Monday, October 15, 2018

Do Chihuahuas Like Kids? Absolutely...IF! Tips for Socializing Your Chihuahua with Children.

One of the most common questions that I hear from people interested in Chihuahuas as a breed is "Are they good with kids?" 

My answer is most definitely yes....IF!  That "if" represents a few things.  First of all, your Chihuahua must be properly socialized.  This begins with the breeder, but does not stop after you bring your puppy home.  In fact, socialization is an ongoing process throughout most of your dog's life.  This includes the all-important aspect of socializing your puppy with children.  If you take your puppy home and he never sees a child, it is likely that your Chihuahua may grow to dislike children.  Our suggestion to continued socialization of your dog....take him with you every where you possibly can. Take him on outings in the park where there will be children around. 

While it is important to introduce your puppy to children, if your puppy is unsure about children, there is a word of caution associated with the process in order to prevent bad experiences for both your puppy and the children involved.  Be careful about how you allow children to approach your Chihuahua (hopefully the child's parents will be keeping an eye on their child too.)  If your dog seems afraid of the child, do not pick your dog up and cuddle him...this will reinforce his idea that there is something to be afraid of.  Instead, talk to the child in a calming voice (this will calm both the child and your Chihuahua) and be friendly with the child.  This will give your dog the idea that the child is ok. If possible, have the child sit down on the ground near your puppy to make the child appear smaller to the puppy and to reduce unanticipated movements that could startle your puppy.  

Don't allow the child to approach  your dog though until your dog takes an interest in the child, usually by sniffing in the child's direction or possibly moving in the child's direction a little bit. Once your dog has taken an interest, allow the child to reach for or approach the puppy gently while you continue to talk to the child in a friendly tone, but do not allow him to touch your Chihuahua until he is comfortable with the child's proximity.  

Once the dog seems comfortable with the child being near, allow the child to offer your Chihuahua his hand to sniff.  Always allow your puppy to sniff first, before ever trying to touch! If your dog is alright with that, allow the child to put his hand on your Chihuahua's head, and once your dog demonstrates that he is alright with that, the child should be able to pet your Chihuahua after that with no problems. 

If you're concerned about your Chihuahua biting the child, you will definitely want to have the basic obedience commands in place (such as sit, stay, no, down, and so forth) before you attempt this, as it will give you much more control over what your dog will do.   

If you have children in your home, it's important to understand that it's just as necessary to train the child how to behave around the Chihuahua as it is to train the Chihuahua how to behave around the child.  If you allow your child to abuse your Chihuahua by pulling ears or tail, using the Chihuahua as a pillow (although some Chi's love this...some don't), or worse, using the Chihuahua as a football, you should hardly be surprised if your Chihuahua comes to hate your child. Chihuahuas will protect themselves if they feel the need too.  Teach your child to be calm when the Chihuahua is around.  Teach him how to handle your Chihuahua properly and you shouldn't have any problems with your Chihuahua and your child getting along.  Chihuahuas often attach very strongly to children and act as their protectors. 

So, in short, yes, Chihuahuas can be wonderful with children if they are properly trained and socialized.  Most Chihuahuas love children very much, and children love Chihuahuas.  Start off on the right foot with your child and your Chihuahua and before you know it, they'll have a bond that may make even you a little envious!

Monday, October 8, 2018

To Clothe or Not to Clothe? That is the question. Can my Chihuahua wear those adorable doggies dresses I see in the store?

"Can I put clothes on my Chihuahua?" 
The answer to the question varies as much as Chihuahuas themselves do.  Chihuahuas, as with most other dogs, really don't need to wear clothes most of the time.  There are some breeds, such as the hairless Chinese Crested, that do well with clothing due to lack of their own "clothing".  And, many Chihuahuas do well with clothing too, especially in particularly cold times or places, as Chihuahuas are very much "warm weather" dogs.  They really don't care for the cold, and so many welcome a warming sweater or jacket when the temps plummet.  

But then, there are some that.....well, let's just say...don't so much welcome it.  There are a variety of ways that your Chi may tell you that he does not, indeed, like the extra layers that you have added to his body.  He may run around the house like a mad dog, bumping into walls and furniture, screeching and howling the entire way, until either you catch him, or he finally manages to get most of the offensive material off and dragging behind him. 

