My girlfriend's chihuahua is generally very protective with his uneaten food, or when he has a bone to play with; which is fine as long as he doesn't bite for it (and he doesn't, he just growls). He already knows me for quite a while and I think that generally we made very good friends, I walk him out, we play together, he comes and cuddles to give me the good-morning whenever I wake up, and he sleeps with us at night.

The main issue is his aggressiveness at night. Whenever I wake up and go to bathroom at night, I am sure he notices and wakes up. So when I am coming back and I am approaching the bed, he suddenly snaps and tries to attack me, and when given the chance might try to bite me, regardless if my girlfriend is asleep or not. I don't know what to do.

P.S. He is almost never aggressive when we are in the bed, unless of course bothered too much.

P.P.S I firstly thought he might be aggressive because I startle him or wake him up suddenly, but I'm not sure this is the case, because when I go to the bathroom at first he is completely quiet, and I am sure he notices it. So when he attacks, he's already awake.

P.P.P.S He has similar behaviour whenever he is relaxing with the owner (my girlfriend) in the bed, or when he is sitting and cuddling with her during the day (while more rarely)

Am I doing something wrong, or he thinks he's the king and I need to show him I am not a threat?

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    What do you do, if the dog starts to be aggressive against you (before biting, like show teeth and/or growling)? Did you give him a sharp command to shut up, and if yes, did the dog reacts in some way? Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 18:40

2 Answers 2


This is a very common problem

It will get worse if you don't tackle it.

Optionally jump straight to the video at the end of this answer! I have no connection to this trainer or any other.

The (unfortunate) fact is that the owner often encourages the behaviour without knowing. They see small dogs as babies rather than adult miniature wolves.

The dog knows full well it is an adult and senses that it is being given special treatment. It believes correctly or not that it is of higher status than you.

Treating an adult dog like a baby does it no favours apart from the fact that small dogs are physically more delicate than large dogs. They are not mentally more delicate!

Some owners feel guilty for asking for good manners from a small dog. However this doesn't require shouting or physical force - far from it. It needs simple firmness and a clear idea of priorities.

I've owned dogs and acted as volunteer trainer at rescue centres. I currently have a small dog (my first of that size) and my first few weeks were spent getting her out of the habit of yapping at every person and dog in sight. People now compliment me on how happy and well-balanced she is. She loves everyone and everything. Dogs don't like the stress of having to guard a human. The human should make it clear that they are in charge of what goes on in the household including safety.

There is a chance your girlfriend is being complicit with the dog, possibly without realising it. It is remarkable how often a spouse will laugh when the pet threatens their other half. Also they make "there there" sounds which are meant to calm the animal but which merely encourage it to continue the bad behaviour.

Also owners are terrified of hurting their dog's feelings and that if they enforce rules, the dog won't love them any more or will believe they don't love it. This simply isn't the case with dogs. They respect and love the authority figure in their life as long as the rules are consistent and fair.

Do not be a rival for the dog. Dogs deal with rivals with their teeth. Never growl back at a dog or be aggressive back. That provokes a fight (or flight).

Be completely un-doglike and just act as an assertive human.

I suggest you search Youtube for the ways various dog trainers deal with this very common problem.

Here's a good one to start with. I may dig out some other good ones if I can find them easily.

Control Freak Yorkie: Bailey - It's Me or The Dog

  • This is so spot-on I couldn't have said (or written) it better! If the girlfriend cuddles the dog to stop his antics, she reinforces the behavior more and more because the dog feels rewarded for being aggressive. If OP hurts the dog, he only learns to bite first to avoid more pain.
    – Elmy
    Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 7:29
  • " Dogs don't like the stress of having to guard a human. The human should make it clear that they are in charge of what goes on in the household including safety " !!! Yes, this is fact for all dogs, equal the size Commented Sep 15, 2020 at 8:46

Dogs are descendants of wolves and some years of domestication do not erase the behaviors that were useful for millions of years in the wild.

Wolves live in packs that has a couple as leaders. These are the ones that get the first and best bites of the food and the comfortablest and safest places to rest.

I assume that the dog of your girlfriend sees itself and the girlfriend as this leading couple. So he defends "his/her" place on the side of the girlfriend against you. The place at the bed and at the "heart" of your girlfriend. So long she allows you to come to the bed, the dog is okay with it. But if the situation is not clear, for example when the girlfriend sleeps, the dog tries to give you orders.

In a pack the opponents need to establish a clear hierarchy based on the ranges. I assume you should have a higher range than the dog. But I have no experience to tell how to sensibly solve this, and would give it to another more dog-experienced owner...

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    Hahahahaha Thank you very much! I knew it wasn’t because woken up suddenly... but now I don’t feel comfortable imagining the chihuahua considers me inferior 😂 but jokes asides, I don’t like he tries to bite me each time I have to leave the bed at night.... and I don’t like that I have to ask my gf to wake up each time to make it easy to go back to bed :/
    – Cris
    Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 18:27
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    @ChrisCole I assume you and your girlfriend have to make clear, that the dogs range is under yours. But I do not want you to search for confrontation, which could cause pain in bitten parts... Maybe visit a dog trainer, or wait for other more experient users here to advice you. You could even ask am additional question "How to make my range clear against the dog" or something. Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 18:38
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    @ChrisCole a alightly different option could be, that the dog feels the need to defent the sleepy/vulnerable girlfriend against you... but the result is the same I assume Commented Sep 14, 2020 at 18:47

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