The chihuahua is the world’s smallest dog breed. With a spunky personality, and a penchant for showmanship, it’s no wonder that these little dogs are so beloved around the world. What they lack in size, they make up for in personality! Read on to learn about the chihuahua.
Description of the Chihuahua
Chihuahuas, also known affectionately as “chis” or “chi-chis,” are a small breed from Mexico. While we don’t know when this breed was first developed originally, artifacts of chihuahua-like dogs are scattered around Central and South America, dating back as far as the 9th Century. They are most likely descended from the techichi, a slightly larger breed kept by the Toltecs. The chihuahua was a multi-purpose dog used for companionship, ceremonies, and meat.
These little dogs have upright ears, rounded heads, and short fur. They come in a variety of colors, but are most commonly sand-colored or black. They come in both long-haired and short-haired coats.
The chihuahua, when well-socialized, can be quite the extroverted cuddler. Without proper socialization, however, these dogs can become fiercely barky and nippy around strange things. They’re often easily frightened due to their small size, and they lash out with a flurry of barking or nipping.
These dogs are excellent apartment-dwellers for first time owners, people with an interest in training, and just about anyone else. They aren’t well-suited to boisterous families, due to their small size.
Life Expectancy and Size
Dogs don’t get much smaller than a chihuahua! At six pounds or less, and just five to eight inches tall, these dogs are perfectly suited for tucking under your arm, though it’s important to remember that they’re not just a fashion accessory. The chihuahua is very long-lived, often living well into their teenage years, and may live up to the age of 20.
While a poorly-socialized chihuahua is likely to bark up a storm when visitors arrive (even throwing in a nip or two), their small size makes these dogs largely unhelpful for deterring unwanted guests. A well-socialized chihuahua will generally be friendly towards strangers, rather than suspicious.
These dogs are extremely trainable, highly interested in treats and attention. Many will also enjoy training in exchange for a quick game of tug-o-war or other playtime. They do best with reward-based training, and should not be subjected to correction-based training. Many chihuahuas excel at competitive dog sports, such as agility or obedience.
These dogs benefit from careful socialization to ensure that they don’t become overly suspicious of, or aggressive towards, strangers, kids, other dogs, and new situations. It’s easy to forget with a dog this small, since they don’t go out as much and aren’t very intimidating, that socialization is key to keeping your puppy happy, and helping him become a well-adjusted adult.
Many chihuahuas are perky and excitable little dogs that enjoy zooming around the apartment, pouncing on toys, and sniffing around on walks. Their miniature stature means that, despite having a lot of energy, it’s easy to properly exercise most chihuahuas.
Even though these little dogs are easy to exercise, obesity is a common problem in the breed. Ensure that you’re getting your dog out for enough exercise, and not overfeeding to keep him healthy.
Care of the Chihuahua
These pocket-sized pups need proper care to stay happy and healthy into their teens.
Being small and from Mexico means that these dogs are sensitive to cold. Many don’t like getting wet, either. Short-coated chihuahuas may benefit from a coat in the winter.
The chihuahua needs regular activity at a level and speed appropriate for its size. Some may enjoy sprinting around the backyard playing fetch, while others would be happier with a leisurely leash walk. Follow the lead of your dog to determine the appropriate amount of exercise, while ensuring she stays at a healthy weight
Shedding and Grooming
Since the chihuahua comes in two coat types, there are two options for shedding and grooming care. The short-coated variety will shed more, but generally requires very little care. On the flip side, the long-coated variety needs regular brushing and grooming, but generally sheds less.
Most of these dogs are easy to groom at home, thanks to their small size.
Ideal Home Environment
A bright and active little dog, the chihuahua does well in a variety of homes. Well-socialized and well-trained, a chihuahua is friendly and outgoing. They do well with less space, thanks to their small size. They don’t love the cold, but can tolerate a variety of living situations. While they’re good first-time dogs, avoid the chihuahua if you’re looking for a fashion accessory, and pick out a plant instead.
While they’re hardy for their size, many poorly-bred chihuahuas have health concerns. The most common issues seen in these dogs are luxating patellas (loose kneecaps), heart issues, eye issues, and epilepsy. Responsible breeders will screen for all of these health concerns. Be sure to ask about them before purchasing your puppy.
Another major health concern for these diminutive dogs is obesity. As discussed above, it is very important to feed your chihuahua the right amount and type of food, and to ensure he gets enough quality exercise.
The most common behavior problem seen in the chihuahua is fear-based aggression. This is because it’s so easy to accidentally scare dogs this small, and many owners neglect training and socialization for small dogs. Avoid this by taking your dog out as a puppy, enrolling him in puppy kindergarten, and keeping up with your treat-based training.
How to Get One
Depending on where you are in the world, it can be very easy or quite challenging to find a chihuahua in a shelter. Double-check your local shelters and rescues. Like all breeds, you should avoid purchasing puppies online or in pet stores, where they’re likely from a puppy mill.
Given the popularity of the breed, and their fragile bodies, it’s important to find a breeder who takes care of their dogs’ health, and not just profit. Don’t take home a puppy without meeting the parents and seeing where it was raised first.