Last week we adopted a 5-year-old aggressive Chihuahua who had been surrendered by its owner who could no longer look after him due to working hours. Jasper had been a parent’s dog who had passed away. He had him boarding at a shelter for a couple of weeks before we adopted him. No mention of this behaviour was disclosed to us. He was very quiet for the first 24 hours or so, but when two of our family members stopped by the house, he immediately barked, then snarled, bared his teeth and attempted to nip at their ankles until I restrained him. He continued snarling throughout their visit whenever they made any attempt to get close to him, even walking into the same room set him off. He did the same with a female friend of mine today. When I looked in the bag that the previous owner supplied, there was a muzzle in it, so we believe this is not a new development. He has also become very possessive of me, but my husband has no problem with him at all. There are a number of young children in our neighbourhood and we are very concerned that something will happen, so we are putting the muzzle on him when we walk him. Is there hope for him? If not we may have to surrender him ourselves.
If your little dog’s Cujo switch flipped on after only 24 hours in his new home it seems unlikely that the shelter or those before him would not have picked up on his aggression. Their passing a muzzle along is a pretty good clue. There’s something perverse about a “rescue” or a dog owner that puts such a dog into unsuspecting hands. Living with an aggressive dog (Chihuahua or not) is not everyone’s cup of tea and rehabilitation is a challenge. For me, it’s not just the callous disregard for the safety of others but the lack of consideration for the emotional fallout suffered by the men, women, and children that end up with a dog for which there are no solutions or they are not equipped to handle. Giving a dog up or worse, even a nasty one that hasn’t lived with you that long is no small thing and it always saddens me when someone like yourself is taken advantage of.
Normally it takes a lot more settling in time before a dog starts dividing up the houses resources and its boundaries. It’s more likely than not that the context in which he is “very possessive of me” is not in the sense that he’s “protecting his mistress to the end.” More likely is that he’s resource guarding, rather like dogs do with food and/or toys. Not quite as flattering.
It’s possible that he has a screw loose but more likely this sort of behaviour was encouraged or ignored in his past life and in the right hands he may be turned around but someone is going to have to rock his little world by denying him everything he values unless he earns it and he’s not going to be a lot of fun to live with during the transition.
As with many serious dog problems, it’s not just whether from a technical perspective it’s doable. From a technical perspective, I should be able to stop eating chocolate cake. From a practical perspective, it hasn’t been working out so well. From a practical perspective, you have children and house guests to keep safe.