Q: My one-and-a-half year old male Chihuahua was bitten on his face by a big dog. Half of it was swollen and his eyelid and lower chin also bled. He is now tense around dogs and barks at trolleys or deliverymen even though I've brought him to a training school. He gets very aggressive during walks and I’m afraid to let him play with other canines. How can I help him behave better at home and outside, and how do I know if it is okay to let him play with other dogs without getting bitten again?
A: It is especially critical that socialisation for dogs start as young as eight weeks and continues throughout their lives. The purpose is to expose him to as many different situations and things like dogs and humans. Your presence and guidance in each situation is paramount to teaching him to understand that he can trust you to be in control.
As pack leaders, we have a huge responsibility to protect our members. Unfortunately, the biting incident has left a traumatic impact on your
Chihuahua. It is inevitable that he will be tense and cautious around dogs. As humans, we tend to use our doggy thinking cap less and emotionalise each situation, and without adequate knowledge, we fear the unexpected and end up isolating our dogs.
Taking him out less often will only do more harm than good. Dogs can sense how you feel and you have most likely let your fear and apprehension have a long-lasting impact on your canine. Dominance and leadership in a pack can be dynamic depending on the situation and its environment. When you lack confidence, your dog will instinctively take the lead. This results in his intensified barking and aggressiveness.
Barking is easy to manage; at home, address it by standing in front of him and reprimanding him with a low and firm voice. You only need to
say “No” once. If your dog continues to bark, immediately remove him from the scene by putting him on a leash and taking him to an isolated
corner to settle down. Continue to do this until he responds appropriately; don’t forget to praise him each time he quietens down immediately.
What’s equally important is to continue to re-establish his trust in other canines. You can expose him to other dogs, but make sure that you are aware of the other canine’s temperament and nature. Progress slowly and do not rush him; you can get your dog to sit and proceed with a loose leash. Be confident and explain to the other dog owner why he needs a bit more time to get acquainted. Ask permission before allowing close proximity and you will also learn to rebuild your own confidence and gain your Chihuahua’s trust for him to believe that he is completely safe when you are around.
If unsure, do seek and engage your local behavioural training therapist. Your dog is still young and it is never too late to change as long as you are committed to improve his behaviour.
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