The Chihuahua has quite a complex reputation amongst the dog-owning community.
On the one hand, Chihuahuas are often seen as adorable little pets that make the perfect ‘purse dogs.’ On the other hand, Chihuahuas have garnered a reputation for being anxious, yappy, and even aggressive at times.
Because Chihuahuas are such tiny dogs, behavioral difficulties in the breed often aren’t taken as seriously as with other breeds. While aggression in a large and powerful dog like a Doberman or Pitbull is typically seen as an issue that needs to be immediately addressed, confrontational and even destructive behavior from Chihuahuas is often simply written off as an ingrained personality trait or, given the non-threatening stature of the breed, even a funny quirk.
However, recent statistics and what we know about the Chihuahua as a breed suggest that a Chihuahua bite actually has the potential to be more dangerous than you might think.
Read on to find out how hard Chihuahuas can really bite, the statistics surrounding injuries and fatalities, and other important information surrounding the biting behaviors of Chihuahuas.
Why Do Chihuahuas Bite?
Before we get into analyzing the force, injuries, and fatalities associated with Chihuahua bites, we feel that it’s important to explain why a Chihuahua might bite or generally behave aggressively.
If you’ve done any research into the breed, you’ll probably have heard or read the words ‘Chihuahuas are aggressive.’ Now, while it’s true that Chihuahuas do seem more prone to being snappy than other breeds, there are many reasons for this, and most of the time, it doesn’t come down to aggression.
Firstly, one of the defining traits of the Chihuahua breed is its very small size. Imagine being so small that virtually every other living being towers over you like a giant. Pretty intimidating, right? Well, that’s what your average Chihuahua experiences every single day, short of being surrounded exclusively by other Chihuahuas or miniature dogs.
As a result of this, Chihuahuas have a natural instinct to defend themselves, which is primarily driven by anxiety as opposed to the mindless aggression that many people put it down to.
Secondly, something that a lot of people don’t realize is that Chihuahuas are very physically sensitive dogs. They are especially prone to patellar luxation (commonly known as dislocation) of the knees, which can be extremely painful and may trigger a bite response if the injured knee is touched.
How Hard Can a Chihuahua Bite?
Now that we’ve covered the main reasons why a Chihuahua might display biting behavior let’s turn our attention to the main point of this article: how hard can a Chihuahua actually bite?
The power and potential severity of dog bites are most accurately estimated in terms of PSI. PSI is a unit of pressure that stands for ‘pounds per square inch.
If you type ‘how hard can a Chihuahua bite’ into Google, you’re likely to come across some pretty wild numbers. Some websites go as far as to claim that a Chihuahua is capable of delivering a bite force of up to 3,900 PSI.
While there haven’t been any conclusive studies to provide us with a concrete and accurate PSI number for the bite force of a Chihuahua, we have a few good reasons to believe that the 3,900 estimate is inaccurate.
Although the average bite force of the Chihuahua remains inconclusive, we do have some pretty solid figures for the bite forces of other, larger dogs for comparison.
Let’s take the Pitbull as an example. The Pitbull is widely regarded as an intimidating breed, although they can be some of the sweetest, most loyal, and affectionate dogs as long as they are treated well.
Nonetheless, there’s no disputing that the Pitbull has an extremely powerful and potentially very dangerous bite, which is part of the reason why the breed has been so unfairly stigmatized. Studies have estimated that the bite force of the average Pitbull is about 235 PSI.
The highest estimated bite force of all dog breeds goes to the Kangal. The Kangal is a Turkish dog, originally bred to act as a sheepdog. However, as the 20th century rolled around, the Kangal became more popular in the U.S. as a guard dog due to its naturally protective temperament, powerful build, and potentially lethal bite. The Kangal has a bite force of approximately 743 PSI.
With this information in mind, the idea that a Chihuahua could bite more than five to ten times as hard as some of the most physically powerful dogs in the world becomes, frankly, unbelievable.
However, that’s not to say that a Chihuahua can’t do any significant damage if it puts its mind to it.
While we don’t have a reliable estimate for the Chihuahua’s bite force in PSI, what we can tell you is that a Chihuahua’s teeth are capable of penetrating roughly a centimeter into human skin and flesh.
A centimeter might not sound like a lot on paper, but when that centimeter takes the form of several pointy teeth latched into your arm, it’s an entirely different experience.
Moreover, we should point out that any puncture wound, no matter how deep or shallow (so, basically, any bite that breaks the skin or draws blood), can put you at risk of diseases like Tetanus or other bacterial infections.
So, suffice it to say that while a Chihuahua’s bite is nowhere near as strong as some online sources make it out to be, a bite from a Chihuahua is nothing to mess around with, either.
Which Dogs Have the Strongest Bites?
For anyone who might be curious, we’ve made a list of the dog breeds with the highest estimated bite forces, calculated in PSI. Does your dog feature in the top 10?
As we just mentioned, the dog with the strongest bite is the Kangal, with a bite force of 743 PSI. Ouch!
In second place, we have the American Bandog, with an almost equally powerful bite force of 730 PSI.
The Cane Corso comes in third, delivering a 700 PSI bite that you certainly wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of.
There’s quite a gap in bite force between our third and fourth-ranked dogs. The fourth strongest dog bite is a three-way tie between the Dogue de Bordeaux (French Mastiff), the English Mastiff, the Tosa Inu, all of which bite as hard as 556 PSI.
Next up, don’t get in a fight with a Dogo Canario! Sadly, this beautiful dog was originally bred for fighting, and as a result, the breed is still prone to aggressive tendencies in the wrong conditions. Not only that, but it can deliver a bite rated at 540 PSI, which can do serious and sometimes fatal damage.
With a bite of 500 PSI, the muscular Dogo Argentino takes 8th place.
