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Choosing a Chihuahua Puppy... which is right for my family?

How do I know which puppy is right for my family? Should I choose a boy or a girl? Should I choose long hair or short? Do the long haired Chis shed a lot and how often do they need to be groomed/trimmed? Do the male dogs pee everywhere?

Above are a few questions that we are asked frequently. As I mentioned on a previous page, every dog is different and I am basing my answers on both my personal experience and the experience of trusted colleagues. This is meant to be a guide to 

help inform you about Chihuahua behavior, their care, and what you can expect as a new Chihuahua owner.

1. Make sure that everyone living in your household wants to have a dog living in the house-

It is not fair to the dog to come into an environment where not everyone is interested in having him around. Even the most carefully watched puppy can get into mischief. Will someone "go bananas" if their favorite pair of shoes gets eaten or if an expensive handbag is bitten up? If the puppy was not truly welcomed from the beginning or was an impulse buy, the answer to this question is sure to be yes! Once you are sure that you, and everyone living with you, are willing to blame yourselves if your Chi gets into mischief [ good dog, bad human :) ] move on to number two.

2. We strongly recommend that you choose your puppy based on temperament and lifestyle-

Every puppy is cute but keep in mind that they often change as the mature... sometimes a great deal. Color, markings, head shape, length, and proportions in general can all change, so if it is only the way the dog looks that lures you in, you may wind up feeling disappointed when those looks change. This isn't always the case but we would like for you to be aware and would love to see you choose based on the puppy himself not solely his coloring or markings.

3. A boy or a girl? This question seems to stress people the most-

Here's what I know-

both male and female dogs "hump" or mount. This behavior isn't solely a mating ritual, it's a display of dominance, so two girls will display this behavior as readily as any male. "Spraying" or scent marking is a behavior that mature males use to let other doggies, male and female, know he's in town..kind of like a greeting between two people, it's how they know who's around or who just passed through. Dogs sniff backsides for a similar reason, it's similar to a hand shake between humans. Submissive urination (peeing when they get excited or nervous) can also be exhibited by both male and females although I tend to see it more with females. Spaying and neutering by the age of 6 months will greatly reduce the chance of annoying behaviors such as mounting and scent marking! A neutered or spayed pet is a happy, healthier pet which is one reason we have a spay and neuter contract here at Say Chis.

Here's what I think-

it depends on the dog... not the gender. I absolutely love my male dogs and none of them sprayed before 5-6 months of age. Only at reproductive maturity did I begin to see these behaviors. Some people refuse to even consider males based on old wives tales and myths but they are just that... male puppies make great pets! In fact, if I had to choose... I'd say that the males are my favorite. I planned to own only two, but I couldn't resist them.

4. Long or short hair? Neither has a clear advantage over the other in my opinion-

As far as coat length goes... both long and short hairs belong to the same breed. The AKC does not differentiate between the two and believe it or not the short haired variety, commonly referred to as a smooth coat, seems to shed a bit more than the long haired variety. Neither variety is a huge shedder when compared to certain other breeds. I've heard people say that the long haired dogs tend to be more docile. Again, not in my experience. Consider this, some litters can have long and short hair within the same litter. The long hair is dominant, so two longs will produce long haired puppies but it can go either way with a long and a short and either way with two short haired dogs. It can get confusing, so please ask if you'd like to know more.

