April 20, 2006

Dogs – Understanding The Chihuahua Breed

The Chihuahua breed of dog makes a great pet! They are the smallest and longest lived breed. With few health issues, they are easy to care for and fiercely loyal. But its what you dont known about these little clowns that might surprise you.
The Chihuahua breed of dog makes a great pet! They are the smallest and longest lived breed. With few health issues, they are easy to care for and fiercely loyal. But its what you dont known about these cute little clowns that might surprise you.

History, Characteristics and Ownership

Unique to the Western Hemisphere, this breed was discovered in the Chihuahua region of Mexico in the past 150 years. Historic evidence dates these dogs back to the Aztec and Toltec Civilizations of South America where most historians believe they were highly revered and may have been used in worship services.

The Chihuahua is classified as a ‘toy dog’ by the American Kennel Club. Considered the smallest breed of dog, some refer to the tiniest as ‘tea cup’ Chihuahuas. AKC Chihuahuas weigh 2-6 pounds and grow to be about 6-9 inches long, 6-8 inches tall and live from 12-17 years (15 is the norm) making them the longest lived breed. Coats are either short and smooth, or long and fluffy. Long pointed ears are a mark of the breed. Female dogs that are three pounds and under should not be encouraged to reproduce. Females go into heat twice a year, can give birth in 65 days and usually have 1-3 puppies.

These dogs are warm weather animals that should not be over-bathed (once a month is enough). Ears should be kept free of water to avoid infections. Chihuahuas have a natural shiver which can mean they are happy, scared, cold or anxious. Often thought of as apartment dogs perfect for big cities, Chihuahuas still need exercise. They should be walked on a regular basis and must be protected from temperatures lower then 45 degrees. Food intake should be monitored and treats discouraged to avoid weight problems. These dogs have a soft spot on the top of their heads. If injured there they can die.

Chihuahuas are very accepting of children, but also loyal and protective of their owner. They tend to latch on to one person and may bark at children that move quickly towards that person. Children can accidentally kill them and people with kids under 12 should make sure that younger kids never have access to these toy dogs without an adult present.

Self-protective due to their small size, Chihuahuas are not generally good with strangers and may try to bite in response to petting by persons unknown to them. This behavior can be corrected with some simple training. These dogs are very intelligent and quickly learn to distinguish family from outsiders. They love to play and easily learn all sorts of tricks.

Chihuahuas crave lots of attention and interaction with their owners. They like to be held, love to be petted and will wrap themselves up around your neck area to show affection. Too small to be useful as guard dogs, these animals do make excellent watch dogs. They consider a household their personal domain and will alert owners to any unusual sounds or attempted entries.

People who have fallen prey to destructive breeds that love to chew on everything in site, will really appreciate Chihuahuas. Their small snouts make this a none issue. Chihuahuas are easy to paper and leash train, but will urinate on you if handled roughly or suddenly frightened. Creating a personal space for your Chi (a doggie bed or the like) is best. Chihuahuas that feel insecure, ignored or in peril may take to tunneling into bed bottoms or dig and climb up into furniture frames.

Consult your veterinarian about grooming, booster shots, and vaccinations. These are very easy to care for animals. Our pups come with their first shots, AKC registration forms and will have been checked by a veterinarian. Only puppies declared healthy are available for sale. The AKC forms indicate the dogs are pure breed Chihuahuas eligible for AKC registration (for a small fee) by the new owner under a name of their choosing. Don’t wait! Register your dog!. No matter whom you purchase your AKC Chi Pup from, do not put off registration. AKC registration forms can be lost and are almost impossible to replace. Late registration will also cost you more.

The AKC is an organization that represents the needs, concerns and rights of pet lovers throughout the USA. Animal rights advocates are trying to make it almost financially impossible to own a pure breed dog and be within the law. The AKC is the only group powerful enough to keep these fanatics in check. Help your dog, help yourself. Register your pet!

Tall Tales and Outright Lies About Breeding

Many animal rights groups feel that breeding dogs (especially pure breeds) is wrong. Even now they are working to restrict breeding by urging budget-strapped cities and towns to pass laws that charge non-altered pet owners huge fees just to own their animals. This, they claim, will save those areas a fortune in animal control expenses. The problem is that responsible pet owners and legitimate breeders are not the ones creating that situation.