The Wolfdog is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous breeds in the world, and it’s true that the fact that they can’t be fully domesticated comes with risks. However, the Wolfdog only ranks 9th on our list of strongest bites, at 406 PSI.
Finally, in 10th place, we have the Leonberger – a predominantly gentle dog with a dangerous, 399 PSI bite.
Statistics on Chihuahua Bites
We’ve discussed the strength of a Chihuahua bite compared with those of other breeds, but how often do Chihuahua’s bite?
It’s difficult to get an accurate picture of how frequently Chihuahua’s bite because, unlike with larger dogs like Pitbulls and Dobermans, a Chihuahua bite is very rarely worth a trip to the ER and the accident report that follows.
However, from the reports that are available to us, it still seems that Chihuahuas are responsible for a significant number of bites on a yearly basis.
In a 2009 study, Chihuahuas were found to be responsible for 4.2% of bites inflicted on children. Considering that Chihuahuas are so sensitive, emotionally and physically, and that children usually have less understanding of boundaries around animals, this in itself isn’t actually very surprising.
What might shock some of our readers, however, is that this percentage is actually higher (by 0.1%) than bites inflicted by Rottweilers.
The same study also found that Chihuahuas are the most likely breed of all to bite a veterinarian.
Again, considering the high-stress nature of a trip to the vet for many animals and the fact that Chihuahuas are prone to physical sensitivity, it isn’t altogether surprising that Chihuahuas have a tendency to bite when being examined by a stranger. However, the fact that this tiny dog is responsible for more bites than any other in veterinary settings is unexpected.
Out of the 4.5 million reported dog bites across the U.S. each year, it’s estimated that Chihuahuas are responsible for 16.1% of bites on strangers, 5.4% of owner-directed bites, and 17.9% of bites committed against other dogs.
Those are some pretty significant numbers, especially considering the fact that the majority of small dog bites go unreported, so the real figures are probably higher in reality.
What these figures do indicate, however, is that Chihuahuas are much more likely to turn against strangers and other dogs than their owners. So, if you’re a Chihuahua owner reading this, don’t panic – you probably have little to worry about.
Statistics on Chihuahua Bite Fatalities
It’s clear from the statistics listed above that Chihuahuas can do some pretty significant damage when provoked. But could a Chihuahua feasibly kill a human?
Realistically, we’re pleased to reassure you that the odds of you being killed by a Chihuahua are negligibly small.
In fact, when we started our research into Chihuahua bite fatalities, we were pretty sure we wouldn’t find anything, and we were almost right.
There has only been one fatality resulting from a Chihuahua bite in the U.S. This death was recorded at some point in the 12 years between 2005 and 2017, although the circumstances surrounding the incident have not been made publicly available.
Technically, another potential fatality was also recorded in 2018, but there were no witnesses to the event.
Whether the true number of recorded Chihuahua bite fatalities is one or two, this is still more than we expected to find. Since we’ve established that the Chihuahua doesn’t have a very powerful bite, we can only assume that the confirmed fatality was a result of the placement of the bite (potentially on a major vein or artery) rather than the force of the bite.
All the same, this just goes to show that even bites from the smallest of dogs can, although very rarely, result in tragic consequences.
What Should I Do If My Chihuahua Bites?
Part of working out how best to approach a situation where your Chihuahua bites is understanding the reason behind the bite.
If your Chihuahua bites you or somebody else, it is usually either a sign that they are anxious or in pain. If your dog is not displaying any signs of pain (trembling, ears flat, crying, or abnormal movements), then it’s likely that they are biting out of anxiety.
Now, if your Chihuahua’s biting stems from anxiety, you’ll also need to try and discern whether the bite was a response to provocation. If so, the provoking behavior (whether from another animal or a human) needs to be addressed.
If not, it’s likely that your Chihuahua’s defense mechanism has gone into overdrive. Maybe something unrelated has made them extra anxious and caused them to overreact. Maybe they misinterpreted a movement or noise as a threat and acted accordingly. Either way, your Chihuahua needs to learn very clearly that biting is not acceptable behavior.
The best way to train your Chihuahua not to bite is through your response, so although you may be feeling shocked or upset, you must try your best to remain in control of your emotions so that you can deliver your message in the most effective way.
As soon as the bite occurs, give a high-pitched cry or yelp to let your dog know that they have hurt you. This is often more effective than simply saying ‘no’ because your dog will be able to relate emotionally to the sound you are making and associate it with ‘bad.’ Chihuahuas are very emotionally sensitive as well as physically sensitive dogs, so they will very easily pick up on the cues you’re giving them.
It’s very important that you do this even if the bite did not actually hurt or happened during play. With a small dog like the Chihuahua, it’s all too easy to brush off play-biting and less severe bites, but your dog must learn that biting under any circumstances barring an actual threat is not okay.
Once you’ve let your Chihuahua know that they have misbehaved, you should move away and turn your attention to something else. Particularly if this happens during playtime, ‘ignoring’ your dog for a few minutes will indicate that biting is serious enough to end fun time, which should get the message across.
Of course, if the bite has broken the skin or is bleeding, make sure that you also seek first aid for yourself or the injured party. The bleeding should usually not be severe, but you should thoroughly disinfect the area and bandage if necessary.
To summarise what we’ve covered in the article, we’d recommend ignoring the statistics claiming that the Chihuahua has a bite force in the thousands of PSI. This simply isn’t realistic compared with the scientifically-supported bite force estimates of other powerful dog breeds.
However, a Chihuahua bite can definitely break the skin and be painful, and if you’re very, very unlucky with the placement, even has the potential to be fatal.
Therefore, it’s very important to be aware of your Chihuahua’s emotional and physical sensitivities and to teach your Chihuahua from a young age that biting is not acceptable.