Chihuahuas: Tiny Dogs With Big Personalities

Chihuahua

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The Chihuahua is a tiny but confident dog that loves to give and receive attention. Despite its petite and fragile appearance, ​the breed is quite bold, even brazen. Its wide eyes and big ears are its other distinctive features. The ears are usually erect and very large in relation to its small head and body. The Chihuahua has a unique personality and can be a quite affectionate, loyal companion dog.

Breed Overview

  • Group: Toy
  • Size: 2 to 6 pounds
  • Coat and Color: Chihuahuas can have smooth coats or long coats. They are seen in many colors, either solid or a combination of two colors. Most common colors include black, tan, fawn, cream, white, blue, silver, chocolate and red.
  • Life Expectancy: 12 to 20 years

Characteristics of the Chihuahua

Affection LevelHigh
FriendlinessHigh
Kid-FriendlyMedium
Pet-FriendlyMedium
Exercise NeedsLow
PlayfulnessMedium
Energy LevelMedium
TrainabilityMedium
IntelligenceHigh
Tendency to BarkMedium
Amount of SheddingLow

History of the Chihuahua

The Chihuahua originated in Mexico and was developed in the state for which it was named. A likely ancestor of the breed was the Techichi, a sacred dog of the ancient Toltecs. However, ancestors of the Chihuahua may have been present earlier than the ninth century. Some believe that the smaller size of the breed may have resulted from crossing with Chinese crested dogs.

First registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904, the Chihuahua is one of the oldest breeds on the American continent and one of the smallest breeds in the world. It's also highly recognizable, thanks to its tiny size and big personality. In the 90s and early 00s, Taco Bell ad campaigns starring the breed boosted its popularity, as did Chihuahuas being featured in reality television series as purse dogs of rich, famous young women.

Chihuahua Care

The sassy attitude of the Chihuahua demands proper socialization and in-depth obedience training. Without adequate socialization, the breed can become fearful and defensive, especially around new people or animals. An untrained Chihuahua can act defiant and defensive towards their owners and other people. Though stubborn at times, the breed is smart and can become well-behaved with dedication and consistency from its owner. It is also essential that you teach your Chihuahua to tolerate being handled at a young age, especially for things like nail trims.

Smooth-coated Chihuahuas need little more than basic routine grooming due to their short hair. However, the long-coated variety requires more frequent grooming, especially routine hair brushing. Due to their small size, the Chihuahua's nails don't wear down naturally. It's important that you trim the nails regularly to keep them from becoming overgrown and uncomfortable. 

It is absolutely essential for your Chihuahuas to get regular exercise. Many people underestimate the exercise needs of smaller dogs. The Chihuahua has a moderate to high energy level and may develop behavioral problems if not given enough activity. Exercise and mental stimulation will help maintain your dog's mental and physical health.

Be aware when you are walking a Chihuahua, as they are known to be aggressive towards larger dogs if not properly trained. You may need to be on alert to remove your dog from potential conflict.

Chihuahuas like to be warm, and they don't tolerate cold well. You may need to put your dog in a sweater for walks in cold weather. Some don't even mind being dressed up in cute little outfits–but others hate it, so be careful. You'll note that your dog will seek out warm places.

The Chihuahua's affectionate and attention-loving nature makes it a snuggly dog that enjoys being carried around and pampered. This dog often bonds closely with one person in the household. They are known to socialize best with fellow Chihuahuas rather than other dog breeds, so they may not do well in a household with a variety of dogs.

When raised and handled appropriately, the Chihuahua can make a wonderful companion for many kinds of families. Not all Chihuahuas will automatically get along with children, but they can sometimes be trained and socialized to get along with kids. It is often recommended that Chihuahuas not be adopted into a family with young children, as they may not handle a small dog as gently as is needed to prevent injury.

Common Health Problems

Responsible breeders strive to maintain the highest breed standards, as established by kennel clubs like the AKC. Dogs bred by these standards are less likely to inherit health conditions. However, some hereditary health problems can occur in the breed.

The following are some conditions to be aware of:

  • Patellar Luxation: This is a dislocating kneecap. and it causes the dog pain. You may note the dog holding its foot off the ground. The kneecap may pop back into place when its muscles relax and lengthen.
  • Collapsing Trachea: This is a restriction of the windpipe that is often seen in small dogs. Coughing when pressure is put on the trachea is a sign of this condition. You should discuss it with your veterinarian.
  • Hydrocephalus: This can be noted in puppies with signs of an abnormally large head as fluid accumulates.
  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar can affect Chihuahua puppies, and they may need a sugar supplement.

Diet and Nutrition

The small size of their jaws makes their teeth weaker, so you will need to support your Chihuahua with daily dental care, including brushing. You should provide dental chews and a diet that requires chewing, which will naturally help reduce plaque. A good dry dog food for a Chihuahua will have large and dense pieces.

Due to their small size, Chihuahuas need only 1/4 to 1/2 cups of dry food per day. You will need to monitor your dog to ensure it is not getting overweight, as obesity can lead to a shorter lifespan. Consult your veterinarian about an appropriate diet if your pet has a health condition or is gaining too much weight.

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you would like to share your life with an adorable Chihuahua, take the time to do your research first. Talk to your veterinarian, other Chihuahua owners, reputable Chihuahua breeders, and Chihuahua rescue groups to learn more.