Why Are There So Many Chihuahuas in Shelters?

Why are there so many chihuahuas in shelters?

Do you remember the Tamagotchis? The tiny digital pet made by Bandi and released in 1997. Then came the Furby released by Tiger Electronics in 1998.  Both these toys required interaction from their owner to thrive. Then the fad passed and the poor Furby ended his days upside down in the toybox. No harm done, they are just toys.  So, what is the connection with chihuahuas in shelters?

Both in the UK and in the States chihuahuas are among one of the top dog breeds to end up in a re-homing shelter. What happens to the relationship between the dog and his owner that breaks down so badly that re-homing is the only option?

Fashion Mindset

Chihuahuas have seen a steady rise in popularity, with regular exposure from celebs and ‘it’ people who tote them around in expensive designer bags. They even have their own film franchise! They are one of the top dogs to own. But unlike a designer handbag or a Furby, chihuahuas can live for 20 years, making them a burden once the novelty has worn off.


Chihuahuas can be seen by some as ‘must-have’ fashion acessory



The miniaturisation of chihuahuas (sold as teacups) also helps fuel the idea that these dogs are not dogs but toys. The ‘Hello Kitty’ effect of big eyes and large heads that young women are hardwired to respond to makes them seem especially appealing. But these miniature dogs often have health issues which means vet bills. They will need constant attention or they will die. But not like a Tamagotchi, for real.


Chihuahuas are lovely dogs, but people who understand the breed will know that chihuahuas can be a handful. They are not for the feint hearted or the inexperienced owner.

They are the opposite of the demure little furbaby that will sit in a bag all day. Feisty, stubborn and full of character. A chihuahua that is not brought up correctly can quickly turn into a chi-ziller nightmare. Chihuahuas will bite. Chihuahua puppies are surprisingly destructive and love a good chew.


Since the rise in popularity they have been seen by some as a money maker. They have been targeted by the puppy farms and the inexperienced hobby breeders. Chihuahuas can change hands for £500 to over £8k from a boutique breeder. But, unlike responsible breeders no pre-purchase checks take place to assess the suitability of the buyer to own a dog. Neither is there a ‘return contract’ in place. (A return contract will compel you to take the dog back to the breeder if at any time you want to give it up.)

And if the dogs don’t sell, then they get dumped. The lucky ones get taken to the shelter. The unlucky ones get left in a box by the side of the road.

I spoke with one of the re-homing officers at Battersea Dogs Home, who told me that chihuahuas had come in to the centre unable to walk because they sit in a handbag all day.

Similarly, chihuahuas have been treated by vets for acid burns on their genitals because they are made to sit in urine soaked nappies.

When the next four legged Tamagotchi or Furby fad hits the streets the homing shelters must grit their teeth for the influx of discarded dogs.

There is no doubt about the link between media exposure and dogs as fashion accessories and fads. Should there be a ban on using dogs in advertisements and fashion shoots? We need to do something or there will be more chihuahuas in shelters.


We love your feedback, have your rescued a chihuahua? What do you feel about celebrities who carry chis around in their bag? Please leave your comments below. 



Books by Chihuahua Power

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18 thoughts on “Why Are There So Many Chihuahuas in Shelters?

  1. sharon laas Reply

    We rescued a 5 yr. old Chihuahua, Gabbi, and she’s been a part of our family for 1 1/2 yrs. This breed is awesome, but not as a decoration. It a took few months for her to accept me, as she had been abused by a female. This became a “biting” issue for me, but I prevailed! I know that it took her this length of time to realize that she was safe, loved, and forever home. I can’t imagine our lives without her! She is not an item, nor something to be dismissed just a little one who needs love!

  2. Karen J Dimitry Popp Reply

    I have a little boy chihuahua and love him to pieces.
    His previous owner had Alzheimer’s and was unknowingly hurting him.
    He does have some pretty annoying habits. Horrible blood curdling screaming when he doesn’t get his way.
    I am working with him via some training advice to help curtail this, but would never think of giving him up?

