Chances are if you are reading this blog, then you have already made the decision to add one of these lively little dogs to your household. However, if you are still in the consideration stage, there are a few things you should think about when deciding if a Chi is an appropriate breed to meet the requirements of your lifestyle.
Chihuahuas are active little dogs that require a lot of love and affection. They like to play, love to cuddle and can be very territorial when it comes to protecting any space they feel belongs to them. They have gotten a reputation as snippy, yapping little dogs, but this is not true of all members of the breed. Just like with any dog, proper training and attention can turn these dogs into excellent companions.
Chihuahuas are the smallest breed of dog and therefore can be easily injured by other dogs or children. They have delicate bone structures that can be damaged if they are mishandled. It is generally not recommended that a household with small children get a Chi. There are exceptions to every rule, but if you do not have a place where you can contain the animal away from the rest of the household activity while you are unable to pay strict attention to the interaction, having a very small dog and young children can pose a threat to both the dog as well as the child.
These tiny dogs tend to be very loyal and bond closely with one person. This is a wonderful trait in them for someone who is seeking a personal companion and tends to make them an excellent choice as a lap dog. This may also cause the dog to become highly protective of their owner and not appreciate attention from strangers and occasionally other members of the household. A Chihuahua should be socialized with other dogs and a variety of people from an early age. Allowing your dog to socialize with children under close supervision will help the dog come to understand what he can and cannot get away with. If you are there to catch him in the act if he starts exhibiting an aggressive behavior, you may be able to stop it before it becomes a problem in the future. A non-socialized dog can quickly become and aggressive dog, so getting your Chi used to a range of different situations at an early age is best.
If you live in an apartment or small house that does not have a yard for the dog to roam freely in, a Chihuahua may be a good breed to choose. Although they do require regular exercise in order to stay fit and healthy, Chihuahuas can be satisfied with play time and regular walks. They do not require the space that many larger breeds do. They can also be pad, litter, and outdoor trained. The versatility you have when potty training these dogs may be an advantage to apartment dwellers.
It may take a little time to properly leash train your Chi, but once they are loose leash trained, they can make exceptional walking partners. Loose leash training is a form of teaching your dog to walk alongside you or following you without the leash being taut. A comfort control harness may be a helpful tool in teaching your Chi to walk as they tend to respond poorly to having anything around their necks other than a collar. A comfort harness may help take the stress out of walking for both you and the Chihuahua. You should never pull roughly on a leash while walking your Chihuahua, as you may injure them. If your Chi starts veering off the chose path, pull them gently back toward you, or stop and act like a tree. If you stop moving, so will they.
Chihuahuas tend to shed fur throughout the year. There may be some times of the year when the shedding is worse than others, but with simple grooming habits, the loss of fur can be highly manageable. Chihuahuas, particularly the smooth-coat variety have low maintenance coat care needs.
As with all dogs, properly training your Chi not to bark at inopportune times requires a large supply of patience and diligence. The natural instinct of a dog when it is in fear, bored or wants something is to bark. Spending quality time with your dog and teaching him or her what you expect is usually the best resolution. We will discuss positive reinforcement in a later.
Because of the small body frame, lack of excess fatty tissue and thin coats, Chihuahuas are always recommended to be indoor dogs. They do not deal well with cold temperatures. This is not to say that if you live in a colder climate that Chi’s are not appropriate. There are plenty of fleece lined carriers and dog apparel that may be used to help regulate your dog’s temperature in cold weather. If you take them outdoors for a potty break during the winter, try to remember to dress them in a sweater to protect from the bite of the frosty air.
Although as a rule, Chihuahuas have very few serious health ailments, there is a variety of health problems that can potentially occur in the breed, especially as they age. You should always investigate a breed and do as much research as you can before adopting any animal. It is wise to find out what you may have in store for you as a potential pet owner before you make a commitment of your finances and time.
There is an assortment of household items and food items that can be dangerous to these small dogs. Later in this blog these things will be discussed at greater length. The Chihuahua is a very curious dog by nature, and left to its own devices, may inadvertently cause harm to themselves by eating something they shouldn’t.
Hypoglycemia: If you are planning to adopt a puppy that is just old enough to leave the litter, you may be faced with a harsh reality. Often, the Chihuahua puppy is too small to regulate its own blood sugar. This can result in attacks of hypoglycemia, which if left untreated, can be fatal. Some of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are as follows:
Chihuahuas can have attacks of hypoglycemia throughout the first year of their lives, and even longer for very small members of the breed. A water/sugar mix, Nutri-cal, or treats given often may help to prevent hypoglycemia from recurring should you notice signs of it. These may all help raise sugars enough to keep the dog safe if the blood sugar has not declined too far. If you suspect your dog of having the symptoms of hypoglycemia, you should call your family vet right away.
Chihuahuas do not have much of a layer of fat around their livers. When they expend a lot of energy or exert themselves, the body will quickly burn through this fat, causing the body to search for an alternative method of providing energy. When the body begins utilizing the sugars in the blood as a main energy source, this is hypoglycemia.
Hypoglycemia can be caused by stress, environmental changes, poor diet, lengthy spaces between nourishment, excessive spent energy and other factors, such as the size of the dog and the readiness for it to separate from the litter. Most tiny Chihuahuas that are under two pounds should not leave the litter until they are twelve weeks old. If you adopt a very small Chi before that, you may be looking at increased risk of serious medical complications, including hypoglycemia. It is never a good idea to leave a Chihuahua puppy alone for long periods of time. Sometimes just the stress of being brought into a new home can be enough to induce this condition. Do everything you can to ensure that your puppy is comfortable and feels safe in the new environment to avoid putting extra stress on him.
Potty training can be a challenge with a Chihuahua. I find that it is easier to train a puppy rather than an older dog that has become used to eliminating in the house, but the situation is dependent on both the owner and the individual dog.
With enough patience and perseverance, any dog can become a house-trained animal. There seems to be a stigma about Chi’s and potty training, but they are no different than other dogs. You must clearly express what you wish for them to do and distinguish it from what you do not wish for them to do. After all, we don’t expect a human child to learn the use of the toilet until they are about two years old; we should not expect perfection from day one from our dogs either. Dogs learn by repeating behaviors and getting results. If you want them to know that what they are doing is what you want, then reward them for it!
Here is a basic list of questions to ask yourself when you are considering adopting a Chi:
- Will this dog be right for my activity level?
- Will the other members of my family (both human and animal) get along with this dog?
- Does my living space pose any health risks to the dog?
- Do I want to pay the cost of healthcare for this type of animal?
- Does the dog’s personality blend well with the atmosphere in my home?
- Do the dog’s needs mesh with my work/life schedule?
- Do I want to take the time to train this animal?
- Will this animal pose a risk to any young children in my home?
- Do I have adequate space for this type of dog?
- Will I spay or neuter this dog?
Keeping with the idea that if you are reading this section you have yet to adopt your Chi, or even if you are considering just adding another Chi to your pack, here is some information on where to get a Chihuahua.
As a firm advocate for the wonderful work that animal shelters do, I always recommend that you check out your local animal shelter to see if they have a puppy or older dog that will meet the criteria you are searching for in a companion.
There are many homeless pets that can make first-rate companions. I realize that this is not always possible. Sometimes, you are looking for something very specific, don’t want an older dog that may already have habits you have to break, or wish to be able to have a pedigree and breeding ability. If at all possible, please check the shelter first; what you find might surprise you!
That being said, assuming you are looking to buy a puppy from a breeder, there are a multitude of things to consider before handing over your hard-earned dollars.
If at all possible, be in direct contact with the breeder of your prospective puppy. Go to the breeder’s home and check out the litter for yourself. Ask to see the parents. Are the puppies and the parents clean? Do they appear well cared for and is the living space well-maintained? Do the dogs seem as if they have been well socialized? Do you see any dogs with obvious health problems that don’t appear to have been properly treated?
If the breeder refuses to allow you entry into the area where they keep their dogs or would prefer to meet somewhere else other than where the dogs are housed, be wary. I will not go so far as to say that all breeders who behave this way are a puppy mill or a disreputable breeder, but in my experience, good breeders with nothing to hide are more than willing to show you their dogs and living quarters. If the breeder seems nervous about answering the questions you ask, you might consider looking elsewhere. Buying a puppy from a disreputable breeder may come with a lot more expense than just what you put out financially.
Never be afraid to ask questions. A responsible breeder that cares about their dogs will want you to be fully informed about every aspect of the puppy’s life, medical needs, feeding schedule and health before they release the dog into your care. They want to ensure a good quality of life for the puppies they have bred and should be available even after the adoption to answer any and all questions you may have.
