by Joan P. Scott

Pets | Dogs: The Chihuahua: Man's Best Amigo?

Who could resist a cuddly little Chihuahua burrowed into his makeshift den (most likely your bedcovers)? These diminutive dogs are known for being fiercely loyal to one owner. If you're lucky enough to be a Chihuahua's "person," your amigo will enjoy spending all his time with you. And, because they're so small and portable, it's easy to do just that!

Warm and Sometimes Fuzzy

One of the joys of owning a Chihuahua is her easy grooming. The smooth-coated Chihuahua has short, soft fur that requires minimal care. Stroking her body will keep her coat clean and glossy and improve the bond between you and your pet. The long-coat variety also needs minimal care -- just occasional brushing to keep his coat fluffy. Both smooth and long-coat varieties should have their nails clipped monthly and bathed as needed. Keep in mind that your one-person Chihuahua might resent being handled by a stranger, so it's important for you to personally make the introduction between your pet and the groomer.

Terrier-like Behavior

Chihuahuas have terrier-like personalities: intelligent, loyal, loving, very active and often opinionated! Be patient but firm to earn their respect and to nip any aggressive behaviors in the bud. Being tiny, they might fear larger dogs, so set them up for success by socializing them with other Chihuahuas and toy breeds. They might also fear people they don't know, so use positive reinforcement when introducing your Chihuahua to newcomers.

Small in Size, but Big in Nutritional Needs

You wouldn't think such small dogs would have large appetites, but they do. And they'll eat practically anything, so it's up to you to give your Chihuahua a high-quality diet. Because of the Chihuahua's little size and need for frequent refueling to support his fast metabolism, you can leave food in a bowl and let him nibble at-will all day. This is especially important for toy breed puppies, as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur if they wait too long between meals. Make sure the dry kibbles, or meat chunks if you're feeding your pet canned food, are sized for a toy dog's small mouth.

This Toy Breed is Not a Toy

The Chihuahua might be pint-sized, but he's definitely not a child's toy. The typical Chihuahua weighs between 3 and 6 pounds, so young children might inadvertently hurt them. Also, if your dog jumps off the sofa to follow an excited child, the jump from that height could dislocate your dog's patella (kneecap) or break a leg. In fact, subluxation (moving out of position) of the patella can be an inherited condition in Chihuahuas, so:

- Carefully research breeders to make sure subluxation of the patella is not in their dogs' genetics. Good breeders don't let dogs with this trait reproduce, and they will vet-check their puppies before selling them.

- If you adopt an older Chihuahua puppy or adult dog, have your veterinarian conduct a subluxation examination as soon as possible. The condition can be managed through controlled activity, surgery or chiropractic treatments.

- Monitor young children when they're playing with or near Chihuahuas.

Chihuahuas have a protective personality and some special health considerations, but if you're looking for a devoted amigo who has a saucy walk and luminous eyes that say "I love you," then a Chihuahua might just be your perfect pet!








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Pets | Dogs: The Chihuahua: Man's Best Amigo?