Chihuahua

 

The Chihuahua is world famous for its small size.  This breed is generally regarded as the smallest breed of dog in the world, although individual dogs of other breeds may be smaller.  This diminutive dog was developed in Mexico, and named after the state of Chihuahua.  The Chihuahua’s small size and temperament have made the breed quite popular in the United States, and it has long been one of the most popular breeds in this country.  The Chihuahua is sometimes known as the Chihuahueno, Purse Dog, or the World’s Smallest Dog.  Ironically, in its homeland of Mexico, the Chihuahua is sometimes referred to as, “The New Yorker.”  Many breeders advertize their dogs as a smaller variety of Chihuahua, often Teacup, Tiny Toy, or Miniature.  However, while some Chihuahuas are certainly smaller than others, no major kennel club recognizes these varieties as distinct.

 

Breed Information

Breed Basics

Country of Origin: 
Size: 
XX-Small Under 4 lb
X-Small 4-8 lb
LifeSpan: 
12 to 15 Years
Trainability: 
Moderate Effort Required
Energy Level: 
Varies According to Type
Grooming: 
Brushing Once a Week or Less
Protective Ability: 
Good Watchdog
Hypoallergenic Breed: 
No
Space Requirements: 
Apartment Ok
Compatibility With Other Pets: 
May Be Okay With Other Pets If Raised Together
May Have Issues With Other Dogs
May Have Problems With Non-Canine Pets
Litter Size: 
2-4 Puppies
Names: 
Chihuahueño, New Yorker (Mexico only), Purse Dog, The World’s Smallest Dog, Cha Hua Hua

Height/Weight

Males: 
Less than 6 lbs, 6-10 inches
Females: 
Same

Kennel Clubs and Recognition

American Kennel Club: 
ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council): 
CKC(Canadian Kennel Club): 
FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale): 
KC (The Kennel Club): 
Toy
NZKC (New Zealand Kennel Club): 
UKC (United Kennel Club): 
History: 

 

Most of the Chihuahua’s history has been lost in time, as this breed was developed in an era before written records of dog breeding were kept, and quite possibly prior to the advent of writing in Pre-Colombian civilizations that likely developed this breed. Most of what is now believed about the Chihuahua’s history has come from archaeological digs and interpretations of the evidence gathered.  Because the Chihuahua is so different than most breeds familiar to Europeans and Americans, many ridiculous stories are told of its origins.  For example, many fanciers still hold to the wild belief that the Chihuahua may have descended from the Fennec Fox; a wild animal native to the Sahara Desert of North Africa that was essentially unknown outside of its homeland until the 20th Century.   There is; however, almost no chance that these animals were ever imported into Mexico before the mid-1800’s.  Additionally, recent genetic evidence has not only shown that all dogs descend directly from the wolf, but that it is probably impossible for a dog to breed with any of the fox species.

 

At one time, it was believed that Native American tribes domesticated their dogs from North American wolves, or possibly even coyotes or red wolves.  However, recent genetic and archaeological evidence has concluded that the first domestic dogs in the Americas accompanied the ancestors of the Native Americans when they first arrived in Alaska from Asia via the Bering land bridge about 20,000 years ago.  Definitively proving that domestic dogs have existed in the Americas for as long as there have been people.  These Native American dogs were almost certainly then bred either intentionally or unintentionally with North American wolves, and possibly coyotes and/or red wolves as well, resulting in slightly different varieties than those which had been found in Asia. 

 

These first American dogs were the likely companions of nomadic tribes of hunter gatherers.  These dogs served as hunting aides, camp guardians, and companions.  Perhaps their most important function was as beasts of burden, as they were the only such domesticated animals found in North America until the Spanish introduced the horse.  Much of what we know of these dogs has come from American records which occasionally mention them.  Although European settlers wiped out most Native American dogs, including the Tahltan Bear Dog, a few such breeds have managed to survive, including the Carolina Dog and several sled dogs of the far north.

 

For untold centuries, the people of Mexico lived a nomadic lifestyle similar to their ancestors.  Eventually, these people began to cultivate crops and settle down in villages.  It is unknown when this process started, but it is thought to have been by 3500 B.C.E.  It is known that dogs have been present in Mesoamerica for as long as their have been agricultural people living here, because even the earliest records of civilization in the area include dogs.  Dogs took on a different role in Mesoamerican society than they did elsewhere in the world.  As the only other domestic animals to be found in Mexico were the Muscovy duck, the turkey, the cochineal insect, and possibly the chicken there was no need to develop herding dogs.  There was however, a need for sacrificial and ritual animals, which elsewhere in the world was largely filled with sheep and goats.  While many Mesoamerican dogs remained hunting aides, and possibly guard and war dogs as well, a distinct subset became the companions of the Mesoamerican upper classes as well as serving religious purposes such as sacrificial offerings.