  3. Sheila Reply

    I love my chi’s they were not rescue but my next one will be Ive been lucky mine never chewed but I gave them lots of toys they do tend too be very yappy though I could never part with them

  4. Eva Rudner Reply

    I rescued a beautiful little boy chihuahua who was about to be sent to a shelter because the owner was tired of him. He is a sweet love. He does bark at everything and go to the bathroom in the house if I don’t take him outside enough. We are working on the barking through patience and keeping him with me (on a leash, NOT in a bag.) I don’t leave him home alone, except for short periods when there is no other way. He needs constant reassurance that I love him, which he gets. Absolutely no hitting or yelling at him. I show him what I want then praise him when he does it. I didn’t plan to have him, but couldn’t bear to see him abandoned! We are both adjusting to our life together and love each other very much.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      Sometimes you are just meant to find each other. We didn’t plan to get Mika but wouldn’t be without him for the world.

  5. Kathy Winkler Reply

    I have a rescue. She was thrown out of a moving vehicle at about 7 months old. The K 9 Angel Rescue accepted her from the humane society. She had a broken femur that required a pin. Heartworm positive. She was not spayed. All this was taken care of by K 9 Angels Rescue. She was also microchipped. I love my little girl. She deserved a furever home with lots of love. And now she has one.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      I Just don’t understand people, Do you think they got rid of her rather than pay the vet treatment for heartworm?

  6. Jenny kent Reply

    I have a chihuahua I got her when she was 5. She is very tiny and had been used for breeding. She had had a number of cesarean sections could hardly walk on her back legs I can only think that was due to no exercise. She had ulcerated eyes, and glaucoma neither of these conditions had ever been treated. She had rotting teeth and had been attacked by a Jack Russell and has the top of her ear bitten off and scars on her head and back possibly that she was put to mate with. When I took her to be spayed she was found to have a diseased uterus that could have killed her, and she was also very under weight. I have had her for 2 years despite constantly trying to heal her eyes by putting eye drops and ointment in unfortunately she had to have an eye removed in March and she is virtually blind in her remaining eye. Despite all she has been through she is the sweetest natured little girl you could ever know and all my family and my other dogs love her dearly.

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      I am so glad she has found you to keep her safe.

  7. Jennifer Reply

    This upsets me to no end I have 7 Chis 6 of which were rescues! I would have 100 of them if my husband would let me! They are such loyal and loving angels I don’t know how anyone could throw one away! I’m so thankful that they have such longevity and life spans because I know I will have my babies for a long time!

  8. Tena Reply

    I have (2) rescues. One was so terrified of people, she drooled and shook whenever anyone came near her. Poor baby! We’ve had her for 4 yrs now, and she is finally learning to trust people. The other ones owner died when she was 6 yrs old. She had never been outside of the home. Both are a work in process, but worth every minute. Both are so loyal and cuddly now.
    These dogs are not toys! They are living, feeling creatures. If you want a toy, buy a stuffed one!

  9. Annette Reply

    I adopted a 13 year old female from Hospice Hearts,Champaign Illinois. . Her previous owner went into a nursing home. I’ve had her 8 weeks and madly in love with her.

  10. Bobbi Frick Reply

    I rescued a chi pup from a stranger trying to rehome the little guy. I knew nothing about them at the time. After much research, lots of barking , chewed up socks, & great puppy kisses I have decided this little dog is just awesome and I am considering another one!

  11. Emily Reply

    thanks – found this because a friend of mine was commenting on how much she loved my little Chi rosie and I was looking up rescues in area and was SHOCKED at how many chi’s and chi mixes are in shelters. My dog was from a shelter right around Christmas 2 years ago right after we lost our dog right before Christmas. My mom had a chi mix when I was little so I knew the peculiarities of the breed ie they are NOT larger furbies. The worst thing is they are very very loyal and thinking of them being just given away is awful because of this trait. I was told my baby girl was given up as she was a gift to an older woman from her daughter a chihuahua breeder. Rosie is 8lbs so obviously large for show quality which is probably why she was “dumped”. Their loss is my gain. Our gain – our whole family.

