The Chihuahua urinates vindictively.*(disclaimer) At first, I didn’t believe it, but again and again, evidence stacked up against the Chihuahua: I took the pork chop away from him, and he jumped up on the bed, looked me dead in the eye, and peed on my pillow.
Often, it’s the boyfriend or girlfriend of the Chihuahua owner that insists on the consultation, and then the couple sits in front of me and bickers:
There’s nothing wrong with her.
She peed in my shoe!
That was your fault, and you put your shoe in her corner.
It’s astounding to me how many Chihuahua owners cannot face up to their dogs’ imperfections, and let me tell you, vindictive peeing is not the least of the Chihuahua’s crimes. Hands down, the Chihuahua is the most aggressive dog I have dealt with. I train pit bulls, Rottweilers, and mastiffs, but with rare exceptions, these dogs are harmless little daisies compared to the Chihuahua.
Chihuahuas often bark, lunge at, and bite dogs twenty-five times their size. They are notorious for biting people in the face, a classic correction bite that means: do what I say. In the dog world, there’s an urban myth about a Chihuahua that bit half its owner’s ear off in the middle of the night for rolling toward him in bed. I don’t know if it’s true, but I believe it. I’ve had plenty of clients report that their Chihuahua growls at them in bed. Does your dog bite you? I ask this of clients with a specific look in their eyes. Only sometimes, they say, when she’s mad.
Sometimes when she’s mad?
People have come to me with Chihuahua-sized bite scars up and down their arms, as insidious and obvious as heroin tracks. These people are abused, codependent, and addicted!
Set boundaries, I tell them, but Chihuahua owners, more than all other dog owners, find boundary-setting impossible. They come back to me week after week with confessions of failure. You don’t know the faces she gives me. She’s depressed, and she won’t eat. Well, of course, your dog is sulking, I tell them. She’s been demoted, and her ego must match her body size.
The truth is, I love (and sometimes hate) Chihuahua owners for this reason: they are honest about the paralyzing power of guilt. Guilt is short-hand for veiled fear, for the conflicted feeling we get when our needs compete with someone else’s. What we want most in the world is to be approved of and loved; to get that, we will very quickly put our needs second. Put. We’re afraid other people (our dogs) won’t like us if we stand up for ourselves. We’re so scared they’ll find out we’re horrible inside that we don’t deserve anyone’s love, except maybe the runt of the metaphoric dog litter, and no, not really, we don’t deserve even that.
Has anyone out there ever stopped to consider the potency of the Chihuahua as a societal symbol?
I mean, how many of us are slaves to tiny tyrants?
The Mongolians believe that dogs can be reincarnated as humans, so it must follow that some of us were once dogs.
Have they evolved since then? I don’t think so. I’ve seen divorcing humans that make the Chihuahua’s tactics look amateur. I live in L.A. and see human Chihuahuas everywhere: executives throwing Evian bottles at their assistants, Land Rovers cutting off hybrids, fist fights over the last pair of Manolos, growling, incessant barking, and yes, believe it, vindictive peeing. I SAW a guy in law school pee on someone else’s books two weeks before finals so his self-professed adversary wouldn’t be able to study, at least not pleasantly. All of this leads us to a more profound philosophical question.
Why is the Chihuahua so complicated anyway?
First of all, breeding. The Mexicans like their women feisty and bred the Chihuahua that way too. I sometimes celebrate this since I’m a similarly born, aggressive Latin female, but imagine for a moment that you’re a dog. You have all the hunting and territorial instinct of a wolf, and you’ve been shrunk to the size of a large rodent. You can’t get any respect. People dress you up in pink ruffles and raincoats. They put red bows on your head and patent leather boots on your feet. When you growl, they laugh. Isn’t that cute, they say? He’s trying to protect the house! And you’re afraid. You’re so scared of EVERYTHING because everything is more significant than you. So you growl, you bark, you bite.
Two words: Napoleon Complex.
How can we not feel sorry for the Chihuahua? We also feel sorry for human Chihuahuas; their inferiority complexes are so cute and can’t help their behavior.
Wrong. There is hope for the Chihuahua, so long as some of us regain our self-respect.
Step one: Play hard to get with the Chihuahua, as with your prom date. Chances are you’ve already given too much affection too fast, so start kicking your Chihuahua out of bed. They get the picture if you make your significant other sleep on the couch or, better yet, on the floor on a ratty towel. In the dog world, hierarchy is everything. The taller you are, the more superior you are in the pack, and the alpha always gets the most enormous, most elevated, best bed. You know it: your Tempur-pedic King with the down comforter and the 600 thread-count sheets.
Be patient. The little jerk will bark, moan, grovel and whine. You’ll probably have to tether him to the foot of the bed or crate him, but within a week, he’ll get over it.
You must be gentle but firm. You must be a benevolent dictator.
Step two: make your Chihuahua work for his food and affection. No more free love! Munchkin only gets petted when he sits at your command or does the dishes.
Basic training works. It takes FOREVER, and often there is a battle of wills. I took ten days to teach a Chihuahua (Chico) the basic sit. Did I yell at Chico? Did I carry on and say I would abandon him to the rats in the junkyard? No. I enforced gently or withdrew the treat, and I went outside, down the block to where he couldn’t hear me, and I screamed into the bushes. After Chico yielded to my benevolent dictatorship by condescending to learn the sit, he did whatever I told him to. He licked my toes and looked at me with pathetic and blind adoration.
What can I say?
The Chihuahua was bred small, but humans were not. We let other people make us feel small or worse. We make ourselves small, all because we’re afraid people (dogs or strangers), won’t love us anymore. Face it. This is the poorest excuse in the world to put up with bad behavior. For every vindictive urinator out there, there’s an equally at-fault enabler. See the directions above if you are putting up with a Chihuahua at home or work. If you believe yourself a reincarnated Chihuahua … Well. Hope and pray for a good dog trainer.
* DISCLAIMER: I know. There are sweet, behaved, even-tempered Chihuahuas out there, perfectly suitable for use as therapy dogs in hospitals. I’ve met them. Alas, such a Chihuahua has never been brought to me for training