By | Posted: Wed May 22 00:00:00 PDT 2002

By Eve Adamson

You think they're cute. You're dying to cuddle one. And you just love their darling batlike ears. But those nagging questions continue to haunt you: Do you have the right stuff to take on the formidable challenge of owning the diminutive Chihuahua? Are you worthy of this tiny dog's extreme devotion and relentless affection? Take our quiz to find out if you fit the profile of a Perfect Chihuahua Owner, or if you'd be better off shopping for a Labrador Retriever. Read on for more information on what it takes to bring a Chihuahua into your home-and into your heart.

Chi Owner Quiz

1. Dogs have legs for the purpose of:
a. Running beside you as you jog.
Taking long walks in the park.
Balancing more comfortably on your shoulder.

2. A dog's favorite place in the house should be:
a. Out in the yard.
b. Lying at your feet.
c. Under the bedcovers.

3. A dog's place in the family should be:
a. Devoted protector.
b. Subservient friend.
c. Lord and master of all.

4. Dogs require:
a. Food, water and an occasional pat on the head.
b. Lots of exercise and lots of training.
c. Full-body contact 24 hours per day.

5. A dog should bark:
a. Only for a good reason, like an approaching threat.
b. To let you know someone is coming or something is happening outside.
c. Just to hear the sound of its own voice.

6. Smart dogs:
a. Know when to be dominant and when to back down.
b. Obey their masters.
c. Know that size is incidental to power, glory and the ability to intimidate a Great Dane.

7. Dogs see humans as:
a. Leaders of the pack.
b. Friends and companions.
c. Modes of transportation and petting machines.

8. If you live in an apartment, you:
a. Shouldn't have a dog.
b. Should only have a dog if you are willing to walk it twice each day.
c. Should find a dog proportional to your square footage.

9. Around the house, dog owners must be careful not to:
a. Ignore their dogs.
b. Forget their dogs.
c. Accidentally sit on their dogs.

10. When it comes to children:
a. Dogs are a kid's best friend.
b. Dogs provide a means to teach children responsibility.
c. Dogs might allow children to share the same household, as long as the children are properly trained.

11. Everyone knows Chihuahuas are:
a. Yappy little rats.
b. Cute but a lot of trouble.
c. Bright, funny, intelligent, animated little pets that give you a whole lotta' dog per pound.

12. When it comes to a capacity for love:
a. The bigger the dog, the more loving.
b. All dogs are devoted to their owners.
c. The size of the heart is inversely proportional to the size of the dog.

Tally Your Score
Now tally up your answers. If you answered mostly As or Bs, we're sorry to inform you that you may not have what it takes to handle the awesome responsibility of Chihuahua ownership. On the other hand, converts abound.

For example, Perfect Chihuahua Owner Roger Balettie of Austin, Texas, never saw himself as a Chihuahua companion. "I'll be honest, I originally wasn't that interested in obtaining a Chihuahua as a pet. I had always grown up with 'big dogs' and was leaning more toward one of those. However, once I got Bambi, I knew I was hooked. I bought Nina one year later to keep Bambi company, and two Chis are certainly more fun than one."

If you answered mostly Cs, you know who you are. You fit the profile for the Perfect Chihuahua Owner, and if you don't already have one (or two or three), then what are you waiting for?

A Chi for Thee?
Lighthearted quizzes aside, anyone who is considering a Chihuahua must be prepared for both the wonderful and challenging aspects of Chihuahua stewardship. "Chihuahua owners must be ready to give a whole lot of attention to the animal, " says Sharon Hermosillo of San Jose, Calif., a breeder and former chairman of the Chihuahua Club of America Rescue.

Balettie insists that such constant companionship is far from a negative aspect of Chihuahua ownership. "They are so small that they don't overwhelm me when they 'pounce' into their favorite seating positions," he says. "The affection they give in return for the attention they demand makes it all worth it." Were you thinking a couple of petting sessions a day would be enough? A Chihuahua isn't for you.

