Chihuahuas For Dummies book cover

Chihuahuas For Dummies

Author:
Jacqueline O'Neil
Published: December 5, 2007

Overview

Are you crazy about Chihuahuas? Chihuahuas For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is fully updated to show you how to find the one you’ll love most and make him or her part of your family. This one-stop guide gives you all the information you need to raise and care for your plucky little pooch.

You’ll find expert advice on everything from feeding and healthcare to housebreaking, grooming, training, and more. Plus, you’ll learn the ins and outs of selecting the right vet, handling emergencies, and even entering your little darling in a dog show. You’ll find out about the ups and downs of living with a pet, get familiar with the Chihuahua’s classic physical characteristics, and find help in deciding whether you’d prefer a dog with a long coat or a smooth coat. Discover how to:

  • Choose your ideal Chihuahua
  • Prepare your home for your new arrival
  • Manage your puppy’s nutrition and health
  • Prevent common behavior problems
  • Teach your Chihuahua fun tricks
  • Build a strong and loving bond with your pet
  • Train children to get along with your Chihuahua
  • Choose Chihuahua toys and accessories
  • Select a crate and bedding
  • Introduce your little dog to other pets
  • Teach your little dynamo manners and good behavior

You know that bringing a Chihuahua into your home will be a happy and joyful experience. Chihuahuas For Dummies, 2nd Edition, makes it easy, too!

Are you crazy about Chihuahuas? Chihuahuas For Dummies, 2nd Edition, is fully updated to show you how to find the one you’ll love most and make him or her part of your family. This one-stop guide gives you all the information you need to raise and care for your plucky little pooch.

You’ll find expert advice on everything from feeding and healthcare to housebreaking, grooming, training, and more. Plus, you’ll learn the ins and outs of selecting the right vet, handling emergencies, and even entering your little darling in a dog show. You’ll find out about the ups and downs of living with a pet, get familiar with the Chihuahua’s classic physical characteristics, and find help in deciding whether you’d prefer

a dog with a long coat or a smooth coat. Discover how to:

  • Choose your ideal Chihuahua
  • Prepare your home for your new arrival
  • Manage your puppy’s nutrition and health
  • Prevent common behavior problems
  • Teach your Chihuahua fun tricks
  • Build a strong and loving bond with your pet
  • Train children to get along with your Chihuahua
  • Choose Chihuahua toys and accessories
  • Select a crate and bedding
  • Introduce your little dog to other pets
  • Teach your little dynamo manners and good behavior

You know that bringing a Chihuahua into your home will be a happy and joyful experience. Chihuahuas For Dummies, 2nd Edition, makes it easy, too!

Chihuahuas For Dummies Cheat Sheet

As endearing and expressive as Chihuahuas are, it’s no wonder they’re a popular toy dog breed. If you’re in the market for a Chihuahua puppy, you need to know how to identify a healthy, happy animal — and then know what items to stock up on at the pet store. Going to the veterinarian is something you and your pup will do regularly, so tips on finding a good vet and how to prepare for your dog’s first visit count as valuable info. [caption id="attachment_291630" align="alignnone" width="630"] Photo by Alicia Gauthier on Unsplash[/caption]

Articles From The Book

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Chihuahuas Articles

Looking for the Picture-Perfect Chihuahua

The Chihuahua is a graceful, alert, swift-moving, compact little dog with a saucy expression and terrier-like qualities of temperament. Manchita (the name of the perfect Chihuahua described throughout this article) is compact, feels solid in your hands, and appears well proportioned — not long of body or lanky or too tall. She has terrier-like qualities; she's confident, animated, spirited, curious, and interested in everything happening around her.

Size, proportion, substance

Manchita is a well balanced little dog, weighing not more than 6 pounds (to qualify for the show ring). Her body is off-square, to quote the official standard. So, she's slightly longer when measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks than she is tall at the withers, or the top of her shoulders. Somewhat shorter bodies (length) are preferred in males. Manchita's height is the distance from the highest point of her withers to the floor, while her length is the distance from the point of her shoulder to the point of her buttock. (See Figure 1 to see all the technical terms applied to the dog.)
Figure 1: Parts of the Chihuahua. In general, many breeds are considered square, meaning that their height is the same as their length. But the Chihuahua is supposed to be just a little longer than it is tall. The reason a little more length is desired in females than it is in males is because females need the extra space to carry puppies.

A Chihuahua needs a balanced appearance. That means every part of its body must be in proportion with its other parts. If its legs appear too long for its body or its head appears too small for its neck, the Chihuahua looks like it's made from spare parts.

