Although it is the smallest breed of dog in the world, the Chihuahua has a big personality. These little dogs are loyal, intelligent, and courageous. The breed is thought to originate from wild dogs, which were domesticated by the Toltecs and then rose to popularity in Mexico and later America, where they were further refined. Today they are a popular companion dog, favoured for their charming but bold characters and small size. The Chihuahua comes in numerous different colours and can be either smooth or longhaired, and has an easy-to-maintain coat, which can be kept in order by brushing.
Chihuahuas are quick to learn and usually keen to please their owners, so training and recall are not normally a problem. They are not suitable for families with small children as they can be snappy and possessive, and their size means they are delicate. They do, however, enjoy the company and do not like being left alone. Chihuahuas are small dogs that do not require much exercise but should still be provided with plenty of mental stimulation. Despite their small size, they can suffer from some health problems, so choosing a breeder who tests for these is important.
About & History
The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world. There is some uncertainty about its roots, but it is thought to have originated from wild dogs domesticated by the Toltec civilisation. These early ancestors were called Techichi and are depicted on pottery found from as far back as 300 BC. The modern Chihuahua became popular in Mexico towards the end of the 1800s and was named after the state where it first became well known. The breed was further refined in Texas, an American state, and now a popular companion dog worldwide.
More recently, the Chihuahua has seen an enormous rise in its popularity, partly because several famous figures have them as pets, which has raised awareness of the breed. Other than as companions, Chihuahuas do not have any other uses.
The UK Kennel Club accepts registration of a large variety of colours for the breed. Accepted colours are the same for smooth and long-haired Chihuahuas:
- Black & Tan
- Black & White
- Black Particular
- Blue & Tan
- Blue & White
- Blue Fawn
- Blue Fawn & White
- Blue Fawn Sable
- Blue Sable
- Blue Sable & White
- Chocolate & Gold
- Chocolate & Tan
- Chocolate Tan & White
- Cream & White
- Cream Sable
- Dark Sable
- Fawn & White
- Fawn Sable
- Gold & White
- Gold Sable
- Red & White
- Red Sable
- Red Sable & White
- Sable & White
- White & Chocolate
- Wolf Sable
The Chihuahua can come in smooth and long-coated varieties, which may or may not have an undercoat, but the breed standard is the same for both. Merle colouring is not ever accepted for registration with the Kennel Club as it can be linked to health problems. Their size is judged only by weight, not height and they should weigh between 1.8 and 2.7 kg.
The Chihuahua should have a medium-length neck that is slightly arched, and this should be broader in male dogs. Long coated Chihuahuas may have a neck ruff. Their neck should lead to and blend into shoulders, which are laid back and angled, ensuring that the front legs are positioned well under the body. The ribcage should be deep and reach the elbows’ level and then tuck up towards the abdomen. The topline should be level, and the body should be slightly longer than the withers’ height. Hindquarters should be muscular, and both front and back legs should be straight. The tail should be of a medium length and high set, tapering to a point.
The breed has an ”apple dome” skull, which is rounded and proportionately large, with a relatively short muzzle that is just a little pointed. They should have a perfect scissor bite and a complete set of teeth. Nose colour can change depending on coat colour. Eyes are wideset, large, and rounded but should not protrude excessively; their colour can also change depending on coat colour. Chihuahuas have large ears for their size with slightly rounded points, which are set at an angle and stand up straight.
Chihuahuas should move with an active and springy gait driven by the back legs and has good reach despite their small size. When seen from the front or back, legs should not be too wide apart or close together and move parallel to the body, maintaining the topline flat even while moving. A hackney or high stepping gait is considered undesirable.
Character & Temperament
The Chihuahua is a small dog with a big character. They are alert, spirited, and intelligent little dogs that are cheeky and very quick to learn, and have an independent nature. They can be cautious in new situations, like to weigh things, and are often prone to barking and being noisy. They also pick up acutely on their owner’s character and respond if they notice them being stressed or tense. Different family lines of Chihuahua can vary significantly in the type of character they have, so it is important to meet the parents of a litter if you are considering getting a puppy.
They are not appropriate for small children, as they can be snappy. Older children should be taught to be calm and respectful around them, as they will not tolerate prodding and poking. Their great character means they do not always get on that well with other dogs and animals, so socialisation from a young age is important to try and avoid problems. Chihuahuas tend to be extremely loyal and form strong bonds with their owners or families, and often do not like being left alone. Their small size means they are not typically used as guard dogs, but their noisy nature can tell they will raise the alarm.
Chihuahua is intelligent and highly trainable. They learn quickly and generally aim to please their owner. They can be strong-minded and independent, so it is important to teach them good habits from a young age.
House training is not usually an issue, especially if puppies become used to a routine and are allowed access to an outside space regularly. Chihuahuas trainable nature and loyalty means that training good recall is not normally a problem.
Chihuahuas are a long-lived breed and have an average lifespan stated as 12+ years by the UK Kennel Club. However, they can frequently live significantly longer, to 15+ years old. At the time of writing, there are no obligatory tests for UK Kennel Club Assured breeders relevant to the breed; however, there are still some health problems that can affect Chihuahua.
