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Grooming a Chihuahua

Groomed Chihuahua


The Chihuahua requires a moderate amount of grooming, with long coats needing more attention given to brushing than short coats.

However, no matter the type of Chihuahua, brushing is an important grooming element to keep the coat healthy.

Short haired Chihuahua dogs should have a good full body brushing at least once per week. Be sure to cover all areas including the lower chest, legs and tail.

For longhaired Chihuahuas, it is recommended to brush out the coat 3 times per week.

Long coats can develop tangles, which are knotted hairs that can grow larger and larger, sometimes to the point of needing to be snipped off. 

To prevent this, the coat should be combed, brushed and then a final comb over to make sure it is free from matting. If a tangle is found, it may be able to be worked out by lathering your hands with a canine conditioner gently working to unravel the hairs.
Mist the Coat - Brushing a dry coat can lead to split ends which will affect the overall health of the coat.

It is recommended to lightly mist the coat with a canine leave-in conditioner or grooming spray that will protect the hairs and leave the fur shiny and clean.

Time and Techniques - Be sure to not glaze over the top hairs. The goal of brushing the coat of a Chihuahua will be to brush down deep enough to pull out any dead hairs, stimulate natural skin oils (that aid in keeping both skin and fur healthy) and to remove any debris that has gathered in, around and under the hairs. 

Allowing at least 10 minutes for this grooming element will ensure that the job is not rushed and all areas of the body have been thoroughly groomed.


When a dog enjoys bath time, this can be such a fun grooming task that owners give a dog too many baths. In general, a Chihuahua should be given a bath once every 3 to 4 weeks. Bathing more often this this can lead to dry skin issues, even when top quality canine shampoo and conditioner is used.

If there are extenuating circumstances such as a muddied coat, a bath can of course be given to clean away debris. Another exception to offer extra baths is during a female's heat cycle (for hygiene reasons) and once it has ended.
Here are some tips to make bath time fun and safe for a Chihuahua:
  • Due to the small size of a Chihuahua, a clean sink is often better than a bathtub. The smaller space allows an owner to better handle the dog and for Chihuahuas that are nervous of the water, it allows for a less intimidating experience.
  • Check the temperature with the inside of your wrist to ensure that it is neither too cool or too hot.
  • It can help to fill the sink with 3 or 4 inches of water before placing the Chihuahua in, as the noise of running water can trigger anxiety.
  • Never use human shampoo or other hair products made for humans. Canines need products that contain an entirely different Ph balance. You will want to use a quality canine shampoo and conditioner.
  • The use of a non-slip mat (or a small towel placed at the bottom of the sink) helps keep a Chihuahua from slipping and offers a more secure feeling during bath time.
  • Have all bathing supplies close at hand so that you do not need to leave your Chi unattended.
  • Even a bit of soapy residue left behind can cause skin and fur problems. Therefore, rinsing well is very important. A good rule to follow is that once you feel that the coat is thoroughly rinsed, do it one more time.
  • Be sure to have a soft, warm and absorbent towel ready so that your Chihuahua does not experience the chills after being removed.
  • Offer praise when your Chi complies with being washed. Your attitude and tone of voice plays a big role in how your Chihuahua reacts to this grooming element.
Giving Chihuahua a bath

Keeping the Eyes and Eye Area Clean

Eye Discharge

Excessive tearing or eye discharge points to a health issue; however it is common for dogs to have a small amount of discharge that accumulates throughout the day or night. Many refer to this as "eye gook". It should be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth or canine eye wipes. Once this is cleared away, go over the area again with a dry cloth so that the fur does not remain damp, as moisture can lead to tear stains.

Tear Stains

A Chihuahua can develop tear staining, which is a discoloration of fur around the eyes. Usually, this will be red or brown. The fur may also be hard and crusty. Here are some tips for helping to clear up this area:
  • Food particles and liquids can become stuck to facial hairs when a Chihuahua is eating. Wipe the face after meals, first with a damp cloth to clean away any debris and then with a soft dry cloth so that the fur does not remain wet. Using a raised eating area can also help eliminate this issue as the Chi does not have to extend his head deep into the bowl.
  • Each day wipe and then dry the area around the eyes.
  • Use stainless steel or ceramic bowls for both food and water. Deep, colored plastic bowls can slowly leak dyes which can discolor the fur.
  • Tap water can contain many harsh chemicals and pollutants which can cause tear staining (and other issues). Unless you know that your tap water is safe for human consumption, (a level of quality that you will want to apply to your Chihuahua as well), the use of a water filtering device is recommended.
  • Severe staining brought about by excessive tearing can develop due to a partially blocked tear duct, inverted eye lash or other issue. 
  • If health issues have been ruled out, look to an effective yet gentle product to remove the staining. We find Eye Envy to work exceptionally well.

Nail Trimming

For most Chihuahua dogs, nail trimming will need to be done every three months. While walking can file down nails somewhat, it will do so at an uneven rate, leaving some slanted and some longer than others. Nails left to grow can cause several issues for a Chihuahua including:
  • Ingrown nails
  • Discomfort
  • Irregular gait that, over time can cause skeletal damage
Trimming a Chihuahua's nails can be intimidating for many owners who are afraid to hurt their dog by accidentally cutting too short and hitting the quick (a vein that runs down the center of each nail). 

