Hollywood has done it again. Beverly Hills Chihuahua was a huge box office success. That means lots of families and lots of little kids ventured out to the theater and left wanting a Chihuahua of their very own. I mean, who can resist those adorable, tiny, talking dogs? They look so great in the movie, and they are sooo little! Therefore, they must be a perfect dog for families and little kids, right? The answer is a definitive, NO. As adorable and wonderful as they may be, Chihuahuas are not for everybody.
This has been a running problem for years. Every time Hollywood uses a specific breed in a movie or television show, lots of people run out and impulse buy a new puppy without knowing anything about the breed or considering the huge responsibility of owning any dog. I call it the “Lassie Syndrome”. It’s when people assume the dog will be wonderful and perfect, just like in the movies. But of course, dogs are living, breathing beings that must be taught and worked with and trained, and etc., etc… Every dog is an individual with its own personality and most have some good and some not so good traits; just like people.
It happened when Lady and the Tramp was released in 1955. Cocker Spaniels became wildly popular and as a result many people started backyard breeding or breeding irresponsibly. Consequently, to this day, Cocker Spaniels are one of the most consistently aggressive breeds. Guess what other breed is consistently on the “most aggressive” lists? That’s right, the Chihuahua. It happened again in 1996 with 101 Dalmatians. While most Dalmatians are highly intelligent and friendly, they are also extremely energetic and high maintenance pets. Ultimately, a couple years after 101 Dalmatians hit the theaters, our shelters were full of these dogs; given up because they were not movie perfect. Hardly the typical happy movie ending.
I guess the Chihuahua Movie scares me a little because I happen to own a Chihuahua. His name is Cowboy and he is my absolute love. However, I wouldn’t say that everyone feels such fondness towards my little man. He has a pretty typical Chihuahua temperament and has many of what I like to call, “Chihuahua-isms”. While Cowboy is extremely lovable and loyal to those he knows, he is prone to snapping, snarling and screaming at strangers. He definitely has a Napoleonic Complex. I happen to train dogs professionally, and I am able to manage Cowboy’s behavior. However, it is not something I will ever be able to “cure” him of. There is no magic button or pill, and I will never be able to change his temperament.
My heart cringes at the thought of our shelters becoming even more overrun with these little dogs. Chihuahuas are wonderful, loving, little feisty guys with tons of personality. However, they are not for everyone. They are not great with kids and early socialization and training is essential. Research and preparation are of the utmost importance before acquiring any dog. Before you run out and get one, know what you are getting. Ay, Chihuahua!
“What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
Certified Canine Trainer & Behavior Specialist
Professional Dog Training in Houston, TX