!

My boyfriend and I don't hit him, but sometimes he'll act completely afraid of us and will hide in his crate. Other times he'll be completely attached to us and extremely affectionate.

He knows the house rules and seems to do things as "punishment" (e.g., he does not like one of our housemates and he recently defecated on her bathroom mat). I've read that dogs don't do things out of spite and will only relieve themselves in the house in emergency cases, but I'm certain that doesn't hold true since he's completely house trained/gets taken out at least 3 times a day/knows to how signal to us that he needs to go to the bathroom.

He knows barking is unacceptable, but sometimes he'll just start barking at our housemates.

In terms of discipline: he is on a feeding schedule and gets fed last, he sleeps on the floor (in this crate), he is always the last to leave/enter a room, and he must be called before going on furniture/someone's lap. We've tried clicker training (doesn't help when he's being disobedient), we've tried using the word "no" sternly and in a low tone (which he seems to find entertaining), we've tried time outs (which don't seem to work)..and we're out of ideas. I've been reading about squirt bottles and shock collars (I am a researcher and work with animals, so I'm confident that we would not misuse the shock collar), but we want to know what our other options are.

What can be done about a bipolar dog who refuses to be CONSISTENTLY obedient?
Posted by Preethi KOP
Mar 31, 2013
Hello Jeniffer,

Thank you for that very detailed message! The more details we get, the easier it is for us to get to the crux of the matter.

It is awesome that you guys have taken so much trouble with Vader's training and I know it can get very frustrating when you don't see results. You must however, remember, that Vader has had a very troubled past and you haven't had him for very long.
- Stick to the discipline schedule you are already on and maybe use a squirt bottle when he is barking unnecessarily.
- He certainly seems to be very motivated by treats so you could gradually move from a 1:1 fixed ratio reward system to a variable ratio reward system during your training sessions.
- It is good that you are keeping the training sessions short. They are most effective this way.
- Don't forget any reward or punishment has to be immediate!
- I would not recommend a shock collar, especially since you say he has moments where he seems to be afraid of you. It may make it worse

With time, he should get more consistent.

Keep me posted Good luck!