Summer is finally here! Vacation spots are now full of people wearing sparse clothing to enjoy the warmth of the sun, with some even daring to go fully naked — including the Xoloitzcuintli dog, also known as the Mexican Hairless.
The Xoloitzcuintli is considered sacred by the Aztecs and Maya as they are believed to be prophets created by God to guard the living and guide the souls of the dead in the underworld.
When living with humans above the underworld, though, you can count on Xolos to be your guardians, protectors, and even healers as their body heat is claimed to be comforting to people with arthritis and other ailments, or to those who just want warm cuddles.
A Perfect Fit
Animal Scene interviews Moresa Tolibas, human companion to a sweet and cuddly Xoloitzcuintli named Hemotore — Hemo, for short.
She shares with us what it’s like to live with one of the rarest and most ancient dogs, and how to take care of them to ensure they are given the long, happy life they deserve.
“It was my husband, Henrik, who [wanted] to have a dog in our house. I didn’t [want] to have one because of the fur — cleaning up [the] poop and pee and all that it takes to take care of the dog,” Moresa shares. “But one lunch time at the office, I was informed by my colleague that her cousin offered her a hairless dog.
“I didn’t know that there was such thing as a hairless dog, so I asked Google to know more about this breed. Suddenly, everything just clicked and I thought it was a good compromise. I thought back then that having this breed would fulfill my husband’s wish [while respecting] my conditions.”
Adjusting to Domestic Life
“When we got him, he was very little. He was quiet and very timid. But as soon as he arrived at his new home, ours, he became very at home. It was like he used to live in our house before and we were surprised.
“Ever since he became our companion animal, he has been so sweet and cuddly.”
Smart enough for trick-or-treating
“He’s very smart. With patience, both my husband and I taught him tricks one at a time. Now, he knows how to [follow] commands like sit, stay, stand, appear, and fetch. He even understands the words toy, kiss, give, and give up,” Moresa says.
“Start the training at an early stage of puppy life. Start with toilet training; as they grow, they would remember this.” She recommends using gentle positive reinforcement to make adjustment as smooth as possible.
“Xolos are generally smart and sensitive; hence, they learn quickly and respond to different stimuli. They are inquisitive, too. So, teach them what they must know. We also give him treats whenever he successfully follows directions. We also acknowledge him when he displays good behavior. Telling him he’s a good boy boosts his confidence.”
Guardian in the Underworld. Cuddlebear in the Human World
Hemo is very friendly, according to his human companion. “When our family and friends drop by, he welcomes them full of excitement and enthusiasm. He immediately initiates play time. He’s happy to see new play mates.
A Xolo’s friendly attitude is both good and bad, depending on how you see it. “My husband and I think that he is prone to ‘dognap’ (being kidnapped) because he is friendly even with strangers, from the kuya who delivers our LPG to the pizza delivery guy. For sure, he’d love to see them again.”
Ready for another Fur-Sibling?
Hemo is not hostile to other animals, shares Moresa. “He is generally calm and quiet at home. He barely barks and when he does, he wants to point out something or just wants to let us know that he’s talking. He wants to be heard.”
Xolos generally don’t want to be alone for long periods of time. A new sibling would be a great buddy for him, Moresa thinks. “We don’t know yet how he would react if we were to introduce a new companion animal to him. I bet he would still be friendly and would accept the newcomer as a member of the family.
Perfect for Summer
Because of the Xoloitzcuintli’s lack of fur, they are perfect for summer as they are less at risk of getting heatstroke, unlike others covered in thick fur. However, being perfect for the hot season means the cold temperature is a big no-no, which is why cuddles and blankets are important when living with a Xolo.
“At first, we provided him his own bed. We noticed then that he had chills. We thought he felt cold due to our air-conditioning, so we decided to let him sleep with us on our bed,” says Moresa.
“Hemo can also sense if you’re down or you’re too emotional. When he feels that, expect that he’ll be comforting you. He will put his head on your lap and will snuggle.”
Xolos may be sensitive not only to their human’s emotions, but that of strangers, too. “This happened to my friend who visited us and just confided his problems. To my surprise, Hemo went to him and wanted to hug him.”
