The Chihuahua (pronounced chih-wah-wah) is a tiny, toy sized dog, the smallest of the dog breeds. Sometimes referred to as a Chi. They have rounded heads with short muzzles, large, round, dark ruby eyes and erect ears. Tears are often formed in abundance to keep the large eyes lubricated. The tail is long and either curled over the back or to the side. The coat can be either short of long wavy or flat. Colors include black, white, chestnut, fawn, sand, silver, sable, steel blue, black and tan and parti-color. Puppies have a soft spot on the top of the skull called a "molera", which usually closes by adulthood. Sometimes the long coated Chihuahuas go through "puppy ugglies", the awkward teenager stage between their puppy and adult coats. Chihuahua breeders often use terms like miniature, teacup, tiny toy, apple headed, or deer headed, to describe puppies, but these terms are not recognized by the breed standards and may be misleading,
Chihuahuas are well known as "purse dogs" like the famous Bruiser in the movie Legally Blonde starring Reese Witherspoon.
The Chihuahua is native to Mexico and received its name from the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The Chihuahua was sacred to the Pre-Columbian Indian nations, was used in sacred rituals, and was also popular as a pet to the upper class.
There are many theories surrounding its true origin. Analysis of the Chihuahua's DNA suggests that it is of Old World origin, such as from a European toy dog, and many believe that it was brought to Mexico from China over 200 years ago. The Toltecs, and later the Aztecs, had a small dog named the Techichi and it is possible that the fathers of the Chihuahua could have been the Techichi. This is the most common and most likely theory. The Aztec believed that the Techichi held mystical powers and the little dogs were used in religious ceremonies to expeate sins and as guides for the spirits of the dead. The present day Chihuahua is much smaller than the Techichi, a change thought to be due to the introduction of the miniature hairless Chinese dogs.
The breed was discovered in Chihuahua state in the 1850s, rose to prominance in the United States in the border states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico and was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904.
The Chihuahua is a strong willed lively, proud and adventurous little dog, often noted for its nervous temperament. They are loyal and become attached to their owners, often being fiercely loyal to one particular owner. They make a good companion dog but need firm leadership and training. Without proper training and discipline, the Chihuahua can assume the pack leader role and develop many behavior problems such as jealousy, aggression, and suspicion. A Chihuahua that is pack leader in the household may snap at children. This breed is generally not recommended around small children, unless proper training and leadership has been established.
Because of its small size, the Chihuahua tends to be babied and allowed to have its way far more than a larger dog would. They also tend to be walked less because their owners assume they get enough exercise running around the house. But by not being walked they miss the mental stimulation and other factors a walk provides. Because of this, Chihuahuas and other small dogs tend to become yappy, snippy, protective and unstrustworthy around children and humans they do not know. They can also be dog-aggressive. Chihuahuas tend to like other Chihuahuas and dislike dogs of other breeds.
The Chihuahua needs a lot of human contact in the form of touching, petting and general attention. And they give a lot of love and affection in return. They make great lap dogs and will lie beside you for hours or next to you in bed.
Chihuahuas are the Jekyl and Hyde of the dog breeds. Your friends may see the worst side of them and never believe you when you tell them how sweet and gentle natured your Chihuahua is. With the proper training and leadership (just as a larger dog would receive), as well as early socialization, the Chihuahua can be a wonderful little dog.
HEIGHT AND WEIGHT
The smallest dog breed, the Chihuahua weighs in at a mere 2-6 pounds and stands 6-9 inches tall.
This breed is prone to patellar luxation (dislocation of the kneecap), otherwise known as weak knees. They are also prone to colds and gum problems and sometimes neurological anomalies such as epilepsy and seizures. The large, protruding eyes also can lead to secondary glaucoma and corneal dryness. They can be prone to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). The Chihuahua tends to gain weight easily. The Chihuahua is susceptible to fractures and other accidents in puppyhood. They have a tendency to wheeze and snore due to their short muzzle. This breed is prone to stress, mainly due to the way their owners baby them.
Chihuahuas are sometimes prone to hydrocephalus, a disease characterized by an abnormally large head during the first several months of life. Puppies exhibiting hydrocephalus usually have patchy skull plates rather than a solid bone and typically are lethargic and do not grow at the same pace as their siblings.
Chihuahuas are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull. They have a molera, or a soft spot in their skulls, which normally fills in with age, but great care needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. Occasionally the soft spot remains, making them vulnerable to even a light bump on the head.
The Chihuahua generally has a long life expectancy, at 14-18 years, and is one of the longest lived dog breeds.