 

The earliest known distinct varieties of Mesoamerican dogs were the Techichi, the companion dog of the Toltec people, and the Xoloitzcuintle, also known as the Mexican Hairless.  The Toltecs controlled a sizable kingdom in the valleys and plateaus of central Mexico and were incredibly influential to the many kingdoms and people who came after them.  In particular, the Toltecs figured prominently in the mythology of the Aztec people.  Eventually, the Toltecs disappeared, giving way to other peoples such as the Mexica, many of whom spoke the Nahuatl language.  It is very likely that the Techichi or its descendants were kept by the Nahuatl speakers, and the Xoloitzcuintle certainly was.  The exact relationship between the Xoloitzcuintle and the Techichi; however, are unknown.  It is possible that they were the same breed, separate breeds, or two varieties of the same breed and that both breeds were used heavily in religious services and as companion dogs of the upper class.  These dogs not only provided affection and love, but were also used to draw fleas away from their owners and to warm them.  It is known that small dogs, especially the Xoloitzcuintle, were a common treatment in Mesoamerican medicine.  These dogs functioned as hot water bottles, and would lay on a certain part of a person’s body to warm it up.

 

The most successful of all states that succeeded the Toltec Empire was the Aztec Empire.  The Aztec Empire was one of the largest Stone Age empires ever constructed, and covered a large portion of modern Mexico.  The Aztecs and related peoples from the area around the modern day Mexico City were incredibly influential to the peoples in surrounding areas, especially the area which comprises the northern states of Mexico.  This influence actually increased after the Spanish Conquest.  The Spanish and Nahuatl cultures merged into a new Mestizo identity which now predominates across most of Mexico.  It is almost certain that the ancestors of the modern Chihuahua came to the state of Chihuahua from Central Mexico, although it is not clear when.  These dogs may have entered the region prior to 1519 through trade, or they may have arrived any time between 1519 and the mid 1800’s, coming as the pets of either Nahuatl speakers fleeing Spanish armies or Mestizo settlers.  It is impossible to say anything more as there are apparently no historical records of the Chihuahua prior to the mid 1800’s.

 

It has often been suggested that the Chihuahua obtained its small size from European companion dogs brought to the area by the Spanish.  The Maltese is perhaps the most commonly suggested ancestor.  However, this origin is very unlikely for a number of reasons.  For one thing, there is absolutely no historical evidence to back up these claims whatsoever.  Additionally, there are records of the Pre-Columbian Nahuatl-speakers possessing very small dogs, suggesting that Chihuahuas or Chihuahua-like dogs have existed for many centuries.  Finally, although the Chihuahua does not closely resemble any breed of European companion dog, it is incredibly similar in appearance to the Xoloitzcuintle, Mexico’s other native breed. Although considerably less well-known, the Xoloitzcuintle also comes in a hairy variety.  Small Xoloitzcuintles with hair are virtually identical in appearance to the Chihuahua, which they are almost universally mistaken for. 

 

The most common used evidence by those in favor of a European origin for the Chihuahua are Italian paintings which depict dogs similar to the Chihuahua dating from before the discovery of the Americas.  However, these paintings likely depict either Middle Eastern Pariah Dogs or a Mediterranean breed such as the Cirneco del’Etna or the Ibizan Hound.  While some of these breeds are superficially similar to the Chihuahua, especially the Pondengo Portugueso Pequeno, there is little or no evidence to suggest that they were in any way involved with the Chihuahua’s origins.  In more recent years it has even been posited that the Chinese developed the Chihuahua and that it may have arrived in Mexico via Spanish traders returning from the Orient.  However, for a number of historical, genetic, and evidentiary reasons this theory is so unlikely that it is virtually impossible.  Perhaps the largest reason to doubt any ancestry for the Chihuahua other than Mexican is the breed’s temperament.  In terms of temperament, the Chihuahua is considerably closer to Pariah or Spitz type dogs such as the Chow Chow, Akita, or Canaan Dog than it is to European or Asian companion breeds such as the Italian Greyhound, Pekingese, or Poodle.

 

However it is that the Chihuahua was first developed; this breed’s modern history began in the 1800’s.  Although the exact date is unknown, at some point American travelers to the state of Chihuahua began to encounter tiny companion dogs.  Chihuahua, which borders the American states of Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico is the largest state in Mexico in terms of land area, and is famed as the home of Pancho Villa. It is generally believed that Americans first encountered Chihuahuas in Chihuahua around 1850.  They became enamored with these dogs and some then decided to take them back to America.  While the exact number is unclear, it is believed that approximately 50 Chihuahuas made their way to the United States.  Originally, Americans referred to Chihuahuas as either Texas Dogs or Arizona Dogs, as the first Chihuahuas entered the United States across the borders of these states.  These names quickly fell into disfavor and the more accurate and exotic sounding name of Chihuahua stuck.

