What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Chihuahua Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
Chihuahuas are comical, entertaining, and loyal little dogs, absolutely brimming with personality – often a quirky and eccentric personality unmatched by any other breed.
Other than that generalization, Chihuahuas are extremely variable. You can find individuals who are lively or placid. Bold or timid. Feisty or mellow. Confident or nervous. Stubborn or eager to please.
How a Chihuahua turns out depends mightily on the genetic temperament of his parents and grandparents. In other words, entire lines of Chihuahuas are social or antisocial, and if you bring home an individual who has inherited genes for a bad temperament....well, let's just say it's not a wise thing to do. Socialization and training often can't overcome bad genes in a Chihuahua.
But socialization and training are still extremely important! In fact, as long as your Chihuahua has inherited genes for a normal temperament, how you raise him will determine how he turns out.
Chihuahuas do not have a particularly good reputation among the general public. Ask a few people, "Do you think Chihuahuas are nice little dogs?" and see how many of them exclaim, "No! They're nasty little things who bite!"
I have to say that this reputation has some basis in truth. As I explained, Chihuahuas often inherit genes for a bad temperament.....because so many people breed Chihuahuas whose temperaments are bad. In addition, many people treat their Chihuahua like a stuffed toy or doll, or as a substitute for a human infant. They tote the Chihuahua everywhere in their arms, don't teach any commands, laugh at signs of aggression, make excuses for bad behavior, and soothe and coo over the dog constantly.
It's no wonder so many Chihuahuas are neurotic! They're made that way by their owners. All dogs, whatever their size, must be taught how to walk on their own four feet, how to do what they're told, and how to get along peacefully with the world.
Now, "getting along peacefully" doesn't always mean that a Chihuahua LIKES everyone. On the contrary, many Chihuahuas are naturally suspicious toward strangers. But they can be suspicious without letting everyone within earshot know it, or without progressing to threats. It's up to YOU to draw and enforce the line.
Similarly, while most Chihuahuas get along great with other pets in their own family, they tend to raise a ruckus when they spy a strange dog. Again, YOU have to put a stop to this from day one or it will get out of hand.
Fortunately, there also exist Chihuahuas who are standoffish, but who will eventually approach people in their own good time, especially if the person isn't pushy or insistent. And some Chihuahuas are very friendly right from the get-go and will go to anyone.
Chihuahuas do seem to recognize and prefer their own breed, so it's a great idea to keep two of them. They keep each other company when you're gone, they play together, clean each other's ears (Chihuahuas can be obsessive ear-lickers!), and keep each other warm by snuggling together.
Chihuahuas adore warmth, oh, yes! They will seek out the tiniest sunspot in which to bask, and they tunnel under blankets and towels. You have to be careful whenever you sit down on your sofa or bed, as there could be a Chihuahua tucked under there!
The most difficult thing to teach a Chihuahua? Housebreaking. Chihuahuas can be VERY difficult to housebreak – one of the most difficult of all breeds – especially in cold or wet weather. Consider an indoor litter box, or a doggy door that leads out to a covered potty area.
If you want a dog who...
- Is small and easy to carry
- Comes in a variety of sizes, coats, and colors
- Is oh-so-funny and entertaining in quirky ways (hard to describe – you gotta be there!)
- Is very loyal
- Is a great traveler
- Doesn't need much exercise
- LOVES warmth
- Lives a long time
A Chihuahua may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- The fragility of toy breeds (see below)
- The fine line you need to walk with toy breeds, where you need to protect their safety, yet require them to stand on their own four feet and be well-behaved
- Notorious housebreaking difficulties
- Suspiciousness, shrillness, and highstrung temperaments in some lines, or when babied or spoiled or not socialized enough or made to behave
A Chihuahua may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of Chihuahuas
If I was considering a Chihuahua, I would be most concerned about...
- Fragility. Too many people acquire a toy breed puppy without understanding how incredibly fragile a toy breed is. You can seriously injure or kill a Chihuahua by stepping on him or by sitting on him when he's curled under a blanket or pillow, where he frequently likes to sleep. And Chihuahuas can seriously injure or kill THEMSELVES by leaping from your arms or off the back of your sofa. A larger dog can grab a Chihuahua and break his neck with one quick shake. Owning a toy breed means constant supervision and surveillance of what's going on around your tiny dog. Chihuahuas must always be kept on-leash -- they are just too easy to injure when not under your complete control.