If you cannot engage face to face with the breeder you have chosen to adopt a puppy from, please talk to them extensively on the phone. Be sure to come to the conversation prepared with a list of questions to ask. Most breeders that have been in the business for a while will have references you can check out. Many of them will have a website where you may be able to get an idea of how many previous puppies they have sold. You might want to try and reach out to other people who have bought their puppies in the past. Find out if they have had any health or temperament issues with the puppies they bought before agreeing to sign the papers and get one of your own.
There is a big difference between someone whose dogs have bred and a ‘breeder.’ Often times a family may have two Chihuahuas who incidentally mate and create a litter of pups. This does not make them a breeder. More often than not, these dogs are advertised in the newspaper for a few hundred dollars. I am not saying that you should never buy one of these dogs, if you are simply seeking a companion animal, then great. You should, however, be aware that these Chihuahuas aren’t usually pedigreed animals and can have a variety of temperament and health issues. You may be saving a dog from spending an unfortunate life in a shelter and that would be wonderful, but the truth of the matter is, if you want a ‘show quality’ dog with a pedigree, then do your research and go to a ‘show quality’ breeder with pedigreed dogs.
Here are some questions you might ask a potential breeder:
- How many litters a year do you have?
- Are your pups registered/may I see the parent’s pedigree?
- Is there a health guarantee?
- Who is your vet?
- May I see where the dogs are kept?
- May I see the parents?
- May I read through the contact before agreeing to anything?
- Do you have references?
- Do you have photos of previous litters?
- May I see the health records of the parents?
Avoid getting scammed
Okay, admit it! You, just like me and every other person on the planet are a bargain hunter! Is there anything better than when you can get a huge discount off of something that you really want? The problem is; that scandalous scam artists are also aware of how much we all love a bargain. With the age of the internet, it has become truly easy for someone to post a picture of anything they are supposedly selling and find a way to scam others out of money. This is particularly true when it comes to the sale of dogs, sadly.
The internet, classified ads and newspapers are jam-packed with scammers advertising for adorable little dogs that are “free” because they need to be “rehomed.” All you need to do is pay for the shipping of the dog and it is yours. Trust me, these advertisements are all the same and the result you will get from contacting one of these people will not only be unpleasant, but the exact opposite of free. The first rule I like to follow when looking at ads like these is if it seems too good to be true, then it most likely is. If you can’t believe someone would be just giving away a dog that usually goes for hundreds or even thousands of dollars, they probably aren’t.
Common sense would tell us that if the person is truly unable to keep the dog for whatever reason they are stating, they would sell the dog to someone else locally or take it to an animal shelter. Why would they bother to post an ad nationally for a dog that they would then have to go through the bother to ship somewhere else? Are they located on a remote island where there is internet access but no other living souls to adopt their dog?
If you have ever gotten one of those emails from someone in another country where just about everything is misspelled and they seem to have no concept of basic grammar, asking you to give them your bank account number so they can deposit a largish-amount of money, this is basically the same thing. These people prey on the elderly, the young and the inexperienced. No matter how authentic the puppies in these ads may look, they are photos that have usually been lifted off a breeder’s website. The awful truth is that there IS NO PUPPY. If you send these people the money they are requesting, you will be out the money and the puppy.
This scam works for two reasons. First off, people are quick to trust when they desperately want a companion. Many inexperienced buyers will not think twice about the photos they see advertised. Secondly, the scammers know this. Usually the ads will be for specific hard to find breeds, and often times, the smallest of the breeds will be a particular lure they like to use. Some of the breeds that frequently are used in these scams are, Chihuahuas—particularly very small ones advertised as teacups or micros, Yorkies, Pugs, Bulldogs, Bichons, Poodles, Shih-tzus and Maltese puppies. The photos usually appear to have been taken in a professional studio and often feature the dogs standing near flower pots, in baskets or next to a soda can for a size comparison.
When the buyer sends the money off to the address they are given, they find out the party is unreachable after that.
Here are some things to watch out for that may possibly indicate a scam:
- Ads where the first word is FREE!!!!!! And it doesn’t seem likely the animal would be free.
- Ads offering rehoming for a shipping fee.
- Ads where all you get for contact info is a generic email address, no phone number or address. Often there is not even a state of residency listed.
