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Facts About Chihuahuas & Shelters That No One Will Tell You

Advocacy 12.12.2017
By Jill Caren
Shelter Statistics Chihuahuas
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Did you know that Chihuahuas are the dog breed found most often in shelters, second only to Pit Bulls? 

That is according to the ASPCA that listed them as number 2 for 2013 and 2014. Some list them as number three, but they are always found in the top 10.

How can that be? These tiny little dogs aren’t dangerous.

Some Alarming Statistics

Also, according to the ASPCA, 42,685 Chihuahuas were taken in by shelters and 8,731 were euthanized in 2013.

In Los Angeles, only pit bulls outnumber Chihuahuas in the city’s shelters.

At the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, 60% of the dogs awaiting adoption are pure or mixed-breed Chihuahuas.

At the San Francisco Animal Care and Control shelter, Chihuahuas are 30% of the canine population and rising.

At the East Bay SPCA, it’s 50%. Their fate is not much better elsewhere around the country, or around the world.

Shelter Statistics Chihuahuas

So, what possible reasons could there be for these alarming statistics?

There are 3 reasons for these sad statistics:

1. Lack of Education
2, Lack of Training and Socialization
3. Television and Movies

Lack Of Breed Education

Not everyone knows how important that it is to do research on the specific breed you are considering before you adopt. Chihuahuas are very protective and loyal. They are generally considered a “one person” dog because most of the time they prefer one member of the family.

These wonderful characteristics can be channeled into not so desirous behaviors if not properly trained and socialized.

Lack Of Training & Socialization

If not trained, they can become aggressively “protective” of their owner, toys, food, treats, even what they perceive as their “spot”. Without being socialized, they can be afraid of new situations, people, other dogs, and sometimes objects.

These two things – training and socialization – are important for any dog breed, but especially so for Chihuahuas. Why?

Chihuahuas Are Fear Aggressive

What does fear aggressive mean? It means that if they are afraid of a person, a situation, or even an object they will snarl, show their teeth, and growl to scare off the perceived threat. If that doesn’t work, they will snap and even bite.

If they are exposed to different situations, people, other dogs, animals, and objects in a supervised environment, they soon learn not to fear them.

Owners Need Training Too

Sometimes it’s the owner or guardian that needs the training. Yes, you read that correctly. Not all people understand that what they perceive as cute, or funny is actually harmful to the dog. It is not their intention to be mean to a dog, but unknowingly, they are. How many YouTube videos have you seen posted “cute” or “funny” of a Chihuahua growling and snarling while the human in the video teases the poor dog unmercifully in some way? Usually, it is by pretending to take away a toy or a treat.

That person has seen no need to train their Chihuahua not to be possessive of their toys or treats because these tiny little dogs are not “scary” as a bigger dog would be, they actually think that it is funny or cute.

But think, what if a child tried to take away the dog’s toy or treat? That child may get bitten and the Chihuahua would be blamed. Even though their bite would not be as harmful as a bigger dog, they can break skin. No child should EVER be bitten by ANY dog.

The dog may not necessarily be afraid of that person, but most likely it has happened many times before and the poor dog is probably very tired of being treated that way. The dog doesn’t perceive it in the same way the person does and does not think that it is funny.

Television & Movies

Raise your hand if you’ve seen “Legally Blonde” or “Beverly Hills Chihuahua”. Chances are you have. How about Paris Hilton’s Chihuahua “Tinkerbell”? Did watching those movies or that television program make you wish you had a Chihuahua? Well, you aren’t the only one.

Many who have watched them decided to adopt a Chihuahua thinking they were going to get a little “Bruiser” or “Chloe” or even a little “Tinkerbell”. They didn’t realize the necessity of doing research, training, or socialization and were very disappointed to discover that theirs is not the “little movie star” they were expecting.

Some people just want a little dog they can carry around as an accessory like Paris Hilton. They forget that the Chihuahua is a dog. Although many of us (myself included) think of our dogs as our babies, they still need to be treated like a dog.

Sadly, that happens all too often and as a result, the poor little pooch ends up in a shelter through no fault of their own.

What You Can Do

Undoubtedly you are as saddened by these facts as I am, so you may be asking, “what can I do”? One thing you can do is help me to educate others. Share this article on social media, with friends and family. The more it is shared, the more people will know and want to help.

If, you are considering adopting a Chihuahua please do your research first and make sure that a Chihuahua will fit into your lifestyle and your family. Then give them the training and socialization that they need. If you don’t know how, there are many videos and articles on the internet to help you.

You can also find training programs in your local area.

If you already have a Chihuahua take the time and the little bit of effort to train and socialize him. It doesn’t have to be a daunting endeavor. It can be fun and a great bonding experience for you and your dog.

If you have a Chihuahua that is exhibiting unwanted behaviors, get help from a professional trainer, don’t just give up in exasperation or frustration and surrender him/her to a shelter or even to someone else. That person will have the same problems that you had and it will only make the dog’s behaviors worse.

Last, but not least, please, please get your little Chihuahua spayed or neutered!

If you take the little bit of time and effort it takes to research the Chihuahua breed before you adopt, and then train, and socialize them the reward will be a lifetime of the best canine companion, best friend, smuggler, and unconditional love you could ever ask for!

