By 16 weeks, much of how your chihuahua puppy is going to react or behave in certain situations is set. It is possible to change their perceptions after this time, but it’s harder. How she has been brought up at the breeders is very important.
This is why puppies who are inadvertently brought from puppy farms or inexperienced breeders can have a much harder start in life.
A good breeder will know how to socialise and get your puppy used to a range of different noises and situations.
According to Ian Dunbar, renowned dog trainer, a puppy should be exposed to at least 100 people before they are 16 weeks old. They should also have been exposed and allowed to play with a range of different dog breeds and cats.
Some breeders keep their puppies in a bubble, fearing infection, but if the dogs they are introduced to have had their initial puppy vaccinations there is nothing to worry about.
For chihuahuas all the above is super important, as they have a predilection to taking against other dogs and people apart from their owner and once your chihuahua has made up his mind about something, you will have a devil of an uphill battle to change it back.
Your chihuahua puppy is an open book and now’s the time to get set up for a healthy happy future.
Introduce your chihuahua to as many people as possible, have regular groups of friends over to meet and play. They should be bringing a high-quality treat with them, so the experience of meeting people is positive.
Get your friends and family to bring over nice dogs, let them play without interfering (as long as your chihuahua puppy is in no danger) If your chi gets told off by the other dogs that’s OK as it is teaching her doggy manners. Reverse the experience and take your puppy to other people’s houses.
Chihuahuas are very territorial so, getting them used to visitors from a young age is very important. This can prevent them snarling and snapping at people who arrive at the house later. Biting at the back legs of visitors is very chihuahua and this behaviour must be discouraged.
#2: Clean their teeth.
Get them used to teeth cleaning from the off. Chihuahuas have big issues with their teeth. Bad oral hygiene can cause major health issues as they get older. The bacteria in their mouth can cause heart disease, strokes and contribute to cancer. Keep teeth clean and get into a good, regular teeth cleaning routine. This is so important that we have written a book about it.
#3 Baths and grooming.
Make sure they get used to being handled at the groomers and being bathed, brushed and having their nails clipped.
#4: Street smart
Take them out for regular walks in the street. Get them used to traffic noise, car doors slamming and seeing other dogs. Don’t be tempted to carry your chi around. All this will do is re-enforce the idea that there is something to be afraid of.
#5: Household noise
Introduce household noises, like the vacuum cleaner and hair dryer so they are not stressed out by everyday activities.
#6: Bed time
Decide where your chi is going to sleep and stick to it. Many people allow their dogs to sleep on the bed, there is nothing wrong with this if it makes you all happy, but it can be a nuisance if your dog’s a fidget, you go on holiday, your chi must be boarded or stay in hospital.
Also, if you are a young family and might have children later there might be jealously issues.
A good compromise is having them sleeping in a basket on the bedroom floor or a crate as a den. I am not a fan of leaving a dog in a locked crate during the day, but a crate as a cosy den gives your chihuahua a place of his own and somewhere to go when things get too hectic. Read the Crate Debate
Barking is a thing with chihuahuas and if you live somewhere that noise is an issue then think long and hard about whether a chihuahua is the right dog for you.
But, it is possible to teach them what to bark at. They consider it their job to alert you to security breaches, teaching them what you consider a breach can be done.
It is never acceptable to use electronic gadgets, squirt your dog with water, rattle tins filled with coins or anything that will scare your dog into silence. All you will end up with is a sad dog who is afraid to speak. Never ever consider de-barking your dog (illegal in the UK) it is beyond cruel and inhumane. Re-home your dog before you consider this.
#8:Get them used to you leaving
Chihuahuas are prone to imprinting on one person in the family and then making them their favourite. When that person goes out they can become stressed. Get your chihuahua used to your coming and going so this does not become an issue. It’s very hard to undo later. Go in and out regularly without making a big thing about it. Don’t over pet them before you go or make a massive fuss when you get back in. If you are not stressed your chihuahua will take his cue from you. If you do have separation anxiety issues read: How to deal with separation anxiety
#9: Don’t ignore basic training
Many owners think, as their chihuahua is small, they don’t need to be trained. This is not true. A badly-behaved dog is a pain in the butt. Take your dog to training and work on basic commands at home: sit, stay, come, (recall is very important as it can save a life), roll over (good for when you are at the vets). Teach them to walk on the lead so they don’t pull.
Hard work but worth the effort
Having a puppy is hard work, having a chihuahua puppy is even harder. They are wilful, extremely naughty and very destructive. They are also super cute, smell divine and will love you forever. Putting the work in now will ensure you don’t end up with a chi-ziller.
So many chihuahuas are surrendered because of appalling behaviour. 99.9% of these cases is because the dog has been poorly socialized, spoilt and babied. They are not accessories to go in a handbag, to be carried around or dressed up like a doll.
Chihuahuas are dogs not toys, they must be treated like a dog and will respect you as pack leader for setting the correct boundaries and taking care of their needs.