Life with the “Tiny” Breed

I am very grateful to have my dogs. I love them very much and they are truly the most important thing in my life. I enjoy all dogs but I have a very soft spot in my heart for the tiny ones.—Katherine Zupancic

Abby & Aishan
Abby & Aishan

Described as “a graceful, alert, swift-moving, compact little dog with saucy expression and with terrier-like qualities of temperament,” the Chihuahua is ranked as the 24th most popular breed by the American Kennel Club. At the same time, Petfinder reveals more than 13,000 Chihuahuas are in need of homes at the time of this article. Over-breeding has saturated the demand for these tiny dogs.

Lincoln Animal Ambassadors has created The Mighty and the Tiny Project, whereby the group will spay and neuter pit bull terriers and Chihuahuas at only $25 per dog. LAA chose these two breeds because they’re the two most difficult breeds for shelters to place. As part of my research for the project, I decided to better familiarize myself with the Chihuahua by talking to people who own them.

AbbieKatherine Zupancic, a friend I know from the Greater Lincoln Obedience Club, has long loved Chihuahuas. She was raised in southern Colorado where there exists a large Hispanic influence and many people have Chihuahuas. Kathy’s best friends growing up were a Mexican family that always had a pack of Chihuahuas. “When my West Highland Terrier Colleen died in 2002, my family member, Carmen, said she had a dream. Colleen came to her in the dream, and told her that we should get a Chihuahua and name her Olivia. This is how I got my first Chihuahua.”

When I asked Kathy about her most touching moment with Chihuahuas, she replied that she couldn’t limit to just one because several happen throughout the week. “My therapy dog and the joy she brings to little children who read to her, my humorous Elisa who does silly things on a daily basis and makes silly facial expressions, Olivia who was only 1.5 pounds when I brought her home and could not find a sweater or coat small enough to fit her, some of them remembering how to do the agility obstacles after having not done them in some time, the dogs helping me to teach beginning obedience classes at the dog club, these are just a few examples of touching moments with my girls.”

AishanWe also talked about her other dogs. Kathy owns a Chihuahua-Dachshund that likes to “tree squirrels, chase rabbits, birds, dig holes in the dirt, and roll in very dirty stuff she finds on the ground”. Kathy also owns a Hairless Chinese Crested. This dog “is not as intense or does not seem to be as concerned with what is happening within her environment. She wakes up in the morning when she wants to, and eats when she feels like it.”

Despite their differences, each dog is very bonded with us and very affectionate toward us. –Katherine Zupancic

Next of interest to me was what challenges, if any, Kathy faces by being the owner of Chihuahuas. She shared that living in Nebraska, as opposed to a region with a climate that is warm year round, offers the dilemma of winter and “how to adequately exercise a 4 pound dog outdoors on a daily basis when the temperature is 20 to 30 degrees for three weeks in a row, and the snow on the ground is higher than the tips of my dog’s ears”.

For any dog, the most important thing is the animal’s welfare. –Katherine Zupancic

SkylarAfter swapping stories about our pets, I raised the more serious topic of celebrity dogs. She noted first how dogs that participate in movies or TV programs, and are well cared for and trained by qualified animal behaviorists, may still be in a stressful situation in the movie production business. Then she addressed a second negative side effect. “Extreme focus on certain breeds in movies and TV leads the general public, some of whom may know nothing about the temperament and various needs of a certain breed of dog, to assume that if they purchased such a breed, their dog would act as the celebrity dog acts. This often results in specific breeds ending up in animal shelters after being relinquished by owners who are unsatisfied with their chosen breed.”

Indeed, according to Mill Dog Rescue, largely due to Taco Bell advertising and other media influences, the Chihuahuas accounted for 2.4% of the dogs in 2010 that were being offered for sale or adoption. Over-breeding has saturated the demand for these tiny dogs. One creative answer to Chihuahua overpopulation has come from rescues in the United States and Canada that are redistributing the breed from locations with more supply than demand to ones with more demand than supply.

How can the rest of us help the Chihuahua, labeled by the AKC as “graceful, charming, and sassy”? If you have an unaltered Chihuahua, please take advantage of the below offer from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors. If you aren’t in that situation, please help LAA’s The Mighty and the Tiny Project reach as many dogs as possible by donating. We can all work together to reduce the number of unwanted dogs.

Also, should the cute photos make you interested in owning your own Chihuahua, please educate yourself first about whether the breed is right fit for you. Then contact your local shelter or one of Lincoln’s numerous rescues. A Chihuahua will be waiting there for its forever home!

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