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Introducing my little pocket rocket, Murphy
Member Name: cha97mw
Advantages: dogs are like children, very loving and affectionate, not too high maintenance once trained
Disadvantages: training takes a long time, can be bitey, specific health problems with knees, teeth and blood sugar
I've always been a dog lover and imagined that I would own one at some point in life. My parents always had one as a pet when I was younger, and a few years ago my Mum lost her pet West Highland Terrier, and she decided she needed a new dog to keep her company, and she bought a female Chihuahua. While these dogs are seen a lot nowadays as accessories for celebrities, I was aware of the breed, but wasn't really familiar with them. My Mum's new fur baby was an absolute delight and great company. My Mum decided to also get a male Chihuahua so that they would be good company for each other. While not intending to breed the pair, the inevitable happened when the female came into season, and within 9 weeks we were expecting a litter of pups.
I knew before the pups were born that I would want them. I planned to be good and not fall in love, but these little dogs really do get under your skin and make you fall in love with them.
Chihuahuas are small dogs with big hearts. When fully grown, they are between 2-7Ib in weight. They are originally Mexican, so they have a very distinct appearance with a pear shaped head with huge ears that would help them stay cooler in a hot climate. They can look quite comical as they are almost the same size as the dog's head.
You can get short haired or long haired dogs. My dog, Murphy, is a long haired like both of his parents and the other 3 pups from his litter. He has really unusual colouring being mainly white with black spots on his body and then black patches round his eyes with a hint of brown. His brothers were all a chocolatey brown colour, so he stood out to me from the start and I couldn't help falling in love with him.
The breed are a good pet to have. Some have a reputation for being very snappy. I have to admit, Murphy can be 'bitey' on occasions, but like any dog, they need to be trained to make them behave in an acceptable way. It is tempting to skip training as they are small and cute, and it has also been very tricky to train him as he doesn't remember it that well, but we have persevered and made some progress over the months he has lived with us. Toilet training has been really hard, and he still finds it tricky. The problem is that he is not very vocal about telling me he needs to go out. He will go to the back door and if I do not notice that, then he will just go there. If I stick to a regular routine and put him out when I start to see him sniff round, then we do manage it. Some people think Chihuahuas are not really trainable, but the truth is they are like babies and need more time spent training them then other dog breeds that I have had experience of.
When we got Murphy, I did research online and consulted with my Mum about what was the best way to look after him. Being small, I was very aware that he could get hurt because my children are only 3 and 5 and don't always look down. We decided that the best thing to do would be to get a crate for Murphy to sleep in, and as a space of his own for through the day. My Mum has done this with both her dogs since she got them, so I didn't think this cruel. I know that they get tired and have had enough quite easily and if given freedom to choose, like to have some quiet time.
I bought a 30inch crate. This is a medium size crate, and is a bit bigger than Murphy needs, but I wanted room for a small bed, and space to put down some newspaper in case he needed to go to the toilet in the night. This arrangement has worked well for us, as even when we first got him, he didn't like his bed to get dirty and he went on the paper. Overnight he stays here with the door shut, and when we go out and leave him, he also goes in. Through the day, the door is left open and he comes and goes as he pleases. His preference though is to snuggle on someone's knee if he can get chance to, or through the day he also likes to get on the top of the settee and sleep in front of the window where he can watch up the street, and warm himself in the sunshine. For a dog, he is quite cat like.
Chihuahuas like many breeds have their own little unique things that you need to watch out for. The first difference is that they are small, so they need to eat little and often. I tend to feed him dry food and not let him snaffle too many titbits off the kids. I make sure there is always food and water down for him through the day so he can help himself when he wants it. He likes to eat a few kibbles here and there rather than a big meal. If I see him eat lots, I make sure he goes outside about 15 minutes later.
Their small size also means that they can have low blood sugar issues especially in the first 12 weeks of life. This scared me to death as stressful events, such as being taken away from Mum to a new home, or being around loud noisy children, could mean they go into a coma. My Mum just told me to watch out for him going listless, and you are supposed to give them something sweet to bring them round. Luckily it never happened.
The main problem we have noticed is that he has now got all of his adult teeth, but some of his baby teeth have not fallen out. If I left this he would get problems with bad teeth, so I am going to need to get the vet to pull them out. This could be contributing to him being a bit 'bitey.'
I've also been careful not to let him jump about too much as their little legs are prone to the knee joint popping out of place if they land too hard. We noticed him limping once, but I think he just bruised something as a bit later that day he was walking fine again.
Like most dogs, Chihuahuas have a need for entertainment and being walked. While most commonly seen being carried in handbags, Murphy positively thrives when we go out, and I find myself nearly jogging to keep up with him. He can get a bit scared when other big dogs bound over to him, and he can feel the cold so he wears a little jumper I knitted for him, but he can cover a couple of miles easily, and on one rare outing did five miles. He did sleep well after that one.
I have a puppy harness for him rather than a collar and lead. I bought both, but found that the collar just slipped off, and even the puppy harness is too big for him really. I adjusted it to the smallest it would go, and he can still slip out of the head section so I needed to adapt it to make sure he doesn't run off while I am walking him. I've since read that this breed are better on harnesses anyway as they can get collapsed tracheas from the force of a collar on their little throats.
Other problems I am aware of from mine and my parents ownership:
pregnancy - about 70% of pregnancies result in an emergency caesarian for the female. This is because the dogs have big heads and small pelvis regions. This was true for my mum's litter. She was advised cost to be between £400-1000 depending on if it were day or night. She nearly lost her dog, and had to have it sterilised at the same time to avoid further pregnancies. Also, you have no idea what size litter you are having, as the dogs are too small to see during an ultrasound procedure. Birth weights for these pups were between 4-5oz. They were really tiny. 4 pups is really rare. Mostly there is 1 or 2. The vet was amazed my Mum did not lose any pups in the first few weeks of life.
security - this is a popular breed with a high price tag. Pups are anything up to £2000 for pure breeds with kennel club registration. At first I was a bit scared with Murphy as everywhere we go, people are obsessed with him. I see them looking at him from cars we pass, and in the vet one lady picked him up off my knee. I am worried that someone will try and steal him to sell, so I have had him micro-chipped and make sure he is never left outside.
injuries - they are small, and easily hurt. Don't get me wrong, Murphy quickly gets out the way if he sees you coming, but he has run in front of me when I have been walking him and I have stood on him. My Mum had one pup run into the island in her kitchen, bumping his head. She didn't realise he had done this so took him to the vet as he couldn't stand up. Typically this was in the night and cost a fortune. She has also had problems with her eldest male getting a tennis ball stuck in his mouth and not being able to get it out, so that was a vet trip. One of the pups also had a problem as his testicles didn't descend properly, which is more common in the smaller pups.
I have made sure I had an insurance policy for Murphy just to give me peace of mind that I won't need to pay for costly treatment in an emergency.
My overall inpression of Chihuahuas are they are a lovely breed. They are ideal if you have a lot of time to input into them and will thrive and bring joy into your life. I would not recommend them if you think they are just for carrying round like an accessory or you haven't got time to walk or train them or you will find you end up with a snappy bad tempered dog just like you can with other larger breeds. Go into owning a Chi with your eyes fully open to the pitfalls, and you should have a new best friend.
Summary: Murphy is my baby, and I am so glad he became a member of the family.
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