Named in honor of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, the Chihuahua has the prestige of being the smallest breed of dog in the world. One of the most popular breeds around the world, the Chihuahua – lovingly referred to as the ‘Chi’ by fans – is most definitely a “big dog in a little dog’s body.”
- A small “toy” breed dog
- A dog that does well with apartment life
- A small dog that has the personality of a big dog
- A long living breed
- A dog that loves ‘cuddling’
- A very loyal breed
- A very intelligent dog
The History of the Chihuahua
There is some discrepancy when it comes to just what the Chihuahua breed originates from in terms of its ancestral descendants. With that said, there is little doubt that this little companion dog hails from Mexico.
The most popular theory as to the family tree of this toy breed, is that it originates from a small dog named the Techichi. The Techichi was a companion breed favored by the Mexican Toltec civilization (900 – 1168 AD) but is thought to date back as far as 1530AD.
The most significant evidence that this small dog is related to the Chihuahua we know today, is found in architectural artifacts uncovered in South America. Toys resembling the deer head Chihuahua and apple head Chihuahua were found all across the continent, evidence that this lightweight dog is, most definitely, from that region.
Appearance and Vital Stats
The Chihuahua is a toy breed. Toy breeds are smaller breeds of dog that are not better suited by another breed category such as sporting dogs or working dogs.
The Chihuahua can weigh anywhere from 2lbs to 6lbs, but in order to remain healthy, they should not exceed the upper level of 6lbs. Obesity can cause undue stress on smaller bones and the cardiovascular system.
The Chihuahua usually stands between 6” to 9.”
The Chihuahua can live up to 20 years, however, it is more common for this breed to have a life expectancy of around 15 years.
The Chihuahua is well known for its rounded skull (which is frequently referred to as being an “apple dome” skull) and large, wide set eyes. The large upright ears of this small breed are also a defining feature, in addition to the sickle shaped tail that stands upright or outward to the body. This is a breed that should never have a docked or “bobbed” tail for any reason other than being medically necessary.
The coat of the smooth coated Chihuahua is soft and close to the body making it easy to care for.
The coat of the long coated Chihuahua is also soft, but it can be both wavy or straight and is not held as closely to the body. The long coated Chihuahua also has a characteristic “fringe” of hair along the edges of the ears, feathering of fur on the legs and feet, a “ruff” of hair on the neck like a small lion mane, and “pants” of fur on the hind legs.
The long coated Chihuahua requires more grooming than the short coated Chihuahua in order to keep it healthy and tangle-free.
Coloration and Markings
The Chihuahua is not only recognized for being the smallest breed of dog in the world, it is also recognized as being one of the most diverse in terms of coloration and markings.
There are 9 AKC recognized colors of the Chihuahua breed – black, black and tan, blue and tan, chocolate, chocolate and tan, cream, fawn, fawn and white, and red.
Other, AKC non-recognized colors of Chihuahua include black and red, black and white, black and silver, black sabled fawn, black sabled silver, blue and white, blue, blue brindled fawn, blue fawn, chocolate blue, chocolate and white, chocolate brindled fawn, chocolate sabled fawn, fawn brindled black, cream and white, gold, gold and white, silver, red and white, silver and white, and white.
There are 6 American Kennel Club recognized marking patterns of the Chihuahua breed – black brindling, black sabling, black mask, spotted on white, merle markings, and white markings.
Other, AKC non-recognized markings of the Chihuahua include black mask with white markings, cream markings, blue mask, red markings, and fawn markings.
What does it mean to be AKC and non-AKC recognized? For a color or marking to be recognized it should be a color that has been pure bred in to a breed for at least four generations.
Non-recognized colors and markings do not make a dog a poor dog, but they do mean that the dog in question cannot be shown as a show dog. It may also mean that the dog comes from a non-reputable breeder since most breeders adhere to AKC breed standards when breeding. Dogs coming from non-reputable breeders have an increased possibility of health concerns due to poor adherence to health clearance testing and low standards in the selection of bitches and dogs.
“Types” of Chihuahua
There is only one “type” of Chihuahua, but there are two coat types as we mentioned above – the long haired and smooth haired. There are, however, a couple of different terms frequently used by the Chihuahua community to refer to different physical characteristics of certain dogs.
The apple-head Chihuahua is so named because of the rounded “apple shaped” skull. This is the head shape that is preferred by most breeders since it is recognized as being “standard” for the Chihuahua breed.
Deer-head Chihuahua’s are so named because their skull shape is more reminiscent of a deer’s skull than that of an apple. This skull is characterized by a longer snout and a more sloped angle where the muzzle meets the skull as opposed to the more right-angled join of the apple-head skull shape.
Although the deer-head shape is not a favored characteristic by breeders, many have found that this skull shape results in a healthier dog than the apple-head skull Chihuahua.
The term “pear-headed” is used to refer to a Chihuahua that has a more pear shaped skull. This skull shape tends to fall between the apple shaped and the deer shaped skull and is particularly unfavorable. This is not a characteristic that is seen often since it is not a dominant genetic trait.
Teacup Chihuahua, Miniature Chihuahua, or Micro Chihuahuas
All of these terms are used to refer to Chihuahua’s that are small in size. There is no particular variety of Chihuahua that is “teacup,” “miniature,” of “micro.” These smaller dogs are simply smaller dogs in a littler. While some breeders will claim that they are able to breed for smaller “teacup” sized dogs, small size is not something that can reliably be bred in to litters.