Fur-ball of Energy
Moresa admits that Xolos can sometimes be a handful, but their intelligence and sweetness make up for their naughtiness.
“There are times when he’s too playful and gives us painful play bites. He tends to be like this every time he’s too excited and if he has a lot of energy. Imagine how playful he can be after he wakes up in the morning. If this happens, what we do is ask him to stop. If he still doesn’t stop, we raise our hands and say, ‘Give up.’ Surprisingly, he stops.”
For Xolos to calm down, their energy has to go somewhere. “Hemo wants upbeat play as most Xolos do, and they like mental exercise. We incorporate his training into his play time, [including commands, such as] get your toy and fetch your ball. Just be ready [to] get exhausted faster than your Xolo. They are very energetic.”
Taking care of a Xoloitzcuintli
“It is easy to [care for] a Xolo, particularly in terms of cleaning and grooming since [they’re] hairless. You don’t need to do fur brushing regularly. For us, we don’t need to think about fur everywhere. Being hairless, it’s like having a ‘walking heater.’ You get the chance to feel his body warmth. It’s just very comforting.”
Xolos are generally a healthy breed. But due to their lack of fur, there may be skin conditions to watch out for.
“They need protection from extreme temperatures,” explains Moresa. “[Hemo] easily gets cuts or abrasions. [We keep him] away from pointed objects or rough surfaces.”
Acne is also a concern. “Make sure their pores are unclogged. We don’t use powder on him as this may clog his pores.”
Due to the Xoloitzcuintli’s sensitive skin, they are known to hate hard surfaces and floors, so soft beds must be provided for comfort.
Moresa also shares with us that Hemo’s skincare routine is as special as a beauty YouTuber’s routine: He is bathed with mild dog soap only two to three times a week so as not to irritate his skin. VCO is recommended as a moisturizer to keep his skin smooth and fabulous.
During bath-free days, Xolos are kept clean and fresh by gently wiping a wet towel on their skin. Sweating is also normal, which can be dealt with by wiping their skin.
“At first, we fed him with puppy kibbles, but he soon outgrew them. We started feeding him fruits, vegetables, and meat,” says Moresa.
“He eats bananas for his snacks or any available treats, such as carrots and apples. We always make sure he has access to clean water. We sometimes let him drink special milk for dogs. We give him treats during training time.”
Xolos’ nails grow faster than other dogs so Moresa makes sure that Hemo’s nails are clipped and filed regularly. “We see to it that his nails are trimmed and filed to avoid scratches when he [has an itch].”
She and her husband also clean Hemo’s ears regularly but because they don’t know how to properly clean his ears yet, they bring him to a grooming service once a month.
“Expect little to no shedding. Of course, there will be no dog ticks or lice. This is what we like with Hemo, too.”
Just like raising a child
To Moresa, having Hemo feels like having a child. “We need to attend to his needs like feeding, bathing, and bringing him to a vet to make sure he gets all the vaccines he needs. We need to make sure he’s safe. We see to it that we show him our care and love for him.
“As parents we want to spend almost all our time with him to make sure he’ll grow healthy and good. It just breaks my heart every time I leave him for a very long period of time. If I’m away, I always think of him. I just love him.”
Will you make a good Xolo parent?
Before adopting a Xoloitzcuintli, make sure you have what it takes to be a good parent to them. “Xolos are not loners. They appreciate your time the most. They want companionship almost all the time.”
She wants to remind future fur-parents that early socialization and training are important. “Make sure you make room for these things. Otherwise, your dog will be aloof with other humans, other animals, or even with you.
Any dog parent needs to be patient as well. “You need to assess yourself. Ask, ‘How is my patience now?’ I’m saying this because you need to have a lot of patience, and I mean a lot! Xolos are said to be one of the most stubborn and naughtiest dog breeds. They have a tendency to be dominant and controlling.”
To coexist with a Xolo, remembering canine nature is vital. “Show them your authority; otherwise, you’ll see yourself following him and not the other way around,” explains Moresa.
“Always be firm yet gentle in dealing with a Xolo because remember, they are very sensitive. Whatever breed your dog is, just take good care of them. Just show them your love and for sure, you’ll be loved back.”
This appeared in Animal Scene magazine’s March 2019 issue.