Jill Caren

Jill Caren Bio Logo

Jill Caren

Jill is the owner and creator of CharityPaws and has been involved in animal rescue for over 12 years as a volunteer and board member for Jersey Animal Welfare Society. You can read all of her articles here.

Reader Interactions

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  1. BFuller says

    I think there are a number of factors you did not mention.

    1. Existing research suggests behaviors like barking result in dogs being brought to shelters more than aggression does. You seem to assume aggression is why so many chihuahuas are put up for adoption.

    2. Saying the percentage of chihuahuas in shelters doesn’t explain the situation unless you also show the percentage of chihuahuas kept as pets. If 30% of the dogs in the US are chihuahuas, 30% of the dogs in shelters being chihuahuas is no longer alarming, it is expected.

    3. Shelters typically don’t do genetic testing on their dogs. Even genetic testing can get complicated when you have several generations of mutts (the dog’s parents were mutts, and grandparents, etc.). Shelter employees give their best guesses of breed, based on physical characteristics, but lots of gene combinations can create small dogs with large pointy ears. Essentially, a lot of small mutts are going to be called “chihuahua mixes” because it’s simple.

    • Teri Zipf says

      Great points! Chihuahuas and pit bulls both suffer from stereotyping and misidentification. Articles like this would be more accurate if they didn’t home in on a particular breed. The problems discussed are caused by a subset of small dog owners in general, more than those of any one breed. I wish there was data on the actual ownership of various dog breeds rather than shelter and kennel club figures neither of which reflect the number of pets of any breed in homes.

      • Julie says

        Hi Teri, thank you for your thoughts. Since this article was about chihuahuas that is why we focused on only one particular breed, this was not meant to be an overview article of all breeds. I agree that I was we could in fact have more accurate data on a variety of breed details from other sources. It is something I think as a whole we struggle with!

  2. Jeff says

    I have had chihuahuas all my life (even as kid) and I love them more than any other dog or any other pet. The first 6 months of their lives are precarious for many reasons. I’ve been through them with chihuahuas many times in the past, but I can no longer bring myself to go through them anymore. Nowadays I prefer to get an older chihuahua rather than a very young puppy. The key is to get down on the floor with them and be quiet and peaceful and see how they react to you during the meet and greet phase, and pay close attention at this stage of the introduction. One that chooses you at this stage is the one you want and he or she will make a wonderful companion for years to come. On a very positive note, I have noticed how that our local dog shelter which used to have so many unwanted chihuahuas that they regularly euthanized them, now has so much demand from potential adopters that most chihuahuas get adopted back out of the shelter in about 2 days max. It is an amazing turnaround for them. Even very elderly chihuahuas (over 10 years old) are getting adopted very quickly at our local shelter (MCACC). Pit bulls, sadly, are not sharing in the amazing turnaround in public demand.

    • Julie says

      Thanks for your thoughts Jeff, this will be really helpful to our readers! And I agree with you on seniors, that is all I will be adopting going forward! I am glad to hear your shelters success with chihuahuas – now if only we can do the same for our pittie friends. Jill

  3. Vicki Albanese says

    I love my chihuahua, she’s more than my pet but a companion. I live on a fixed income and Lucy needs to be spayed. My vet wants over $600 and I just can’t pay out that or save it.
    Is there any organization that will do this at a very low rate or a mobile clinic for this in the Chula Vista California area?
    I’d love some info if anyone can help I’d really appreciate the support. Thank you.

    • Deborah Obrien says

      Area Humane Societies often have clinics to neuter pets. Our local Humane Society does them for $110. – $175., depending on size and gender.
      Animal Welfare Foundation provides low cost spay/neutering.
      Also try calling Pet Assistance Foundation of San Diego, they provide vouchers for inexpensive spay or neuter.
      I have never heard of it costing $600, that is outrageous.

      • Jill says

        Thanks Deborah for sharing all of this!

  4. Foxy says

    As for the guy dumping his chi because he marks – this is the TOp reason people abandon their dogs “behavioral issues”
    Yes Most humans don’t deserve to have a dog and there are zoning requirements for all other animals but anyone can breed dogs anywhere (except Minnesota most counties here have a strict kennel license requirement – vet records, waste disposal plan etc it for “public health and safety”

  5. Foxy says

    Chihuahuas has the smallest liters of all dogs and the huge numbers in shelters are truly alarming. All dogs have the same soul not just chis so taking this further- the US needs to implement a Kennel license requirement for breeding as is already successful legislation in MN. It saves taxpayer money and animal lives as all these dogs are house and killed at American taxpayer expense.

  6. Daniel Cano says

    I ready to take my Chihuahua to shelter. Mark everywhere in house leave another dog in house. Which is neuter ,Chihuahua is no. That the problem.

    • Jill Caren says

      I do not understand what you are saying? If the chihuahua is not neutered why not get him neutered and that should fix the problem. Taking him to the shelter should NOT be an option – he is your pet, and you should look at all options to help him.

      • Jamie says

        Exactly. I don’t get people that make the decision to get a pet, but don’t take the time to train them then complain thar they don’t act right. Next time instead of a dog, homeboy who wants to dump his chihuahua at a shelter should get a stuffed animal.

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