Chill Out! How to Help Your Stressed-Out Chihuahua
In today’s world, many of us dog owners have high-stress lifestyles – the demands of work, home, and family can really ramp up our anxiety level. What about our dogs, however – is it possible for our Chihuahuas to experience anxiety like we do?
The simple answer, of course, is yes. It’s true that many breeds are far more unflappable than our little friends. Chihuahuas in particular seem to be known for their nervous tendencies, and just like their human counterparts, our stressed out pups may worry about a number of different things.
In some cases, the anxiety is so severe that it can affect our family routines or our relationships with our Chihuahuas; sometimes causing us to be worried, overprotective, upset, angry or even resentful of our pup’s behavior. And just as with people, constant anxiety might even have a worrisome effect on your little friend’s health, increasing their cortisol (stress hormone) levels and making their immune system less effective when they’re fighting illness.
Every dog can show their anxiety in different ways, and it’s up to us to do some detective work if we notice that our Chis are acting differently. Shaking or trembling is a pretty typical behavior trait we notice in our diminutive dogs when they’re uneasy, but there are some other signs that might tip you off to the fact that your Chihuahua is too stressed out such as:
• A change in their appetite – yes, our friends tend to be picky eaters as a rule, but sometimes they’re not eating because they’re actually anxious
• Weight loss or other health issues
• Unusually quiet or even depressed
• Destructive behaviors like chewing on furniture or clothing
• Increased whining, whimpering or barking
• Reluctance to potty in their normal spot, or peeing and pooping in the house suddenly
• Licking or chewing at themselves – compulsive grooming can often release endorphins (feel-good hormones), so some Chihuahuas may repeatedly lick or chew at their skin and fur to help relieve their anxious feelings
• Aggressive behavior – it’s not unusual for a stressed or fearful dog to lash out in defense, or to physically redirect their feelings onto the closest target if they’re feeling extremely nervous
Sometimes, it’s easy for us to see what’s upsetting our dogs, like the presence of scary noises or the fear of being separated from us. At other times, though, we might have no idea what’s causing our pups to quiver in misery – it’s not like they can tell us in words, exactly! Because we know that it’s far from fun to be always stressed out, it is important to get to the bottom of the issue that’s bothering your Chihuahua. To begin with, let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons why many of our little dogs might be stressed:
• Separation from their owner or other animal friend – Chis tend to bond very closely with their families.
• Boredom – Our smart little pooches need lots of interaction and play to give them enough mental stimulation.
• Not enough physical activity – though small, Chis still need lots of exercise!
• Fear – Especially if they’ve been poorly socialized, or have had a traumatic experience previously, Chihuahuas might be stressed out by new people, different environments, loud or unusual noises, and even other dogs or pets.
• Changes in routine – Dogs are creatures of habit, and if we could actually talk to them, most of them would say they prefer a fairly predictable daily routine. This is an instinctual remnant from their wolfish ancestors – consistency in food source and shelter meant a greater rate of survival!
• Health problems or chronic pain – it’s never fun being sick, and a Chi who’s feeling crummy all the time can definitely feel upset and anxious.
• Losing a family member (human or animal) –Chihuahuas are little dogs with big hearts; it’s not uncommon for them to grieve after losing a close companion.
The good news is that there are many ways in which you can lend a helping paw to your anxious pup. To begin with, it’s always a good idea to have them fully examined by their veterinarian to help rule out any medical problems that could be causing their stress. Next, taking steps to enrich your Chihuahua’s day-to-day routine can go a long way towards lowering their stress level! Feeding a high-quality and nutritious diet, providing fresh water, and giving your pup a comfortable and secure place to rest (without fear of interruption) are great ways to keep them physically healthy, but your time and attention is important to your pup too.
Make sure that your Chihuahua is getting lots of exercise from daily walks or backyard playtime, and give their brain a workout as well with interactive toys, obedience training, teaching fun tricks, or even games of ‘hide and seek’ or ‘find the treat’. We already know that our Chis welcome love and affection in large supply, but remember to avoid harsh corrections or punishment too, which can only make anxiety worse.
For some Chihuahuas, simply giving them more of our time can make a huge difference in how they feel; for others, however, the chronic cycle of stress and anxiety can be impossible to relieve without help, particularly in cases of severe separation anxiety, extreme under-socialization or fear caused by a really dire event. For these dogs, a program of slow and careful behavior modification supervised by a veterinary behaviorist is often the best option for recovery and relief.