  12. Carole Brealey Reply

    I have 2 Chi’s. They are my world, along with my rescued shih tzu. Some people think they are handbag dogs. Some also think they are dolls for dressing up. WRONG on both accounts. I have a job putting a coat on mine when it’s really cold, just to walk them. They like to be walked and excersized as much as any other dog. If it’s freezing outside I don’t walk them because they hate the cold. But they still need exercise and mental stimulation. So I play indoor games with them. I am also getting some agility equipment for the days they don’t want to go out. They don’t want to be picked up against their will. Children should be taught not to do this with any dog. But especially with Chihuahuas. But they are the most loyal loving dogs. With the biggest characters. Mine love my grandchildren. But my grandchildren have been taught to treat them with respect. They aren’t allowed to be picking them up. So mine jump up to sit with them. Most love children if the children are taught to treat them right. Chihuahuas are an amazing breed. Very intelligent. Just the same as big breed dogs. They need treating right!

  13. Nikki Reply

    This article didn’t touch on the fact that chihuahua’s are becoming the number one euthanized dog breed!!! Right now they are still second compared to the Pitbull, but their number is growing every year. I seen a picture recently that broke my heart and made me wish I had the money to start my own chihuahua rescue. The picture was one of a shelter hallway on one side lined up against the wall laid out on the floor were the tiny body’s of at least 30 chihuahua’s that had just been put down. What made this picture even worse is the fact each one of these dogs used to belong to somebody they all had collars on. It’s a sad fact that owner surrendered animals are put down, before most strays. When it comes to this breed I have learned that education for the owner and socialization for the chihuahua are a must! Three years ago my boyfriend surprised me with a female chihuahua puppy. She was 4 months old and didn’t even weigh a pound. I didn’t know much about the breed at that time and her size concerned me at first. Fast forward a year and a half later and she finally weighed a pound and a half. It was a nightmare trying to find a vet that would spay her. My usual vet didn’t feel comfortable preforming the procedure. When I finally found a vet willing to spay my dog she would do it under the condition that I agreed to the laser surgery vs scalpel, because it heals faster and there is less blood loss. I had to leave my doggie at the vet overnight, because of her size and it was one of the hardest things I had to watch. My dog was so scared she didn’t know what was going on so I left her blanket that smelled like home with her. I know I got on the receptionists nerves, because I probably called at least 10 times to check on her. Most of you have chihuahuas so I’m sure you know how picky they can be when it comes to eating and taking food from strangers. My dog won’t eat nothing I didn’t gave her not even from my boyfriend. When I’m at work he can never get her to eat, but when I come home and I give her the same plate with the same food she will eat it. So for that reason I was scared my dog wouldn’t eat or drink anything when she was finally allowed to so I asked the vet to hook her to an IV bag. When I showed up the next day to pick her up I was informed they had to pull 6 impacted baby teeth that didn’t fall out on their own, which is a common thing among small breeds and I had no clue. When the vet tech brought my dog out and she seen me standing there she tried to jump from the techs hands. She was so excited to see I came back for her you would never know she just went through surgery. Today I’m still dealing with the result of that overnight stay. My dog has developed separation anxiety issues and runs around in a panic anytime I put my shoes on to leaving the house. She jumps into her carryon as if saying I’m going too and when that didn’t work once she actually got inside my purse when it was sitting on the floor. Luckily for me I was able to go through my doctor and get the letter to have her registered as an emotional support animal for my own anxiety. Now I take her pretty much every where I go. I like that this article touched on the facts that people were wanting these tiny dogs for all the wrong reason however, I don’t like the statements about dressing them up and toting them around. I know a lot of people that dress their bigger dogs up also. I dress my dogs up mostly when its cold outside and I never torture them and make them wear clothes all day just so they look cute. Also my dogs are in carryon purses or a stroller when we are out in public and they even have car sets. They are so small they get enough exercise walking and running around my house and back yard. I have also trained them to use the bathroom both outside and on pee pads. Its nice, because when I’m not home I know they can relieve themselves and not have to hold it until I return. When My dog turned 2 years old I wanted to get her a playmate and my boyfriend never really talked about the guy he bought my dog from so I asked him to contact the guy and see if he had any puppies available. I was disappointed to hear my dogs mom was retired, because I really wanted to get a puppy from the same mom. The guy did have two puppies one girl and one boy from my dogs aunt and this was her last litter she was also being retired. I asked the guy to give me the day to think about it and later that night we called back to tell him I’d take the girl puppy, but he had already sold her. That was the RED flag that told me he was only in it for the money, he didn’t care about the dogs at all. Not thinking before he sold him I said I’d take the boy puppy. We had to travel 3 hours from home and 3 hours back. I took my Lily with me, because I wanted to see if she would remember where she came from and to meet the new puppy. She did remember the house she was walking around like she knew where she was going and even let the man that owned her pick her up. Unfortunately she didn’t remember her mom, dad or sister and the guy that owned her said he wasn’t surprised, because he had separated her from them before they bonded. My dog was shut in a room away from all the other dogs for her own safety. I found out the reason