The Chihuahua is part of the ‘Toy breed group’ and can have short smooth coats or long coats, however even the longer coated do not need too much grooming with the kennel club suggesting once a week. This can make them fairly easy to keep clean and healthy as well as fairly inexpensive to keep due to their small food intake.
Chihuahua’s love their owners attention and make great lap dogs as well as adapting to different exercise activities as well. They can be cuddly and quiet yet fun loving and bold all at the same time. The love of being close to their owner means most do not stray far even when out and about and will always want to be following behind their owner.
Chihuahuas are intelligent and love to be mentally stimulated, which makes them great for training. Their size makes them perfect for trick training although they also do well in obedience and agility as well.
This breed could suit a first time dog owner as long as you are aware of the possible difficulty with house training. They are easy to handle when on the lead but like all dogs need consistent training and direction.
They can be nervous of new situations. This can include strangers, noises, bigger dogs and crowded environments so they need to be socialised from a young age in order to encourage them to become confident.
They are fragile due to their small size so it can be difficult to socialise them with bigger dogs due to the risk of them being hurt.
They can live in a small flat or house as they don't need as much space as larger breeds, although do still need regular exercise and stimulation especially as they can put on weight quickly which puts strain on their small legs.
They are more ‘one person dogs’ then family dogs and can become worried around children if not brought up from a young age with them. This breed isn't ideal for a family with very young children as they are so fragile and can be unsure of louder noises and possible rough handling.
Due to their small size this breed could accompany their owner in different situations. This makes them a great companion as they are easy to take in the car, on different transports and can don't take up much space in the office!
Most Chihuahua’s love food which can be great for training. Its important to make sure their treats are appropriate size as they can become over weight easily.
Like many toy breeds Chihuahuas can be difficult to house train. It may be useful to have a crate for your chihuahua at night and for when unsupervised to prevent mistakes all over the house. When choosing a crate, it does not need to be very big. The bigger the crate is the more surface area the puppy has to go out of its bed and then go to the toilet on. As most dogs do not like going to the toilet where they sleep having a suitable size crate will make house training easier. Its best to take them out frequently to the garden rather then having puppy pads all over the house and being so small this needs to be very often as their bladders cannot hold much.
Chihuahuas are extremely alert and observant so it’s quite common that they will bark at anything that seems different or new. It may be useful to teach a ‘quiet’ command and a good recall so you can interrupt this. To help generalise your Chihuahua to different environments and noises they should be slowly introduced and familiarised preferably when young. If a dog is exposed to different environments when younger it has a much better chance of being a stable and confident adult. Gentle positive exposure to different situations can still be achieved with an older dog but it will take some time and patience as they may already have built up associations of strangers coming in the house for example.
Chihuahuas have lots of energy despite their size so activities such as agility training can be great for this breed, especially for their confidence. They love to run and jump around so starting with a few low jumps and equipment at home can help their focus and engagement with you. Many behavioural issues also stem from lack of exercise so it’s important although they are small that they are physically and mentally stimulated.
This breed can be weary of new people coming towards them and putting their hands out to stroke them as it can be imitating and scary for them. Their natural cautiousness can lead them to be suspicious and skittish around strangers so it’s important to work on this at a young age. A great exercise to teach is a nose touch to your hand to help build up a positive association of people putting their hands out. This needs to be practised first in low distracting environments and once a solid behaviour can then be practised around new people.
Due to their small size it’s very common for owners to pick their Chihuahua up and carry them around. It’s really important that they are allowed to explore naturally and learn to walk outside to go to the toilet for example rather then carried as they need to learn to indicate that they need the toilet by themselves rather than waiting to be picked up.
With smaller breeds it’s really important that they learn how to be around bigger dogs as well as ones their own size. Many Chihuahuas are unsure of bigger dogs which can lead them to running up and barking at the dog or running away scared. It’s valuable to train your Chihuahua to be able to walk confidently past a bigger dog on the lead and also how to interact when meeting. The easiest way is starting as young as possible and letting them socialise with bigger dogs rather than over worrying about their size, as long as the other dog is calm and has appropriate behaviour to smaller dogs then allow them to interact and play. If your dog is older and has certain negative associations of bigger dogs then it may take some time working at a distance and building new positive associations with a training plan.
Small flirt poles can be great to play and interact with when dragged and moved around on the floor, the same as small balls on a string. By encouraging your Chihuahua to play with different types of toys you can take these into new environments and also use this as a reward in training. Introducing a puppy to lots of different types of toys will also improve their confidence and adaptability around different objects as they get older.
As they can be typically nervous it’s important for your dog to have choices and to feel safe and secure when out. When introducing them to new situations pay attention to their body language and if they seem stressed then remove them from the situation, provide safety for them (a choice to move away) and reward for calm behaviour. If they come away from a situation feeling stressed and un-easy (especially with puppies) then they will start to build up negative associations and lose confidence. So it’s important to do this gradually with this breed and try to make scary situations rewarding with lots of verbal praise, encouragement and rewards.
It’s not uncommon for Chihuahuas to pull on the lead if not properly taught how to walk with a relaxed lead. It’s a really valuable skill for them to learn as constantly pulling on the lead can cause damage to their small and sensitive necks. When teaching loose lead walking it may be an idea to have a harness and start by rewarding when by your side even at home! The first step is simply building up the association that good things happen when they are by your side. By starting indoors they are less likely to pull so you can take the opportunity to heavily reinforce the good behaviour and gradually move outside to different environments.
Teach them how to relax when left. Chihuahuas love companionship and are very loyal to their owners which can make leaving them difficult and stressful for both owner and dog. If unable to cope alone and stressed they can toilet indoors, bark and become destructive. From a young age teach a good ‘settle’ and gradually get them use to being left alone for short periods. When leaving its best for them to be tired so make sure they are walked before as this will help them to settle and you can leave a stuffed Kong or chew to keep them occupied.