Or, he may stand stone still, too afraid or too uncomfortable to move, glaring at you or looking unbelievably pitiful,and stay that way until you pity him enough to take the horrible mess off of him.  And then, there are those that will calmly, rationally, RIP the offensive garment off of themselves and hide it under a cushion or bed to ensure, at least in their minds, that you will never find it again, and therefore, certainly could not ever attempt to cover them with it again. 

Remember though, while these antics of the tortured Chihuahua may be amusing, your Chi is trying to tell you something.  I think that if he could actually tell you what he's thinking, it may sound something like this "Please, beloved human, do not put an extra cover on me again, because I do not need it and I do not like it.  If you insist on covering my beautiful fur with those horrid garments again, I will be forced to hate you forever." 

Seriously though, whether or not you can dress your Chihuahua depends entirely upon the Chihuahua.  If your Chi needs clothing for any reason, because he is cold or anything else, he will gladly and happily wear the clothing that you put on him as long as it does not hurt or bother him with rubbing, choking or constricting his movement. If he is not wearing the clothing....if he insists that it must come off....please take it off.  Don't assume that he'll get used to it.  Some may get used to it, though they will likely never enjoy wearing it, but many never get used to it and it's not only a bother to them, but an expense to you to keep replacing what they destroy trying to get it off.  In addition, unhappy dogs can hurt themselves trying to get out of the offending clothing, and that is definitely not going to make you happy either. 

*A side note....please be careful what clothing you choose to put on your Chihuahua.  You'll want to be sure that you do not put too much pressure on the neck and trachea.  Also, you won't want to constrict the movement of his legs, and I think it's also a good idea not to put anything on him that will bend his ears down, as this can damage the cartiledge and his ability to stand his ears up as they should be. Basically, the clothing that you choose should allow your Chi to move and act the way he normally does or it is not appropriate for him.*  

Monday, October 1, 2018

Finding Fido: Tips for Effective Pet Identification.

It's a dog lover's worst nightmare.  Your pet gets out of your yard and the next thing you know, he's missing...completely and totally gone.  You search and search the area, put up posters and call animal control to see if he's been picked up, but nothing pans out and your dog is still missing. 
Nobody likes the above situation, so hopefully this entry will help you avoid it.  There are a few good options for pet identification that will help to get your pet back home should he/she come up missing.  All vets, animal control agencies and rescue groups recommend some form of pet identification, but it's hard to know what is the most effective means of identifying your pet.  Below are three possible options for you.

The basic ID tag- these metal or plastic tags hang from the collar and are engraved with the owner's information.  These are very cost effective, usually costing less than $10 each, and they can be the fastest and most effective way of having your pet returned home.  However, these tags do have a down side.  If your pet is lost, he may find himself in unusual sutiations, such as squeezing under fences or through brush.  It is not uncommon for a dog to be found without the collar and tag that his owner said he was wearing when he went missing.  Collars can come off...and tags can come off of collars.  So while this may be the easiest method of pet ID to use and to change if your information changes, it's not always the most reliable. 

Tattoos- This method of pet ID involves actually making your owner information part of the pet by tattooing it directly onto his skin.  Normally, you would simply tattoo your phone number onto an area of your dog's skin which is the least fur covered.  This is a relatively good method of helping you find your dog, as long as he eventually ends up in a vet's office, animal control shelter or rescue.  But the average citizen may not think to look for a tattoo.  Another down side to this method is..what happens if your phone number changes?  You really have no option but to remove or change the tatoo, which is not only uncomfortable for your dog, but can be costly for you as well.  Finally, another down side to this method is that tattooing is not particularly comfortable during and immediately after the procedure.  Many vets can do the tattoos or can refer you to someone who can, but tattooing is done on dogs under anesthesia and then must heal afterwards. So, while this form of ID may be the most permanent, that may not be a good thing. 

