For most of us, the key to physical fitness is two-pronged: a balanced diet and plenty of exercise. For the majority of Chihuahuas — and dogs in general — the same simple principle applies. However, with the average Chi weighing in between 3 and 6 pounds, overindulging is a dangerous (if not always conscious) habit.
It’s not brain surgery, folks: Don’t overfeed! While there’s no guaranteed one-size-fits-all amount to feed any breed — metabolism and activity level combine to create the individual’s ideal caloric intake — don’t forget that these are small animals and should be provided for accordingly. If you’re feeding your Chihuahua anywhere near the same amount as your Great Dane, something’s probably not right.
Easier said than done; we humans tend to express our love and approval with treats. Which is why it’s especially crucial for Chihuahua owners to take extra care monitoring the meals and snacks their pup receives. Just a few additional cookies a day may not have much effect on a larger dog, but it can quickly lead to obesity (and weight-related health problems) in a Chi. Stay mindful.
Fortunately for typical Chis, especially those with busy humans, huge amounts of activity (by our standards) aren’t needed. Historically not considered jogging buddies or hiking partners, they still require regular exercise to remain physically fit and mentally stimulated. Short, brisk walks a couple of times a day are usually adequate. Play, be it with humans or other dogs, counts too.
You know your pup, so be observant. Is she gaining weight? If so, slightly decrease the amount of food and gradually increase the time spent walking, training, or playing. And remember: Sudden or unexplained weight gain can be the manifestation of an underlying health problem; consult your vet with any concerns or questions.
Feeding that incorporates exercise!
Perhaps the easiest way to ensure your dog gets the right amount of food and exercise is to combine the two. A few of our favorite approaches:
Serve all meals in a KONG (or other interactive toy in which physical movement is required to dislodge the food from the contraption). KONGs — and kibble! —are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Rotate in several different types and allow your Chi to take his time figuring out the most effective technique for each.
This simple game makes for challenging sport by stimulating your dog’s keen sense of smell and innate prey drive. All you do is a toss a piece of kibble on the ground (floor is better than carpet, especially at first) and tell your pup, “Find it!”
At first, make it very easy. Toss the kibble so that it lands in obvious sight/smelling proximity. As the dog gets the hang of the game, increase the distance so that he’s scampering to the far corners of the room to find the “hidden” morsel.
Brush up on recall, sit, down, and any other tricks or cues your pup knows. Or, take this opportunity to teach her something new using allotted kibble from her breakfast or dinner.