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Why Do Chihuahuas Burrow?

Have you ever searched high and low for your beloved chihuahua—searched endlessly with no results?

Did you later find your spunky little pet completely ensconced in your blankets or a massive pile of clothes?

If you have, fret not.  This type of burrowing behavior is perfectly normal in the chihuahua breed.

In fact, many experts believe that the breed is prone to this type of burrowing conduct from birth, as part of their doggie DNA.

To dig in to this question in a little more detail, below we will explore the many potential reasons for a frequently burrowing chihuahua, and explain what actions, if any, you should take to address the issue.

The Reasons Chihuahuas Burrow—and What You Should Do about It

When your pet chihuahua burrows deep within your blankets on a frigid winter evening, covering every body part except its head, it is actually quite adorable.

But have you ever wondered just why they do this?

Is it always because they are cold?

In many cases, the burrowing you are witnessing can indeed be explained away by the cold temperatures, but this is not the only reason why chihuahuas tend to entrench themselves in any soft material they can find.

In fact, in some instances they are acting out of pure instinct, possessing an innate propensity to burrow themselves away.

Here we have listed and explained a number of reasons why the chihuahua breed enjoys burrowing so much.

Chihuahuas Are Born to Burrow

Many chihuahuas will burrow out of pure instinct.  They are born with this trait.

As descendants of wild canines, a chihuahua will burrow to accomplish one of two main goals: find shelter or locate food.

The chihuahuas forefathers would dig and burrow in the dirt as a way to protect themselves from bigger animals—predators who would use the chihuahua’s small size against it.

Burrowing, in this case, is done as a way to seek protective shelter and safety, both from the elements and from those predators that may assail the dog.

Some smaller dog breeds, including the chihuahua, instinctively burrow to find food, particularly small rodents.

This trait historically endeared dogs like the chihuahua to farmers and ranchers, who depended on them to rid their properties of pesky pets, namely mice, rats, moles, and gophers.

Today, the chihuahua doesn’t need to burrow in the dirt for its food—although some still do—so instead they dig their way into our blanket piles, all out of a sense of instinct.

Not much can (or should) be done to alter the instinctive nature of your chihuahua’s burrowing.

If, however, he has a tendency to burrow in areas of the house that are deemed off limits to him, you can solve the problem by providing a proper dog bed and a blanket or two, thus allowing him to fulfill his innate behavior.

Chihuahuas Are Susceptible to the Cold

Chihuahuas were originally bred in Mexico, a country that boasts relatively warm temperatures throughout the year.

Their coats are very thin and almost wiry, which allows them to stay comparatively cool throughout the hot summers in America’s southwest.

However, because of their small size, cuteness, and smart demeanor, pet ownership of chihuahuas has become exceedingly popular throughout the country (and the world), including in places where the winter temperatures can sometimes drop below freezing.

This is not an ideal climate for the warm weather-adapted chihuahua.

Unlike some of the northern bred dogs, malamutes, Siberian huskies and the like, the chihuahua does not have an insulative coat and is therefore not very comfortable in extremely cold temperatures.

Its small size and thin coat should be acknowledged by northern-based owners, and proper steps should be taken to protect their dogs from becoming too frigid.

When the chihuahua is inside on a cold winter night, he might shake and shiver.

He is also likely to burrow under your blankets when its time to get some shuteye.

This is absolutely okay.  In fact, you should even encourage this behavior to ensure your chihuahua stays warm and protected through the night.

To Cope with Stress and Insecurity

Instinct and cold temperatures are easily the two most common reasons for why a chihuahua might burrow.

But as experts will tell you, anxiety and nervousness, usually regarding overall security, also play a role.

There are plenty of advantages to owning a chihuahua, including their typical long life span and their ability to act as an “alert dog.”

However, there are also some downsides to the breed, including a propensity for anxiety, stress, nervousness and insecurity.

As a very watchful dog, your chihuahua sees and notices everything.

He also gets accustomed to certain people and places.

But when this familiar balance becomes upset, perhaps because someone (or something) new has entered his space, it can cause a lot of undue stress on the breed.

To cope with stress and feelings of insecurity, the chihuahua is famous for hiding away until the coast is clear.

One of the ways they do this is by finding the nearest form of soft material and burrowing away in it.

And while this burrowing conduct is 100 percent normal, living with an abundance of stress is not good for any animal.

If you believe your chihuahua is suffering from recurrent bouts of stress or anxiety—including separation anxiety—speak with your vet as soon as possible.

There are many behavior modifications strategies—and prescription medications—that can help alleviate these scary feelings.

They Are Making a Den (Pregnancy and Pseudo-Pregnancy)

Finally, if your female chihuahua’s burrowing behavior is new—behavior that is very sudden and unusual—she could be attempting to create a den for the new litter she expects.

This can happen when your female chihuahua is pregnant, and it can also happen during episodes of pseudo-pregnancy, a situation in which your chihuahua erroneously believes she is “with puppies”—a feeling that might result from hormonal changes and imbalances.

If you have an un-spayed female chihuahua, be sure to look for the behavioral signs of pregnancy (excessive grooming, aggression around the “nest,” etc.), and make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss prenatal care—care that is typically very different for a chihuahua than it might be for other dog breeds.

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National Canine Research Association of America