Grooming your Chi’s coat daily is ideal, but if that isn’t possible, make three times a week the bare minimum. Caring for his coat gives you a chance to look for lumps and bruises, scratches and skin infections, and for signs of external parasites like fleas and ticks. Everything is easier to treat when discovered early.
Although most ticks are easy to spot on a smooth sleek coat, they are a little harder to find on a long coat. Favorite hiding places are in the ears, just behind the ears, between the toes, in the thick neck hair, or in the rump area just before the tail. To uncover fleas, rough your Chi’s coat in the opposite direction from the way it grows. You may not see any of the minuscule pests move, but tiny black specks on the skin will tell you that fleas are having a free lunch courtesy of Pepe.
If you see the telltale specks, ask your veterinarian to recommend a treatment program and use the products exactly as recommended.
A Chihuahua’s coat grows in cycles. As it grows, it should look glossy, but eventually it stops growing, dries out (doesn’t look quite as shiny), and finally is shed. The cycle takes a little more than one-third of a year, or about 130 days, but it varies considerably between Chis. In fact, smooth coats shed some hair all the time. Dogs that spend a lot of time outdoors always shed their winter coats in the spring, but because Chihuahuas are house pets and don’t always grow winter coats, they tend to shed on their own personal schedule.
Grooming puppies at early stage
How soon do you start grooming puppies? As soon as they settles in-just a day or two after purchase. Condition your Chihuahua from puppyhood to accept grooming as a fact of life, and he’ll soon learn to like it. Talk to him softly at first as you work on him. If he becomes fidgety about being handled on any part of his body, say “No!” sharply and firmly (but not loudly or in a threatening tone) and continue grooming gently. Soon the sessions will become routine.
If your pup is adamant about not wanting you to touch a certain part of his body-his feet, for example-don’t force the issue.
Dog grooming tables
You can groom your Chihuahua on your lap or another surface with traction if he cooperates, but some Chi owners prefer using specially made dog grooming tables. Tables just for grooming are available through pet supply stores, at booths at dog shows, or in animal supply catalogs. They even come in small sizes for Toy dogs.
You can also create your own dog grooming table. Any tabletop does well as long as it’s the right height for you to work on and stands absolutely steady, without even a hint of a wobble. Provide traction by attaching rubber matting to the top of the table. And never turn your back when your dog is on the table-not even for an instant.
Brushing your Chihuahua
Whether your Chi is a smooth or a long coat, you’ll wear less of his hair and he’ll stay cleaner and need fewer bathing sessions if you brush him regularly. Just before brushing, give him a full-body massage. He’ll love it because it feels good, but it serves a functional purpose, too: You’re actually stimulating his skin and examining him from head to toe at the same time.
The general brushing process
Grab a natural bristle brush for your brushing duties and then follow these steps:
- Place your dog so he faces away from you on your lap or on a nonslip grooming table.
- Start brushing his body against the lay of the hair, from just in front of his tail to the top of his neck. Giving a few strokes in the opposite direction of hair growth is the quickest way to loosen his dead hair. Do the same along each side.
- Brush his back, sides, neck, and legs in the same direction as his hair grows.
- Gently turn him upside down in your lap or on the grooming table and brush his chest, belly, and the underside of his neck.
- Place him right-side up and, if he’s a smooth coat, finish by brushing his tail.
- Praise him for being such a cooperative boy and give him a treat!
Brushing a long coat
If your Chihuahua has a long coat, you need a rubber comb for the finishing touches after you complete the general steps. With your Chi right-side up, comb his earring and the long hair on his legs. Be gentle, but make sure you get all the way to the skin. Next, brush his tail and then comb it. Simple as that-unless his coat is matted.
Chihuahua long coats have their own lingo. The hair on their legs is called furnishings; the tail hair is a plume; and the fine hair falling from their ears is called fringe.
Mats (balls of hair you can’t get a comb through) seldom occur on a dog that’s groomed daily, but when they do, they usually show up just behind the ears. You can loosen minor mats with your fingers by separating each hair patiently until the mat is gone. An implement called a mat splitter usually is necessary for major mats. The splitter loosens the mat while removing the worst of it. Use it gently or it can hurt your Chi’s skin and make him wary of grooming.
If you have a long-coated Chihuahua that has gone ungroomed for too long, your best bet is to take him to a professional groomer. The pro will bathe your pup, remove the mats, trim his toenails-basically, she’ll put your Chi’s coat back in shape so you can easily care for it yourself.
Do your clothes and furniture look furry? Don’t blame poor Pepe. All that dead hair would be on your grooming brush rather than your navy suit if you brushed him daily.
Don’t forget your Chihuahua’s perky ears when giving him the grooming once-over. Healthy ears are pinkish on the inside, and their edges are smooth. They don’t have nicks, splits, or places along the edge where the hair is stuck together as if smeared with dark glue. When something is wrong, your nose may be the first to know. That’s because nasty odors or discharges are early signs that ear mites have set up camp. These pests live in the ear canal, irritating your Chihuahua’s sensitive ears and producing a dry, rusty-brown or black discharge.
Even if no unusual odor or discharge is present, suspect something if your Chi paws at his ears, shakes his head, or stands with his head unnaturally cocked to the side. Ear mites are easily banished, and ear infections are quickly cured, when discovered early. As soon as you see any of these signs of trouble, visit your veterinarian.