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.