Microchipping- This method of pet ID involves injecting a tiny microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) underneath your dog's skin in the same manner used in giving a vaccine.  The skin forms a small pocket around the microchip to keep it in place.  This chip emmits a signal that can be read by special readers which most vet's offices and animal rescues have.  The reading reveals a registration number.  The chips are registered with the company who makes them and the registration numbers emmited by the chips are linked to your contact information so the company helps to find you and reunite you and your pet.  Microchips are permanent, though they can move around after implantation.  It is relatively easy to change your contact information.  Simply contact the company and update your info.  So, microchips are a pretty good form of ID for your pet. 
There are some down sides to these chips though.  There are a few companies that make them and they make them so that their readers are the only ones that can read their chips, so a reader from one company cannot read chips from another company.  They do make universal readers now, but they are pricey.  The best vet's offices, animal shelters and rescues have access to all the readers or have universal readers so that no matter what chip your dog may have implanted, they'll be able to read it.  Next, reading the chip is done by scanning the dog's body with the reader to see if there is any signal coming from a chip anywhere.  Most chips to provide tags that can be affixed to your dog's collar indicating that a microchip is in place, but without that tag, anyone who finds your lost dog must actually take him/her somewhere to be scanned for a chip, and sometimes, people may not think to do that.  Also, your pet must eventually end up in the hands of a vet, animal control shelter or rescue because the average peson does not have, not ever will have, a reader.  Readers are expensive and not practical for the average person, even the average pet owner, to purchase. Finally, if your dog has beens stolen (it is happening more and more with purebred dogs, unfortunately), even a microchip will not help find him.  They are not GPS locators.  They are simply chips that provide information if scanned.  
For more information on one brand of microchips, click the link below.

All of these methods of pet ID have advantages and disadvantages.  One may be a better choice for you than for someone else.  Small town pets can often do just fine with an ID tag, while larger city pets may do better with the microchip. These methods can also be combined, if you feel the need to be safe about it.  No matter which method you choose, the bottom line is that you increase your chances of finding your lost pet if you use at least one of these methods of pet ID.  

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cuddly Chihuahua or Cujo? You Decide! The Importance of Socializing Your Chihuahua.

Socialization....this is the issue that determines whether you have a well behaved, friendly, sweet, cuddly little companion, or an unruly, difficult to manage, timid or downright mean animal.  Yes, training is an enormous part of it too, but in the end, it can be difficult to train a dog that has not been socialized well.

Many people have the wrong idea about what socialization is.  It does, indeed, start with the breeder.  In fact, socialization begins the day a puppy is born.  But it doesn't stop when you take your puppy home.  You have to continue your dog's socialization, and I beleive that socialization really is a lifetime process, especially for Chihuahuas.

For our puppies, we begin as soon as they are born and the mother is calmed down.  The first step is to handle the puppies daily.  We want to get them used to the human touch. That is key in producing a puppy that is not timid or afraid.  Our puppies learn the joys of being held, cuddled, kissed and snuggled.  They grow to love us very quickly.

Very soon after they open their eyes, they begin the socialization within the litter.  This is important for them, as it establishes their place in their little pack, which helps personalities develop and allows them to feel safe.  This is a process over which we have little, if any, control.  Usually, when a puppy is the only puppy in the litter, they develop a more dominating personality.  While in litters with multiple pups, we'll begin to see them differentiate between 3-5 weeks of age. Some will develop more dominant personalities than others.

As our puppies get older, we allow them to interact with other puppies of similar age.  This affords them the opportunity for a few important things.  The first is finding their place within a larger pack.  The second is that it helps them to develop the idea of bonding with other animals outside of their litter.  This is important to prevent fear of other dogs.  And finally, when it comes to puppy play, as far as these guys are concerned, the more the merrier.  They love to play in larger groups.  They also get the chance to interact somewhat with our adult dogs, which helps them to be less timid with older animals that may be present in the homes they will go to.

During all of this, we are still handling our puppies, playing with them and loving on them daily...because it's great for them and for us!  There's nothing more calming than cuddling with a little bitty Chi baby!

But, alas, it will be time for our babies to go home.  Many owners make the mistake of thinking that we have socialized the pups so that job is over, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  If you take a puppy home and he never sees other people or dogs, he will become timid because strangers will always be just that...strangers.  Socialization must continue.  As I mentioned earlier, I feel that it continues for the dog's entire life, but may dog behaviorists agree that the crucial time for socialization for puppies of any breed is between 8 and 16 weeks.  Without extra effort during that critical time frame, even an older dog that was socialized well in the beginning may become more timid if his interaction with other people and animals stops for a long period of time.

Allow visitors to your house to play with your puppy.  Invite them to bring their dogs over.  Take your puppy to the park, or even better, to a dog park (after his puppy shot series is complete), where he can see and interact with other dogs of all breeds and other people as well.  If you go to PetSmart, take your puppy with you (don't put him down on the floor though..too many ill animals go through there.  Keep your dog in your arms or in a cart with a towel or blanket under him to prevent his contracting some disease...especially if he hasn't finished his series of puppy shots.)  If you go visit your in-laws, take your puppy.  Many employers are allowing folks to bring their dogs to work.  If you can take your puppy to work, take him! Ok, I think you get the idea.  Take your puppy with you everywhere he can possibly go.  Allow strangers to approach him, but be cautious until you know how he will react to them.  Allow children to pet your dog, but do be careful that the children are gentle with him.  Expose him to as many people and other animals as you can. 

