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Moody

Chihuahua is Acting Moody

Overview
It's not uncommon for owners to wonder if it is normal for a Chihuahua to act moody. Of course, research has been done on canine emotions and many of the brain structures that we have that produce a range of emotions are present in canines. 

We know that canines experience excitement, distress, contentment, fear, anger, joy, shyness, suspicion and affection (which is also classified as love). So, the issue is not that a Chihuahua may show all of these feelings, but rather that the dog has episodes of going from one to the other without apparent reason or in some cases, when a Chihuahua seems overly moody by acting unhappy or even angry the majority of the time. 

This section will discuss:
  • The various reasons why a Chihuahua may act very moody including medical reasons environmental changes
  • Hormonal related mood changes
  • Ways to help your Chihuahua behave more even-keeled
Health Issues

Whenever there is an obvious change in how a dog is acting, one of the first things to look at is possible medical issues that may be causing the dog to act differently. Many conditions include behavioral changes, which can be interpreted as being moody as one of the symptoms. This includes:

Parasites: In general, worms can make a dog act lethargic and this may be accompanied by a lack of appetite. This alone can make a Chihuahua seem depressed and not quite like himself. In the case of tapeworms, another symptom is restlessness; and therefore there may be mood swings of both feeling down and showing agitation. Other signs do include evidence of the worms in the stools, coughing, vomiting, possible changes to the skin or coat and in some cases, diarrhea.  

Thyroid disease: Along with weight changes and skin changes, a Chihuahua with abnormal thyroid levels can behave very moody by displaying both signs of fearfulness and aggression. 

Arthritis: When an older, senior dog gradually acts more moody, this can point to arthritis which worsens over time. A senior Chihuahua may have dealt with minor discomfort, but as the disease progresses, he is struggling more and having a hard time coping. Signs of this are difficult getting up from a down position, trouble going up or down steps, inability to keep up on walks as before and/or favoring a certain limb. Since arthritis is a degenerative disease, moodiness may gradually creep in. 

Other illness: Any medical condition ranging from allergies to cancer all have the ability to rob a dog of his otherwise happy state can cause him to be moody. Any issue that makes a dog feel uncomfortable or suffer from discomfort will affect his moods. Dogs that are not feeling well will act down in the dumps, often retreating to be alone, will have trouble acting happy and some may show aggressiveness when approached.

Slight Dehydration: Just a 1.5% loss of normal water levels in the body, which would be considered to be slight dehydration can cause several issues with a dog including loss of enthusiasm, being more tired that normal and a range of minor mood changes.  For this possible issue, you'll want to access if your Chihuahua has been drinking enough water. Offering flavored ice cubes (water mixed with apple or orange juice) can help bring levels up to normal. 

What to do: Whenever there are severe mood changes, making sure that your Chihuahua has a full medical checkup is recommended. Even if your dog just recently had a vet visit, a health issue could have developed from that time to now. The veterinarian should perform a full physical that includes examining all body parts, checking the ears, nose, eyes, throat and pulse, a complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis, thyroid hormone testing and usually a stool check (you will be asked to bring in a stool sample). 

Many disorders are much easily treated when caught early and for some including heartworms, early detection is vital for successful recovery. 

Environmental Changes

Chihuahuas can be very sensitive to changes in their environment and some do not cope well with certain circumstances. If your Chihuahua is moody in the sense that he seems depressed, is uninterested in playing and/or either retreats or acts overly clingy and all medical issues have been ruled out, you may want to take note of any changes that have happened in the home or the dog's social life.

Has a new family member either entered the home or left, either human or canine? Chihuahuas can become very sad if a person is no longer there every day or if another pet has passed away. And just the opposite, this breed often needs some time to get used to another person or another pet moving into the house. 

Is a friend (neighbor's dog, a dog that the Chihuahua normally sees at the dog park, etc.) no longer available to play with? Missing a playmate can cause a dog to act moody and despondent. 

Is the household more chaotic than normal? If there are loud arguments or even the element of a bunch of visitors in the house, etc., a change to a Chihuahua's normally peaceful day to one that seems more hectic can cause the dog to be moody. He may be restless and antsy and/or overly protective of his toys, food and resting areas or the house in general.  

Are you yourself more moody than normal? Dogs are amazing at picking up on the vibe of their owners and mimicking that. Certainly, you've noticed that if you are super happy and excited, your Chihuahua will act that way too. It works the opposite way as well. If an owner is under a lot of stress, upset about something or overly worried, it can cause a dog to display the same type of moods. Owners may not always realize that what they are feeling on the inside is being observed and noticed by their pets.  

What to do: If this is a matter of an issue that cannot be changed, such as a person no longer living at the house or a canine friend not being there anymore, in most cases the moodiness displayed will even out in time. It can help to distract the Chihuahua with an activity that is new to him. When feeling down, a Chihuahua may not want to play as normal or act enthusiastic about walks, but many dogs will perk up if a something new is introduced. This can be anything from a hike around a lake to working on some agility training with some fun obstacle hoops, weave poles or tunnels. 
 