Chihuahuas have a reputation for being clannish and unfriendly toward other dogs and suspicious of strangers. Thanks to good breeding, however, many of the more undesirable characteristics of Chihuahuas are things of the past. "The love and devotion that Chihuahuas express is so contrary to the stereotype that has been propagated over the years of Chihuahuas as 'yappy, little-old-lady dogs,'" says Balettie. "Fortunately, most of the more respectable Chihuahua breeders have bred out the yappy, obnoxious traits, leaving the sweet-tempered, affectionate pet as the standard for the Chihuahua today."

Hermosillo explains that while some lines are more suspicious of strangers, for example, much of a Chi's personality is dependent on how well the dog is socialized. "People get a Chi and never take it anywhere, then wonder why it doesn't like anyone," says Hermosillo. "Chis are very social if you work with them."

What about other dogs? "They can be clannish, preferring their own kind-they really do love other Chihuahuas-but my daughter had a Chi and a German Shepherd for four years and they were best friends," says Hermosillo. In addition, Chis almost always enjoy cats. "We have cats, and one of my Chis just loves the cats. Of course, when my Chis all get together, they get very brave, then they gang up on the cats. In general, though, one-on-one, Chis and cats do very well together."

With other pets as well as people, socialization is the answer for improving poor social skills. The more a Chihuahua is exposed to people and animals alike, the more comfortable and agreeable it becomes. Were you planning on acquiring a dog that would love all people and all other animals without any effort on your part? A Chihuahua isn't for you.

Chihuahuas are certainly not outdoor dogs. Some Chihuahuas enjoy a romp in the yard or the park, but they will be more than happy to come back inside and return to the comfort of a cozy couch cushion or, better yet, to snuggle beneath the quilts and pillows on your bed. If you're in bed, too, better still. "They absolutely must live inside, and they prefer to be bed dogs," observes Hermosillo. Have you always dreamed of an outdoorsy dog, patrolling the yard, accompanying you on long hikes and 5-mile runs? A Chihuahua isn't for you.

Notorious burrowers, Chihuahuas like nothing better than to wiggle their way under pillows, couch cushions, even your favorite sweatshirt-while you are wearing it. In fact, Chihuahuas like nothing better than to be with you, by you or on you at all times. Sound annoying? Would you prefer a dog that stays under the kitchen table or by the fireplace? Do you need your space? A Chihuahua isn't for you.

Furthermore, Chihuahuas require what some might call excessive indulgence. Spoiled rotten? That's one way of putting it. But who can resist those perked-up ears and plaintive eyes? Balettie's Chis demand treats from the Gourmet Dog Bakery and use their human as a comfy perch for watching television. "In the winter, we both benefit from the mutual heat generation," says Balettie. " If I were a pirate, she'd be my parrot." Not interested in catering to the sometimes-eccentric whims of a miniscule mammal? A Chihuahua isn't for you.

Clowning Around
Perhaps the most important characteristic of the Perfect Chihuahua Owner, beyond a huge capacity for love, is a sense of humor. Chis can be downr ight hilarious, and a good Chiowner appreciates and even cherishes the antics of these tiny dogs.

Sometimes Chis are funny without intending to be. Balettie's Chi, Bambi, has taken her role as watchdog to an extreme degree. "In January, my father and I were watching one of the NFL playoff games when Bambi, who had been sitting next to me in a chair in the den, started staring at my father and growling. Now, you must understand, Bambi does not growl at anyone, she has a very calm disposition. Her growls, though, became louder and more insistent.

"Finally, my father and I both realized that the object of her ire was not my father, but the timber wolf printed on his sweatshirt. From across the room, Bambi had seen this 'other dog' and wasn't happy about its presence. My father covered the wolf on the shirt and Bambi seemed to be satisfied. He uncovered the wolf and Bambi started growling again." Do you get all the humor you need from Seinfeld reruns? A Chihuahua isn't for you.

Is a Chihuahua for you? Only you can decide. Hopefully, these guidelines will help you make that decision before you bring a new little puppy into your home. Don't expect the road to be easy or free of emotion. "An ideal Chihuahua owner needs to have patience with these little dogs because their need to love and be loved is an all-consuming crusade," says Balettie. "The return on the investment, though, is much greater than the time demand."

Still thinking about a big dog? Or is the idea of a Chihuahua starting to grow on you? Be careful. You may just become the Perfect Chihuahua Owner, in spite of yourself.

Eve Adamson is a freelance writer based in Trenton, Florida.


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