The world waits, and anticipates Disney s newest animal movie: Beverly Hills Chihuahua, opening in theaters Oct 3, 2008. Beverly Hills Chihuahua is about a pampered little dog who gets lost in Mexico and is rescued by her animal friends, no doubt despite the humans! The movie stars a crew of live action animal actors with a little Disney Magic thrown in.
As the kids look forward to this event, responsible breeders, shelters, rescue groups and trainers country wide are bracing for the backlash. The dog care community saw a sad phenomenon in 1997 with the release of Disney s 101 Dalmatians. In the year following the movie s release approximately 10,000 Dalmatians were abandoned after owners found that Dalmatians are, at times, difficult dogs to handle and they often aren t good dogs for families with young children. Many of those 10,000 dogs were destroyed. In 2002, with the release of Disney s Snow Buddies, another tragedy was partiality averted by the education efforts of husky groups around the country.
It s time again to educate. First registered by the AKC in 1904 the Chihuahua was discovered 1850 in the Mexico area and is thought to be a blend between an ancient Aztec dog and a hairless breed form the Orient. The Chihuahua has seen steady increase in popularity partially due to the Taco Bell dog ad campaign, celbs like Paris Hilton and now Disney s new movie.
The official AKC standard for the breed describes the Chihuahua as A graceful, alert, swift-moving little dog with saucy expression, compact, and with terrier-like qualities of temperament. Translation: saucy = impertinent and insolent, and terriers are super smart, super confident dogs with lots of prey drive (also known as the tendency to chase and bite things that move). Chihuahuas tend to be extremely bonded and protective of their owners and are often a one person dog. They are either very timid and fearful or they have the attitude of king kong. Chihuahuas typically do best in quiet homes with one primary owner. They can get along just fine with other pets if they are properly socialized and not overwhelmed by a bigger dog or cat.
Aside from all the hype and bad rep, the Chihuahua is a pretty cool dog. They have a look, with the big eyes and big ears and they have a spunky larger then life attitude to match! The Chihuahua makes a great pet for a lot of people and an extremely bad choice for others, with not a whole lot of space in between. A quick look on the popular adoption sight, petfinder.com shows the scope of the problem. Hundreds of Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes are placed in shelters or put up for adoption every year. Chihuahua puppies are no doubt adorable! They are so small, usually no bigger then the palm of your hand and they have an infantile look that calls out to be cared for. The problem is that the new owners often treat their new little baby as, well, a baby! It is so easy to forget that these are dogs and they need to be treated and trained as dogs.
A fan of the breed and a rescued Chihuahua mix owner myself, I have helped train and rehabilitate hundreds of Chihuahuas. If you are looking to buy, adopt or rescue a Chihuahua consider these tips on raising a happy healthy puppy
Babyhood age 6 weeks to 3 months - the most important thing at this stage is to keep your puppy physically safe while allowing him to explore limited areas and see the outside world in limited steps. For example set up a playpen in the house with a bed, water and food, and wee wee pads. Out side put the puppy on the ground or the grass for short periods of time and make sure he doesn t eat anything he s not supposed to. Put the dog on a harness and a leash. Hold the end of the leash and let the puppy take some steps on his own.
Mid puppy hood age 3 months to 6 months - Socialize! Socialize! Socialize! Bring your puppy everywhere but take him out of his bag and out of your arms and on the ground! Your dog needs to see the world from his point of view. He needs to transverse the ground on his 4 legs. He needs to learn to relate to the environment from his perspective. Unless he s in immediate physical danger, if your puppy gets startled or scared don t immediately pick him up! Kneel down and offer moral support. Don t coo and coddle or you will teach him to be skittish. (yes it is very possible to inadvertently teach your dog to be afraid). Don t allow your puppy to do things at this stage that you don t want him to do when he s an adult dog. For example, if you don t want him to jump on you don t pet him when he s jumping. Better, ignore him till he gets off and then pet him. Slowly but surely he will learn how to please you.
Late puppy hood 6 months to 9 months - Obedience. Now that your puppy has an understanding of the world around him it s time to teach him the rules. This is the time for come!, sit!, stay! | Research and pick a training method that works for you and is effective for your dog. Invest some time and patience with the basics. The old attitude that little dogs don t need training is out dated and just wrong! An obedient dog is a happy healthy dog.
Adolescence 9 months to a year - at this stage your obedience training is likely to stall. Your dog will test the rules that he knows and may give you a hard time learning anything new. Don t fret, it s normal and healthy for your dog to exert his independence and test the rules a little. With unwavering resolve guide your dog through this stage and you will emerge from the other side victorious.
Adulthood a year plus - Congratulations! You have made it through puppy hood. After you have given yourself a hearty pat on the back remember that training is a life long endeavor. Keep up the good work.
That s for puppies. Rescue dogs are a great option and are desperately in need of good homes. Rescue dogs may not be the best choice for a first time dog owner or even a first time Chihuahua owner. They have already been through the wringer . The purpose of rescue is to stop the cycle of home, shelter, home, shelter. Don t get discouraged. Especially with professional guidance even a rescue dog can make a wonderful addition to your home.
The take home message for owning a Chihuahua (or any dog for that matter) is educate yourself! Seek professional help when needed, and don t fall for fads.
By: Mary E. Travers
Note From Frank: Mary Travers was the Vice President of Best Friends Dog Training Long Island,and is now the President of Best Friends Dog Training NYC. Mary and Frank will share responsibilites in writing these articles.