Teaching your Chihuahua to cooperate for grooming need not be a chore. Doing it properly will introduce your Chihuahua to each aspect of the grooming process, he will happily look forward to his grooming sessions.
Dogs usually love this personal attention and time with their owner. Most Chihuahua owners also discover that grooming sessions are a great way to relax and relieve stress.
Regular grooming also strengthens the bond with your pet and familiarizes you with all aspects of his customary health and condition. For instance, some Chihuahuas normally have a thin coat and it is no cause for concern. However, a suddenly thinning coat can signal the onset of a health problem such as a thyroid disorder or an allergy.
You will also quickly notice if your Chihuahua is a bit listless and off color before he actually exhibits overt symptoms of illness. Get into the habit of giving your dog a quick health check as part of his regular grooming routine.
Pay close attention to the following as they may indicate a medical condition:
- He should be cooperative and relaxed. Sudden crankiness or reluctance to be touched or groomed may indicate pain or illness.
- Check his body and legs for unusual stiffness, tenderness, or lumps.
- His breathing should be quiet and rhythmic, not noisy, shallow, or labored.
- Bad breath or reluctance to have his mouth examined may signal a gum infection or fractured tooth.
- Head shaking, redness, or an obvious odor from his ears could mean an ear infection.
- Squinting or pawing at his face may indicate an eye infection or injury.
- Examine his skin for signs of flea dirt, ticks, redness, flaking, scratching, or injuries.
- Handle his feet to check for broken nails or injuries to his foot pads.
Desensitizing Your Chihuahua to General Handling
Many groomers and veterinarians consider Chihuahuas difficult to handle. Unfortunately this reputation is so pervasive that it is sometimes perceived as an innate breed trait. Nothing could be further from the truth. Chihuahuas can learn to tolerate every aspect of grooming from nail trimming to dental exams.
However, it is your responsibility to properly introduce him to these procedures in a positive manner.
Every dog will need to be brushed, bathed, or examined by a veterinarian at some point in his life, and it does not need to be a traumatic experience.
Some owners avoid handling their Chihuahuas, because they fear accidentally upsetting or injuring the dog if he objects or struggles. These chores can usually be managed regardless of a Chihuahua’s attitude about the process, and that is unfortunately what usually happens in these cases.
It is possible to forcibly restrain the dog to bathe him or trim his nails, but this will only intensify his fears and reinforce his instinctive fight-or-flight reaction to the whole business.
If your puppy is less than four months of age, he should willingly accept new experiences as part of his normal routine. Even if he doesn’t require much grooming at this age, spend a few minutes every day running a brush through his coat, examining his ears, and massaging his feet. Introduce him to the sounds of running bathwater and an electric hair dryer.
Since he will be teething during these weeks, his mouth may be sensitive, but it is also important to check it daily to make sure he is not developing any dental problems. Investing a few minutes a day introducing him to each facet of the grooming process will have a lifelong effect.
Use a special command like steady or stand still to reinforce the idea that he is expected to patiently cooperate for routine handling without squirming, whining, or growling. Generously reward his cooperation with treats and praise. If he protests, do not back off. It’s important to be reassuring but firm. Never lose your temper or frighten him.
Chihuahuas do not respond well to a show of force. Treat the encounter as a game rather than a show-down. However, if you are not persistent, he will learn that struggling and growling will put a stop to any attempt to trim his nails or clean his teeth.
When you have trained your Chihuahua to comfortably accept the idea of being groomed and handled while sitting on your lap, you may want to introduce him to a grooming table. Training your Chihuahua to stand on a table for grooming and examination has many advantages. It’s much easier to see what you are doing and to maintain eye contact with him, and it saves you the effort of constantly reaching down.