 

The tiny Chihuahua quickly spread across the United States.  This diminutive dog found a large number of fanciers who admired its small size and big personality.  Early American breeders did not make many radical changes to the Chihuahua’s physical appearance, although they did refine and standardize it.  They also probably crossed Chihuahuas with other small breeds to bring new colors and patterns to the breed.  The biggest change that early American breeders made was to create the Long-Haired Chihuahua.  It is generally believed that Long-Haired Chihuahua was the result of crossing the Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese and possibly other breeds with the Smooth-Coated Chihuahua, although when and where this happened, as well as who is responsible is unknown.  Most of the work of American breeders was spent altering the temperament of the Chihuahua.  Breeders spent many years attempting to change the temperament of the Chihuahua from that of a primitive breed to something more modern, although they earned mixed results.

 

By the end of the 19th Century, the Chihuahua was quite well-established in America, where it was becoming one of the most recognizable breeds.  The Chihuahua made its first appearance in a dog show in America in 1890.  The first Chihuahuas to arrive in Europe were imported from America by the year 1900.  The Chihuahua continued to grow in popularity in America and was first recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904.  As one would expect, the breed became a member of the Toy Group.  In 1923, the Chihuahua Club of America (CCA) was founded to promote and protect the Chihuahua breed, later becoming the Chihuahua’s official AKC breed club.  In 1948, the United Kennel Club (UKC) also granted full recognition to the Chihuahua.  The CCA officially split the Chihuahua into two varieties, the Long-Haired and the Smooth-Coated Chihuahuas in 1952, but the standards are identical for both dogs other than coat type and interbreeding is still allowed.

 

By the end of the 20th Century, the Chihuahua had grown in popularity until the point where it was one of the most common dog breeds in America.  Although the exact ranking fluctuates from year to year, the Chihuahua regularly ranks between 5th and 15th in terms of AKC registrations.  While all breeds suffer from popularity spikes and trenches depending on the latest trends, the Chihuahua has likely secured its place among America’s most popular breeds, and will likely be in the top 15 most popular breeds for the foreseeable future.  The Chihuahua is so common in America that the breed is virtually synonymous with small dogs, and is almost always mentioned in a discussion of toy breeds.  In recent years, the Chihuahua has developed a large following in other regions of the world, such as Canada, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Australia.  However, there is nowhere in the world where the Chihuahua is as popular as it is in the United States.

 

In recent years, the Chihuahua has become even more fashionable in America than it has ever been in the past.  The Chihuahua has become an incredibly popular pet of the wealthy and glamorous.  Many female fanciers have begun to take their Chihuahuas with them wherever they go, carrying these tiny dogs in their purses.  As a result, Chihuahuas have become known as “Purse Dogs.”  This trend was made popular by the film Legally Blonde, as well as several prominent celebrities such as the heiress Paris Hilton.  Unfortunately, while the Chihuahua absolutely loves the constant attention and company, many such dogs develop behavioral issues, as they are not treated as a canine properly should.

 

Because the Chihuahua has long been one of the most desirable dogs in America, as well as being tiny and easy to manage, this breed has long suffered from the effects of poor breeding.  A number of Chihuahuas are bred by irresponsible breeders, who care little or nothing for temperament, health, or conformation.  These breeders only care about the potential profit they can make from selling puppies, and often keep their dogs in deplorable conditions.  The Chihuahua is likely the most commonly victimized breed in so called “Puppy Mills.”  As the dogs from such places commonly suffer from severe health and behavioral problems, all prospective Chihuahua owners should look carefully for a responsible breeder or rescue agency.  Additionally, a number of breeders seeking to create the smallest possibly Chihuahua have created dogs which are less than two pounds when adults.  Although such small dogs are occasionally healthy, they are considerably more likely to suffer from a large number of health defects than normal-sized (yet still tiny) Chihuahuas.

 

The popularity of Chihuahuas, as well as their distinctive appearance, has long made the breed quite popular in American television and movies.  In addition to the breed’s appearance in ‘Legally Blonde’, the Chihuahua has made hundreds of other appearances on the big and small screens.  A Chihuahua character named Pedro appeared in Disney’s animated classic ‘Lady and the Tramp’, and another Chihuahua named Tito appeared in ‘Oliver and Company’.  Other famous animated Chihuahuas include Ren Hoek from ‘Ren and Stimpy’ and characters on ‘Invader Zim’ and ‘Courage the Cowardly Dog’.  Live-action Chihuahuas have appeared in numerous roles, including ‘That’s So Raven’, ‘Transformers’, ‘the Soup’, and ‘the Dog Whisperer’.  In 2008, Chihuahuas even had an entire film series created about them.  ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua’ and ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2’ are both full of Chihuahua characters.  Perhaps the most famous of all Chihuahuas was the Taco Bell Chihuahua, who appeared in a number of Taco Bell commercials between 1997 and 2001.  The dog famously spoke the catchphrase, “Yo quiero Taco Bell,” Spanish for “I want Taco Bell.”

