How to toilet train your chihuahua

Chihuahuas are notoriously hard to toilet train. We get more questions about this than almost anything else apart from barking! There are a couple of issues that can make it difficult to toilet train your chihuahua: Their reluctance to get cold or wet and the fact they can be a little stubborn. But like any dog with the right encouragement they can be reliable. We often have five chihuahuas in the house and rarely get peeing indoors.

Modern training methods has moved away from the ‘rub their nose in it’ aggressive style to a more reward based positive reinforcement. Your chihuahua will generally want to please you and once they understand that peeing outdoors or in the designated place is what you want, they will try to get it right. But it can seem to take a long time for chihuahuas to pick this up.

It’s also worth noting that it can be 12 weeks before a puppy even has the ability to control its toileting. So, trying too hard to get a very young puppy to be clean is setting yourself up for stress. It’s also recommended that small dogs like chihuahuas stay with their mum until this age, anyway, so don’t rush your chihuahua puppy home too early. If the breeder insists you take the puppy before this time take a good look at who you are buying your puppy from.

In-built behaviour
Your chihuahua will search for a surface that they are used to going on, if that’s a hard floor then this is what they will look for. Although in my experience they do prefer an absorbent surface.

If you get your chihuahua as a puppy, the chances are that they will be used to pee pads. Even better if the breeder has been taking them out on the grass as most of the work will have been done for you.

Your chihuahua will need to wee about 3-4 times during the day and can be expected to hold their poo & wee for an hour for every month old they are to the maximum of 8 hours. But I feel expecting your dog not to go to the toilet for this long is unreasonable (unless it is overnight) and could lead to bladder problems.

Be zen
First, it is vital that you never shout, display anger or upset when your chihuahua has an accident in the house. Going to the toilet is natural to your dog and if you start shouting or making him anxious about it you could end up with him eating his faeces to hide it.

If your chihuahua does have an accident and looks contrite, it’s not because they have any notion of doing wrong, but he is watching and picking up on your body language. If you appear angry or stressed this will frighten your dog. Scientists have discovered that dogs have developed additional eyebrow muscles that allow them to make ‘puppy dog eyes’ at humans, and they use this to appease us.

If an accident occurs, then ignore it and clean it up calmly. If he comes in from the garden and pees in the house, then he simply has not understood what’s required of him or does not feel safe outside.

Tips to successful toilet training
It is not enough to just open the door and expect your puppy to go out and do his business. Also, young pups need to be supervised. It’s not uncommon for puppies to eat their poop, this is a habit that you want to discourage from the off. If you see this happening then have a handful of your puppy’s food allowance with you and throw it in the opposite direction, when he runs off to enjoy his alfresco dinner clean up the poop quickly and quietly.

Quiet spot
Find a safe quiet spot where your chihuahua will feel safe. Conventional wisdom suggest that when you get a result (your pup peeing) then you should make a song and dance. But doing this will up your pups arousal and turn the whole going out for a wee into a game. Definitely reward your chihuahua, make sure it’s high value food and not just one measly piece. But offer it calmly and feed to the mouth. While you are waiting for her to pee stand calmly. She is not out there to play.

Once your chi is regularly peeing outdoors, as you feed the reward start to pair it to a cue, we use “wee wee garden” this then tell our dogs wherever we are, what they are going outdoors to do and what I expect from them.

Timing is everything
Toilet training your chihuahua needs to start with maintaining a regular schedule of toilet breaks. If your chi is a puppy then every hour to start with. This means going out at regular intervals so your chihuahua knows he will have access to the outdoors. As I tended to get engrossed in writing I sometimes would miss the signs, so I put an alert on my phone. (We need to develop a chi-wee app.

The change in culture to remote working should help with toilet training and in general be better for your pup. If you ever get back to the office arrange a trustworthy person to come in and let them out for a pee. But, no dogs should be left for more than 4 hours and chihuahuas find this especially stressful. Toilet training your chihuahua will be more difficult if you are not home and able to work with her.

Peeing in the rain
It can be hard to get your pups to go out if it’s raining. One way to do this is have a sheltered spot that you’ve cultivated from the beginning and got your pup used to. We have a tray of turf in a sheltered section of the garden. We’ve had some success with this but the best way seems to be taking them somewhere different. I put there harness on and take them out to the front of the house. They will instantly be more interested and want to mark their territory.

Maintaining calm
Chihuahua are excitable dogs and can go from zero to one hundred in a heartbeat. Maintaining calm and keeping your chihuahua relaxed will have an impact on how much they pee in the house. If your chihuahua is in a constant state of high arousal then they are more likely to excitement wee or mark. Keeping your chihuahua calm and not letting them rehearse behaviours like barking out the window or chasing the cat will impact on their ability to think and learn. Less excitement means less marking, especially from the boys.

To help with this I give my chihuahua half a teaspoon of Calm K9 supplement. It contains, among other helpful ingredients L-Tryptophan, a natural amino acid found in many proteins involved in the production of the hormone serotonin. A-OK9 also supports the gut and I have noticed a reduction of anal gland issues in Mika and Minnie. I don’t often recommend products but have been impressed with this one and have become a calm supplement partner.

Rescue chihuahua
If you have rescued your chihuahua you might not know what her background is, or what her expectations are. Under these circumstances it is important to start with a schedule and keep to it calmly. She is already going to be stressed without more upset over toilet accidents.

Learn to read the signs
Chihuahuas, like all dogs will display certain behaviours when they need to go to the toilet. Walking around in circles, sniffing the ground or staring at you. Being able to read her body language will help you toilet train your chihuahua. There is a definite toilet etiquette that all dogs follow.

You can also be certain that he will need to toilet after: