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!