The Chihuahua although being considered a companion or lap dog does have a lot of energy. Being a small dog they do well in any living situation including small apartments. However, due to their tendency to become hyper, they do need to have daily activity in order to release pent-up energy.
Without the opportunity to release all that pent up energy and to challenge their minds they can develop behavior problems. This can include barking, digging, destructive behavior and escaping to explore on their own. In some cases, the frustration can lead to aggressive behavior. Chihuahuas can also be prone to becoming overweight if they are not encouraged to be active.
There are three main types of exercise and activity you must provide your Chihuahua every day.
- 1. Daily walk
- 2. High-intensity free play
- 3. Mental stimulation
The daily walk is essential for a Chihuahua not only to release some pent-up energy. The walk allows your Chihuahua to stimulate the mind with the sights, sounds and smells they come across. It is also a perfect time to incorporate some training and helps build their bond with you.
Ideally, the minimum should be 30 minutes daily. They can go for much longer than you would expect. This can be just once a day, or two walks a day would be better if your schedule allows. Dogs also like routine, so try to schedule the walk for around the same time each day. Daily walks are much better than nothing all week and a big walk at the weekend.
I would recommend using a harness and lightweight lead for your Chihuahua as opposed to a conventional collar and lead. This is because your Chihuahua’s neck is very tiny and very fragile and pulling on a collar could potentially harm them. Many Chihuahuas do tend to be lead pullers.
Chihuahuas are also very sensitive to the cold. In temperatures of 35-40 degrees Fahrenheit, it is recommended to dress your Chihuahua in a dog sweater or coat for walks. Walking your Chihuahua in temperatures below 35 degrees Fahrenheit is strongly discouraged, especially when there is a wind-chill factor. Perhaps opt for some inside activity instead. Check out this article for ideas on how to entertain your Chihuahua inside.
If your Chihuahua has good recall and comes on command, walks at the park off the leash is ideal. Alternatively, you can use a retractable leash to allow them more freedom while maintaining control.
High-intensity free play
The Chihuahua is fast and can turn on a dime. Ideally, you need to find activities that can burn energy in a short period of time and use these skills.
A Flirt pole is like a giant cat tickler for dogs. It has a long handle with a bungy type rope with a lure or toy attached to the end. You simply move the lure along the ground around in circles or in different directions as your dog chases it. This activity is ideal for a Chihuahua as are very agile and can change direction with ease. Be sure they have a good “leave it” command and don’t allow them to destroy the toy. It is important that this be a controlled exercise.
Playing Fetch with your Chihuahua is another fantastic way to burn pent-up energy. Many Chihuahuas are ball or toy crazy can play this for hundreds of throws. A great alternative is to use an Automatic Ball Launcher so your dog can play Fetch by themselves. As the Chihuahua is pretty smart they learn to use this quickly. For more information check out “Automatic Ball Launchers for Dogs”
Set up an agility or obstacle course in your backyard. You can use items you have around the home, build your own agility or you can get reasonably priced agility sets on Amazon.
You can include tasks such as the weave, hurdle jumps, tunnels or jumping through hoops or a platform to jump on and stay.
A good energy burner if you have stairs in your home. Start at the bottom of the stairs and have your dog “stay”. Throw the ball to the top of the stairs and then say, “Go!” Let your dog dash up the stairs as fast as they can. Have them return down the stairs at a slower pace to avoid injury.
Tug of War
A firm favorite of the majority of dogs. Make them crouch and pull back to use extra energy. Ensure that this is a controlled game and they release when you want them to.
Dog toys that move on their own
There are many dog toys available that shake, rattle, roll and move about on their own. These are ideal for a Chihuahua to encourage them to get moving while playing with their toys. See “Dog toys that move on their own” to learn more.
Self Playing Dog Toys
There are a variety of dog toys that your dog can use to play by themselves. These are great for times when your dog is home alone, you don’t have the time or you are otherwise occupied. This way your dog can still get some physical activity and mental stimulation without your direct involvement. See “Self Playing Dog Toys” for some ideas.
Play with other dogs
Provide the opportunity for your Chihuahua to play with other dogs. This is not only great to burn energy and stimulate their mind, but teaches them important social skills. Many Chihuahuas can be unsure around other bigger dogs, so as much socialization as possible will help build their confidence.
