Dog questions redux (tiny dog edition)
August 22, 2019 8:55 PM   Subscribe

Around a month ago, my beloved rescue Huggy (of many earlier questions) died of a sudden heart attack. I miss her dreadfully, but I feel like I kept my promise to make sure she was a princess the rest of her days. Now because of a number of reasons, I'm taking in two middle aged chihuahua mix dogs on a foster-to-adopt base and I find myself with a number of questions. Relevant topics: eyecare, neglect, introductions. small dog tips

Jake and Junebug are male chihuahua mixes who are 8 and 9 years old. They were both surrendered by a hoarder/backyard breeder. They had been kept in separate small cages and suffered pretty severe neglect. Junebug had to have an eye and most of her teeth removed after rescue. Jake lost most of his teeth. Otherwise they are healthy and have been in foster for a number of months. Both are toilet trained, friendly, and have so far had no issues with the other dogs in their foster home. They are either brothers or cousins, but since they were kept in separate cages, they probably have not bonded with each other.

Jake for dog tax. I don't have a good picture of Junebug yet.

I'm bringing them both in on the same day next week at the same time so they come into the house on equal footing. Any tips for introducing them?

Jake refused to eat dog kibble at his foster, and only eats steamed chicken and veggies. Junebug eats fish based kibble.

Junebug's remaining eye cannot make tears or close properly and needs both drops and artificial moisturizing. Does anyone have experience with anything like this? I've ordered him custom goggles already to protect the eye. (Part of why I've adopted them is he will likely eventually lose both eyes and I have blind dog experience.)

In January I am moving to a different country and will obviously take them with me. Again, part of why I'm taking them here and now is I will basically be working from home for four months, so they can bond with me. Any tips on getting them ready to fly (5 hour flight)?

Any general chihuahua or tiny dog tips? All my experience is with cats and larger dogs.

(Thanks again to the general community for all the help you gave me with Huggy. You are all wonderful.)
posted by frumiousb to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Update: Dog tax for Junebug. From his foster.
posted by frumiousb at 10:06 PM on August 22

I mostly just came to say I’m sorry about Huggy and that you’re an amazing person.

But, so I actually answer the question... small dogs have much smaller bladders than big dogs, so they have to pee more often.
posted by Weeping_angel at 11:19 PM on August 22 [2 favorites]

Congratulations on your new, adorable companions!

Here are two things that most Chihuahuas love:

1. Blankets and pillows.

They like to have *a lot* of these so that they can squish them into giant heaps and then either perch on top or bury themselves underneath. (Basically, they like to build forts with them.)

2. Sleeping in their person's bed, under the covers.

If this isn't something you want, be prepared to set and maintain that boundary from the second they come into the house.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:01 AM on August 23 [4 favorites]

I’m so sorry about Huggy! I remember your questions about gave her such a good life.

Junebug and Jake look adorable! The only thing Incan think of is, if you don’t have little harnesses for them for their leashes to clip to, it’s much more comfortable than a leash clipped to a collar the way people often do with a bigger dog.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:30 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry about Huggy. A beautiful dog who had a beautiful life with you.
posted by MeadowlarkMaude at 3:50 AM on August 23

Oh no, so sorry to hear about Huggy. Thanks for giving her a wonderful life. And congrats on your adorable new guys! No tips from me, having only had big dogs myself, but definitely harnesses instead of collars, and be aware they may be more sensitive to bad weather and cold and not want to walk as far as larger dogs.
posted by Balthamos at 4:47 AM on August 23

That’s tough news about Huggy; I’m sorry.

Our terrier lost vision in one of her eyes due to glaucoma and so we were keen to keep the remaining one healthy. Doughty didn’t have the issue with tearing that your new pup does, but she did require regular drops to contain any potential swelling, regular drops to add a bit more fluid, and occasionally an ointment when things were looking irritated/infected.

We turned it into a regular part of the daily routine. She got a reward after her dose, so after a while, I’d call out “treat town!” and she’d come hustling in for her drops and her treat.

If you’re squicked about adding drops or whatever to your dog’s eyes, don’t worry, you’ll get over that pretty quick.

Good luck with your new charges.
posted by notyou at 5:49 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]

nthing the "like to snuggle in covers" and the "like to wear harnesses." My rescue chihuahua mix is SO INTO THESE THINGS. Note that those are little chihuahuas and they may need you to pick them up to get on the bed (or wherever)!

Your dogs will do fine on a five hour flight if they have a carrier they like (or, ideally, a carrier for each of them, given the situation, most likely). I strongly recommend getting them a carrier that doesn't feel too large. I realize that this is counterintuitive: shouldn't a dog on a long flight want a big carrier they can move around in? What I found with my dog (who travels with me all the time, in planes, trains, and automobiles) is that it's unpleasant for him to be shaken around inside a large carrier, but he reacts better to a space that "hugs" him. This is probably because of that chihuahua snuggle gene. We tried many carriers before settling on the Sleepypod Air, which is the smallest we tried and technically is just slightly too small for his long legs; it's more expensive than many options, but he loves it and is clearly very happy sitting and sleeping in it, because of how cuddly and plush it is. Sleepypod also makes a carrier that's smaller than the Air that might work for you.

