One of the easiest ways to impress your friends and show them how good of a dog owner you really are is to show off some of the cool tricks your Chihuahua can do. Even something as simple as “shake” or “speak” can impress a lot of people. Luckily these things are very easy to teach.
At What Age Should I Start Training My Chihuahua
Training in general starts as soon as you bring your dog home, but that’s more regarding obedience training and not trick training. If you want to teach your dog some basic tricks like sit, come, shake – you can start as early as 3-6 months. At such a young age they have a lot of new things to process and I wouldn’t really focus on trick training too much unless the dog seems to really enjoy it.
Once they are 6-12 months old, you can include tricks that would be a little out of the ordinary for them to do on their own – playing dead for example. By this time they should know their place in the house and the world around them shouldn’t feel as strange which means they will have less things on their mind to distract them. Also being older means that their brains are more developed.
Is my Chihuahua too old to learn new tricks?
We all have heard the phrase: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, but boy is it wrong. You can teach your Chihuahua new tricks no matter how old he is as long as he is mentally healthy. Of course it’s better to start sooner, but starting training late is better than not starting at all.
Don’t let an old saying prevent you from teaching your dog a few new tricks. Sure an older dog might have a harder time remembering a command or understanding why all of a sudden he has to do something when told, but he will get it with enough practice.
How To Train My Chihuahua
All dogs are capable of learning, some might be slower than others. Some can learn things really quick. First thing you need to know is that all dogs are different. The key is to figure out what works best with your Chihuahua specifically and then go from there.
However the basic concept when training any dog is pretty much the same. Teaching new trick involves four basic steps. They are:
To teach anything, you will have to use those four steps. Of course most tricks are a bit more complicated but that’s the fundamental idea behind teaching any trick.
If you’re trying to get your Chihuahua to learn anything then the first thing you will have to do is get his attention. It can be as basic as calling out his name or something out of the ordinary as blowing a whistle. Whichever you do doesn’t matter as long as it gets your dog’s attention.
This is also the reason why you shouldn’t name your Chihuahua after common words. Naming a Chihuahua “shrimp” might seem like a good fit at first, but do you really want your dog wondering if you’re making a grocery list or calling for him when you need him stop chasing after a squirrel.
Having a unique name is important if you want to get his attention every time, but it’s doesn’t have to be the only way to get him to focus on you. What a lot of dog trainers do to get their dog’s attention is make some kind of distinct sounds and use that along with his name. Whistles are common for this, but you can also snap your fingers if you don’t want to carry a whistle around.
Getting his attention won’t be enough. You will also have to keep it long enough for you to teach him something. Chihuahuas don’t have the greatest attention spans so I suggest you do your training in short sessions. Just a few minutes each session should be enough. If you start noticing that your dog is getting bored, stop and take a break.
Now that you got his attention, it’s time to give him the cue. A cue can be a sound, a hand gesture or anything else that’s unique enough.
I would suggest that you go with two cues for each command – a verbal command accompanied with a hand gesture. The verbal command will work when your dog can’t see you or is facing away and the hand gesture will be most effective in a noisy environment.
So for the sit example, you could say “sit” and point your hand down on the floor. To prevent confusion, never use the same cue for two different tricks. Pointing straight down should only mean to sit. If you want your dog to do something else, make sure the cues are different enough for him to easily tell them apart.
This is when the Chihuahua follows through on the command. So in the last “sit” example this would be the dog sitting down. When teaching new tricks, you have to get your dog to do the actual action. There are two ways of doing so – catching your dog doing the action on his own or physically guiding him to do it.
So if we were training a Chihuahua to sit, we could catch him when he is about to sit, giving him the cue and then rewarding him when he does it. Or we could gently pat on his rear when he is standing to guide him to sit. Naturally catching him works for commands like sit and fetch but good luck catching your Chihuahua giving you his paw to shake.
For that shake command you should just pick up his paw while he is sitting down, but for something more complicated you will have to be a little creative. If it’s a very complicated trick then you can split it into steps and teach one step at a time. As soon as the dog learns a step, you add another one until he learns the complete trick.
This is the confirmation and motivation. To connect the command with the right action your Chihuahua needs some sort of confirmation that will tell him that he is doing what he is supposed to. You can’t expect him to know that what he just did is what you wanted him to do without some sort of a reward.
It also works as motivation to repeat the command again in the future. Chihuahuas are always looking for ways to make their owners happy if they like them well enough. So a praise is good enough most of the time, but receiving a delicious treat for the effort would work even better. Just make sure you don’t overfeed him.
Tips For Training A Chihuahua New Tricks
Alright so now that you understand how training works it’s time to learn how to make the best out of each training sessions. Below are a few tips that you can apply to make the whole process go a little smoother. Use them to make the most of each training session with your dog.
Don’t get frustrated with your dog – It’s a proven fact that people under stress have a harder time learning and remembering things. This holds the same for Chihuahuas as well. Shouting, yelling or getting impatient won’t help.
Make the whole experience feel rewarding – Be supportive when training your pup. Chihuahuas like attention and praise so use that to motivate your dog. Make it feel fun to learn new things by giving him praise with every step that’s on the right path.
Eliminate all distractions when first starting – To get his full attention, get rid of all the distractions when you’re teaching him something new. Put away his toys and turn off the TV, or bring him to a different room.
Establish a good relationship with your pup – A good leader is someone who everyone can trust and feel safe around. Bond with your dog by spending more time with him.
Be Confident – Chihuahuas are really good at reading body language. If he sees that you’re acting unsure then he will be less likely to listen.