Bad owners create negative perceptions of Chihuahuas – The Daily Evergreen
If you ever find yourself roaming the kennel-lined hallways of an animal shelter, chances are the majority of the dogs will be Pit Bulls or Chihuahua mixes. But why is this?
The sad truth is that certain dog breeds have garnered negative stereotypes, which taints the public’s perception of them. Whether or not these stereotypes have any merit behind them, they inevitably cause harm to these dogs.
Sadly, I’m sure most of you won’t be shocked to learn that dogs labeled as pit bulls have the highest shelter population and euthanasia rate, according to a Washington Post article. Their reputation for being aggressive and dangerous means they are less likely to be adopted.
There are so many nuances on the subject of pit bulls and I have no personal experience with them, so I will refer you to pit bull defenders to learn more about their stereotypes. Instead, this piece will focus on another stigmatized breed – the Chihuahua.
What may surprise you is that Chihuahuas have the second highest euthanasia rate. According Compassion without borders.
Yappy, feisty, aggressive, devilish and, of course, ankle biter are all terms you’ve probably heard (or used yourself) to describe Chihuahuas. As a Chihuahua owner myself, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received comments from people saying, “I normally hate Chihuahuas, but yours is actually quite nice.”
But why do people view Chihuahuas so negatively? Gabriela Hanson, The criminal justice and psychology double major said she’s had a bad interaction with an aggressive Chihuahua before, but she’s also had many good experiences with Chihuahuas.
“Chihuahuas are generally thought of as aggressive, but the majority of Chihuahuas aren’t,” Hanson said. “Due to improper training and support from the owner, the dog is limited to knowledge that could either improve his behavior or make it worse.”
A big problem with Chihuahuas is their owners.
In the early 2000s, carrying Chihuahuas in handbags became a fashion created by “Legally Blonde” and popularized by Hollywood stars such as Paris Hilton. “Paris-Hilton Syndrome” made people want Chihuahuas, believing they could just be carried around all day as a fashion accessory.
Demand for Chihuahuas skyrocketed and puppy mills began mass-producing the flagship, according to a Mercury News article. However, as with all trends, they have lost popularity.
But unlike the old-fashioned scarf that lives in the back of your closet, Chihuahuas are living creatures that need to be taken care of even after they’re out of style.
“People discovered that it was not just a key ring in bags. that they are in do… dogs. Dogs that bite, urinate and need training. …And like other untrained dogs, they became aggressive and stubborn,” according to DogsAndClogs article.
As with any dog, when their mental and physical needs are not met, they are bound to act.
Although Chihuahuas don’t have the same exercise requirements as, say, a border collie, they still need to go for walks. They need to explore their environment, sniff, socialize and enrich themselves.
When carried around 24/7, they don’t have that opportunity, which can make them reactive.
When you think of a Chihuahua’s attitude, the phrase “small dog syndrome” probably comes to mind.
“I think Chihuahuas are sometimes considered aggressive based on the dog’s attitude and mood,” said Daniel Siwinski, senior kinesiology major.
In reality, some Chihuahuas misbehave and act bigger than them because their boundaries are not respected.
When a big dog growls, you know how to back up and give him space. However, when a small dog gives a warning that he is uncomfortable, people are more likely to ignore him because he cannot cause much physical harm, according to an article published in BMC Veterinary Research.
“Aggressive behaviors preceding bites or attempted bites on the canine ‘aggression scale’ (e.g. stiffening, staring, growling) may be more likely to be ignored or not taken seriously in miniature breeds such as the Chihuahua, leading to an escalation into more serious behaviors including snapping and biting,” according to the article.
Can you really blame a dog for breaking down after his boundaries have been repeatedly violated to the point where he feels he has to resort to biting to be left alone?
I reluctantly admit that not all Chihuahuas are perfect angels (except mine), I know people have had negative experiences with them.
However, I think the same can be said with any breed; the difference is that Chihuahuas are rarely trained in the same way as large dogs. Don’t blame the dog, blame the owner.
Although he would never personally own one, Siwinski said he doesn’t care about Chihuahuas and hasn’t had any bad experiences with them, except that their barking can be annoying.
Now, maybe I’m a little biased, but I believe Chihuahuas are one of the sweetest breeds. They were bred to be companions, which makes them extremely affectionate and loyal. But like any dog, he must be trained and socialized properly or he will exhibit behavioral issues.
“[Chihuahuas are] a great dog choice for those who love small dogs,” Hanson said. “By being so cute and comforting, a Chihuahua can become not only a support system, but a great companion to have around.”
That doesn’t mean you should go out and adopt a Chihuahua. It’s important to remember that not all dogs are going to adapt to your lifestyle and it’s a disservice to you and the dog if you’re incompatible.
Any dog lover will tell you that each breed and/or mix has its pros and cons. The best thing you can do for Chihuahuas (or any stigmatized breed) is to not perpetuate negative stereotypes and to do your research before getting a pet.