Occasionally, veterinarian prescribed anti-anxiety medications are an option for relieving severe anxiety too, which helps with behavior training and conditioning, allowing a dog to become calm enough to be able to experience certain situations without feeling constant stress.
It’s true that there’s often no quick and easy solution to treating your Chihuahua’s anxiety, but that doesn’t mean it should merely be brushed off as ‘just a Chihuahua thing’. Emotional stress is a serious problem for many of our pups, and as their loving owners, we need to step forward and help them through it. After all, aren’t they always there for us?
So, is your Chihuahua stressed out and anxious? Do you know why? Have you tried anything to to help your Chi with his/her stress? Did it work? Let us know in the comments!
Lisa M Burris
Saturday 28th of May 2022
CBD. Has changed our lives. Made my nervous nelly Lola a calm happy girl. The vet recommended and I can't praise it enough. She plays like a young girl and weaned off seizure meds.
Saturday 28th of May 2022
I agree Lisa. I wrote that post years ago before I ever tried CBD oil so I need to update it and add that in there. It made the last few years of my elderly dog's life so much better. It helped her anxiety and her arthritis too.
Friday 18th of June 2021
I will look out for these sighns in my chihuahua,thank you for the help.
Wednesday 25th of August 2021
@Maggie, a dog behavioural expert may be able to help with this problem without having to resort to medication. We have been helped in this way with our chi
Friday 18th of June 2021
You're welcome Maggie!
Saturday 1st of May 2021
I have a 5 year old Chi-mix (thinking terrier of some sort) that we had as a 12wk old rescue. She is 100% my dog but we are a family of 4. She is incredibly temperamental, loving and sweet one minute then will change without warning and bite, snarl and growl and then be incredibly remorseful immediately afterwards. She will sometimes give warning signs but generally she doesnt. Shes very nervous and will again, attack my other 2 jobs without warning or reason too. We have tried CBD, crate training (which she likes) and other training techniques but she remains to be an enigma!! She’s literally Jackyl and Hyde.... any suggestions? I love her dearly but cannot trust her, especially around strangers. Its now becoming a problem to leave her if we want to go away as I worry she will bite someone. She does this at least 1x a week within our family. Many thanks.
Saturday 1st of May 2021
I would normally suggest CBD oil but you tried that and it didn't help. My only other suggestion is to tell your vet the problem and the solutions you have tried and see if he has something he could give her. At the very least, I would ask for a low dose tranquillizer to keep her calm for when you do go away on trips. A Thundershirt may help too as it helps some dogs with anxiety and nervousness.
Wednesday 10th of March 2021
Our 6 lb chi developed stress related colitis when we adopted a new lab puppy. Needless to say it's not going well. I've gotten him anti-anxiety meds that help sometimes but not all the time. He can't have me out of his sight for a second... gets insane seperation anxiety, hates the puppy (which we're keeping seperate for now)... any recommendations?
Friday 12th of March 2021
Labs aren't the best companions for chis. They are so hyper and rambunctious. Your chi may accept him time when he calms down but that could be a few years. Have you tried CBD oil? That works for a lot of dogs. I'm not sure what else you can do. I can as on the Facebook page if you want and see if anyone has any recommendations.
Tuesday 23rd of February 2021
I have a 2yr old male chihuahua. Super sweet little guy, but incredibly anxious about everything. I have had him his entire life. He came from a very loving home previously, so shouldn't be issues there. Things were fine until I needed to be temporarily relocated for work. I moved across the country from one coast to the other. Since the relocation would be 6-8 months, I was not going to leave my pups home. (I also have a maltipoo.) First issue was the plane ride over. He barked almost the entire ride. The vet had given me gabapentin to use on the flight, but it did nothing for him. He also has a thundershirt, but again, no help. I have since tried xanax and other anxiety meds, but nothing works well. When we go on walks here in the new area, he is happy until he sees another person or animal, and then he get's very upset and anxious. He goes to doggy day care and does great there, but not so great when he is with me. I'm worried the flight home is going to be horrible again and am wondering if anyone has ideas about traveling specifically with anxious chi's. Also, something that might help when we are out and about exploring to help him enjoy the experience rather than be anxious about it.
Tuesday 23rd of February 2021
Havr you tried CBD oil? That helps many anxious dogs. I'm not sure what else you can try. It sounds like you are doing everything you can. I can ask on the Facebook page for you if you want. Maybe someone else might have some ideas for you.