 

The Chihuahua has become one of the most divisive dog breeds in the world.  There are a huge number of Chihuahua fanciers who absolutely love and adore the breed.  However, there are an equally large number of people who very strongly dislike Chihuahuas, with many claiming that they hate these dogs.  This unpleasant reaction is largely a result of owners who coddle their beloved pets and no longer treat them like dogs.  Dogs which have been treated in this manner tend to develop a number of behavioral issues, such as aggression, biting, fear, timidity, and excessive barking.  Of all breeds, the Chihuahua has probably developed the worst reputation for being a, “nasty little yappy dog.”  Due to poor breeding practices and irresponsible or unaware owners, this reputation is partially deserved.  However, this reputation is completely unfair to the many thousands of well-bred, well-trained Chihuahuas.  The Chihuahua has also developed a reputation as a “girly” dog, and it is generally considered feminine for a man to own one.  This reputation is probably unfair, as a surprising number of men keep these dogs, many of which have a distinctively “macho” temperament.

 

The Chihuahua is generally recognized as the world’s smallest breed of dog, although some Yorkshire Terrier fanciers dispute this claim.  Because of this, the Chihuahua has become one of the most popular breeds, if not the most popular, to use in shrinking other breeds of dogs down in size.  Most breeds that have been miniaturized over the past century, such as the Alaskan Klee Kai, are either known or thought to have some Chihuahua in their ancestry.  The Chihuahua is also popular for this purpose because it is a primitive breed.  Chihuahuas have been tiny for much longer than most other breeds, and in general have better health.  They are also “average” in appearance, meaning that a cross between a Chihuahua and another breed will usually look more like the second breed than if a breed other than a Chihuahua breed had been used.  For example, a Chihuahua/Breed X mix is probably going to look more like Breed X than a Breed X/Maltese Mix or a Breed X/Poodle Mix.  Over the last decade, so-called, “Designer dogs,” have become increasingly popular in the United States.  Such dogs are actually nothing more than a cross between two purebred dogs.  While the vast majority of these crosses are probably nothing more than a one-time mix, it is generally believed that at least a few will eventually breed true and become unique breeds.  The Chihuahua is one of the most popular breeds used to create these dogs, along with the Poodle, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier, and Maltese.  Some of the most popular Chihuahua mixes include the Chorkie (Chihuahua/Yorkshire Terrier), the Chi-Poo (Chihuahua Poodle), the Mal-Chi (Chihuahua/Maltese), and the Chi-Chi (Chihuahua/Chinese Crested).

 

Although the Chihuahua once served a number of ritualistic and medicinal purposes, the breed is now used almost solely as companionship.  The vast majority of Chihuahuas around the world, and especially in the United States, are companion animals.  The Chihuahua has a very secure population in the United States, and will almost assuredly be among the most popular American dog breeds for many years to come.  In 2010, the Chihuahua ranked 13th out of all 167 breeds registered with the AKC.  This was a slight drop from the 8th spot the breed enjoyed in 2000.  However, this drop is easily explainable by other breeds temporarily becoming fashionable, Chihuahua mixes becoming desirable, and by the fact that this breed is so-long lived that fanciers go many years before wanting to acquire a new puppy.

 

Appearance: 

 

In the United States, the Chihuahua is almost ubiquitous and is one of the most easily recognizable breeds.  In fact, a large number of breeds are regularly mistaken for the Chihuahua.  Despite the best efforts of responsible breeders, the Chihuahua is quite variable in appearance.  This is largely due to irresponsible breeders who have created Chihuahuas that differ dramatically from proper standards.  The standards for the Long-Haired and Smooth-Coated Chihuahuas are identical other than coat, although in practice Long-Haired Chihuahuas are more uniform in appearance as they have suffered from less irresponsible breeding.  Although refined, the Chihuahua is a very primitive looking breed, and probably very closely resembles the first domestic dogs.

 

The Chihuahua is generally regarded as the world’s smallest dog breed.  AKC standards call for a dog which is less than 6 pounds, while UKC standards call for a dog which is ideally between 3 and 6½ pounds but can weigh less.  Irresponsible breeding has resulted in both absurdly tiny Chihuahuas which have an adult weight of less than 2 pounds, and very large Chihuahuas which weigh between 20 and 30 pounds.  Many breeders claim that such small Chihuahuas are a distinct variety, such as Tea Cup, Tiny Toy, or Miniature, but no major kennel club or the CCA recognizes these distinctions.  Although breed standards do not give ideal height requirements, most breed members are between 6 and 9 inches tall at the shoulder, although poorly bred dogs vary tremendously from this standard.  The Chihuahua ideally has an off-square body, meaning that these dogs should be slightly longer than they are tall.  The difference should only be slight, and no Chihuahua should be built like a Pekingese or a Dachshund.  Male Chihuahuas tend to be more square (less long) than females.  A Chihuahua in good health is a generally thin dog, with legs which seem long for its body size.  A Chihuahua would never be described as an athletic dog, and many breed members appear fragile or frail.  The tail of the Chihuahua is moderately long, and should never be docked.  Tail carriage is very important for this breed, which should carry its tail upright in either a saber-like position or with a single curl which ends barely touching the back.