GROOMING AND CARE
The Chihuahua requires minimal grooming. Regular brushing with a soft bristle brush should be done with both the short coated and long coated Chihuahuas. Bathe about once per month, taking care not to get water in the ears. Check the ears regularly and keep the nails trimmed. This breed is an average shedder.
Chihuahuas tend to shiver often, due to either stress or cold. Their higher metabolism dissipates heat faster and you'll often see Chihuahuas wearing coats or sweaters in the cold. They enjoy snuggling down into blankets to sleep.
Take care not to overfeed your Chihuahua as they can gain weight easily.
The Chihuahua is a good dog for apartment life. But keep in mind that they need space just like any other dog. Just because they are small does not mean they can be kept in small spaces. They are active dogs who need daily walks just like any other dog, although many people find it tempting to carry them about in purses or other carriers. Play can fulfill much of their need for exercise, but they still need the other things that walks provide, such as the primal instinct to walk, the mental stimulation and the bonding and leadership that a proper walk provides. Without regular walks, the Chihuahua can develop many behavior problems and neurotic issues.
Many Chihuahuas fall into what is known as "small dog syndrome" and are allowed to get away with things that a larger dog would not be allowed to do. It seems like a 5 pound dog can't do any harm by jumping up, and their antics can be cute, so it is usually allowed. Allowing such dominant behavior leads to the Chihuahua taking on the position of pack leader in the household. The reputation Chihuahuas have for being yappy, suspicious or aggressive little dogs is largely due to a lack of proper training. Chihuahuas tend to be treated like little toys instead of dogs. It is important to train the Chihuahua in the same manner you would train a larger dog, and establish the same rules and discipline.
Chihuahuas can be wonderful small companions, can adopt well to apartment living, and are extremely loyal and loving to their human. Because of their diminutive size, they are easy to transport and take along with you just about anywhere, and most Chihuahuas love outings. Chihuahuas need firm and consistent leadership and discipline in order to prevent behavior problems, and are typically not good with children. They are a long-lived, lively little dog. A Chihuahua who is treated like a dog rather than a cute little toy will grow into the most well-behaved member of the family.
A side note: There is a disturbing trend in Southern California sometimes referred to as the Paris Hilton syndrome. Hollywood and the media have made it so desirable to own one of these cute little dogs and carry them around as a status symbol, that Chihuahuas and other tiny dogs are being bred at alarming rates by backyard breeders and puppy mills. Once the novelty wears off and the owner realizes that what they have is a living, breathing creature, not an accessory, they tire of them and the Chihuahuas are left to suffer various fates. Most Los Angeles shelters report approximately 30% of their dogs are Chihuahuas and the dogs are being euthanized at staggering rates. Many are being transported out to other states for help with adoption. Check for a Chihuahua rescue nearby or check Petfinder.com if you are looking to adopt a Chihuahua!
Sources: dogbreedinfo.com; wikipedia.org; canismajor.com; dogs.suite101.com; akc.org; k9web.com; blogher.com; msnbc.msn.com
Healthy oral hygiene is important for our pet for multiple reasons. Clean teeth are not only cosmetically pleasing; they also promote good smelling breath and better long-term health.
If poor oral health causes an infection in our pet’s teeth or gums, it can spread to their kidneys. This is especially true in cats. Older cats often suffer from kidney failure, which can be caused by an oral infection spreading to kidneys. Valvular heart disease can also be caused by poor dental hygiene. Bacteria from a pet’s mouth can travel to its heart valves, causing them to change shape and become leaky.
Original article by Marybeth Bittel, Tails Magazine
When I was a young music student growing up in Chicago’s western suburbs, my family adopted an Airedale puppy we named Beethoven. I picked Beethoven out at the shelter because all the other puppies rushed forward to greet me, while he hid shyly in the corner. Most trainers agree that’s not necessarily the ideal benchmark for selecting a furry friend, but we got lucky. Beethoven matured into an outgoing, even-tempered, fun, and affectionate family member who sternly guarded our front yard one minute, and romped through our sprinkler the next.
But then came the Fourth of July. Fireworks went off at random intervals around the clock. We discovered that when it came to loud noises and ear-popping explosions, Beethoven was absolutely terrified.
At first we wondered how this could have happened. After all, we’d never left our beloved boy outside while pyrotechnics peppered the sky. He hadn’t been exposed to extreme noises as a puppy. In all likelihood, Beethoven’s fireworks aversion, like so many pet fears and phobias, was just one of those things that took hold when his sensitive hearing encountered a sudden trigger he could neither see nor anticipate.