Head

To meet the standard, the shape of Manchita's head looks sort of like an apple — rounded but not completely round. If she has a molera, you'll feel a slight indentation, like the soft spot on a baby's skull, when you gently stroke the top of her head. Her eyes are better if they're large, set well apart, radiant and shiny — not close together, protruding, smallish, or dull. For perfect proportions, the middle of the eyes lines up with the lowest part of the ears.

Ears

If Manchita has ideal ears, they'll be at a 45-degree angle to her head when she's resting, but come to attention, held high, when she's alert. Manchita may also flatten them against her skull when she's moving fast or when something makes her uneasy. Chihuahua ears must be left as nature made them. Cropped ears (surgically shaped or shortened ears) are not permitted on Chihuahuas in the show ring. A Chihuahua with broken ear cartilage, resulting in a droopy or lopsided ear, is grounds for disqualification from showing. How a dog holds its ears (for example, alertly erect or relaxed), is called its ear carriage.

Muzzle (snout)

The standard calls for a muzzle, or snout, that is moderately short, but that doesn't mean shorter is better. A super-short muzzle is incorrect in the Chihuahua. That's because extremely short muzzles can cause breathing problems and crowd the teeth. Ideally, the muzzle should emerge from the skull at a right angle.

Teeth

If Manchita's upper front teeth meet tightly outside her lower front teeth, she has a scissors bite, while if her upper and lower incisors (front teeth) meet flush with each other when her mouth is closed, her bite is level. The scissors bite is the strongest bite and is considered ideal. Also, the teeth wear down faster when the bite is level.

Neck, topline, body

An attractive neck from a side view flows smoothly and gracefully into your Chihuahua's withers (top of her shoulders) without wrinkles or folds. Ideally, her neck is of medium length. A short neck may be the result of improperly placed shoulder blades, which prevent Manchita from moving well. Besides, if her head appears to be attached directly to her shoulders, she'll look unbalanced and front-heavy. On the other hand, an extremely long neck may be a sign that a dog lacks substance (appears weak). It may be accompanied by legs that are too long legs and a lanky body. Look for graceful lines. All the dog's parts should be well balanced in relation to one another. Manchita's topline flows along the top of her back from the withers to the root of her tail (where the tail meets the body). Ideally, it should be level or straight, without a dip in the middle or a downward or upward slope. Manchita's body appears rounded rather than flat along the sides, and she needs a roomy rib cage to house her heart and lungs.

Tail

Chihuahuas have three correct tail positions and one incorrect: sickle up, sickle out, loop, and the sorry-looking tail-tuck (see Figure 2). When a Chihuahua puts its tail between its legs, something is wrong. The dog may be timid, frightened, cold, or sick. A cropped tail or bobtail disqualifies a dog from the show ring.
Figure 2: Three correct tail positions (and one sorry tail tuck).

A dog's conformation is the shape of her body from the top of her head to the tips of her toes and tail. It encompasses balanced body proportions and size, both of which need to be correct for the breed.

Coat and color

Chihuahuas come in two varieties — smooth coat and long coat. If Manchita has a smooth coat, her hair is short and close to her body, and she may or may not have an undercoat, or a protective layer of shorter fur underneath the outer or top coat. A smooth Chihuahua that has an undercoat appears more thickly coated than one that doesn't, and usually has a furrier tail and a ruff of thicker hair around its neck. If Manchita has no undercoat, her hair is sparser. In fact, it may be so thin that she appears nearly bald on parts of her head, ears, chest, and belly. Don't worry. It's not a problem. The thin coat simply means she's a smooth Chihuahua without undercoat. If Manchita, on the other hand, is long coated, she has an undercoat and her outer coat is between an inch and an inch-and-a-half long. Her ears are decorated with longish hair called fringe or feathering, and she has an abundant ruff around her neck, long hair called a plume on her tail, and wispy hair on the back of her legs. She also sports natural pants — long hair on her buttocks. Aside from that, she should look exactly like a smooth Chihuahua, because the two varieties have exactly the same conformation (body structure) underneath their coats. A sparse coat disqualifies only long-coated Chihuahuas from the show ring. Short-coated dogs with thin hair are considered normal, although a thicker coat usually is more attractive. Any color — solid, marked, or splashed, take your pick — and all colors or combinations of colors and markings are acceptable in Chihuahuas, and none are considered better or worse than others. Check here for information about selecting a chihuahua puppy.