There is an old and true belief that when you get something for nothing, it means nothing to you. Each year millions of people are lured to local animal control or rescue centers by heart touching pieces on the local news. They are told that poor Jimmy the Lab-mix puppy will be no more unless you come down and get him. Children watch these segments and fall in love with cute puppies. There is even the promise of ‘pure breed dogs’ available for adoption.

So everyone goes down to the Animal Control or Rescue Center, holds a few puppies and without knowing anything about the various breed mixes that make up the pup, people plunk down a small fee (usually under $50), get a puppy and the feeling that they have saved a life. But a few weeks later, that cute little puppy gets very big and a bit out of control.

When you call animal control or the rescue center, they refer you to some of the photocopied pamphlets that came with the pup. The problem is that the little pup is now big Bubba and ate the pamphlets along with lots of other things! In the end, Bubba usually ends up out on the street. After all, he didn’t cost much and his owners just couldn’t cope with all the destruction. Since the family didn’t have the extra fifty bucks the control or rescue people wanted to fix him, Bubba is sure to make some whoopee and impregnate lots of females before ending up back at animal control as a full grown dog with virtually no hope of adoption.

Some people are fooled into believing they can get a pure breed dog at one of those places. The dog may look pure and even conform to AKC standards, but without papers no one knows if the animal has been safely and properly bred. Many of these animals are also turned back out into the street once people realize they cannot be registered.

Probably the meanest stunt ever played on people interested in adopting dogs was done by a rescue group in Los Angeles. They claimed that thousands of people were dumping pure bred Chihuahuas at their centers throughout the city. The idea was to get people who wanted to buy pure bred Chihuahuas to abandon breeders and come to the centers. The problem was that when people arrived, they found no pure bred Chihuahuas! One picture on their website and the false story lured hundreds of people to rescue centers. Once there, they were talked into adopting a different dog they really didn’t want.

Puppy mills are largely to blame for negative stories about dog breeders. The AKC and responsible breeders always take a stand against such operations. Most existing laws protect consumers against being stuck with sick animals that come from these places and legitimate breeders support those laws.

The Pet Shop vs. The Breeder

If you have already decided that it’s a pretty good idea to buy an AKC pup, where should you buy? That pet store in the mall looks pretty appealing. The cages are clean, most of the animals are lively and seem friendly enough. They’ve even got payment and credit plans. Wait, payment and credit plans??? Just how expensive are those pups?

Most people erroneously believe that buying a puppy at a pet store will insure they get a fair deal and a healthy animal. Pet shops charge you double or triple what a fair breeder might charge for the same breed of dog and shop animals are almost always from puppy mills. Pet stores support puppy mills by purchasing animals in bulk to insure a continuing supply. They push payment plans so that it doesn’t seem all that expensive up front and even tack on extra vet and preparation fees. Before you know it, an AKC Puppy you can purchase from a legitimate breeder for $500-$600, ends up costing you $1000-$2000 at a pet shop! Even worse, you may not receive your AKC papers until weeks or months after the sale.

Many pet shop pups come with unwanted bonuses like kennel cough and other health problems that can show themselves within weeks of ownership. This is the result of crowded and unsanitary conditions existing at the puppy mills. Even though most pet stores go out of their way to keep animals clean, dry and well-housed, the damage was already done long before the dog arrived there. Imagine the devastating effect the death of an animal has on people once they have bonded with it, regardless of cost or legal remedies?

If the dog was sick, you can get your money back from Pet Stores, right? Wrong! Most stores rely on State Laws for their return policy. According to most State Laws, a vet must certify that a puppy was unfit for sale at the time of sale. The problem with this is that most puppy mill diseases manifest themselves in the first 30 days of ownership, not at the time of sale. No vet will risk getting sued by a store for providing you with certification of a dog’s health at a time before they first see the animal (usually weeks after the sale). Why take a chance on unhealthy animals? No one can predict what health problems may develop with a live animal, but you have a much better chance of getting a healthy pet from a legitimate Breeder.