So we did what numerous pet parents do when their cherished companion is struggling: we cuddled him, coddled him, and cooed comforting words of reassurance. We also sat, feeling helpless, watching him cower and hide as the problem held steady each year. In fact, through all the years of Beethoven’s life, he never overcame this disabling sense of distress, no matter how soothing or supportive we attempted to make his surrounding environment.
When my husband and I began working with abused rescue dogs, we noticed that most arrived with an array of deep-rooted anxieties acquired over time. One Bichon was terrified of rotary fans. A Shih Tzu mix became a jittery mess during thunderstorms. A sweet and docile Foxhound routinely hid from houseplants. These fears ran the gamut, but they had one thing in common: They were exceedingly real to the dog, and they had a great impacts on the entire family.
We began working with local animal behaviorists, and that’s when we learned an invaluable truth: The way we, as caregivers, react to our pet’s anxieties can actually perpetuate the patterns.
Why would this be? As Abe Mashal, owner of Marine Corps Dog Training in St. Charles, explains, “Dogs form extremely solid bonds with their humans. That means most canines are highly attuned to any type of interaction with their human ‘pack’ members.” So when something a dog is doing earns our attention—whether that attention takes the form of praise, pampering, or peevish irritation— the behavior is often unintentionally reinforced.
“Reinforcement,” a common term in the world of animal behavioral training, is really just another word for strengthening. In reality, a reinforcer can be anything that strengthens a behavior.
So for those of you thinking, “I never reinforce my dog’s non-stop barking! I scold her on the spot,” see if these examples sound familiar:
“Every interaction with your dog has the potential to teach and reinforce, merely because you’re paying attention,” explains Sara Swan, owner of Narnia Pet Behavior & Training in Plainfield. How can you tell if this is happening? Simply observe over time. Dogs continue to engage in behaviors that provide some sort of payoff. If you’re dealing with a fear or anxiety response that’s ongoing—such as Beethoven’s abhorrence of fireworks—some kind of inducement is likely contributing to the pattern. In Beethoven’s case, his reactions earned him almost round-the-clock nurturing.
Fortunately, we as dog parents can leverage these same dynamics when it comes to re-programming undesirable behaviors. Let’s say your 80-pound “lap dog” excitedly jumps on you whenever you come home from work. When you withhold the coveted attention—immediately going back out the door, or turning your back on him—many pups gradually begin to seek out a different behavior.
The same thing can work with a fear response. If your pet is terrified of your Swiffer mop, for example, try propping it against the family room couch and just leaving it there. Then, simply act like it’s no big deal and go about your daily routine, even if your pup exhibits an unsettled reaction. Very gradually, over time, as your furry friend begins to approach the mop with quiet but tentative curiosity, reward that calm behavior with brief praise or a small treat. Keep it up, and eventually your dog can learn that “mop = calm = good.”
Helping your dog manage his stress is one of the keys to having a happy and healthy pet. If your animal companion has specific challenges beyond what you’re comfortable handling, always reach out to a certified animal behaviorist who can help you develop targeted interventional techniques that will work on your pet’s unique needs. It will not only help with unwanted behaviors, but strengthen your bond, as well.
Safe, Drug Free Ways To Soothe Your Pet’s Stress
The Thundershirt. The ThunderShirt leverages the age-old principle of swaddling an infant to promote calming reassurance. Simply fasten this snug, stretchy shirt around your pet’s ribcage. During anxious episodes of panting or hyperventilation, it provides ongoing sensory feedback that suppresses this common panic response. ( Thundershirt.com )
Music or ASMR. As a musician, I can attest firsthand that deep, resonant tones often work wonders on a nervous pup. You can also try leveraging something called ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response), which is promoted by many hypnotists and human sleep therapists. ASMR is a subjective, perceptual phenomenon characterized by a distinct calming or scalp- tingling sensation in response to quiet, seemingly mundane sound triggers. Certain pets appear especially receptive, and may even be lulled to sleep. To gauge effectiveness, try playing low, calming music or ASMR audio with your dog in the room. Use a meditation CD, or visit YouTube to access ASMR recordings by reputable “ASMRtists” such as The Waterwhispers.
Calming Sprays. Help create a relaxing environment for your pet by using a calming spray on their bedding or by plugging in a calming spray diffuser. Many cats and dogs experience reduced anxiety and stress after being exposed to these non- sedating sprays, which use soothing scents such as lemongrass, cinnamon, and lavender to encourage relaxation.