Chihuahuas Articles

Interpreting Your Chihuahua's (and Other Dogs') Body Language

Dogs may not talk (except on television commercials), but if you watch your Chihuahua's body language, you soon find out how to read her needs and even predict her next move. Your Chihauhua (Chi for short) communicates through her facial expressions, including her ears, eyes, brows, lips, nose, and mouth. She also talks through her tail, coat (hackles), and body position, and emits a variety of sounds.

To start you off, here are some descriptions of general canine body language:

  • A relaxed dog wags her tail in a methodical, neutral position — not high, tucked under, or stiff. Her mouth may be slightly open, and her ears look relaxed (rather than fully alert). Eyes appear soft, without a trace of threat or tension, and weight is evenly distributed on all four legs.
  • A submissive, shy, or frightened dog makes herself smaller by contracting her body. She tucks her tail, flattens her ears, averts her eyes, and appears to shrink slightly.
  • A dominant or aggressive dog tries to appear larger. She stands absolutely erect, holds her tail either straight out or up, and raises her hackles (fur on top of her back). Her mouth is usually closed and she makes eye contact with her adversary.
  • When a dog greets you with her rear-end up, front end low, a wagging tail, and lively eyes, she's play-bowing. It's dog language for, "Let's play."
  • If your dog flicks her tongue up to lick her nose over and over, she's uneasy about something. Maybe she's checking out your new friend, or concentrating hard to learn a new trick. In a few cases, tongue flicking precedes snapping.
  • Does your dog ever mount another dog, or stand on her hind legs with her paws on another dog's back? Sure she's a she, but in dog-think mounting has more to do with dominance than sex. It's her way of saying, "I'm top dog here, and don't you forget it."

Okay, you take it from here. While the body language above is universal across breeds, a Chihuahua's going to have many unique mannerisms all her own. Enjoy.

Understanding where "the jitters" come from

Some dogs are born nervous because of poor breeding. But most scaredy pups act that way because they weren't socialized at the right time. Let's forget dogs for a minute and think about children:

Imagine how a child (let's call him Harry) reacts on his first day of school if he had been so overprotected by his parents that it was also his first experience away from home. Harry's anxiety increases during the walk or drive to school. Traffic sounds other children take for granted startle him, and the sight of so many strange buildings, vehicles, and people confuses him. When he arrives, the big school building intimidates him, especially if he doesn't know how to navigate stairs. In the classroom, Harry's fear of the strange adult called Teacher keeps him from focusing on the lesson. On the playground, he doesn't know how to respond to his high-spirited classmates. Feeling vulnerable and uncertain, he may back into a corner, too terrified to talk, or become defensive and try to fight off the first child who approaches.

Now let's add another wrinkle. What if Harry goes on two outings before starting school? Both times, he visits his pediatrician for vaccinations. In his mind, leaving home, entering a strange building, and meeting a stranger, all correlate to pain. Now how long does it take Harry to trust his teacher and be able to relax, let alone learn? A classroom observer who didn't know Harry's history probably labels him as shy or stupid, perhaps even stubborn.

Luckily for children, scenarios like that seldom occur. Most parents take their kids out often and by the time the youngsters enter kindergarten, they adjust quickly. Puppies, especially Toy breed puppies, don't have it so good. They're often raised like poor Harry.

Good breeders socialize their puppies before selling them, and some of the best refuse to sell a puppy before it is 3 months old. Don't worry. Even though the puppy loves its breeder, it transfers that love to you in no time. Besides, socialization is ongoing, and plenty of fun stuff is left for you and your puppy to do.

Using the first 16 weeks wisely

The first 16 weeks of your dog's life are critical to her social development. What a puppy discovers during that short time shapes her personality, making her outgoing or shy, happy-go-lucky, or cautious. The brief time correlates to when wild pups or cubs explore outside the den for the first time, quickly learning lessons in survival. Absorbing everything in a hurry is a necessity because a cub that makes a mistake in the wild rarely gets a second chance.

Although domesticated for centuries, dogs still arrive in the world programmed to relate to their surroundings during their first four months of life. In an ideal situation, a pup finds out how to behave around dogs during her first two months. That's one reason why a good Chihuahua breeder keeps the litter together until the puppies are at least 8 weeks old. Between 8 weeks and 12 weeks, the youngsters are mentally mature enough to leave their canine family, and are the ideal age to settle into human families. From then on, their people shape their personalities.

What makes these critical periods critical? If a dog isn't socialized during it's puppyhood, it never becomes as confident a companion as it can be. Breeding also plays a part. Pups from nervous parents tend to be nervous too — unless the parents got that way through a lack of socialization.