Do the right thing. Support your local breeders. They care about their animals and will not take advantage of your desire to own a loveable, healthy dog by over-charging you. The AKC Breeder Referral Program can help you identify responsible breeders in your area. Visit http://www.akc.org or http://azpuppies.cjb.net

Caring For Chihuahua Pups

Technically speaking, Chihuahuas remain puppies for about two years. It’s during that time that you need to teach your dog everything you want it to know. Start with good feeding habits. Pups may be slow to warm up to a new owner. This might make them miss some meals and they cannot afford to do that. You can solve the problem by purchasing some puppy formula (most large pet stores have it). The best kind is powdered so you can use just what you need and keep the rest fresh until you mix it. Mix the formula with most any brand of dry puppy food and make sure they are eating the mixture. If they are not, you’ll need to feed the puppy the formula using a eye dropper until it warms up to the dish with the mixture in it.

As the pup warms up to you and gets used to being away from Mom, it will begin to take the mixture. Once it starts turning away from the mixture, switch to dry puppy chow mixed with a little water to make it chewable. By 9 or 10 weeks your puppy should be on dry puppy food and a separate dish of water. Feed your dog just twice a day and make sure it has lots of water! Chihuahuas love to drink a lot of fresh water and it’s good for them. They also like to eat a lot, but that’s not good for them. Chis can become over-weight if you over-feed them. Avoid wet type canned foods and the feeding of table scraps. That isn’t good for their teeth and they will end up with diarrhea.

If you want to paper train your animal, this isn’t hard at all! Just keep you puppy on paper as much as possible for the first two weeks they live with you. Then, start to move their food and water just off the paper. Every time you see the pup begin to have a bowel movement, just place them on the paper. Dont confuse your animal by constantly relocating food and water dishes or training paper. Having a small doggie bed is also a good idea. Make sure it’s near, but not on the paper. These animals are very territorial and you can use this fact to help train them.

At 9-10 weeks of age it’s time to visit the Vet. Your puppy will need additional shots (bring the shot and health record you received when you purchased the pup) and should be given a fecal test for worms or other parasites. It’s important to establish a good connection between your Vet and yourself. The better they know your animal, the better they’ll be able to suggest treatments and care over the years. Try and stay with the same Vet or treatment facility and keep good records yourself. Many cities, towns and counties now require you to care for your dog by law. Failure to keep up with shots, properly house and care for your animal or provide for it’s health and safety can be punishable by fine or imprisonment or both.

I suggest that you avoid obtaining Vet or other services from pet super stores that allow owners to bring their animals in. This practice is one of the leading ways that Parvo is spread among dogs. Parvo can make dogs very sick and even kill them. It’s a virus that requires immediate hospitalization and can be fatal to pups. As a preventative measure against parvo and parasites, Puppies that haven’t received all their vaccinations should be kept away from public areas (and older dogs) in a clean, feces free environment.

Chihuahuas are very small. Try to keep them as far away from human feet as possible (they love to lick and play with feet, but feet can accidentally crush their tiny paws). Never let your Chi roam without a leash or unescorted outside of your house or fenced yard and make sure your dog is never outside in temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit without protective clothing. Chihuahuas need exercise and love to play. Make sure you spend time with your animal. They love soft play toys and you’ll be surprised how easily they learn to fetch their favorite toy and return it to you. But like too much food, too much exercise isn’t good. You can’t take a Chihuahua jogging with you! If you’re planning more then just a short walk around a short block, leave your pet at home. Chihuahuas can get exhausted fast.

Chis are generally healthy dogs with few health issues. If they get a bit too much exercise, they might start panting and seem unable to stand. This usually means that they need more calcium. You can solve that problem with a quick trip to the vet or by dropper feeding your dog some regular milk. They should settle back down within 15-30 minutes. This is rare, but it does happen. Dogs that are nursing pups should always be given milk once a day as they’ll lose calcium very fast. Consult your vet before trying any home remedies.

Chihuahuas will shake because they are happy, afraid, cold or anxious. This is normal and lets the dog express itself. This doesn’t mean the animal is ill. Expect shaking to be a part of your Chihuahuas experience.

About the Author

A native New Yorker now living in Arizona, Bill Knell is a forty-something guy with a wealth of knowledge and experience. He’s written hundreds of articles on a wide variety of subjects. A popular Speaker, Bill Knell presents seminars on a number of topics that entertain, train and teach. A popular radio and television show Guest, you’ve heard Bill on thousands of top-rated shows in all formats and seen him on local, national and international television programs.

Bill Knell

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