What made you decide to get a Chihuahua?
My husband decided he was getting a chihuahua. The dog would be for him and no one else. Since I worked as a dog groomer at the time and had seen my fair share of leg sharks, I was fine not having anything to do with “his” dog.
That lasted about a day. (I know, I was strong.) I fell madly in love with his chihuahua, took him to agility class, did all his grooming, and eventually painted his nails. My husband bought me a girl chihuahua so I would leave his dog alone.
What is Leia’s basic upkeep like, as far as grooming, food, etc.?
Leia is a short haired chihuahua, and therefore needs very little in the way of brushing and bathing. I brush her daily when she is shedding, which is twice a year for about a week each. I use a curry comb to vigorously scrub all the loose hair off, and then something called a “SleekEZ” to remove the rest.
I very rarely bathe her, probably only 2-3 times a year, but I do her nails with a nail grinder as far back as they’ll go once a week. Her nails grow very fast and that’s important to me. I also brush her teeth daily, and feed a fairly expensive brand of prefab raw dog food. Since I do the grooming myself it’s free, but it would cost me $60 a month if it wasn’t. I spend $300-$500 in medical on her every year, and her food costs me about $30 a month. (She is 5 pounds, so I can feed what I want and not get hurt by the price.)
How did you decide on a breeder?
My husband found a picture of her on craig’s list and took me to go see her, no warning. Leia was returned to the breeder for ‘behavioral issues.’
Is there something you would do differently now that you’ve had experience with your dog?
My next dog will be from a breeder that health tests. While Leia doesn’t have any health issues, my husband’s dog suffers from slipping patellas. Ideally, an already potty trained adult dog with genetic health testing done on its parents will magically become available. I don’t love the puppy stage no matter how cute they are!
What would you recommend a person interested in the breed know about the breed?
These dogs are big dogs in small bodies. If you love the big dog attitude, but want that attitude in travel size, these dogs are perfect. That being said, they aren’t really lap dogs. They need to be walked, they need to be trained, and they need strong leadership.
What sort of person is NOT right for the breed?
These dogs are not good for
loud, boisterous children, parents who think its cute to let their
kids pull its tail, poke its eyes, or belly flop onto it, and anyone
who has difficulty saying “no.” Chihuahuas are good at wrapping
you around their little finger, and they need someone who will make
them go potty outside anyway. Yes, even if it is raining. If you just
want a cute dog to mother and treat like a baby, this is not the
right breed for you.
What kind of person would be great for the breed
Weekend warriors who want to take their dog hiking, to an agility lesson, or to the park 2-3 times a week, but don’t want to spend the rest of their lives exercising their dog either. These dogs are not as energetic as Jack Russels or Border Collies, but they have a lot more energy than bulldogs and greyhounds.
This dog is best without small children, and older children need to be dog savvy in order to do well with a chihuahua.
What sort of medical problems is Leia prone to, and how do you look out for them?
Chihuahuas are prone to slipping patellas (knee problems) eye problems, heart problems, and dental issues. Except for the dental issues, all of these can be genetically tested for. I would highly recommend only purchasing from a breeder that has done health testing, even if you have to be put on a waiting list for that puppy.
If you choose to rescue, it’s worth a few bucks to have a vet check for knee, eye, heart, and dental problems so that any issues can be addressed right away.
Regardless of whether you rescue or purchase, I highly recommend brushing their teeth daily to avoid costly and painful dental problems down the road.
What is Leia like as a dog?
Leia has a fiery personality that lights up the room when she comes into it. She swaggers when she walks, and needs to know why she should do something before she does it. While this made potty training and recall a struggle initially, I can’t say enough about how responsive she is when she does understand why.
Although she weighs in at just under 5 pounds, Leia has done sheep herding, duck herding, barn hunts, agility, and scent work in our many exploits. She’s also my #1 hiking buddy, and has given a helping paw to science at the University of Puget Sound.
Leia is a very fast learner when she is engaged, and can learn a new trick in as little as 5 minutes.
What are some problems in raising a Chihuahua?
Nearly all of the behavioral issues that are common issues in chihuahuas boil down to lack of boundaries, and not enough exercise. Chihuahuas don’t need to run for miles and miles like huskies do to be happy, but they do need to be walked daily, and more boisterous activities such as agility or hiking on the weekends can help prevent destructive activities during the rest of the week.
Boundaries are also critical to a well behaved chihuahua. They need to know what the house rules are, and that deviating from them isn’t in their best interest. This doesn’t mean physical correction (you’ll crush them physically and emotionally) but rather making them understand why these behaviors aren’t okay.
Basically it’s like raising kids.
What is the breed like at its best? At its worst?
At it’s best, chihuahuas are a can-do breed who will do what ever you ask them to do. Chihuahuas have successfully entered and won in weight pulling competitions, agility, scent work, barn hunts, herding, obedience, competitive dance, rally-o and of course, conformation. They’re glad to work hard during the day, but still cuddle up to you at night. These highly intelligent dogs can learn house rules quickly and easily, and will capture your heart with a bold personality at odds with the tiny packaging.
At it’s worst, they are a
biting, fearful dog that will use it’s intelligence to walk all over
you. They will do what ever they want—use your floor as a toilet,
yap at anything and everything, refuse to let strangers come in their
house, and keep you in line with their teeth.
If you’ve been thinking about buying a Chihuahua, we hope that gave you a good idea of what they are like. If you don’t think a Chi is right for you, why not check out one of our other breed profiles: