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March 15, 2017

How to Socialize Your Chihuahua (And Why It’s So Important)

One of the most important things that you can do when adopting a puppy (or an older dog) is to ensure that they are properly socialized. This is especially true for Chihuahuas and other similar small dog breeds, such as Dachshunds and Yorkies, who often turn into tiny terrors as their owners do not spend the time and effort exposing them to as many situations/ people/ animals and objects as possible.

Proper socialization of your Chihuahua, or small dog, is extremely important to their health and happiness, not to mention yours. For instance, think about how stressful and unpleasant it would be, for both you and your Chi, if they constantly felt threatened or insecure in the presence of other dogs or people. And, what if your Chihuahua became possessive of you and showed aggression to anyone who came near you? While these are extremely common complaints amongst Chihuahua owners, they are 100% preventable and reversible if these behaviours already exist. All you need is some patience and consistency, and the understanding that your Chihuahua is a DOG and not a human (that needs to be coddled).

So, how do you know if your Chihuahua, or small dog, could use some work on their social skills? Firstly, all puppies, no matter what breed or size, need to be socialized as soon as possible so that they have the best chance of growing into healthy, happy and balanced adult dogs. So, if your Chihuahua, or small dog, is still a puppy then you automatically have your answer to the question above. However, if your Chi is more than 2 years old, or you adopted them as adults, then here are some tell tail (see what I did there? 🙂 ) signs that they could use some work on their socialization:

they shy away from other dogs and / or people

they are aggressive towards other dogs and / or people

they are territorial (become aggressive if another animal or person enters what they deem to be their property such as their home, sitting on a couch or stepping onto their front lawn)

they are food and / or toy possessive (growl, show teeth, bark or even bite when someone or another dog comes near their food or toy)

they are human possessive (exhibits same behaviour noted above but in relation to their human/humans) – this is a very common problem with Chihuahuas, as well as Dachshunds

they bark at or are fearful of certain objects, places, types of people (i.e. different races, sizes or those using wheelchairs or crutches, or who move differently)

they have separation anxiety (cry, whine and exhibit a general sense of distress when left alone or are separated from their owner, for any amount of time)

Aggressive Chihuahua

The Rule of 7’s

A couple of years ago, when Hazel was still a wee puppy, we were going to puppy classes at a local Petsmart and received some sage advice from the trainer about socialization. The trainer suggested that all new dog owners, especially those with puppies, should remember the Rule of 7’s, when it comes to socialization. The Rule of 7’s asserts that, ideally, by the time your puppy is 7 weeks old it should have:

Been in 7 different locations – kitchen, basement, bathroom, car, garage, laundry room, front yard, backyard

Been on 7 different types of surfaces – carpet, wood, grass, dirt, concrete, vinyl, wood chips, gravel

Met and played with 7 new people – children, adults, the elderly, someone walking with a cane or a limp, people of different races

Eaten from 7 different containers – plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, china, frying pan

Eaten in 7 different locations – kitchen, yard, crate, living room, basement, laundry room, bathroom

Played with 7 different kinds of objects – small / big balls, fuzzy toys, soft fabric toys, toys that squeak, ropes (note: you should always supervise your puppy while they are playing with different objects)

Been exposed to 7 different challenges – climb steps, go down steps, climb on a box, climb off a box, go through a tunnel, climb over obstacles,run around a fence, in and out of a doorway with a step up or down, play hide and seek

Since most people do not take their puppy home until they are at least 8 weeks old, the majority of your Chihuahua’s socialization in the early stages depends on the breeder, if applicable. However, the moment you take your puppy home you should be following the above as a general guideline for how to expose your pup to as many new surroundings, people, dogs / other appropriate animals, objects, tools surfaces etc as possible. As your dog gets a little bit older (re: around 6 months) and has received all of their scheduled puppy shots / vaccinations then you can begin to expand upon the location and meeting new people/animals points. Once cleared by your vet, your goal should be to introduce your puppy to, at the very least, 1 new location (i.e. a new park, a friend’s house, pet store) and 3 new people and dogs every day.

Note: it is very important that you are aware of your own personal energy while in the process of introducing your Chi to a new challenge, person, surrounding or animal. Make sure that you are in a calm, yet assertive, state of mind so that your pup will feel secure and associate these introductions with positivism. If you are tense or are worrying about how your Chi will react then that energy will transfer to them, and they will associate that new location or person etc with something negative.

So, if you are consistent in the socialization of your Chihuahua, and turn each introduction into something positive with the use of treats, praise / affection and calm, assertive energy, then you are well on your way to raising a happy, healthy and balanced little dog. How exciting!

I’d like to finish off by saying that one of the biggest mistakes that Chihuahua owners make is holding the incorrect assumption that this breed is, inherently, less work than others, because of their size. This is most certainly not true. Chihuahuas, and all other small dogs, require just as much commitment, training, care and proper diet and exercise as their larger counterparts. For those of you who are skeptical of this truth, I have shared a great video by *surprise!* The Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, below. Get ready for, “Chihuahuas from Hell”! Hahaha, I can’t help but laugh at that title – it’s so dramatic! But appropriate, nonetheless.


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