With other Chi's that are hyper and have a hard time sitting still, this can be quite an undertaking. Each owner will need to decide if this is a grooming task best left for a professional dog groomer. 

While there is some cost to this, for some it is the best choice since a groomer can perform this very quickly, leaving both owner and dog with less stress. In addition, many groomers will also check anal glands during a visit and be able to express them or take care of any other grooming element.

If you decide to take care of your Chihuahua's nails at home, be sure to have quality tools and keep them clean. 

Some Chi's do best with a grinder. While it does make some noise, it is often a fast method to file the nails down quickly. If using a standard clipper, it is suggested to have septic powder on hand, which is commonly used to stop bleeding, should the quick be accidentally nicked.

If you have never trimmed a dog's nails before, when you are searching for a proper nail trimming tool, make sure to read how each one works. If you are going to trim the nail yourself, be careful to trim a bit at a time. 

Each nail has a vein that runs through the middle of it, this is called the "quick". If cut, it will bleed quite a bit. You may use a solution that helps to stop the bleeding. 

Dew Claws

Some Chi's will have dew claws already removed while a newborn, long before going to their new home. However, in some cases, this procedure has not been done and it will be up to the owner to weigh the benefits of having them removed. 

Dewclaws are the extra nails that are located very high on the side of a dog's paw. They are so high, that some describe them as being located on the dog's leg. With young puppies, these are very small, soft nails. As a Chihuahua grows older, these slowly grow into what can be described as an extra thumb.

Most breeders have these removed at a very young age (during the first week) when it is a very simple procedure that causes little discomfort. Once a Chihuahua matures, the procedure becomes more and more complicated. For an adult Chi, the dewclaw is actually considered an appendage and removal is the equivalent to an amputation. For this reason, if a puppy still retains his dewclaws, owners should make decision to remove while the pup is still young.

Left intact, they can easily catch on fabrics, often tearing and causing quite a bit of discomfort. These types of injuries can take a lot of time to heal and there is also risk of infection.

Anal Glands

These are a pair of glands that are located, one on each side, of a canine's anus. both males and females alike. These are also known as scent glands, since normally very small secretions are released that allow a dog to mark its territory. 

When one dog sniffs another, it is the scent from these glands that lets a dog know the gender and health status of another dog. With the Chihuahua, the glands are very small and many owners do not notice them until there is an issue.

When a dog goes to the bathroom, excessive liquid from these glands are usually expressed. Issue can arise if there is a build up of fluid, which can happen if a dog has very soft bowel movements. If that fluid is allowed to remain, it can eventually become compacted into a paste-like substance. 

Engorged anal glands can rupture, which can cause quite a mess and the odor is very overpowering. Therefore, expressing these glands - if engorged- is an important part of grooming a Chihuahua. Normally, it is a dog groomer or veterinarian who will do this and it is often done in conjunction with other tasks. 

For example, a groomer may do this while a Chi is there having his or her nails trimmed or a veterinarian may do this while a Chihuahua is there for a check-up.

If glands break open on their own (often happening when a Chihuahua rubs its rear across the grass or floor in an attempt to relieve discomfort), the area should be gently washed. 
Look for any signs of infection as the broken skin will be vulnerable to bacteria. Bring your Chihuahua to the vet if there seems to be any discomfort or signs of infection. Some dogs have ongoing issues with the glands and in those cases, surgery to remove them may be recommended.


An often overlooked grooming element, keeping the ears clean is very important. Despite the stand-up erect ears, due to the curvature of the ear canal 3 issues can occur:
  • Moisture can become trapped in the ear canal 
  • Dirt and debris can build up 
  • Excessive wax may develop 
Any of these 3 elements can lead to health problems ranging from blockage, to yeast infections to bacterial infections. 

To avoid these sorts of issues, ear cleaning should be part of your normal grooming routine. Here are some steps you can take to keep ears clean and moisture free: 

1) Gently place cotton in the ears when bathing your Chihuahua to prevent water from entering the canals

2) Using a thin washcloth or a pad of clean gauze, wipe out the inside of the leather well at least 1 time per week

3) If you see any long hairs growing out from the ear, it is best to pluck them. You can have a groomer do this, however with a sprinkling of ear powder and either your fingers (or small forceps made for toy breeds dogs), these can be quickly pulled out.
4) Every month, do a quick ear cleansing to remove excess wax, especially if your Chihuahua has had previous problems with wax buildup. 

Use a quality ear cleaning solution, massage the base of the ear to allow it to spread and then wipe it out with clean gauze.

Keep an eye on the ears and also on your dog's behavior. An evaluation may need to be done if you notice:
  • The dog scratches at his ear(s) or tries to rub against walls or carpeting (this is done to try and relieve an itch)
  • A bad odor emanating from the ears
  • Moderate to excessive discharge
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