If this is a matter of there being some upheaval in the house, if at all possible work to resolve that issue. We can't expect our pets to act happy if humans in the house are yelling or creating commotion.  

If you are experiencing some issues that are causing you to feel sad or upset, it may help to set aside even 30 minutes per day to 'purposefully' forget things and just have fun with your Chihuahua. Whether the two of you head out for a walk or play a game of hide n' seek, when you make an effort to spend quality time with your dog, it can help both of you feel better. If you take a look at things and realize that you may be expressing your anger or other negative feelings in front of your Chihuahua, he or she will be picking up on that. Working to speak to your dog in a happy tone (even if you have to fake it) and showing enthusiasm for all tasks ranging from grooming to daily walks can help even out a dog's mood. 

Hormonal Changes and Moodiness

Un-spayed female dogs can act moody during the heat cycle. Due to fluctuating hormones before the phase of discharge, during and even after as hormones are evening out again, a Chihuahua may have mood swings. This can include several emotions that may swing back and forth such as acting withdrawn, becoming insecure and wanting to stay close to the owner and/or some anxiety.  

Since a Chihuahua will enter heat twice per year and the cycle can last up to four weeks, if mood spells are coinciding with this schedule, this is often the cause.

In regard to males, un-neutered dogs may have brief mood swings of acting agitated if an female dog is nearby (you do not need to see her, he can sense her from very far away) as is unable to reach her. 
What to do: Unless you are planning on breeding there is really no reason to keep a female intact. Going into season can be stressful on a dog and of course, having an unplanned litter will be stressful for both you and your dog, not to mention possibly dangerous for a dog as small as a Chihuahua. Spaying, however, has many benefits including reduced odds of developing ovarian and mammary cancer. 

Neutering a male will not only resolve any issues that he may display in regard to wanting to bolt away to mate but also is a vital step in extending life span as it reduces or eliminates testicular and prostate cancer. Additionally, many male dogs calm down quite a bit after being fixed; they are more even-keeled, relaxed and less territorial. 

If you are concerned about cost, you can speak to your veterinarian or contact your local humane society or animal shelter and inquire about low-cost options. This may include reduced rates or payment plans. 
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Moody Due to Lack of Exercise

Dogs can get 'cabin fever' if they are kept indoors and unable to explore the outside world. If your Chihuahua is acting irritable and the issues above are ruled out, it may be time to access how much outdoor activity is being offered. For this active toy breed, one walk per day may not be enough. Chihuahuas often do well with at least two walks per day plus some extra activities such as playing fetch with a toy or small ball. 

If you experiencing bad weather that is keeping your Chihuahua in the house, it can help to consider the elements and see if dressing your dog in appropriate gear can be just the answer to being able to go out even if it is raining heavy or it is cold out. Some dogs do shy away from rain and a raincoat can offer enough protection for them to enjoy a walk. During a cold spell, placing an insulated vest or warm coat on your dog can help him tolerate being outside without getting chilled.  

And remember, that if you are not dressed properly, you'll tend to want to keep walks short, so wearing the right coat (and boots or having an umbrella) will help you offer your Chihuahua enough outdoor stimulation to prevent moodiness due to inactivity. 

Being exercised enough allows a dog to release pent-up energy, helps him sleep better at night, keeps his appetite healthy and overall makes him a happier dog. In addition, dogs can become frustrated over time if they are not allowed to use their canine senses. They love to sniff and explore and when stuck indoors, that ability is taken away. A Chihuahua can cheer right up just by having a fun session of sniffing out a hidden treat. 

Helping a Chihuahua Have a Stable Mood

Dogs are creatures of habit. For this reason it can help to keep a schedule. Try to groom, feed, exercise and play with your Chihuahua at the same times each day. If a dog never knows what to expect, he can become antsy or even nervous.  

Also, the Chihuahua is a breed that is sensitive to his surroundings. It's best to keep his toys and resting area in the same spot. Food and water bowls should be set in a quiet corner of the kitchen where there is no foot traffic or other elements that may make the dog feel uneasy that others are coming too close to his eating area. When you clean toys and dishes, this should be done when the dog is otherwise occupied. Respecting a dog's boundaries and giving him his own specific area to play and rest can give him a sense of peace, allowing him to be able to relax. 

If your Chihuahua seems constantly on edge when around other people and/or dogs, you may want to consider socialization training.  Many dogs cannot cope with overwhelming feelings of fear and nervousness without gradual introduction to those things in a helpful and supportive way. 

Summary

Since dogs do have a range of emotions it is normal for a Chihuahua to display various moods at different times. A dog may be upset that he doesn't get a treat or act shy around unknown people. However if there is a clear and distinct issue of moodiness, there is often a valid reason for this change in behavior. Owners are encouraged to not ignore this, as it is often a symptom of either a health condition or an environmental factor that can be resolved. Taking note of other behaviors and working with your dog's veterinarian will be important in taking steps to fix the problem. Most of all, dogs need their humans to have compassion and understanding when they are feeling down or struggling with something that is affecting their mood. 
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