Do Chihuahuas make good service dogs? And how about emotional support dogs?
This article will reveal the truth plus:
- How a Chihuahua can be a guard dog.
- One surprising role Chihuahuas can fill (don’t miss out on #4).
- What makes the Chihuahua a suitable emotional support dog.
- Additional tips on how to make the most of your Chihuahua service dog experience.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
- Can a Chihuahua be a service dog?
- Can a Chihuahua be an emotional support dog?
- 7 ways a Chihuahua can help
Can a Chihuahua be a service dog?
Chihuahuas can be service dogs. They are alert, agile, and caring. This qualifies them for emergency tasks such as seeking help for epilepsy or assisting the deaf. However, Chihuahuas have to be handpicked, since some of them can be too aggressive for the job.
Can a Chihuahua be an emotional support dog?
A Chihuahua can be an emotional support dog. They have social skills, which can help people suffering from depression or anxiety. They also warm up quickly to their host family, ensuring loyalty. Even without training, they are helpful at lessening stress after a hectic day.
7 ways a Chihuahua can help
#1: They can double as guards
This will be surprising to hear first, but service Chihuahuas can help their owners by guarding their things.
Chihuahuas are naturally loud when people move into their territory. Before strangers can even knock, you’ll hear their bark first.
Chihuahuas are also biters. Studies show that they can bite even trained vets. Any thief that invades their owner’s space can expect a painful bite from them.
However, untrained Chihuahuas are known for biting friends and strangers. Being a guard dog means channeling aggression on the right targets.
This is how you can train your service Chihuahua to further help you and your home:
Roleplaying is part of a guard dog’s training experience. In your case, have a friend wear a mask and gloves.
Stuff their clothing with cushions and cover their bodily scent with perfume. This will fool your dog into thinking they’re a different person.
Have your friend make constant eye contact with your dog. Chihuahuas will see this as a taunt. Make them run, and your Chihuahua will bite at them.
Give them a treat after the exercise.
Caution: Be varied with the clothes and keep behaviors the same. You want their behavior to be the trigger, not the clothes!
Make them bark at will
Barking is your dog’s first line of defense. They use it to prevent people from coming near them or whatever they’re protecting. You can control this power by teaching them the bark command.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Let them sniff your treat.
- Place your treat between your fingers.
- While your pet stares at your treat, say ‘Speak.’
- Give them the treat when they bark.
- Repeat until they can follow the command without treats.
Note: Remember to also teach them the ‘Quiet’ command once they’ve mastered this. ‘Speak’ and ‘Quiet’ go together. Reward them every time they don’t bark until they figure it out.
Expose your pet to the outside world
Chihuahuas need to be able to distinguish friend from foe. This makes social exposure important. Go out with different people on a weekly basis.
Have them bring their own dogs if you can too! This will help them figure out how friendly animals act.
#2: They can hear things for you
Chihuahuas can also hear things for people.
Dogs have a naturally acute sense of hearing. Humans are only able to hear below 20,000 Hz, while your pet can handle up to 65,000 Hz.
They can hear things you wouldn’t normally hear from even farther distances. This makes them very effective at being hearing aids for the deaf.
They can hear telephones ringing, boiling water, and your doorbell. In fact, they can even use their hearing to protect their carers from pests like rats or stray animals!
Note: It is possible to train your pet for the job. However, it requires training for many individual sound cues. Leave the training to a professional dog trainer for efficiency.
If you do wish to train your pet yourself, your dog has to satisfy the following:
Hearing dogs have to be ready to respond to all kinds of situations. As such, they need daily exercise and a balanced diet. Feed your pet no more than ½ cup every day. Walk them outside for 30 minutes at most each day. This will keep their legs and hips healthy.
Chihuahuas have to be exposed to all kinds of sounds to eliminate any fear of them later in life. This will make it easier to train later on. In particular, watch for their reactions to these particular sounds:
- Fire alarms.
- Car engines.
- Boiling water.
- Smoke detectors.
Go outside for at least 30 minutes a day with your pet. Let them absorb and remember the sounds.
All hearing dogs need to be trained with basic commands. Have them learn ‘Sit’ and ‘Stay’ for starters. These foundational commands will help prime your dog for future tasks.
