Chihuahuas are tenacious, protective animals who don't like to back down from a fight -- even when they're easily outmatched. The healthy, properly socialized Chihuahua is anything but nervous, and there is no such illness as Nervous Chihuahua Syndrome. If yours is the nervous type, poor socialization is among the possible causes. It's not because of any quality inherent to his breed.
They may be small, but Chihuahuas don't typically act that way -- they have a lot of attitude in their small packages. These dogs are fiercely loyal, territorial and protective of their owners, and it's not in their nature to be fearful or nervous. Whether or not they enjoy taking the occasional ride in a designer purse, they're alert, devoted and attentive animals -- not timid or nervous ones.
Warm Weather Lovers
If Chihuahuas have a reputation for nervousness, it's largely encouraged by their habit of shivering. Don't be fooled, though, because even a shaky Chihuahua doesn't tremble out of fear -- he's just cold. These dogs don't have much in the way of insulation, and they strongly dislike cold climates. They seek out warm spots, and if they aren't warm enough, they'll visibly shiver. Dressing yours in a sweater or coat can alleviate this symptom.
Like any dog, a Chihuahua should be socialized with other dogs from an early age. In fact, this is especially important for this breed, as they are spunky little things who may become aggressive even with considerably larger dogs. Of course, if your Chihuahua isn't as tenacious as most other dogs in his breed, the presence of other dogs may frighten him or make him visibly nervous.
The key to socializing a Chihuahua is the same as with any other dog: starting early. When you introduce a Chihuahua to other dogs as a puppy, he's significantly less likely to grow up fearing or disliking other dogs. If he's already grown, consult an animal behaviorist or trainer for help developing better social skills.
Additional Potential Causes
If your Chihuahua appears nervous at times, it's not because of his breed -- it's likely the same type of fear that can afflict any dog. For example, if your little guy seems frightened by the vacuum cleaner or unfamiliar dogs, being around them could trigger anxiety. Chihuahuas prefer familiar faces, and if they aren't well-socialized, they may seem nervous or aggressive around unfamiliar people. Nerves like these are present in other breeds as well, though, and it isn't a trait unique to this breed.
Chihuahuas who seem perpetually nervous -- especially of you -- may need to see an animal behaviorist. Like they do with any other breed of dog, past mistreatment like abuse and negligence can leave emotional scars on a Chihuahua, leaving him nervous even around people who love him. If you suspect your Chihuahua is abnormally nervous, see a veterinarian or behaviorist for help.
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.