The Chihuahua’s charms include his small size, outsize personality, and variety in coat types and colors. He’s all dog, fully capable of competing in dog sports such as agility and obedience, and is among the top 10 watchdogs recommended by experts. He loves nothing more than being with his people and requires a minimum of grooming and exercise.
The Chihuahua is a saucy little hot tamale and not just because of his association with a certain fast-food Mexican restaurant. He’s renowned for being the world’s smallest dog, but he may well have the world’s biggest personality stashed inside that tiny body. That larger-than-life persona makes him appealing to men and women alike.
Fun loving and busy, Chihuahuas like nothing better than to be close to their people. They follow them everywhere in the house and ride along in tote bags when their people run errands or go shopping. It’s not unusual for Chihuahuas to form a close bond with a single person, and they can become very demanding if they’re overindulged.
Besides being affectionate housemates, Chihuahuas are intelligent and fast learners. They can compete in agility and obedience trials with just as much enthusiasm and success as larger dogs. That said, they’re willful little dogs. You’ll be most successful if you can persuade them that competing–or simply doing as you ask–is fun. Use positive reinforcement in the form of praise and food rewards when training your Chihuahua. He won’t respond to harsh treatment.
It’s important when considering the Chihuahua to take into account his small size. Chihuahuas are curious and bold explorers. They’ve escaped from yards through small gaps in the fence and can squeeze into places that other puppies and dogs wouldn’t be able to fit. And even though they tend to rule the roost, they can be accidentally injured by rambunctious larger dogs.
Chihuahuas are not recommended for homes with children under the age of eight, simply because of the chance of injury by a young child. Regardless of your family situation, it’s important to remember to socialize your Chihuahua to children, adults, and other animals. Chihuahuas are mistrustful of strangers, which makes them good watchdogs, but they need to learn to meet people in a friendly manner. It’s also important to remember that Chihuahuas tend to forget they are small and will stand up to a larger aggressive dog; as a result the Chihuahua needs vigilant supervision in new situations, while they’re on walks, and when they’re in the yard.
The Chihuahua’s personality and unique size make him a wonderful go-everywhere companion. People who live with Chihuahuas become devoted to them, and many say that once you share your life with one, there will be no other dog breed for you.
- Choose a Chihuahua breeder who provides health clearances for patellas and heart conditions.
- The Chihuahua is a long-lived breed. Expect to care for him for up to 18 years.
- Chihuahuas are prone to shivering when they are cold, excited, or scared. Provide your Chihuahua with a sweater or coat when he goes outdoors in cold or wet weather.
- Chihuahuas can be unfriendly toward other dogs if they’re not socialized when young. Chihuahuas don’t back down from other dogs and this can cause a problem if they encounter a large aggressive dog.
- Don’t leave your Chihuahua unattended in the yard. He could be attacked by a hawk, other birds of prey, or larger dogs or coyotes.
- Chihuahuas can be reserved with strangers. Choose a puppy that was whelped and raised in a home with a lot of human interaction.
- Chihuahuas are not the best dog to have when you have young children. Chihuahuas are fragile and a toddler may hurt the dog while playing. Most breeders won’t sell puppies to homes with children younger than eight years.
- The Chihuahua’s ears can be prone to ear wax build up and dry skin.
- Chihuahuas are happy as companions, but they do need 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily and can go for much longer than you might expect. Monitor your Chihuahua, especially when he’s a puppy, so that he doesn’t wear himself out.
- Chihuahuas have larger than life personalities and will run your life if you let them. They can be destructive when bored and can become finicky eaters if their diet is fussed over. Establish ground rules and stick with them or you’ll find yourself giving up your comfortable chair because your beloved pet has told you to move.
- To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
As with so many breeds, the Chihuahua’s origins are unclear, but there are two theories of how he came to be. The first is that he descended from a Central or South American dog known as the Techichi.
When we look at the evidence of the Chihuahua coming from Central and South America, we find ourselves looking back to the Toltec civilization. There are Toltec carvings dating to the 9th century C.E. that depict a dog resembling the Chihuahua, with the same large ears and round head. These dogs were called Techichi, and their purpose in Toltec civilization is obscure.
When the Aztecs conquered the Toltecs, they absorbed the Techichi into their society. Many of the dogs lived in temples and were used in Aztec rituals. The Aztecs believed that the Techichi had mystic powers, including the ability to see the future, heal the sick, and safely guide the souls of the dead to the underworld. It was customary to kill a red Techichi and cremate him with the remains of the deceased. The Aztecs also used the Techichi as a source of food and pelts. The Spanish conquered the Aztecs in the late 1500s and the Techichi faded into obscurity.
The second theory is that small hairless dogs from China were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders and then bred with small native dogs.
Regardless of which theory is accurate, the shorthaired Chihuahua we know today was discovered in the 1850s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, from which he took his name. American visitors to Mexico brought the little dogs home with them. They began to be shown in 1890, and a Chihuahua named Midget became the first of his breed to be registered with the American Kennel Club in 1904. The longhaired variety was probably created through crosses with Papillons or Pomeranians. The breed’s popularity took off in the 1930s and 1940s, when it was associated with dance king and Latin music bandleader Xavier Cugat.
Since the 1960s, the Chihuahua has been one of the most popular breeds registered by the AKC. Today they rank 11th among the 155 breeds and varieties the AKC recognizes.
The typical Chihuahua weighs 3 to 6 pounds. There are Chihuahuas that are smaller, but they tend not to be very healthy. Chihuahuas can also be oversize, with some reaching 12 or more pounds. These can be good choices for families with children.
The bold and confident Chihuahua is often described as being terrier-like. His alert nature and suspicion of strangers make him an excellent watchdog. He’s sensitive and thrives on affection and companionship.
Chihuahuas often bond to a single person, although they’re usually willing to make friends with new people if properly introduced. Expect them to be a little reserved at first, though. Chihuahuas can be timid if they’re not properly socialized as puppies.
Like every dog, Chihuahuas need early socialization–exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences–when they’re young. Socialization helps ensure that your Chihuahua puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.