For either command, do the following:
- Keep your pet still and tell them to ‘stay.’
- If they don’t move, give them a treat.
- Tell them to sit.
- If they lower their hind legs, use a treat.
- Use the commands alternately until they are mastered.
Note: It’s highly recommended you use a clicker. The addition of a sound cue will help your pet greatly with rewards. It’s also a good aid for people with disabilities.
#3: They can give emotional support
Emotional support dogs may not strictly be service animals, but their psychological benefits cannot be ignored.
As it turns out, Chihuahuas can fulfill this role smoothly because of two things: their size and friendliness.
Their friendly nature allows them to notice when their owner is upset. In fact, research shows that dogs know when their owners are upset.
Another reason why they’re great support animals is that petting them relieves stress. They keep owners focused and happy.
However, there are more ways that a dog can provide emotional support:
Going out for a walk with a dog isn’t just exercise, but also a bonding moment. When you play with your dog, you’re boosting their health and your relationship with them. Explore outdoor games such as:
- Chasing bubbles.
Note: You can also do these and other games indoors, especially if it’s hot out.
Be careful to only play for 30 minutes a day. Make the most of your time by spreading it out evenly. You can play for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 more minutes during the evening. Leave the afternoons for naps.
Surprisingly, Chihuahuas are very capable hikers. They are lightweight, meaning they are able to resist rough terrain to an extent.
However, as with all small dogs, you need to keep a few things in mind to ensure your dog’s safety:
- Prepare first-aid kits. Have bandages and gauzes ready for wounds during the trip.
- Go to the vet for a checkup before the hike. Check for bone and muscle-related conditions.
- Be sure to have your own food for the trip. The risk of eating foreign materials on a hike is too great.
- Use harnesses over leashes. A harness distributes pressure more evenly. This reduces the risk of broken bones when pulling.
- If possible, bring another friend with you. Setting up everything can take time. Having an extra hand during emergencies will help your support dog greatly.
Emotional support Chihuahuas are great for long trips. They are easy to carry and doting towards their owners. Most airplanes will allow you to take Emotional Support Chihuahuas, as long as you have everything ready for the long journey.
Bring a spacious cage for your Chihuahua during the trip. You want to train your Chihuahua for this cage similar to their crate training.
Note: Do your research on hotels if you want to go to another country/city. Some may refuse emotional support animals, so pick one that will take yours in.
#4: They are natural obstacle detectors
Chihuahuas are overlooked for service roles because of their small size.
But don’t underestimate a Chihuahua. They are more capable of tasks than you think. One of the more surprising ones is guiding people.
Ironically enough, their size means nothing escapes their gaze. They can spot gaps along the road, obstacles or even traffic cones.
They are also blessed with extreme focus. This boils down to their own predatory nature.
However, the role has steeper requirements for Chihuahuas. Aggressive dogs can’t be detectors because they might pull their owners or bite strangers.
Here’s what you can expect from a good guide dog:
Chihuahuas are joyous creatures, but they can be really calm when performing the job. Calmness is needed from them because they might get rattled with new stimuli or even attack neutral strangers.
Chihuahuas should be able to figure out if their owner’s having a hard time. Preferably, the guide pet should have an understanding of the ‘Come’ and ‘Heel’ commands.
The ‘Come’ command helps your owner bring your Chihuahua back in line. This is useful if they are pulling too much while walking.
The ‘Heel’ command helps keep your dog near your feet to prevent pulling. When hiring a guide dog, be sure to ask if the pet has knowledge of these commands.
Many Chihuahuas are attentive, but few are able to stay attentive to their owners. Often, when they get bored, they start being destructive or noisy. If your Chihuahua does neither for extended periods, it means they’re great for the role.
Here’s a video of a Chihuahua being a good guide dog. Notice all of these traits in action:
Note: Be sure to get certification for guide dogs if your country requires it! This will allow you to take your Chihuahua to places that ask for paperwork. Hire dogs from a certified company.
Caution: Don’t pull your Chihuahua while they’re guiding you. They are small and can develop bone problems from being pulled too often.
#5: They can detect changes in blood sugar
Diabetes can be very tricky to handle because you need tools to detect blood sugar lows.
Thankfully, your Chihuahua can detect warning signs for you way before things get worse.