 

Many Chihuahua fanciers are most taken with the breed’s face.  Ideally, a Chihuahua will possess a distinctive, apple-shaped head.  This shape is well-rounded and quite unique.  Poor breeding has resulted in many Chihuahuas having a long, primitive, almost fox-like head.  Breed fanciers refer to such dogs as being “deer-headed.”  Dogs with apple-heads generally have a moderately short muzzle, which is very distinct from the head, meeting it at a 90 degree angle.  Dogs with deer-heads usually have longer muzzles, which tend to blend in with the rest of the skull and face.  Even apple-headed dogs must have a muzzle which is sufficiently long and wide enough to support healthy dentition, and the Chihuahua would never be compared to a breed such as a Pug or Pekingese.  Chihuahuas have large, round eyes which give the breed a pleading expression.  Although darker eyes are preferred, many lighter colored dogs have light eyes.  The eyes of a Chihuahua should never prominently protrude from its face.  The nose of the Chihuahua can come in a number of colors, including black, brown, beige, pinkish-beige, and reddish-beige.  The Chihuahua is perhaps most well-known for its ears.  These ears are almost comically large for its body size, and are both long and wide.  A Chihuahua’s ears should always be naturally erect, and have often been compared to those of a bat.  However, this breed is not born with erect ears; they typically rise by the age of 6 months.

 

Both Smooth-Coated and Long-Haired Chihuahuas come in a large variety of colors.  Both the AKC and the UKC allow for Chihuahuas to come in any color or pattern with not preferences given.  Many international kennel clubs have decided to penalize or disqualify merle Chihuahuas, especially blue merle ones.  However, both major American kennel clubs have expressly stated that such dogs will continue to be eligible in the show ring and other events.  In practice, the most common colors found in Smooth-Coated Chihuahuas are solid coats of tan, fawn, beige, red, black, and brown and the most common colors found in Long-Haired Chihuahuas are white with tan, fawn, and black markings.

 

The Coat of the Smooth-Coated Chihuahua

 

The Smooth-Coated Chihuahua is by far the more common and well-known of the two coat varieties.  The ideal coats are soft, smooth, and glossy.  The longest hair is typically on the neck and tail, and the shortest hair is typically on the face, throat, and abdomen.  The coat of the Chihuahua is not particularly thick.  Irresponsible breeders have creating coats which differ dramatically from standards.  Many such dogs have quite harsh coats, with some being almost wiry.  Additionally, some dogs have excessively thin coats and even possibly bald patches.  The Smooth-Coated Chihuahua may be either single or double coated.  If a dog does have an undercoat, it should be softer, shorter, and denser than the outer coat.  The length of a Smooth-Coated Chihuahua’s coat is quite variable ranging from very short to surprisingly long.

 

The Coat of the Long-Haired Chihuahua

 

The Long-Haired Chihuahua has long hair, but not nearly so long that it reaches the ground.  The coat should be either straight or slightly wavy, and always soft and fine.  Long-Haired Chihuahuas have substantial feathering on their tails, feet, backs of the legs, ears, and necks.  The face of the Long-Haired Chihuahua has shorter hair, and should be free of obstruction.  As is the case with the Smooth-Coated Chihuahua, the Long-Haired Chihuahua may have either a single coat or a double coat.  If an undercoat is present, it should be soft, short, and relatively thin.  Long-Haired Chihuahuas are quite variable in the thickness of their coats, but dogs should not have excessively sparse hair.  In the show ring, a Long-Haired Chihuahua should only be groomed to the extent that it promotes neatness, although some owners choose to have their dogs trimmed into puppy-cuts or lion cuts.

 

Temperament: 

 

It is extremely difficult to make any generalizations of the temperament of the Chihuahua, as this breed exhibits less temperament consistency than perhaps any other dog breed.  A large part of the problem is commercial breeding, which has resulted in dogs with completely unpredictable temperaments.  However, even the most carefully bred Chihuahuas are known for tremendous differences from dog to dog.  You should carefully research individual Chihuahua lines, as some are known for possessing different temperaments.  Essentially every temperament which can be found in domestic dogs can be found in the Chihuahua breed.  Some Chihuahuas are as docile and friendly as the average Beagle; some are as hard-tempered and aggressive as the fiercest terrier.  This inherent unpredictability is made considerably worse by the majority of Chihuahua owners who do not train their dogs properly, nor do they provide them with what this breed needs.  As a result, Chihuahuas have developed a bad reputation, which is largely unfair.  Chihuahuas probably have the worst reputation of any dog breed in America other than a few breeds generally believed to be aggressive and dangerous, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier and the American Akita.  It will probably take many years of responsible Chihuahua breeding and ownership for these stereotypes to be overcome.