The Personality of the Chihuahua
Seen as a great companion breed, the Chihuahua is a brave, happy, and lively dog. An adventurous dog for its size, the Chihuahua requires a firm but gentle owner who is ready to put time in to training this intelligent breed. Although quick to learn, the Chihuahua can be stubborn (particularly when it comes to housetraining) and can become quite headstrong without a consistent and positive approach to training.
As with many smaller breeds of dog, the Chihuahua can easily develop serious behavioral issues when not given a firm set of rules that are regularly enforced. These issues can include aggression, jealousy of other family members or even strangers, yappy or snappy behavior, and a distrust of others.
The Chihuahua also often takes on a very nervous disposition as a result of their owner treating them as fragile by carrying them around constantly or babying them. This can be avoided by treating them just as you would any other dog breed. Just because it is a small dog, do not allow the Chihuahua to rule the roost or feel the need to protect them from life in general.
An intelligent breed, the Chihuahua requires regular mental stimulation which should come in the form of training. Regular, consistent positive reinforcement of desired behavior will get you everything you want from a Chihuahua.
The Chihuahua has moderate energy level and without regular stimulation in the form of mental and physical exercise, it will quickly become bored. Boredom is something that must be avoided in order to prevent problem behaviors like excessive barking, escapism, chewing, biting their own feet, and other destructive behaviors.
In addition to regular exercise – as discussed in the following section – Chihuahua owners must provide toys for play when they are unable to interact with their dog. Some Chihuahua owners even find that a companion for their Chihuahua is a great way to keep their dog’s energy level under control when they are not home and provide constant companionship.
Children and Other Pets
If well socialized and trained to understand that they are not the ruler of the roost, the Chihuahua can do well with children, animals, and strangers. If, however, a Chihuahua is allowed to make the rules in the home or is treated like it is fragile, they can easily become aggressive with strangers, children, or animals. Training and socialization is everything when it comes to this small breed.
As a small dog, the Chihuahua can easily become obese, so it is necessary to avoid feeding table scraps and overdoing treats. The Chihuahua should be fed a small breed food that has smaller food pieces that are manageable. In later life, the Chihuahua may develop dental disease – a common complaint for smaller dogs – and it may become necessary to feed wet food due to tooth loss.
Grooming for the smooth haired Chihuahua is as simple as a quick brushing once a week to encourage healthy oil secretion of the skin, remove dead skin, and remove dead hair from the coat.
Grooming for the long haired Chihuahua involves a daily brushing to avoid matting or any foreign objects being caught in the fur.
Chihuahua’s often require daily cleansing of the eyes, particularly lighter colored dogs, due to tear staining.
Tooth brushing should be a daily routine for any Chihuahua due to the prevalence of dental disease in smaller breeds. In addition to tooth brushing, dental toys and bones should be provided as well.
Despite being a small dog, the Chihuahua requires at least one daily walk on top of regular play and training activities. It is important not to depend solely on play for exercise for this small breed as walks provide more than just exercise. Walking helps a dog to explore their surroundings, be exposed to various stimuli, and experience a different type of physical exercise.
Health of the Chihuahua
Chihuahua puppies are generally born in smaller litters of 1 to 3 individuals.
Common Health Concerns
There are quite a few health concerns that are common to the Chihuahua.
Dental disease – This is a common problem for all small breed dogs due to the prevalence of overcrowded teeth in their small jaw. Regular dental cleanings, tooth brushing, and bone chewing can help to mitigate this problem.
Slipped Stifle – Also known as patellar luxation and a “slipped kneecap,” this is a painful hereditary, developmental, or traumatic injury caused condition that is prevalent in smaller breeds. The best way to avoid slipped stifle is to thoroughly research breeders before purchasing a puppy since the biggest influencing factor in this condition is heredity.
Upper respiratory infections and colds – The smaller dog is increasingly likely to suffer these ailments as a result of short hair and small body size. Protection against the cold (in the form of clothing) and limiting the time the small dog spends outside in the cold can prevent these illnesses.
Obesity – Obesity is a significant concern for smaller dog breeds, fortunately, it can be avoided by sticking to a strict diet.
Increased likelihood of bone fractures and breaks – The bones of smaller dog breeds tend to be more fragile by nature, breaks and fractures can be avoided by being mindful of risks such as high level falls.
Wheezing – Wheezing can be a result of soft palate conditions (a genetic development) shortened muzzle (the anatomy of many small dogs) or respiratory infections. We have covered the prevention of respiratory infections above, unfortunately the shortened muzzle of smaller dogs cannot be avoided. Genetic abnormalities can sometimes be avoided through breeder selection, however, oftentimes these conditions are spontaneous.
Easily over-stressed – Many smaller dogs experience an increase in nervousness. This is easily avoidable through proper training and socialization, as well as through proper handling.
Granulomatous meningoencephalitis (focal, multifocal, and optical) – An inflammatory disease of the central nervous system, this is becoming an increasing problem for Chihuahuas. An autoimmune disease, granulomatous meningoencephalitis is treated with steroids in order to prompt remission. Unfortunately, at this time there is no identifiable cause of this disease and so prevention is not possible.
Additionally, Chihuahua’s often require C-sections to deliver their puppies. The baby Chihuahua can either be too large for the mother to birth (this is usually down to the size of the skull) or the mother can be too small to birth the baby. Unfortunately, little can be done to remedy this situation aside from not breeding smaller dogs who may have increased trouble giving birth naturally.
The Chihuahua is a particularly recognizable breed due to its size and appearance. The long-coated Chihuahua, however, may sometimes be confused for the Pomeranian.
Frequently seen Chihuahua mixes include: Chihuahua terrier mixes, Chihuahua Yorkie mixes, and Chihuahua Pomeranian mixes.