Since Chihuahuas are very curious little dogs and also very small, they require the owner to take additional safety provisions that owners of larger breeds may not have to concern themselves as much with.
The smaller the Chihuahua the more cautious you will have to be. If you think about it, owning a very small dog is a lot like having a very young child. You may have to proof your house with baby gates, cabinet covers and locks, add stairs or ramps to make furniture accessible to your pet, or even block off entire sections of your house to avoid the dog from gaining entry.
You might find that areas in the home where you used to store chemicals or other hazards may have to be relocated to other places. There are dangers to be found both inside and outside the house.
My first recommendation when Chi-proofing your house is to take a few minutes and think like a dog. This might sound silly, but it is effective. Get down on the floor and look around. Look for small spaces where a dog that tiny could get stuck. Look for sharp objects that the Chi could get injured on. Chihuahuas are intelligent and if they get curious enough, they can sometimes navigate opening cabinet doors and drawers. Do you have anything important enough in your floor level cabinets to warrant moving? Or would it be better to install cabinet locks? You should keep a lookout for electrical cords the Chihuahua might try to chew through, and anything with small parts that can easily detach and become a choking hazard. You should also be wary of houseplants the puppy can reach as there are many types that can be poisonous and some even fatal.
Anything your dog manages to chew on and swallow that cannot be passed through their digestive system will require medical intervention to remove. This can be costly and sometimes fatal to the dog. Do a sweep a couple times a day to make sure nothing is on the floor where it shouldn’t be. Likewise, periodically check the outside of your home for anything that might pose a hazard. If you find a region of the house where the Chihuahua is particularly prone to chewing, there are sprays that can deter that kind of unwelcome behavior as well. There are also ultra-sonic devices that you can use to set up a barrier in a room or area you wish for them to avoid.
What about outside? Do you regularly use weed and insect killer on your lawn? Are there small rocks around that your Chi could choke on? Do you have any yard tools that could be sharp? Do you have a pool that the dog could fall into? Although dogs can swim, if they become exhausted and cannot find their way out of the pool, they can drown.
While exercising your Chi during the summer, you should be mindful at all times that when the temperatures rise, the time you allot for walks and outdoor exercise must decrease. Chi’s can suffer from heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Try to take your walks in the early morning or the evening when the sun is not directly overhead the temperature is cooler. You should always have plenty of fresh water for your dog when you are outdoors during the heat.
The exits to your home may pose another potential danger. Especially when Chi’s are very young and have not been properly trained, they view each open door as an invitation to bolt outside at the first opportunity. You should continually be sure that the other members of your household are aware of the dangers an open door may cause. It only takes a few seconds for one of these fast little dogs to escape and run into the street.
Hot cars in the summertime are deadly to dogs. These signs are posted nearly everywhere now and there are advertisements and handouts about this very subject, still, every year there are still reports of dogs becoming fatally ill after suffering heat stroke from being left in the car during the summer heat. Please be a responsible owner. If you cannot take your dog where you are going, leave them at home. They might miss you, but they will be much better off.
There are multiple types of safety restraints for small dogs you can buy and install into the car. Because Chi’s don’t weigh much, they tend to be easily injured if they are in an accident, even if it is a minor one. Ask your veterinarian or an employee at a pet chain to recommend a restraint system for your car.
I have baby gates blocking the hallways in my own home, to ensure that the areas I wish to keep the dogs out of are not places I need to worry about proofing. The only time they are allowed in those sections of the home is when I am available to keep direct watch over them. It may seem cruel to not let your dog have free run of the entire house, but it is much safer for them.
When I am not able to keep an eye on my dogs, I keep them in playpens. They don’t mind playpens as much as crates as they are able to see me and watch what I am doing as long as I am in the same room with them. This also gives them a bit more room to run around and play. The playpen is also a good option because it is safe, and provides room for food and water as well as toys, a blanket and if it is a puppy, a pee-pad. Most of the parts are easily cleanable so if there is a spill or an accident it isn’t too difficult to clean up after. If your chi is big enough to jump over the side of a playpen, you can install a mesh top to it and that will usually solve the problem. I always try to ensure that my dogs have something to keep them entertained while they are contained, either a toy or a treat of some kind.