 

Many of the Chihuahua’s perceived problems stem from the fact that most owners misunderstand the temperament of this breed.  A Chihuahua may be a very small dog, but it is also a distinctly “doggy” dog.  Most Chihuahuas are considerably closer in temperament to primitive breeds than they are other traditional companion dogs.  The average Chihuahua is probably more like a Siberian Husky or a Shar Pei than it is like a Poodle or a Bichon Frise in every aspect other than size and strength.  Provided that it is not too cold outside, Chihuahuas are a breed that enjoys running around in a yard.  This is a dog that likes to play in the mud and chase squirrels.  Chihuahuas will both happily lick faces and attempt to drive intruders from their territory.  A Chihuahua is not a typical companion dog like the Maltese.  A Chihuahua is not a cat, nor are they particularly catlike.  While a Chihuahua is a toy breed, it is most certainly not a toy.  Similarly, while the Chihuahua may be an extremely fashionable dog, they are not fashion accessories.  If you do not want a dog that acts like a dog, or are not willing to meet the doggy needs of a Chihuahua, you should consider a different breed.

 

Few dogs will be as affectionate and devoted to their owners as a Chihuahua.  This breed is definitely a licker and a snuggler.  Most Chihuahuas want one thing, to be next to the person which they love the most.  Many Chihuahuas take this to the point of being clingy, and almost refuse to be more than a few feet away from their loved one.  If left unchecked, this can lead to a number of behavioral issues, as well as emotional distress for the dog.  Chihuahuas do tend to be one person dogs.  This breed has a tendency to form an intensely close bond with one person, and to shun almost everybody else.  If properly socialized and trained, Chihuahuas will happily accept others.  However, Chihuahuas almost always have a favorite even in two-person households. 

 

While there are exceptions, most Chihuahuas do not make friends easily.  Even the most well-socialized Chihuahuas tend to be either standoffish or nervous around strangers, although most can be trained to be polite.  Many Chihuahuas, especially poorly trained ones, react to new people with either fear/terror or surprising ferocious aggression.  Most Chihuahuas will warm up to someone eventually, but it can take months or even years of regular contact.  It isn’t unheard of for a Chihuahua to never fully accept the presence of a new person, such as a spouse or in-law, sometimes even after more than a decade.  How a Chihuahua reacts to persons other than its owner is entirely dependent on the dog, but most will bark very noisily every time.  Most people wrongly assume that this is because Chihuahuas are inherently anti-social.  In fact, a well-trained Chihuahua more than likely acts this way because the dog is inherently quite protective.  If not for its tiny stature, the Chihuahua’s protective instinct would probably make the breed as renowned a guard dog as an American Akita or Rottweiler.  As it is, this alert and protective breed makes one of the best watch dogs on the planet.

 

This breed has a mixed reputation with children.  Many claim that Chihuahuas are among the worst breeds to have around children, which is probably unfair.  While there are many Chihuahuas which should almost certainly be kept away from children at all times, the same can be said of any breed.  It is probably fair to say that the average Chihuahua is considerably less well-suited to living in a house with children under the age of 13 than most other breeds.  Most Chihuahuas prefer to keep a certain distance from humans which are not their masters, which some children do not understand.  Chihuahuas may see the repeated attempts of a child to make friends as an aggressive act.  Chihuahuas will also not tolerate any attempt at rough play, even if it accidental.  The Chihuahua is a delicate breed which may be easily injured or hurt even by a child petting one too roughly.  These problems are compounded by the fact that many Chihuahuas will not hesitate to bite if they feel they need to defend either themselves or their territory.  That being said, Chihuahuas which have been properly trained and socialized generally do very well around gentle children who understand boundaries.  It is also far from unheard of for a child to be the person with which a Chihuahua chooses to form its closest bond.  It is highly inadvisable to have Chihuahua puppy in the presence of a child under the age of seven or eight, as they are so fragile and easily injured.

 

Chihuahuas are somewhat mixed when it comes to other dogs.  Most Chihuahuas are quite accepting of other dogs with which they are familiar, but very unfriendly with strange dogs.  A Chihuahua is almost wolf-like in the manner in which it has its pack, and will defend against anyone who is not in its pack.  Chihuahuas have a reputation for being overly aggressive towards other dogs when on a leash, although this is mainly bark and very little bite.  This can cause huge problems when larger dogs feel the need to respond to this aggression.  Since virtually every other dog breed is capable of seriously injuring or killing a Chihuahua without even intending to, this is a dangerous situation.  An even bigger problem is caused by the fact that many large dogs mistake the tiny Chihuahua for a rodent or other prey animal, and their natural predatory instincts will take over.  Chihuahuas definitely seem to prefer the company of other Chihuahuas.  This breed seems to have a particular affinity for its own kind, and would most like to live with other Chihuahuas.  The biggest problems that Chihuahuas tend to have with other dogs are jealousy related.  Many Chihuahuas have extreme difficulty sharing their master with another dog.  It is probably not ideal to house a Chihuahua with a much larger dog, in order to prevent injuries.

