Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are small dogs with a huge personality. The Chihuahua is one of the tiniest dogs breeds, but it is their enthusiastic personality that makes them so popular. They are fun and energetic but also affectionate and snuggly, especially with their families and favorite humans.

Long-haired Chihuahua
Long-haired Chihuahua Original image by user Didgeman on Pixabay. CC0 1.0.
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They will often become attached to a single “favorite” family member, which can lead to some behavior issues. They may become jealous or territorial of their favorite person, which can lead to “snappy” or “nippy” behavior. You must set boundaries with your Chihuahua to prevent this type of behavior. It is important that they don’t become too spoiled which is easy to do with such an adorable dog. Chihuahuas are adventurous and their small size makes them incredibly portable, so it is easy to take your tiny friend with you everywhere you go – and they will love you for it! They love all kinds of adventures indoors, outdoors, in the city, and in the country. But, it is important to keep in mind that a Chihuahua’s tiny size makes them vulnerable: especially when they may not realize how tiny they actually are. You will need to keep your Chihuahua safe from predators, larger dogs, becoming lost or harmed, and children who may accidentally injure them.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Chihuahua breed is also commonly known by the names None.

Popularity: Popular

Life expectancy: 12 - 18 years

Breed group: Toy Dogs (AKC), Toy Dogs (KC), Companion and Toy Dogs Dogs (FCI)

Size: Tiny

Male Female
Height 6 - 10 in 6 - 10 in
Weight 4 - 4 lbs 4 - 4 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Black, Black and Tan, White

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Not a heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: Minimal

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Yes

Intelligence / Trainability: High

Exercise needs: Very low

Tolerates being alone: Absolutely not

Hunting drive: Average

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Yes

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: Very low

Barking: Average

General health: Below average

Cost to keep: Average

History

The actual origin of the Chihuahua is uncertain, though there are a few theories about the breed and it is generally accepted that they come from Mexico. The most widely believed theory is that they are descended from the Techichi dog, a companion dog that was popular in the Toltec civilization. Many artifacts of the Toltecs, Aztecs, and other ancient cultures depict images of Techichis and small dogs resembling the Chihuahua. A dog effigy pot was discovered with a representation of this type of dog at the ruins at Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua and the pot was thought to be from the time period of 1100-1300 AD. We can’t be sure of the direct lineage from these dogs and the Techichi, but it appears that they are the most likely ancestors.

Chihuahua ancestors have a long history in the region. They served various purposes such as food, companions, hot water bottles for the sick, and were used for religious rituals. Various records of the colonial time period, around the 1500s, show that this type of tiny dog was regularly found in the Chihuahua region at the time.

The shorthaired Chihuahua we know today was discovered in the 1850s in Chihuahua Mexico. American visitors brought the little dogs home with them. They began to be shown in 1890 and a Chihuahua named Midget became the first of his breed to be registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904. The long-haired variety was probably created through crosses with Papillons or Pomeranians. The breed's popularity took off in the 1930s and 1940s when it was associated with dance king and Latin music bandleader Xavier Cugat.

Since the 1960s, the Chihuahua has been one of the most popular breeds registered by the AKC. Today they rank 11th among the 155 breeds and varieties the AKC recognizes.

Appearance

The Chihuahua is tiny but graceful. It is an alert dog with a scrappy, terrier-like personality.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Round head, full, round eyes, erect ears, and a pointed muzzle.

  • Small, well-balanced body.

  • Somewhat long tail carried up or over the back.

  • Soft coat in is either short and close or long and flat or slightly wavy.

  • Any color or markings.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Chihuahuas are generally intelligent and can quickly grasp basic commands.They are easy to train in general and are a good fit for novice dog owners. Like many small dog breeds, they can be difficult to house train, and correct crate training is particularly helpful.

As intelligent dogs, Chihuahuas will need an outlet for their intelligence and energy. Playtime and walks will help prevent your dog from acting out in undesirable ways like chewing, barking, etc.