Socialization indeed does begin with the breeder, but please know, it does not, by any means, stop there!  Visit our webpage that provides more details about socialization, including links with quick tips to help begin the socialization process.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Don't Forget, Chihuahuas Are Still Dogs!

I know how easy it is to spoil your tiny bundle of Chihuahua happiness.  I've had to fight the temptation myself.  But you must remember that a Chihuahua is a dog, not a baby, and in the end, you're the one who will be sorry if you don't treat your Chihuahua like a dog.

Treating your Chihuahua like a dog may not always be easy.  These little guys have the biggest most heart melting eyes I personally have ever seen.  And Chihuahuas are very smart.  They learn very quickly how to get what they want and I've seen too many Chihuahuas take over control of entire households in a matter of a week or two.  Believe it or not, Chihuahuas are very adept at training their happens every day.  So, we've got some tips for you to help you start out on the right foot with your Chihuahua, and a few tips to help you reverse some of the "human training" that may already have occurred between you and your Chihuahua. 

The key to keeping control of your dog is to remember that Chihuahuas, like all other dogs, are pack animals and they need a pack leader.  When there is no clear pack leader, they try to take over the position out of necessity, whether their personality is suited for it or not.  So, remember, YOU are the pack leader and you must establish that with your Chihuahua.

For starters...and this may be the most important... Training!!!  Teaching basic obedience commands is absolutely essential because it allows you to establish your dominance over your Chihuahua, which is necessary to establish your role as pack leader.  Your Chihuahua must learn that all the good in his life comes from you, but at the same time, he also must learn that the good depends upon his behavior.       

Next...don't feed your dog like a child.  Do not feed him human food!  This is not only bad for his training but also for his health.  But even more than that, don't feed your Chihuahua when you eat.  Don't sit with your plate and give your dog pieces of food from  your own plate, especially if he's begging.  Do not give in.  Giving in establishes your Chihuahua's control over you.  Your feeding technique should center around you as the "alpha" of the household allowing your Chihuahua to eat.  Teach your Chihuahua a few basic obedience commands (such as sit and stay) and require that your dog obeys the commands while you are holding his food bowl.  He doesn't get his food until he has properly obeyed the commands.  This requires him to be calm and under control as you are preparing his food and it also reinforces the fact that you are the provider of food and just as an alpha dog would do in a pack, you only provide food for the pack members who display appropriate behavior.
You cannot tolerate your Chihuahua begging for food while you are eating.  The basic obedience commands of "sit" and "quiet" should handle the begging. 

Another important part of maintaining control over your Chihuahua is allowing him to walk.  Don't carry your dog everywhere.  He has 4 perfectly capable legs, let him use them.  Leash train your Chihuahua and require him to walk properly on the leash.  It's the leash that allows you to control your dog when he's walking.  But if you're trying to maintain control by carrying him everywhere so he can't get into anything, that's not control.  Your Chihuahua must learn to ignore outside influences and maintain attention on you, while on leash.  Once this is mastered,  you will have complete control over your Chihuahua, even when he's walking on his own. 
For more information on leash training, click the link below and find the leash training link:

Leash training and basic obedience training will help to reverse some of the "human control" your Chihuahua may have established over you.  For feeding problems, you'll need to get your dog back onto dog food.  To do this, the first thing you have to do is stop feeding him human food.  Just stop cold turkey, so to speak, and don't feed him another bite of human food. Then find a canned or pouch food that your dog cannot resist and mix a little bit with the dry food that you feed until he's eating his regular food again, then you can gradually wean him off of the canned food.  Your Chihuahua will not starve himself.  He will eat. It may be slow at first, but when he's hungry, he'll eat, so don't give in on the human food just because your dog isn't wanting to eat his food very well.  If he's not eating well, offer his food several times daily so that he has ample opportunity to eat. 

The above ideas should be all you need to maintain the control of your household.  If you have a more difficult case with your Chihuahua, you may consider consulting a trainer for more aggressive and complex training ideas.