 

Chihuahuas are better than most breeds when it comes to non-canine pets.  Chihuahuas tend to have minimal prey drives, although most do enjoy chasing squirrels and birds.  Chihuahuas which have not been properly trained and socialized will hunt and even kill small creatures such as lizards and even mice.  Once trained, Chihuahuas will generally ignore other creatures.  In particular, Chihuahuas are very accepting of cats, and once socialized with them will rarely disturb them.  However, some cats actually pose a threat to Chihuahuas.  If anything, cats are actually more predatory than dogs, and feral cats regularly take down essentially any creature smaller than themselves.  Cats which are not accustomed to the presence of dogs could easily mistake a Chihuahua for potential prey, and even an average sized housecat could kill an average sized Chihuahua.  Very young Chihuahua puppies should probably be kept away from cats entirely.

 

It is virtually impossible to make any generalizations about the trainability of Chihuahuas.  Some Chihuahuas train quite easily, others are virtually impossible.  Chihuahuas run the entire gamut from an almost Labrador Retriever like desire to please to the incredible stubbornness of a scent hound.  Most Chihuahuas are somewhere in the middle, whereby they will learn without exceptional difficulty but not with exceptional ease either.  Chihuahuas have competed in agility and obedience trials with some success, but they are not known for their skill in these events.  It is probably most fair to say that if you are do not care about training a dog beyond basic obedience commands such as come or stay, you can teach these to a Chihuahua with relatively little difficulty.  If you are looking to have train a dog to perform complex tasks such as the German Shepherd or Border Collie are known for, you should probably look elsewhere as the Chihuahua probably isn’t willing or capable of that level of training.  It is particularly difficult to teach most Chihuahuas good manners, such as not barking loudly at the approach of everyone who walks by.  Owners must be extra vigilant and dedicated in these training areas.

 

The Chihuahua is notoriously difficult to train in one aspect.  This breed is regarded as one of the most difficult breeds to housebreak, and some trainers regard it as the most difficult to housebreak of all.  Some Chihuahuas are never fully housebroken, and their owners accept that they will need to provide their dog with a litter box.  The Chihuahua is difficult to housebreak for three primary reasons.  Perhaps the most important is that these dogs have very small bladders which take longer to develop.  Simply put, a Chihuahua cannot hold in its urine for as long as a larger dog can.  Another reason is that because Chihuahuas are so small, they are able to urinate behind sofas, underneath beds, and other secret places.  Their accidents are therefore much more likely to go undetected and uncorrected, making consistent training difficult.  Finally, Chihuahuas have a very primitive temperament.  These dogs like to mark their territories, particularly males, and will often deliberately urinate on the furniture to do so.

 

One of the most popular reasons that owners get Chihuahuas is that they have relatively low exercise requirements.  This is not an especially active breed, and most Chihuahuas are not capable of rigorous exercise.  You will certainly not need to run yourself ragged to meet the needs of a Chihuahua.  A thorough daily walk is all that most Chihuahuas will require, as these dogs are also quite active in the house.  Most Chihuahuas love running around in a secure area as well, although it doesn’t need to be a particularly large one.  This is not a breed which needs to have a job to be happy, and most Chihuahuas probably prefer to not have one.  However, just because a Chihuahua needs less exercise than other dogs does not mean that it needs no exercise at all.  No dog will be satisfied with a couple of ten minute potty walks every day.  Chihuahuas absolutely must have their exercise needs met.  Chihuahuas which are not properly exercised are much more likely to develop behavioral issues, especially aggression, excessive barking, and destructiveness.

 

Most of the behavioral problems suffered by Chihuahuas are the result of one cause.  Chihuahuas are very likely to develop a condition known as Small Dog Syndrome.  It is actually difficult to determine the true nature of the Chihuahua’s temperament because so many of these dogs are affected by this condition.  Small Dog Syndrome is caused by owners who treat a small dog differently than they would a large one.  They do not correct the negative behaviors of their dogs for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with perception.  It may seem cute or even funny when a two-pound Chihuahua puppy snarls and bites but dangerous and scary when a twenty pound Labrador Retriever puppy does the same thing.  However, if you don’t treat the two behaviors in the exact same manner the result is probably going to be the exact same.  There is a reason that so many Chihuahuas are at the ends of their leashes trying to attack anyone and anything that walks by and so few Golden Retrievers doing the same thing.  Dogs which develop Small Dog Syndrome are likely to be aggressive, vocal, dominant, and generally out of control.  Chihuahuas are particularly vulnerable to this condition for two reasons, their small size and inherently primitive temperament.

 

Perhaps the area where the temperament of the Chihuahua is most unpredictable is in regards to dominance.  Some Chihuahuas are so submissive that they actually begin to shake in the presence of other dogs or people.  Others are so dominant that they will not back down from a confrontation no matter how large their opponent.  The same Chihuahua may be incredibly submissive to humans and incredibly dominant towards other dogs and vice versa.  How dominant an individual Chihuahua is greatly determines how easily that dog can be trained and how accepting it will be of strangers and other dogs.