he sold her was, because she was to small to breed all his other chihuahua’s were 5-7 pounds and he had no clue why she came out so small. I was upset that my boyfriend never mentioned that this man was a backyard breeder and that his house was a mess and smelled really bad. He had this living room blocked off with baby gates and new paper was covering the floor, because he had ripped all the carpet out. I kid you not he had 15 or more adult chihuahuas in there and only had one huge pan they all were eating out of and to top it off it wasn’t even full of dog food, but chili he had made the night before. He didn’t even have any beds for them to lay down on. Then in his kitchen he had a few small cages and they had mom’s with their pups in them. When he handed me the puppy I went there to see I thought I don’t want to buy this dog and then a second later I thought I sure in the hell don’t want to leave him here either. I ended up taking the puppy and I asked about the retried dogs and what he was going to do with them now, because if he wasn’t keeping them and didn’t want money for them I was taking them with me too, but he said they are his dogs he loves them and can’t part with them. The male puppy I named Finn and is now a little over a year old and I haven’t had any issues with him he’s now 6 pounds and very healthy, but I will never buy another dog from that guy. On December 29,2017 I was on Facebook reading stories about animals when one popped up about a chihuahua that been found in an abandoned apartment with three cats. I read how they were looking for any information anyone may have, because the dog had a microchip, but the owner failed to have their information put on it. Then I notice that it was posted my the humane society right around the corner from my house so I book marked the page so that I would get notifications if the status of the dog changed. On the morning of January 3rd I got a notification that the owner could not be found and the dog was now up for adoption. I had 20 minutes, before the humane society opened so I jumped out of bed and told my boyfriend to get up. I throw on clothes faster then I ever have and I got there with 10 minutes before they opened their doors. They lady working the front desk went ahead and let me in to wait while she was cleaning the lobby. When she asked me what I was there for I showed her the picture on my phone and she smiled and said I thought so, because of the little one you have with you, but I didn’t want to assume. I only brought my little girl, because she’s so small I wanted to make sure he would get along with her. By that time two men had walked in both wanting to also see the chihuahua however, I was there first so I got to see him first and if I decided to adopt him then he was mine as long as my vet history with animals checked out and they were able to talk to my vet to ask about my current dogs. As soon has we walked into the room where they keep the puppies a volunteer already had him out playing with him. He was smaller then I thought he would be only 4 pounds I assume that’s why he was in the puppy area. He ran up to me tail just a wagging wanting to see what was in the bag. My boyfriend put our dog on the floor and it was like they had known each other for years. They started running around, playing and he was even trying to lick and clean her face for her it was so cute. I read somewhere before that chihuahua’s recognize their own breed. After I filled out the adoption papers and paid the fee I left him there to get fixed by their vet, because it was included in the adoption if I chose not to fix him that day then I would of had to have my vet do it and spend more money. When I came back to pick the dog up the lady was telling me about the condition they found him in and how long his nails were he couldn’t even walk right. They were able to trace his microchip all the way back to Missouri to the vet that put it in and I live in West Virginia. The paper work said he was around 4 to 5 years of age going off of his teeth. When I got the dog home he was like a totally different dog which was understandable, he was in a new place, with new dogs, a cat and new people not to mention he was in pain. My boyfriend came out at one point and I was crying, because the dog was tired and I couldn’t get him to lay down in his new bed. He wanted no parts of me. Every time I tried to touch him he would growl and bite at me. He kept falling asleep standing up and when he would start to fall over he would wake up like where am I. It was really hard for me to watch. For the next few days he would play with the other dogs, but wouldn’t come near me when they did he would just hang back and watch. Slowly he started warming up to me, would let me hold him here and there and I noticed he is missing one of his nails, has a huge scare down his stomach and one of his legs may have been broken before and didn’t heal right. Then on day 4 I get a call while I’m at work from my boyfriend the dog is sick, he isn’t breathing right and I think we are going to lose him. As soon as I got off work I rushed him to an emergency vet and ended up spending $315 dollars for x-rays and two different antibiotics. He had white stuff all over his lungs it was influenza he couldn’t even breathe out of his nose he had his mouth hanging wide open just to get air and his temp was 103. After pumping the medication into him for two weeks every 12 hours he had a follow up appointment and still had the temp of 103 and the vet gave him an antibiotic shot and another two weeks of medication to take home that was different from the last stuff. I couldn’t get over how sick this dog was and how hard he was fighting to stay alive. I’m not sure if he was sick before he ended up at the shelter or if he got sick at the shelter I do know when he was fixed they didn’t do a every good job. The only issues I had with this dog is it took a long time for him to trust me completely and he used to pee in his water bowel and try to drink it. He also does not like car rides what so ever he freaks out the whole time and when he get back home he does lapse around the house greeting the other animals and his stuff to make sure its all still there. Him and my little girl are now a bonded pair where one goes the other follows. I’m hoping to adopt another chihuahua when the opportunity comes along. Sorry my story was so long…