- No website for the breeder if it is supposedly a breeder.
- Responses to your emails where the person with the pups misspells everything.
Responses that includes phrases like “I am looking for good home for pupiez becuz I canot move afford to care for them.” If you cannot afford to care for them and they are worth money, why don’t you sell them and make yourself some much needed cash?
YOU PAID WHAT FOR MUTT?
Another thing to keep in mind before adopting a puppy from a breeder is cost. Do you know how much you should be paying for the type and breed of dog you are interested in buying? If you are just at the juncture where you are considering buying a certain breed but haven’t made a solid decision yet, you should feel free to find a number for a breeder of that type of dog. Even if you aren’t planning to buy from that person, a breeder will generally be receptive to answering questions about the breed and dashing any myths about the breed as well.
Getting to know the type of dog you are considering making a lifelong commitment too is a smart idea. What happens if you find out the dog breed you have chosen isn’t what you thought it was going to be, after you have already paid for it and brought it home?
A breeder may also be able to give you an idea of what the general price range is for that particular breed. There is, of course variation in price based on the quality of the dog, but you should never look just one place to get an idea of how much to spend. Browse the internet, look in the classifieds. Try to get an overall idea of what average cost is. You may also wish to speak with a veterinarian and find out about the potential health issues of the chosen breed.
Let’s discuss some of the pitfalls of buying a puppy from an online breeder for a moment. It’s not that there are no decent online breeders. There are many. Some of them are committed to making sure their pups have the best possible care and that they are selling only healthy, well-bred dogs to excellent families. I wish this was the case with all online breeders, but of course in reality things are much different.
The old adage that you get what you pay for is not always true. This is an important lesson for many new Chi owners to learn. There have been cases where an individual paid top dollar or even excessive amounts for a dog and then came to find out that the tiny two pound dog they bought grew up to be a ten pounder or better that doesn’t in any way represent the breed well.
Some of these internet sites are charging outrageous amounts for their puppies, claiming that they are “rare, designer, micro-mini, teacup, applehead, deer-head, teddy-bear,” etc. None of these terms are actual types of dogs. There are only two types of Chihuahua recognized by the AKC. The only varieties that are recognized are Smooth-coat and Long-coat. These other terms are simple marketing efforts from the breeders.
There is no guarantee of how big a dog will grow up to be. You can chart their weight as a puppy and make an educated guess but no one can guarantee that a dog will not be bigger or smaller than average. Just like with people, Chihuahuas come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Occasionally a puppy will grow to be considerably larger or smaller than the rest of the litter it came from. This does not make the dog a special breed any more than seeing a bigger than average cherry tomato on a vine makes it qualify as a beefsteak.
One rule of thumb when looking to purchase a reasonably priced puppy is the flashier the website looks, the higher the prices will probably be. Asking twelve-hundred dollars for a dog because the website looks fancy is ridiculous, but many people will fall for it and agree to pay the price. Many of the dogs bought off of these websites are not even an adequate representation of their breed. They can be shipped in awful conditions and arrive with worms, mites, or even worse medical conditions such as Parvo and mange. The expensive puppies shown on these sites for thousands of dollars may not be accurately described either. They might be the runt of the litter and considerably younger than advertised.
Breeders tend to use phrases like “charting only three pounds full grown.” As discussed earlier, there is no truly perfect science to this. It is all a guess. If you have two parent dogs that are on the smaller side then you might get a litter of smaller dogs, but that is not always the case. So, if you are going to pay for a very expensive tiny dog, consider a few things first before handing over your wallet. The dog may not stay as tiny as claimed. Many of these dogs come with limited health guarantees, some for as few as two weeks or none at all. If you research a little on the internet, you will find thousands of stories from people who paid for tiny, over-priced Chi’s only to have them die within a few short days and have the breeder refuse to refund the money.
A contract serves to protect the breeder and the buyer as well. Always look over the contract carefully before agreeing to anything. If you feel uncomfortable with what you have read, discuss it with the breeder. If you still feel nervous about signing it, walk away. Contracts should be straight forward and to the point and tell you what your responsibility is and what the breeder is guaranteeing you. If you see a contract that is filled with impressive legal-jargon but makes no sense or just seems it is there to protect the breeder, think twice before signing.