 

Many dogs of all breeds are frightened of men but accepting of women.  Men are generally larger and more physically imposing, as well as possessing deeper and less-soothing voices.  Studies have shown that men are also considerably more likely to physically abuse dogs, and leave them traumatized.  However, this problem is particularly severe in Chihuahuas.  Many Chihuahuas are absolutely terrified of men.  This is probably not an inherent breed trait, but a result of several factors meeting.  The size and voice differences which make men more intimidating to most dogs are probably more pronounced to a breed as small as the Chihuahua.  Also, since a sizable majority of Chihuahuas are owned by women, these dogs are less likely to have regular contact with men and therefore to become properly socialized with them.  Finally, many men strongly dislike Chihuahuas, largely for unfair reasons.  Many such men send out signals to Chihuahuas, both intentionally and unintentionally, which these dogs then pick up on.

 

All potential Chihuahua owners must be aware of the breed’s penchant for being very vocal.  As everyone who has encountered a Chihuahua probably knows, this breed tends to bark a great deal.  When someone talks about a “yappy” dog, a Chihuahua is almost certainly the breed to which they are referring.  It is quite amazing how many distinct barks which a Chihuahua is capable of making in a very short period of time.  Many are surprised to hear just how loud a Chihuahua can be.  The bark of the Chihuahua is both incredibly high pitched and shrill, and most find it to be one of the most unpleasant of all dog sounds.  Good training, along with regular stimulation and exercise, will greatly reduce the barking of most Chihuahuas.   However, most Chihuahuas will bark considerably more than most breeds.  If you don’t like the sound of a Chihuahua bark, you should not get one of these dogs because you will certainly hear it regularly.

 

Grooming Requirements: 

 

Grooming Requirements of the Smooth-Coated Chihuahua

 

The Smooth-Coated Chihuahua has very low grooming requirements.  This variety will only need to be regularly brushed with a very soft brush or a warm cloth.  Care must be taken when bathing these dogs to avoid getting excessive water in their ears.  This dog must be quickly and gently dried off after a bath to avoid getting the chills.  Chihuahuas are shedders.  While every Smooth-Coated Chihuahua is different, some are quite heavy shedders and will produce more hair than a dog many times their size.  However, the short fur and small size of this dog means that you will deal with much less hair than you would with most breeds.

 

Grooming Requirements of the Long-Haired Chihuahua

 

Long-Haired Chihuahuas have greater grooming requirements than the Smooth-Coated variety, but much lower ones than the majority of similarly coated breeds.  The Long-Coated Chihuahua needs a regular and thorough brushing with a very soft brush.  This breed needs to have any mats very carefully worked out of its hair.  Extra caution must be taken when grooming to avoid injury.  The Long-Haired Chihuahua does not require professional grooming, although some owners choose to take their dog to the groomer for a lower maintenance haircut.  Just like the Smooth-Coated Chihuahua, extra care must be taken when bathing and drying the Long-Haired variety in order to prevent water in the ears or the chills.  Long-Haired Chihuahuas are not considered to be a hypoallergenic breed, and do shed.  However, this variety sheds considerably less than the Smooth-Coated variety, and most shed little to very little hair.

 

Health Issues: 

 

As is the case with the breed’s temperament, it is nearly impossible to make any generalizations about the health of the Chihuahua.  Poor breeding has created dogs with generally poor health and which suffer from a number of problems, many of which are actually the result of poor sanitation or living conditions.  In recent years, a number of health problems have been discovered in carefully bred Chihuahua lines as well, even in show dogs.  Chihuahuas which are advertised as Tea Cup, Tiny Toy, Miniature, and similar terms are often very unhealthy.  Most of these dogs have crossed a threshold whereby they are simply too small to have a healthy canine body plan.  However, regularly sized Chihuahuas which have been properly bred are among the healthiest of all toy-dog breeds.  With the exception of size, Chihuahuas are remarkably similar in body plan to the wolf which generally makes for healthier dogs.  Chihuahuas are certainly among the longest-lived of all dogs, with an average life expectancy of 15 or more years when properly cared for.

 

Chihuahuas have a few specialized care requirements.  Even double-coated and Long-Haired Chihuahuas simply do not have very much protection from the elements.  This breed gets cold very easily and needs to be protected from the elements.  Chihuahuas should probably have coats and booties on in cold weather, and should probably be kept indoors during adverse or wet weather conditions.

 

Chihuahuas are the only breed of dog which is born with an incomplete skull.  Much like baby humans, Chihuahua puppies have a soft spot on their heads known as a molera.  Most moleras close by the age of six months, during which extra caution must be taken with these dogs.  However, some moleras never fully close and require a lifetime of caution.

 

It is always advisable to get your pets tested by either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and/or the Canine Eye Registration Foundation, particularly if you intend to breed.  The OFA and CERF test for various genetically inherited disorders such as blindness and hip dysplasia that may impact either your dog or its descendants.

 

A full list of health issues which are thought to occur in a comparatively high percentage of Chihuahuas would have to include:

 

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