    • Louise Kirby Post authorReply

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed comment. In the UK it can be hard to adopt a chi.
      I think you are right, socialisation is the key and it starts with the breeder. The problem is puppy farms and bad breeders don’t bother to socialise and sell puppies that go on to have major behaviour problems and then the owners can’t cope and they get dumped.
      With any puppy they must have proper socialisation before they are 16 weeks and a lot of that has to happen at 8 weeks. If it doesn’t then the fear and learning windows are pretty much set. You can turn them around but it’s hard work and not always successful. One of the first question prospective owners should ask it ‘how has this puppy been socialised’ if the breeder has kept the dog (any dog but chis especially) in a bubble of isolation then you are going to have trouble with the dog. It’s very sad. Personally I don’t think it’s all about spaying as it’s clearly not working and bad for the dogs long term. Most responsible owners are able to manage their dog’s sexual health. It’s about the law and public education. Toughen up on puppy farms and back street breeders and only allow registered responsible breeders who understand puppies to sell pups.

  14. Jill Martin Reply

    I have a chi puppy from 8 weeks. We are strict and loving. She walks not put in a hand bag. If obnoxious with other dogs i stop her in her tracks firmly say no and look her straight in the eye. She likes a chew so buy her lots of dog chew for her teeth. She is sweet a pleasure to have and is for life…….

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