The smallest of all known dog breeds, the Chihuahua comes in a variety of types and is named after the state in Mexico. Chihuahuas are thought to have descended from Technichi, a companion dog admired by the Mexican Toltec civilization, and there are effigies of these small dogs dating back as far as 1100-1300AD. In 1520 a note from Hernan Cortes stated that the Aztecs raised them for food, but thankfully they have since become popular pets and were recognised by the Kennel Club in the early 20th Century.
Chihuahuas are popular with pet lovers who like small dogs requiring minimal exercise and effort, but they still need to be trained and cared for just the same as any other breed. Famous Chihuahuas include Chloe and Papi in the 2008 movie Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Ren in the cartoon Ren and Stimpy and Bruiser in Legally Blonde I and II.
There are two main head types in Chihuahuas- apple head and deer head. Apple headed shapes are considered to be more desirable due to their superior blood lines, although both are born with incomplete skulls, or a “soft spot” seen in human babies.
If you’re looking for a pet who likes to be pampered and to whom you can give undivided attention you may well find Chihuahuas make the perfect companion.
Chihuahua Size and Weight
Because Chihuahuas are so small, it’s very easy for them to lose weight very quickly without it being noticed, so it’s important to take your dog to regular health check-ups with your vet. The average preferred weight for a Chihuahua according to the UK Kennel Club is between 1.8kg and 2.7kg and they stand at between 15 and 23cm.
Although tiny, Chihuahuas can be feisty and have big personalities. They tend to favour one person so are suited to single owners, and make loyal companions. They’re also funny, entertaining and quirky- and if they love you, they really show it. They can be quite anxious dogs and tend to shiver and shake when they’re nervous or cold- reassure them as much as you can without spoiling them, and always keep them warm in winter.
Because they are known for being pampered, carried around in bags and spoilt, Chihuahuas do have a reputation for being a little snappy and unfriendly. This isn’t necessarily very fair on them, and it’s the responsibility of the dog owner to make sure they are properly trained and socialised. That said, some do have a genetic tendency for snappiness and aggression, so do your research into the dog’s blood lines if you can and be prepared for a little hard work to keep them in check.
Chihuahua Training and Temperament
Joining a puppy training class is essential if you want a good mannered Chihuahua. Don’t be surprised if they try to start a row with much bigger dogs; many socialisation sessions have started with a tiny toy dog barking aggressively at a Great Dane and this feisty side is one of the things that makes them so unique and admirable. A little perseverance and a firm but kind approach should straighten them out and make them just as loveable as they look.
Children and other pets
Prone to irritability, Chihuahuas won’t tolerate being mistreated and can be impatient with younger children and other pets, preferring to be the sole pet of the household and favouring children of around 13 and upwards. This is only a rough guide, and if your children understand how to treat animals with respect and give them space this doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. They do enjoy being around other Chihuahuas, so if you want more than one pet it’s a good idea to consider getting a pair.
Nutrition and Feeding
As with any other dog, it’s important to give your Chihuahua the best food you can afford and provide a diet rich in nutrients. They can become overweight quickly, particularly when owners give them scraps and rich “human” food, so remember that even though they make look like toys they are still dogs, and need to be fed appropriately. Becoming overweight puts pressure on a Chihuahua’s joints and heart, so monitor their weight and take them for regular veterinary checks. As a guide, a puppy will need 50 calories a day per pound of body weight, an adult needs between 35 and 40 calories per pound and a senior requires just 30 calories per pound to lead an active and healthy life.
Chihuahua Coat and Grooming
There are two main varieties, the Smooth Coat, which has short hair, and the Long Coat, known for its soft, fluffy hair. Neither shed as much as some other dogs, but you should still expect some shedding and your dog will require regular grooming during Spring and Summer. A daily brush is recommended to keep the coat shiny and in good condition, and some Chihuahua owners like to take their dogs for regular pampering sessions.
They may be small, but Chihuahuas do need regular exercise to avoid health issues and obesity. Expect to take them for one good 20 minute walk a day to keep them healthy and in good condition and to avoid chewing and excessive barking which can be caused by boredom. Don’t be tempted to just carry them around in a bag all day- dogs are not fashion accessories, and you’ll find they’re much nicer to be around if they get the exercise they need. Chihuahuas do feel the cold and can shiver uncontrollably during winter weather, so invest in a sturdy dog coat and boots if it’s snowing.
Chihuahua Life Expectancy
If you’re considering a Chihuahua as a long term companion, you’ll be delighted to know they live for an average of 10-18 years, making them one of the longest living dog breeds. Although they enjoy long lives, they are not without health complaints and can suffer from a range of illnesses. Most common health complaints in Chihuahuas include patella luxation (a knee problem which causes pain and restricts movement), tracheal collapse due to their small throats, hydrocephalus, dry eyes, epilepsy and bad breath. If you like little dogs with big personalities, a Chihuahua can keep you entertained for up to 20 years, making them a great investment.