Q & A — Family Dynamics

I have a king shepherd dog whose health is declining. I may have to euthanize him soon, which is making me sad. We also have a boxer-doodle but she’s my husbands girl. My son wants a chihuahua but I don’t know the first thing about them. Prices, personality, lifespan, any negative traits or positive ones. Any info would be nice.

How old is your son? If he’s still in school and / or will be attending college / getting a job / moving out / dating / partying / etc, a chihuahua might be a great family dog but it’s a poor choice if your goal is for the dog to be his. Chihuahuas are very people oriented, and while they will bond with the whole family unit (especially when encouraged to do so)—they will have 1 or 2 people who are their preferred persons and who they want to be around all the time. Whoever their primary caregiver is, whoever is home the most and who they sleep with, is going to be the person they attach to the strongest. It usually isn’t a child in the family, though they can be friendly and playful with them.

So long as you’re aware of that and ready to accept it if the dog bonds closest with you and / or your husband rather than your son, then a chihuahua can be a great addition to the family. This rule is going to hold true for most small breeds.

If you want a more family oriented dog that isn’t going to be glued to one or two people to the exclusion of others, then consider a medium breed like a beagle or an American foxhound. If you really need / want a smaller dog, maybe consider a corgi, as they are sociable and not as likely to glue themselves to one person but they are still a medium-small dog.

The ideal home situation for a chihuahua or other very small breed is one with calm, focused adults, preferably one of whom works from home or is otherwise home a majority of the time. Small dogs, chihuahuas especially, are extremely people / pack oriented and they easily develop anxiety and issues if they are left alone / unattended for large portions of the day. If there are children in the home, they should preferably be older teenagers who are responsible and reasonably calm; young children and small breeds do not tend to mix well because the children are rambunctious / loud / unpredictable and the dog, knowing it is small and easily injured, can become snappy and yappy in an effort to fend off what it perceives as a threat.

They are fabulous dogs to have in the right circumstances, but not everyone can provide those circumstances which is why they are also one of the top breeds that are abandoned / dumped at shelters and rescues because people can’t cope with them.

Also, pricing ranges from about $400 – $1000+ for a quality pet. Higher prices are for dogs intended to be shown and / or added to a kennel’s breeding program.

If you decide a chihuahua is the right breed for your family, you can adopt from a shelter or rescue but you won’t generally know much about the dog’s genetic history, the temperament of its parents, etc.

If you choose to adopt from a breeder, find a high-quality breeder who raises the puppies in their home. Ask for health certificates from the parents showing that eyes, patellas, and heart have been checked by a veterinarian and found to be healthy. Ensure that the dog doesn’t suffer from hydrocephalus or an open fontanelle (soft spot on its head where the skull hasn’t fused properly). Puppies that meet these standards are typically in the $600 – $1200 range as pets, and the breeder will be happy to share pedigree information and health testing done on the parents / grandparents.