Can a Chihuahua be a Service Dog?


Can a Chihuahua be a Service Dog?

Congratulations! You are a Chihuahua owner. They are adorable and loving companions. They also are often quite full of themselves (in the cutest possible way of course).

You might want to take your pup everywhere you go and never be apart. To the store? On an airplane? Into a restaurant?

But can you actually turn your Chihuahua into a service dog by putting him in a service dog vest? The answer might surprise you.

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Can little dogs be service dogs?

In order to answer that question we first have to look at what a service dog actually is.

The governing body of the ADA has this definition for a service dog:

“[A] dog must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with a disability.”

This means that a service dog is not just a dog who loves you a lot and who you want to take into a store.

Service dog training involves teaching your dog a complex skill set of public access manners, specific tasks to assist you with a disability as well as a lot of patience, impulse control and the ability to ignore everything else while working.

There is no rule that says that small dogs cannot fulfill this function. However, just like large dogs, small dogs will need to go through a lot of training and practice. They will need to be taught how to settle on a mat in any place, how to not pull on leash and how to assist you with specific tasks.

Small dogs are not suitable as mobility assistance dogs for owner who might need help with balance – they are too small to allow the owner to lean on them. Imagine a Teacup Chihuahua trying to stabilize their owner who last balance!

Larger breeds like Labradors or Goldendoodles are better service dog choices in that case.

service dog chihuahuas

Can I train a service dog Chihuahua myself?

Yes, you can theoretically train a service dog yourself. Remember though that you will need to teach your dog a large skillset. Unless you have participated in training a service dog before, it is likely you will require support from a professional trainer.

Remember that service dogs are dogs that assist owners with disabilities, who would be very restricted without their dog’s help. Unless you need your dog to help by performing specific tasks that support you in navigating a disability, your dog is not a service dog but rather an ESA (emotional support animal).

Of course we all wish to take our precious pups along to the grocery store, into all restaurants and on planes and public transportation. It is important to realize though that not every dog owner can take their dog along all the time – and we need to reserve that privilege for the ones who really need their dog’s assistance.

A true service dog is trained extensively. The cost of a trained service dog ranges from $7,000 to $30,000. Training takes anywhere from 6 to 18 months. Many dog trainers study for years to become specialized in the skill of teaching service dogs and their owners.

Again: Training your Chihuahua to be a service dog is not equivalent to taking him to an 8 week obedience class! It means daily training sessions to teach a large variety of skills.

chihuahua puppy sitting

Can a Chihuahua be an emotional support dog?

Yes, your Chihuahua can absolutely be an emotional support animal (ESA). If you have never trained a service dog before or you do not have a disability that requires your dog’s assistance, this is a great solution.

By making your Chihuahua an emotional support animal you can let him and others know how much he means to you. At the same time, the title of a “service dog” can remain with the dogs that have really gone through the taxing, often one or two year long training process.

chihuahua head

How can I take my dog into a store?

Simply put – sometimes our dogs just cannot come to the store with us.

If you are worried about your dog having separation anxiety or being destructive, these are different issues that need to be addressed in training. Not every dog who does not want to be left alone can become a service animal and accompany their owner to the store. Imagine if everyone at your grocery store brought their dog with them – chaos would ensue!

Many owners of small dogs really want to take their dogs along because they grow accustomed to holding and petting them for many hours a day. While it is great that the owner develops such a strong bond with the dog, it is once again important to consider that disabled people might actually need their dog’s help to navigate the store

It is not fair to them to make a Chihuahua a “pretend” service dog – the access rights of service dogs need to be reserved for the ones that are truly trained for this task.

Last but not least, if your Chihuahua is used to spending most of the day in your lap, it will do both of you good to occasionally spend time apart. It is impossible to guarantee that you will never need to be apart from your dog. You might want to visit a relative or have to go to a medical procedure, or your dog might need to stay at the vet’s.

It is never healthy if a dog and owner cannot be apart

If this is one of the reasons why you want to make your Chihuahua a service dog, please reconsider and get you and him used to spending time alone – it will benefit everyone!

chihuahua running

The Bottom Line

Unless you are truly planning to go through months-long training, ideally with a professional trainer, to make your Chihuahua a service dog – don’t. A much better option would be for him to become your ESA (emotional support animal). That way, you can still let everyone know how much he helps you be happy – while also reserving access rights to the true service dog owners.

If you are just setting out to get a Chihuahua puppy as a service dog or ESA, make sure to get a dog from healthy lines and health-tested parents. While such a Chihuahua puppy will cost a bit more upfront, it will pay off many times in the future!