We worked with my dog a lot before taking him "on the road": leaving the carrier out, teaching him the command "carrier" (to load up), letting him explore and sleep in it when we weren't going anywhere (ie using it like a crate), and taking small "trips" in it (putting him in and walking around the house, or around the neighborhood, letting him out to sniff and see nothing bad has happened, asking him to get back in after peeing in a strange place, etc). Your travel sounds necessary and high-stakes—ie, if the dogs hate it, too bad, they'll be going anyway—so it's probably worth it to integrate carrier training basically as soon as you get them for everyone's happiness.

A lot of people will tell you that they have to dope up their dogs with anti-anxiety medication before traveling with them. Some dogs really need this but I notice that a lot of people go to it at the first sign of the dog's concern, and vets will prescribe it. No judgment on these people—they need to travel, they need their dog to go, the dog is anxious, OK—but it is not universally necessary.

I too only had larger dogs before this guy and I would say my #1 lesson in getting him was: Just because you CAN pick up a little dog and make them do what you want doesn't mean you SHOULD. You and they will be much happier if you train them just like you would a larger dog—have them get in their carrier under their own power, just as a big dog would have to get in the car under their own power—and let them have some bodily autonomy, unless it's absolutely necessary.
posted by branca at 6:24 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

I know this is not answering your question but I am also so sorry about Huggy. I kinda felt like I knew her. You did really well by her. <3
posted by kimberussell at 6:54 AM on August 23 [2 favorites]

I’m so sorry about Huggy!

Tiny dogs are super fun, congratulations! Always use a harness for walks, little dogs are prone to trachea issues and harnesses really help. Nthing that they will appreciate lots of blankets to burrow in. If you have them sleep with you, consider getting a little flight of stairs to help them get on the bed or any other tall furniture, little dogs sometimes have knee issues and not having to jump too much is helpful. They are so cute!
posted by cakelite at 6:56 AM on August 23 [1 favorite]

Also sorry about the loss of your Huggy. But/and congratulations on your new additions!! I have two small dogs (chihuahua and chihuahua-ish) and they are the lights of my life. Everything is fun with them.

Big +1 to the blankets and pillows, and I will add that they are really food-motivated. Much more so than larger dogs I've known. So that's a big plus when it comes to training and getting them to do stuff.

And I'm not sure if it's relevant where you live, but you might need to think more about protecting your small dogs from larger dogs and other animals. Mine are pretty reactive, and it's not such a problem if you're fussing with another dog that weighs 8 lbs, but if it's a coyote or black bear (we have bears in the yard every day where I live) or a larger dog that could do real damage with a chomp... We generally feel like it's not worth the risk to take our tiny dogs to a kennel if we go out of town or to a dog park for exercise. YMMV, but we have sitters come to our house and we get all our exercise on walks and with fetch (oh, they also love fetch).

Again, congratulations!!
posted by witchen at 9:52 AM on August 23

Lovely pups! My advice is for the introduction. Do it outside so they're on completely neutral territory. Let them hang out and get to know each other for half an hour then take them in simultaneously. That way no one gets to stake a claim on the house or get freaked out by another dog in a more comfined space. Good luck with them. Chihuahuas are ace!
posted by merocet at 5:21 PM on August 23

Congrats on the new doggies!

I have two pugs who are on chronic eye drops and ointments after both developed eye ulcers. We're now down administering three times a day.

Things which have made this easier:
1. I tie it to mealtimes. One dog is very food-motivated, so he gets his cheese-wrapped pills (treat) and then his ointment- but he's smart, and he will start to back up after he gets the "treat." But he also knows I will not give him his meal/snack until after he gets the drops/ointment, and I remind him of this fact ("you know the rule."). (Basically, the thing he doesn't like is sandwiched in-between things he loves.)
1b. My mother, who only gives drops AFTER food, has a much, much harder time getting drops into their eyes, because there is no reward after (food-motivated dog deliberately hides his head after she gives him food).

2. The other dog is significantly less food-motivated, but loves affection and attention (she is very people-motivated)- so I rub her head after I give her the drops or ointment (which has an added benefit of smearing the ointment all over her eyes). It got to the point where she would turn her head up at food (she's hand-fed for other reasons) until I did this.

3. Put that dog's head on your knee so the dog can't look down and try to avoid you.

4. You may not have this issue if your dog cannot close his eye fully, but I usually have to gently pull/raise their upper eyelid to be able to get things effectively.

5. Early on I think I read somewhere it's easier to give drop coming at the dog's head from behind, but I could not master that. Front-facing administration is good.

6. if your dog ends up on Optimmune, wrap the tube in medical tape. The tube tends to split physically break at the sharp points that develop (metal tube), and the tape keeps that from happening for some reason.
posted by smangosbubbles at 9:53 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]

I just lost my miniature dachshund earlier this year, the pain can be tremendous. I think you are doing a great thing by fostering pets, it keeps kill shelters empty.
posted by Jim844 at 11:00 AM on August 30

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