Activity

Chihuahuas are lap dogs and excellent companions, but they are also fairly active. They do require daily exercise in the form of walks and play time. 20-30 minutes daily should be enough.

Provide daily play sessions, as these intelligent dogs need some kind of mental stimulation to be really happy. Learning small tricks or performing in agility or obedience will help keep these little attention seekers happy and content.

Special attention should be given to puppies. Avoid jumping up and down furniture and running up and down the stairs, as their bones and joints are still growing and too much exercise can induce problems later on. Even as adults, jumping down from furniture and high places is not recommended for small dogs like the Chihuahua.

Independence

Chihuahuas were bred as companion animals and they require attention from their owners. They are happiest if they can spend all of their time alongside their family, preferably in your lap. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own.

It is not advised to leave your Chi outside unattended, even in a fenced-in area; their small size makes them a target for predators, both on the ground and from the air.

Protective

Chihuahuas are suspicious of strangers and are excellent "alert dogs". They are too small to protect, but will certainly bark. In fact, barking may become incessant - they should be trained early on as to when barking is appropriate and when it is not.

Living Conditions

Because of their tiny size, Chihuahuas are fairly well-suited to apartment living. Just make sure your little pal gets enough exercise and playtime. Be cautious when letting your Chi outside in your yard. They need constant supervision as they can easily be snatched up by predators like hawks and coyotes and can easily escape through even the tiniest gaps in a fence.

Chihuahuas are not considered a good fit for households with young children (under the age of eight). They are tiny and it is too easy for a Chi to be accidentally injured by a child.

Children and Other Pets

Chihuahuas can be good family dogs but they are not recommended for families with children under eight-years-old, and all children should be taught to correctly and safely handle the dog. Due to their small size, care should be taken so that a child does not accidentally injure the dog. Children should never carry the dog, as they could accidentally drop it. They could also fall or step on a tiny Chihuahua. Like many small-sized companion dogs, Chis can become spoiled which can lead to jealousy with pets and other people. Proper training, boundaries, and socialization are important to prevent this.That said, extra care should be taken, especially with young children (under the age of 6).


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

No dog, regardless of breed, should be left unattended with young children.

Chihuahuas can get along well with other dogs, but proper socialization is extremely important. They are bold dogs, not aware of their small size, and may challenge a much larger dog which can lead to disaster.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Chihuahua is between 12 - 18 years. Like all breeds, the Chihuahua is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Chihuahua is prone to these diseases:
  • Heart Murmurs (hereditary)
  • Pulmonic Stenosis (hereditary)
  • Collapsed Trachea (hereditary)
  • Hydrocephalus (hereditary)
  • Open Fontanel (hereditary)
  • Shivering (hereditary)

Grooming

Chihuahuas are fairly easy to groom, and their small size makes the process especially quick. Grooming your Chi takes only a few minutes each week. A weekly brushing with a rubber grooming mitt or a brush with short, natural bristles for a shorthaired Chihuahua and a pin brush for a longhaired Chihuahua is enough. Bathe your dog once every month or two with a shampoo pH balanced for dogs.

Chihuahuas shed small amounts year-round and may shed somewhat more heavily, in the spring and fall. The longhaired Chihuahua's undercoat may come out in little clumps. Regular brushing will help keep shedding under control.

Ears should be checked regularly for dirt, redness or a bad smell that could indicate an infection. Clean your dog's ears when needed with an ear cleaner made specifically for dogs. Chihuahuas have fast-growing nails and may not wear their nails down on their own. Long nails will require regular clipping and all puppies should be introduced to nail clipping early on so that it will be easier when they are older.

Like many small breeds, Chihuahuas are prone to dental problems. They tend to form a lot of plaque on their teeth. If you don’t brush their teeth regularly, the plaque becomes tartar which can lead to tooth problems, at a very young age. Consider brushing their teeth with a soft toothbrush and adapted dog toothpaste two or three times a week. Daily is even better. All puppies should become accustomed to having their mouths and teeth checked regularly.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.

Feeding

1/4 to 1/2 cup of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less.

Special attention is needed when feeding puppies. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a burden but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.