You won’t need to pinch yourself for blood samples, just pure pet magic!
They can work perfectly because they can smell your saliva. Blood sugar changes often affect your saliva’s scent very subtly.
You can’t detect these changes yourself, but your pet can. Here’s how you can make the most of their abilities:
Prepare a sample
Use a non-invasive glucose detector to track your blood sugar with your saliva. When it hits 70, get a strip of paper with your saliva on it and place it on an inverted, stainless steel bowl.
Make sure that the room is clean and free from any foreign scents like garbage or even air fresheners. Mixing up scents can make training harder.
Note: You can also use dental cotton to keep the sample safe and place it on top of said bowl.
Go on smelling exercises
Have them smell the sample, then give a treat. Afterward, tell your dog to stay and move the bowl further away from them. Have them sniff each time you move the bowl. Do this at least 3-4 times.
On the 5th time, get the bowl out of the room. Make them find the sample and give them a treat.
Keep doing this each day until they no longer need treats to find your samples. You can also hide samples behind obstacles to test their mastery.
Note: Use fresh samples each time you move the bowl if possible. You can also use a clicker.
Be more physical with your dog
Petting and staying close to your dog will help them notice your scent even further. Place your pet on your lap and let them lick you.
Once you’re confident, check your blood sugar again. Bring your dog close if the detector hits 70.
If they come near you and sniff at your face, give them a treat.
Note: Keep your dog clean to help them focus on your scent. Don’t forget to take your meds!
#6: They can sense violent episodes
Chihuahuas are great at sounding alarms when someone’s having a seizure or panic attack.
They’re not able to hold down their owner like bigger breeds. However, they can let family members know what’s happening.
They can even point to where emergency kits are if you have them. One good reason why they’re able to do this is the smell.
Dogs have approximately 300 million olfactory receptors. They are able to detect the chemicals people emit just before a seizure.
Aside from barking, they are also able to perform other ‘warning actions.’ People need to recognize these signs to ensure your loved one’s safety:
- Facial pawing.
- Relentless tail-wagging.
Any combination of these signs around your loved one should be taken seriously.
Seizures can happen within seconds. Take advantage of the extra time your Chihuahua’s buys you by doing the following:
- Prepare towels to deal with vomiting or drooling.
- Clear ground zero of any obstacles or hard/sharp objects.
- Turn them on their side to keep their head from hitting the ground.
Keep your Chihuahua far away from the owner until the seizure stops. This prevents them from getting hurt.
Let them get close only when they’re alert again. Don’t forget to reward your pet each time they detect a seizure.
#7: They can smell allergens
Chihuahuas aren’t limited to smelling seizures. They can also discourage owners from going near specific allergens.
This is a useful ability because people sometimes aren’t aware of the things they consume.
If you’re allergic to peanuts, you’ve likely eaten some by mistake and got sick because of it.
Luckily, dogs are able to lock on to certain scents with enough training. In fact, you can train an allergy alert dog on your own! Here’s how you can do it:
Consult your vet
Before training your dog, consult your vet. Check to see if they’re allergic to your allergens. If they have the same triggers, it’s best to simply hire an allergen detection dog.
You can also have them trained by professionals instead. Remember that it’s better to invest in prevention than cure.
Make them smell treats
Treats are among the first things your dog smells in life. When training your dog, make them familiar with their treats first. This helps contribute to their feeling of safety at home.
Owners are recommended to keep multiple treats for variety and urgency. For example, when treating your dog for noise anxiety, you can give them a special treat that they’ll really like. This will speed up your dog’s recovery.
Each dog can distinguish between different treats fairly quickly. Let your dog smell each one!
Play finding games with said treats
You can start small and use food puzzles like Kong Wobblers or Snuffle Mats. These puzzles will prepare your pet for tougher games. From there, up the difficulty by doing the following:
- Let your dog smell the treat.
- Use the ‘stay’ command.
- Go behind a wall and place your treat out of their sight
- Come back and tell your dog to ‘find it.’
- Reward them for finding the treat.
Once they understand what ‘find it’ means, bring anything you’re allergic to and repeat every step.
You can then say ‘find it’ to make them smell your food. They will be excited and start wagging their tail if there’s an allergen.