There are countless more activities you can do with your Chihuahua to burn pent-up energy quickly. For more ideas, check out “How to tire a hyper high energy dog” and “Tire a high energy dog quickly“. You may also like “50 Boredom Busters and games for dogs“
Mental stimulation and enrichment.
Chihuahuas, in fact, all dogs need an outlet for their minds. If they are not provided the opportunity to challenge their minds they will come up with their own ways to achieve this.
This usually manifests itself in bad behavior such as excessive barking, digging, escaping and other destructive behaviors. Read “Mental stimulation and mind enrichment for dogs” to learn about the 6 types or categories of mind stimulation a mental enrichment and some great ideas to provide this.
Some ways to provide mental stimulation and enrichment include;
Puzzle toys are ideal for dogs like the Chihuahua to challenge their minds and test their problem-solving skills. Due to their smart minds, try to find puzzle toys that are a bit more challenging as they tend to work these out quite quickly. Check out “Top puzzle toys for dogs” for my top picks.
In addition to puzzle toys, Kongs for dogs are another great way to get your Chihuahua to solve a problem and challenge the mind. Read “How to use a Kong for dogs“.
Provide your Chihuahua with good strong chew toys. Chewing is a great way to ocuply them. In addition, chewing releases endorphins and helps to relax a dog. Many dogs hold stress in the jaw. In addition, provide a good range of other toys. To learn about the best type of toys for Chihuahuas see here.
Teaching new commands and tricks is also excellent to provide mental enrichment. A popular game that involves learning is to teach them the names of their toys. Dogs can learn hundreds of words and names.
Chewing is a natural instinct for dogs and has many benefits including keeping them busy and occupying and stimulating their minds. To learn more about the benefits of and the best chew toys see here.
Turn mealtimes into an opportunity for your Chihuahua to get a mental challenge and enrichment. Instead of feeding them from a bowl, give them activities that require them to work for their food. To learn more about feeding enrichment for dogs see here.
Enrich their environment
Environmental enrichment is the process of making a dog’s living space more engaging and interesting. To learn more about environmental enrichment for dogs see here.
Over exercised dog symptoms
Chihuahuas can go hard and keep going, often not knowing when to stop. Being a small dog they can be prone to over-heating easily. With any dog, it is possible to over-exercise them. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of a dog that has overdone it. Read “Overexercised dog symptoms” to learn more.
How much exercise does a Chihuahua puppy need?
The exercise suggestions above relate to a healthy adult Chihuahua. The exercise needs of a puppy are quite different. With puppies, their bones, muscle, and joints are still growing and developing.
Overly strenuous walks are not necessary and in fact, could possibly cause harm. An activity that is high impact on the joints should also be avoided.
The best exercise for a young puppy is free play with age-appropriate toys. Socializing with other puppies or friendly adult dogs is a great way to burn some of that puppy energy along with teaching them the social skills they need.
As your Chihuahua puppy gets older you can take them for short informal walks allowing them to sniff and explore and get used to being on a leash. Puppies under three months probably haven’t had all their vaccinations so shouldn’t be walked in public. Check with your vet when it is alright to venture out to the park or street.
The general rule of thumb for walking a puppy is around 5 minutes for every month of age. So, for example for a 4-month-old puppy, a walk of 15 minutes to 20 minutes is enough. Monitor your Chihuahua puppy on the walk for signs such as lagging behind, lying down or panting. End the walk if they seem too tired.
Mental stimulation is important for puppies and can tire them just as much as physical activity. For more on mental stimulation for puppies see here.
For more details on exercise for a Chihuahua puppy read “How to exercise your puppy”
How much exercise does an older Chihuahua need
As a dog gets older they become less active and have lower energy levels. However, it is still important that they remain reasonably active to keep their joints and muscles mobile and to manage their weight. Read ” Dog exercise for a senior dog” to learn more.
Many dogs develop arthritis as they age. Exercise for them becomes a balancing act. It is important to keep their joints mobile and manage weight, but too much can make them sore. Read “How to exercise an arthritic dog” to learn more.
In conclusion, how much exercise does a Chihuahua need
Despite their small size, the Chihuahua is more high energy than you might expect. It is crucial to provide adequate physical and mental exercise and activity to release pent-up energy and prevent boredom. The cost of not doing so can be an unhappy and frustrated little dog. This can lead to behavior issues such as barking, digging, escaping and destructive behavior.