Interested in a Chihuahua, but unsure how much attention they need? Perhaps your work requires you to be away from home for long periods, and you’re unsure whether a Chihuahua is the right dog for your circumstances.
This article will explain how much attention Chihuahuas require, the best way to give them the attention they need, and potential traps that should be avoided.
???? Chihuahuas are considered low-maintenance dogs and are able to be left alone for extended periods. But, to keep your Chihuahua happy they need 2 or more hours of attention per day. This is best delivered as part of a routine involving 30 – 45 minutes of exercise per day, some obedience training and positive reinforcement of good behavior.
The Right Amount of Attention for a Chihuahua
Dogs are unique with regard to the amount of attention they require to maintain good behavior and general well-being. Many dogs suffer from separation anxiety if their owners leave them unattended for long periods and this can quickly manifest into destructive behavior.
What tends to happen next is the dog starts to be seen as a problem instead of a companion, more limitations are placed on the dog and the experience becomes more negative than positive, creating a cycle that can be difficult to break.
Some breeds such as Grey Hounds, for example do well despite long periods of time spent on their own, while working breeds e.g. border collies, typically struggle without direction. However, it must be said, individual differences and the environment they find themselves in are potentially more of a factor than the breed of dog.
Can Chihuahuas be left alone?
In general Chihuahuas are considered low maintenance, and highly adaptable. While they will definitely take all the attention on offer they can also be surprisingly independent and at times quite headstrong.
Because of this, they are considered more suitable for those with work commitments but the owner will still need to engage with the dog when they are home.
While 30 minutes of exercise per day is generally sufficient, for the most part Chihuahuas are content to feel included, and are more than happy to follow you around.
Taken to the extreme however (e.g. excessive handling and interaction), Chihuahuas can become demanding and begin to develop poor social skills with other dogs and people.
Another option is to consider a second dog for company.
In many regards while seen as twice the work, having two dogs can reduce the potential for problems and ultimately result in less work, as both dogs are more stimulated and this will typically lead to less destructive, or problematic behavior.
How to Give Your Chihuahua Attention
While we all live busy lives, and many recommendations given for dog ownership are definitely on the more idealistic side, it is recommended that owners monitor their dogs needs based on their behavior and develop a routine that caters to the dog.
Aside from exercise, for example, your Chihuahua should receive some form of obedience training and positive reinforcement of good behavior. This doesn’t need to be scheduled, although dogs appreciate routine, but it should be done on a regular basis.
This could involve teaching tricks, or going over already learnt behaviors, such as sitting before a meal.
This aspect is especially important while your Chihuahua is a puppy.
Puppies have moldable minds, and this instills the training in the dogs mind for their encroaching adult years. In simple terms, it’s twice as much work to train an adult dog, so there is some truth to the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’.
Finally, you should encourage your Chihuahua to spend time with you. Look for ways you can include them, for example putting their bed near the area the owner is found most frequently, or allowing your Chihuahua to sit on your lap if you are watching TV.
Other ways to give attention to your Chihuahua:
- Socialization with other dogs e.g. taking your dog to off-leash areas. Just peek a careful eye on the,m, as they can become aggressive toward larger dogs
- Trust exercises e.g. putting food in their immediate vicinity but not letting them eat it until you give the command
- Walks in new locations e.g. new sights and smells create all manner of sensory stimulation
- Constant positivity (petting, praise). Dogs like people appreciate positive reinforcement
- Agility training. While this shouldn’t be introduced until the dog is at least 12 months old, agility training is also great for joint health and mobility
- Talking to your Chihuahua. Chihuahuas may not understand your words, but they understand tone, speaking to your Chihuahua helps them feel included
Negative and Positive Forms of Attention
Not all attention is good however, there are also negative forms of attention that can be detrimental for your Chihuahua and enforce unwanted behavior.
For example, say your Chihuahua has been barking (Chihuahuas bark, sometimes, a lot) and you find yourself constantly yelling at them or going outside, picking them up and bringing them in. Your dog has just associated barking as a way of gaining attention, negative or positive, and unless rectified can develop into a negative cycle.
Secondly, excessive exercise, or exercise in the form of walking in cold weather is bad for your Chihuahua. Chihuahuas feel the cold, and if the temperature is below 40 degrees, it’s best not to take them outside.
While not strictly limited to Chihuahuas, it can be damaging to try and please your dog with an excessive amount of treats, or use treats as the sole form of motivation.
In small doses this is fine, but if taken too far, your dog will develop expectations and the reward itself may not be in the best interests of their long-term health e.g. you may find yourself killing your Chihuahua with kindness.
Finally, disciplining Chihuahuas, also a form of attention, can be challenging. Many owners make the mistake of believing that they can still physically punish them but due to their small size the contact must be very light.
With an animal as small as a Chihuahua, it shouldn’t matter how gently you hit them, their bodies are extremely delicate, and a simple smack could hurt a Chihuahua much more than intended. It’s best to focus on positive reinforce wherever possible.
A build up of these negative experiences can cause an already anxious dog, like a Chihuahua to develop anxiety which is why it is especially important to make sure the majority of your dog’s experiences with the owner are positive.
Intelligence Activities and Toys
One of the lesser known wonders of the dog world are intelligence toys and activities.
Intelligence ‘games’ are helpful when raising a smart, healthy, and sociable Chihuahua. Simple examples like kongs, puzzle cubes, bell and button balls, and speaking pads.
To conclude, yes Chihuahuas require attention, but they are also one of the better breeds for working owners. They should still receive at least 2 hours of attention daily, and 30 minutes of exercise within that time frame.
The rest of the time should be spent on obedience training and positive reinforcement, and just including them in your lives. This shouldn’t present too much of a problem for those with a genuine love of dogs in any case, and the rewards for both owner and Chihuahua are immense.