5. Grooming and maintenance... how often will I have to have my Chi groomed?-

Chis are small and most of them like bath time so you may find it convenient to bathe your Chi at home as we do. You may use your sink or bathtub, whichever is easier and whichever you prefer. I like the sink so that I have the sprayer handy, this makes rinsing a cinch. Use a puppy or dog shampoo and not a human shampoo as the PH levels are different. Human shampoo can irritate a Chi's skin and dry them out, not to mention burn the eyes terribly. We use a conditioner on our longs to help keep them shiny and tangle free. We brush the longs once a week or so as a regular maintenance and to loosen any dirt or debris they may have gotten into, and we bathe our dogs monthly. We find that an easy schedule is to bathe them just before you apply their flea and tick remedy (Frontline/Advantix for example) which is applied every month. This way you are not at risk for washing the medicine away and when its bath time again, it will be time for the next flea and tick treatment. Did you know that Chis with long hair grow into a "style"? The classic Chi coat exaggerates at the "pants/bloomers" at the back the hind legs, with a "mane" around the neck, ear "feathering", and if you're lucky, beautiful tail "plumage". They DO NOT keep growing like a Yorkie or other long haired dogs. We find this to be a huge plus when it comes to saving time and money on grooming. Long hair with very little upkeep! We do trim the backside slightly on certain dogs who need it for sanitary reasons and we do trim around the toes and pads under their feet to allow for proper traction.

6. long will my Chi live?-

Chihuahuas have one of the longest natural lifespans of any dog. They can live for twenty years with the average being 10 to 17 years! Smaller dogs tend to live longer than their bigger counterparts in general with the Chi topping the list. This is just another reason to choose a Chi when considering bringing a dog into your home.

To sum it all up...

Chis rule, and make a welcomed addition to anyone looking for a loving, loyal, long lived pet!

Also keep in mind:

*The following information was paraphrased from "Chihuahuas For Dummies" (including our own comments based on what we've experienced)

Although Chihuahuas may have fewer genetic defects than many other breeds, no breed is perfect. The following conditions can sometimes be seen in Chihuahuas and OTHER toy breeds....

1. Subluxation of the patella or luxating patella:

a relatively common problem in all small breeds and some large as well. In dog lingo this is often called 'loose kneecaps" (trick knee- your dog may hop or hold his hind leg up when running or playing). This happens when the kneecap slips out of its groove which can happen often or rarely, when the condition exists at all. Most often this causes little discomfort and the Chis quality of life is not impacted. Sever cases however, may require surgery. ( We rescued a Chi that has this occur from time to time, she doesn't seem bothered by it at all and rules the roost in spite of it! I have not seen this in any of the Chis we use for breeding!)

2. Collapsing Trachea:

a problem in many toy breeds, not specific to Chis but this condition sounds like a cough (or like a goose "honking"). This usually occurs in older dogs but can occur at any time. It happens when the cartilage in the throat collapses and makes for tight breathing and a loud sound. Smoking can be a factor with this condition as smoke settles low and can contribute to the frequency and severity of this condition due to irritation. This can be treated by a Vet if bothersome or concerning. (You can help by GENTLY rubbing your dogs throat just under his chin and down toward his throat/ or try to make your pet lick which will help lubricate his throat. Drinking water and staying hydrated may help decrease this as well.)

3. Hypoglycemia:

also referred to as low blood sugar is a common problem that can occur in young toy puppies. Most of them will grow out of it before they are old enough to leave the breeder but for a few... this danger remains. Symptoms of low blood sugar include staggering (as if drunk), glassy/ distant eyes, limpness or rigidity. If not treated, the dog can become unconscious, have seizures or worse! This can be easily treated and avoided by giving your puppy small meals often, especially when they are very small or young. This helps by keeping the blood sugar levels even. Keep some Nutrical or Fortical on hand at all times just in case your puppy is suddenly affected. Karo (corn) syrup can also be mixed with a little warm water in a pinch... put this on the dogs gums and tongue to help stabilize him and CALL YOUR VET!

4. Molera:

(fontanel or soft spot): considered a breed characteristic and NOT a condition or defect! Most Chihuahuas(80 to 90%) have a molera or soft spot on top of their head like a newborn baby. Unlike babies, most don't outgrow it. It usually shrinks as the dog matures and ends up being around the size of a nickle or dime. this should not present a problem as long as you are gentle with the open area. In some severe cases a large molera may go hand in hand with hydrocephalus, but there are other indications of this condition, not solely the molera. (None of the dogs we use in our program have had hydrocephalus, nor have any of their puppies. In fact, none of the Chis I have ever owned have had the condition. Although, many of them have had a molera; especially the apple heads.)

*Please contact your Veterinarian for more information regarding these and other conditions*

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