This condition is when the equivalent to the knee cap in the back leg slips out of place. It can be painful and cause stiffness and make walking and running uncomfortable. Depending on the severity, it can be treated with surgery. Patellar luxation appears to be becoming more prevalent in the Chihuahua population, so choosing a healthy family line is important.
The gene responsible for Merle colouring has some serious health problems associated with it, and no responsible breeder should be deliberately breeding Chihuahuas for this colouring. These problems affect the eyes and ears and can ultimately lead to blindness and deafness.
Hydrocephalus is when fluid builds up around the brain and often causes an overly domed head. The build-up of fluid causes an increase in pressure, which can cause brain damage and eventually death but symptoms depend on its severity.
Legg Calvé Perthes Disease
Legg Calvé Perthes disease causes degeneration of the femur’s head where it articulates with the hip in the back leg. This is painful and eventually causes arthritis. It is thought the condition is caused by problems with the blood supply to the bone. Treatment is based on reducing pain, and surgery may be needed.
A common condition in small dogs as the rings of cartilage that usually hold the trachea open is fragile and prone to collapse. It is important to avoid any pressure on the neck area and always use a harness instead of a collar.
Chihuahuas have protruding eyes, which means they can be prone to get bumped or scratched. These injuries can lead to the formation of ulcers, which can be very painful and, if not treated correctly or repeated, eventually lead to blindness.
Chihuahuas have small mouths, which means they can be more prone to teeth problems than other breeds. They may have too many teeth and are also prone to gum disease and losing teeth. Regular dental check-ups with a vet to help identify any problems and brushing from a young age may help reduce the chances of tooth decay and loss and gum disease occurring at a very early age.
Hypoglycemia occurs when blood sugar levels become too low. This is not uncommon in small breeds, especially when they are young, as they can use more calories than they can consume. If allowed to progress, hypoglycemia can lead to loss of coordination, glazed eyes, seizures, and eventually death.
If a dog does become hypoglycaemic, it should be given glucose directly in the mouth as fast as possible. However, avoiding the condition in the first place means regular feeding of small meals several times a day and avoiding sugary snacks.
It is not unusual for Chihuahuas to be born with an opening in their skull before the bones fuse, known as a molera. The said opening can be perceived externally as a ”soft” patch on the top of their head and should gradually close; however, care should be taken when dogs are young, so they do not unintentionally damage themselves.
Chihuahuas are so small that it is easy to overfeed them. Being overweight can exacerbate other problems such as tracheal collapse. Since Chihuahua has such a small frame, it does not take much extra weight to start to cause problems, such as diabetes and putting stress on the joints, so an appropriate diet and exercise is very important.
Exercise and Activity Levels
Despite their small size, Chihuahuas are lively dogs that enjoy playing and need plenty of mental stimulation. They are usually kept happy and healthy with around 45 minutes of walking a day and off lead time is not essential, but they should have plenty of toys to keep them busy at home.
Although Chihuahuas are not normally intimidated easily, they usually prefer to play with smaller dogs, as larger dogs may easily damage them even though it may be unintentional. Their minimal exercise needs and small size means they are ideal city dogs and happily live in small apartments.
All Chihuahuas have a soft coat, but the amount of grooming that a Chihuahua requires depends on the type of coat it has. Smooth-coated Chihuahuas require barely any grooming, and only very occasional brushing to remove and hair, which is shed, is sufficient. Long coated Chihuahuas require more regular brushing but do not necessarily need to be taken to a specialist groomer. Brushing at home should be enough to stop the coat from becoming matted and minimize shedding around the house.
The Chihuahua’sChihuahua’s small size can mean they are prone to feeling cold, especially the smooth-coated variety. In cold climates or winter, they need plenty of warm bedding or a coat to keep them warm. They enjoy basking in the sun when it is out to stay warm. Some dogs may suffer from tear staining around their eyes and need the area below their eyes cleaning regularly.
Some Chihuahuas can be prone to a condition called ”Pattern Baldness”, otherwise known as Canine Non-Inflammatory Alopecia. This condition is when they lose their hair and become bald in very specific areas, such as around the ears and on the thighs. It is an aesthetic condition and does not cause discomfort or require any treatment, but Chihuahuas that suffer from it may need extra help to keep warm.
Chihuahuas appear in numerous films and series and are popular dogs amongst the famous. Some well-known Chihuahuas are:
- Chloe and Papi from the film, Beverly Hills Chihuahua
- Bruiser from the movie Legally Blonde 1 and 2
- Ren Hoek from the cartoon series, The Ren and Stimpy Show
- Mammoth Mutt from the animated series Krypto the Superdog
- The Chihuahua from the cartoon series Phineas and Ferb
- Tito from the feature animation Oliver and Company
- Pedro from the film Lady and the Tramp
- Coco from the teen sitcom, That’sThat’s So Raven
- Madeleine Shirley from the cartoon series, Courage the Cowardly Dog