If you choose not to go the playpen route, then you may also kennel train your dog. Some people recommend that you only use a kennel big enough for your dog to stand up, sit down and turn around in. I have always chosen slightly larger kennels so I would have room to put food and water and a bed on one end and a pee-pad or litter box on the other. If you are going to place your dog in a kennel with a pee-pad, please only do this if you must be gone for longer than a few minutes. Encouraging your dog to eliminate inside a kennel will be a step backward in housetraining. It is hard to break a dog that has learned to live in its own filth to housetrain.
Here is a list of some of the more dangerous household items your dog may have access to. Some of them are quite surprising.
Polyurethane Glue: Your Chi may chew on the bottle or eat the contents. Glue can expand within your dog’s stomach and form a large mass that has to be removed through surgery. It may also cause vomiting, discomfort and Diarrhea.
Corn cobs: Corn cobs may seem harmless, but they can cause severe intestinal blockages if large pieces are swallowed.
Houseplants and outdoor plants: Tulips, azaleas, foxgloves, chokecherry, rhubarb leaves, lilies, morning glories, daffodils, oleander, castor, English ivy, jimsonweed, nightshade, dumb cane, and even certain types of rose plants and weeds, sweetheart ivy, ribbon plants, daylily, devil’s ivy, narcissus, calla lily, Buddhist pine, caladium, ceriman, elephant ears, emerald ferns, eucalyptus, golden pathos, sago palm, privet, red emerald, peace lily, philodendron, marble queen, lantana, Jerusalem cherry, hydrangea, iris, hemlock, honeysuckle, heavenly bamboo, aloe vera, amaryllis, asparagus, belladonna, black locust, wisteria and many others. Always look up any plant you are considering before adding it to an area your dog may reach.
- Tobacco: Tobacco products can be harmful and even fatal. Be certain that if you are a tobacco user, or there is one in your house that your dog cannot reach the various smoker’s or chewer’s paraphernalia.
- Mothballs: Mothballs are made with very toxic chemicals and can be an immediate danger to your Chi if he or she should accidentally come into contact with them.
- Rat/rodent poison: Rodent poison is concentrated and meant to exterminate small animals. If you must put out this poison, please ensure that there is no way for your chi to reach it through any access point. Even a very small amount could be immediately fatal.
- Prescription medications: Be certain that you do not drop any medications around your dog or allow the dog access to where the medications are kept.
- Ibuprofen: Never under any circumstances try to give your dog ibuprofen of any kind. Just one pill can be fatal.
- Slug and snail baits: these products contain metaldehyde which is toxic to small animals.
- Pool supplies: the chemicals found in pool cleaner can be toxic.
- Batteries: Dogs may chew on them or swallow them whole and expose themselves to the harsh acids within. Batteries may also cause a serious obstruction in the bowels.
- String: Strings, yarns and other products that the dog can become tangled up in can strangle the puppy if they cannot free themselves. They may also choke on these items.
- Insects: snakes, spiders and scorpions that are poisonous may cause serious complications or even death. If you live in an area where snakes are common, please ensure that you keep your pet on a leash while you are outdoors.
- Fertilizer: even simple lawn fertilizer can make your dog very sick if it is consumed.
- Citronella candles: May cause extreme vomiting and diarrhea which could lead to serious dehydration and eventual death.
- Candy and gum containing xylitol: This can elevate insulin in your dog’s system therefore lowering blood sugar to dangerous levels. It can also cause seizures and liver failure.
- Chocolate: Chocolate contains theobromine and can cause death.
- Christmas decorations/lights: a dog can easily chew through the strings on a strand of Christmas tree lights. Also, the tinsel that is used to make the tree sparkle can pose a serious health risk if it is eaten. The glass ornaments can also be very dangerous.
- Household cleansers: Bleach, soap, detergents, solvents, drain cleaners, dishwasher packs, lime removers, disinfectants, window cleaners etc.
- Antifreeze: antifreeze tastes very sweet and the dog may be attracted to it, but even one spoonful can be fatal. Antifreeze contains ethylene glycol which will cause crystals in the kidneys of the dog and can cause complete failure.
- Flea and tick medications: dogs may overdose on these meds and could potentially suffer fatal side-effects.
- Toilet bowl cleaners: the type that hang on the side of the toilet and turn the water blue, if your dog were to drink the water, the chemicals could make him or her very ill.
- Baking soda and salt: in large quantities can lead to death from dehydration.
This is not a complete and comprehensive list. There are so many products in a standard household that there could literally be thousands of pages of warnings for what to keep your dog away from. Your Chi cannot protect himself, so do the best you can to ensure a safe environment for him whenever he is loose outside the house or in.
If your dog is poisoned:
ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center