The contract should contain the amount you agreed to pay, the basic info about the dog and purchaser as well as the name of the breeder and the address where the dog was housed. It should contain a health guarantee from the breeder stating that the dog is healthy, has had all immunizations and has been wormed. For your part, you may be signing an agreement stating that you will have the dog checked out by a vet within a certain number of days and report back to the breeder if there are any health issues that demand attention.
The breeder should agree in writing to take the dog back if the vet check reveals any serious health issues with the dog.
There should be a section where any special information about the breed is revealed, such as heat sensitivity or any common health issues.
The seller will make certain that the buyer knows what the dog is being sold to them for and reinforce that the puppy is not going to a puppy mill, fighting establishment or other inhumane life.
You should also receive a copy of the registration paperwork at this time and sign a sheet acknowledging that you were given a copy of the care and feeding instructions. Some contracts are simpler and some are more advanced, this is just a basic outline of what you might expect.
Another thing to consider when looking for a Chihuahua is size. The smaller the dog is, the more underdeveloped their organs are; therefore, the smaller the dog, the more likely that they will have frequent serious medical issues. Smaller dogs are also much more fragile and prone to breaks and accidents.
Tiny little dogs have become a novelty item thanks in part to celebrities who like to use them as fashion accessories, but they are still dogs. They need proper care and attention and the smaller the dog, the more the cost is usually the case. If you adopt a Chihuahua, please realize that although they are tiny and carrying them around once in a while is fun and at times even necessary, they also need exercise. They have four legs so they can get out and run!
One of the more popular advents of the last twenty years has been the designer breed phenomenon. Designer breeds are NOT breeds, they are mixes of breeds. They are an expensive way to make a mutt! Don’t be fooled by people who are claiming they have very rare hybrids. Mixing two animals of the same species is not a hybrid. A hybrid is when you mix two different species. A giraffe/horse would be a hybrid. A wolf/dog is a hybrid. Not a Pom/Chi.
Ask yourself this, what is the difference between a dog at a shelter that was accidentally crossed with another breed and a designer dog? The answer: there isn’t one. A mutt is a mutt, save for one thing…cost.
If you want to study this for yourself, look up the Wally Conran Experiment to find out how designer breeds were started, and you will find that designer breeds are little else than mutts with fancy sounding names.
A brief discussion about puppy mills
Many puppy mills will advertise on their websites specifically that they are “NOT PUPPY MILLS!” These types of claims are usually not made by people who hand and home-raise their pups. Most likely having to announce that they are not involved in unethical and inhumane treatment of animals would never even occur to a proper breeder.
Puppy mills are disgusting operations where hundreds and sometimes thousands of dogs are kept locked in cages suffering the extremes of grueling summers and harsh winters without proper heating and cooling. They are mostly only handled when it is time for them to breed. They are fed from auto food and water systems to avoid human contact.They can be beaten and starved and in extreme cases of abuse, may die as a result of such horrible conditions. There have been documented cases of puppies from such pairings being sold through dog distributors online and even at pet shops.
Puppies that come from puppy mills tend to have immediate and serious health issues as well as temperament problems from being locked away with hundreds of other barking and fighting dogs surrounding them. They may have serious trust issues and it could take years to break them of the fearfulness that has been burned into their memory.
Rescuing a puppy mill dog is an honorable and compassionate thing to do, but may not be the best plan if you are looking for a basic companion that you can train normally, and certainly not if you are looking for a show quality or breeding dog.
You may find prices at pet stores offering ‘teacup’ Chihuahuas for sale that are commonly up in the 800 to 2,000 or higher range. Do not be fooled by these dogs. You are paying way too much for nothing more than an average dog. The pet store cannot guarantee that any puppy sold that is less than two years old will stay the size it is. They usually will not be there for the life of the animal to answer questions if you have any.
The unfortunate truth, not to say that this is true with all pet stores, but many, is that those pups may be coming from either a puppy mill or a backyard breeder who will peddle off the pups they can’t sell for between 50-100 dollars and then the pet store will put an enormous markup on the dogs for resale to the general public.
There are some very reputable pet stores, and then there are some who are not. It is up to you to use your best judgment and do the required research to ensure that you are getting a quality dog that is disease and temperament issue-free.
In closing for this, I hope the information provided here has been helpful in assisting you to make a wise decision choosing your companion. I wish you the best of luck in finding the perfect little friend.