Chihuahuas Articles

Dealing with Your Chihuahua's Health Issues

While Chihuahuas have fewer genetic defects than many breeds (maybe because so many breeders try hard to eliminate problems), no breed is perfect. The following sections show you some idiosyncrasies — a few serious but most not — that are sometimes seen in Chihuahuas and other Toy breeds.

Subluxation of the patella

In dog lingo, subluxation of the patella is called slipped stifles or loose kneecaps. When it occurs, the kneecap (we're talking about the rear legs) slips out of its groove — sometimes often and sometimes rarely — depending on the severity of the problem. If your dog is one of the unlucky few whose kneecaps slip often, surgery may be the solution. A dog with a mild case can live a normal life, kind of like a person with a trick knee. Subluxation of the patella is a relatively common problem in small breeds and some large ones as well.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar and is a common problem in young Toy breed puppies, although most of them grow out of it before they are old enough to leave the breeder. But for a few, it's a danger throughout their lives.

Symptoms of low blood sugar are a staggering gait, glassy eyes, and sometimes either limpness or rigidity. If the dog doesn't receive immediate help, he can suffer seizures, unconsciousness, and finally, death. Treatment involves putting some sugar in your dog's mouth, calling your veterinarian, and heading for the clinic. Once you know your dog has a tendency toward hypoglycemia, you can prevent further attacks by changing his feeding schedule to small amounts several times a day and avoiding sugary treats (check the ingredients before buying dog treats). Too much sugar in his food can put Pepe on a roller coaster ride of sugar highs and lows rather than keeping his blood sugar nice and level.

If you get your Chi used to taking delicious liquid from an eyedropper, administering liquid medication becomes a cinch. Occasionally melt a teaspoon of vanilla ice cream, put it in an eyedropper and give it to her just as if it was medicine.

Collapsing trachea

Collapsing trachea is a problem for Toy dogs of many breeds. The symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, and exhaustion. Although it appears more often in dogs older than 5 years, an occasional puppy has it from birth. To understand the condition, think of the trachea as a straw made of cartilage that carries air from the neck to the chest. When the cartilage collapses, breathing becomes difficult, kind of like sipping soda through a flattened straw.

Your vet can treat the condition with medication, but if you smoke, your Chi's prognosis may be poor. Secondhand smoke is a proven contributing factor to the problem . . . and smoke tends to settle low, where a little dog's nose is.

Heart murmur

Heart murmurs are relatively uncommon in Chihuahuas and even those that have one usually have the functional type. As in people, that means they can be as active and athletic as they want and live long, normal lives.

Molera

The Chihuahua's molera(a.k.a. fontanel) is considered a breed characteristic and not a defect. Most Chihuahuas (80 percent to 90 percent) have a molera — a soft spot on the top of their head similar to a human baby's soft spot. But unlike babies, most Chihuahuas don't outgrow it. Although it usually shrinks as the dog matures and ends up between nickel- and dime-sized, Pepe's molera won't be a problem as long as you're gentle when petting or handling his head.

In rare cases, the molera remains quite large and can be a sign of a serious problem called hydrocephalus (see the next section). But don't borrow trouble. Hydrocephalus has several other signs besides a larger-than-usual molera.

Hydrocephalus

A dog with hydrocephalus (a.k.a. water on the brain) may have an unusually large head for his size caused by swelling. Other signs of this fatal condition are frequent falling, seizures, a lot of white showing in the eyes, an unsteady gait, and east-west eyes (the opposite of crossed eyes). A dog with hydrocephalus is in pain and won't live long, so euthanasia is the humane solution. (Euthanasia is the medical term for a humane, vet-assisted death.)

Going under anesthesia

The possibility that your dog may someday need anesthesia is one main reason why you need to choose a veterinarian who is accomplished in treating Toy dogs. Although anesthesia-related deaths are rare, and usually the result of an allergic reaction, its use is potentially dangerous. Your vet uses anesthesia only when necessary (before surgery, for example).

Be sure you know how to clean Pepe's teeth properly so that cleaning them under anesthesia isn't necessary. When your dog has to go under anesthesia (during spaying or neutering, for example), ask your veterinarian if any necessary dental work (such as pulling impacted baby teeth) can be done at the same time.

Be sure your vet uses one of the modern gas anesthetics. They are much safer than the old fashioned intravenous products.

Watch those eyes

It's certainly not a condition, but because Chihuahuas have big eyes and live close to the floor, they are more prone to eye injuries than a lot of other breeds. Put several drops of saline solution in your dog's eye if the injury seems minor. That's often all it takes to flush out a foreign object that was accidentally kicked up by someone's shoe. If that doesn't relieve the problem, or if the injury appears more serious, take Pepe to the vet.