Chihuahuas are NOT suited to young children, no matter how well-meaning the child. Children cannot help being clumsy, and that a child meant well is little solace to a Chihuahua who has been accidentally stepped on, sat on, rolled on, squeezed, or dropped onto the patio. Most Chihuahuas feel overwhelmed by the loud voices and quick movements that children can't help making -- and stress and fearfulness (even defensive biting) may be the result.
- Housebreaking issues. As a behavioral consultant, I would put the Chihuahua on my Top 5 List of "Hard to Housebreak." If you live in a cold or rainy climate, housebreaking will be especially difficult, because Chihuahuas hate both the cold and the rain. A COVERED potty area is strongly recommended. Sometimes a doggy door is necessary so your Chihuahua can run outside the moment he feels the urge in his tiny bladder. Read more on housebreaking your Chihuahua.
- Socializing your Chihuahua not to threaten strangers. Suspicious by nature, Chihuahuas need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural suspicion can become shrillness or downright nastiness. Many Chihuahuas will put on a display of excited ferociousness (aka "they pitch a fit"!) when other people or animals approach what they consider to be "theirs." Which, for some Chihuahuas, extends to the entire street. It sounds funny, but it's not, because if you don't curtail it, your Chihuahua may end up suspicious of everyone in the world, which is a short step to biting them when they unwittingly instrude on "his space."Read more about attitude toward strangers and other dogs.
- Barking. Chihuahuas are often too quick to sound the alarm at every new sight and sound. You have to be equally quick to stop them. If that training is to be successful, your Chihuahua needs to respect you so that he stops barking when you tell him to.
A Chihuahua who respects you will do what you say and will stop what he's doing when you tell him "No."
My book Teach Your Dog 100 English Words, gives you a unique vocabulary to use with your dog AND teaches my Respect Training Program. Your dog will look at you when you speak and do what you say. Not just when he's hungry for a treat or feels like it. But all the time. Because he respects you.
- Shedding. Chihuahua shed! Because they're so small, their shedding is not usually a big issue for people, but I did want to make you aware that Chihuahuas shed! since many potential owners have been misinformed that Chihuahuas are "hypoallergenic" or "light shedding." This is not true at all. If you come to my house on any day of the week, you will leave with dark gray hairs on your clothes....dark gray hairs that belong to my Chihuahua, Mouse. Once again, Chihuahuas shed!
Now, how MUCH they shed depends on what kind of coat they have.
Chihuahuas, you see, come in four coats:
- Short coat, double. This is a short outer coat, plus a woolly undercoat for insulation. Because of the two layers, this coat sheds more than
- Short coat, single. With no undercoat, this coat looks and feels sleek and sheds less than a double coat.
- Long coat, double. Long outer coat, plus wooly undercoat. This coat needs the most brushing and combing, takes more blow-drying after a bath, and sheds a good deal. Some of these dogs are so bushy they resemble Pomeranians.
- Long coat, single. This "long" coat is typically shortish on the body, with feathering restricted to the ears, backs of the legs, stomach, hindquarters, and tail. A single longcoat is much easier to groom than a double longcoat, and sheds less than a double coat of either length.
- Finding a healthy one and keeping him healthy. Chihuahuas are more prone to injury resulting from their tiny size, rather than to illness or disease. But they ARE very prone to loose knee joints (which can require expensive surgery) and to dental disease (their mouth is too small to provide firm footing for healthy teeth). Other health issues in Chihuahuas include corneal ulcers, collapsing trachea, and liver shunt. To avoid these problems, you need to buy your Chihuahua from a person who can pass the "14 Family Companion Guidelines" in my book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams. If they're not following these guidelines, it's a big risk to buy a puppy from them.
Once you have your puppy home, you need to keep him healthy by following the 11-Step Health Care Program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.
If you want your dog to live a long, healthy life and seldom need to visit the vet, this is the book for you. How to prepare healthy meals, getting only the right vaccinations (not the ones that are either useless or risky), preventing fleas, ticks, and heartworm safely, getting dangerous (to dogs) products out of your home, healing or improving current health issues, and much more. This is my best book, and bargain priced, too!
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