- Average Height: Not more than 5 inches at the shoulder
- Average Weight: Not more than 6 pounds
- Coloring: Any solid color or combination of colors, including fawn, black and tan, chocolate and white, blue and red.
- Coat Type: Short or long-haired
- Dog Breed Group: Toy
- Average Lifespan: 12 to 20 years
Key Personality Traits:
This sassy little dog has a super-size personality. He knows what he wants and goes after it with single-minded determination. For his size, he’s an excellent watchdog, but he can be yappy if he’s not taught to moderate his barking. The tiny (as small as two pounds) Chihuahua offers feistiness coupled with enduring loyalty to the person he chooses as his own, along with an expressive face, including large, round eyes that show everything the dog is thinking.
Despite the many endearing qualities of the Chihuahua, if you’re thinking his tiny size makes him a great choice for children, you’d better think again. The Chihuahua may be just right for traveling around in a puppy purse, but he’s far too small and fragile for even the gentlest of children’s games. Chihuahuas also tend to be high-strung and prone to nipping, snapping, and even biting when frightened or threatened, or when defending his people or territory.
Some of these tendencies can be helped through early training and socialization. Unfortunately, too many people with Chihuahuas allow them to become little tyrants, displaying manners that would not be acceptable in a larger dog. This dog needs gentle and consistent training from puppyhood on to control his nipping as well as any tendency he has to fight with other dogs. Like many small dogs, Chihuahuas aren’t aware of their own size and won’t hesitate to challenge a dog many times larger than themselves. Also, like many small dogs, Chihuahuas are difficult to house-train without a lot of consistency and patience.
The Chihuahua is also very yappy and will be noisily vigilant about any intrusion into his territory, real or imagined. He’s not particularly fond of strangers of any species, reserving his affection for his chosen person and, sometimes, the rest of the family.
Chihuahuas come in two coat types, short and long. The short coat sheds more than the long, but the long does require daily brushing to keep it from tangling and to remove dead hairs. But since there’s not much dog, there’s not much coat, even in the long-haired version.
Other Quick Facts
- For the show ring, the Chihuahua should not exceed 6 pounds, but many Chihuahuas are actually larger than that.
- Chihuahuas that weigh less than three pounds often have a short life span.
- Don’t think that the Chihuahua is a gentle lapdog. He is tenacious and terrier-like in attitude.
- Chihuahuas are highly intelligent and take well to training when it comes with positive reinforcement in the form of treats and praise.
- Chihuahuas come in any solid color or combination of colors, including fawn, black and tan, chocolate and white, blue and red. Avoid breeders who try to get you to pay more for supposedly “rare” colors.
The History of Chihuahuas
The Chihuahua is a native of Mexico, and his ancestors were surrounded by many myths. They were believed to be spirit guides that protected souls as they traveled through the underworld. While the stories about the dog’s origins are interesting, there’s no real evidence about how long they’ve existed or that they were known to the Aztecs or other peoples who inhabited Mexico before the Spaniards came.
Some dog experts say they were among the first native dogs of the Americas, others that they were brought to the New World after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Still others believe the little dogs may have originated as miniaturized versions of pariah dogs, the nondescript brown dogs with prick ears that result when dogs are left to breed on their own with no selection for color or other specific characteristics. Whatever the case, the breed takes its name from the state of Chihuahua, where late-19th-century American tourists first encountered the tiny canines.
The Chihuahua we know today was developed by North American breeders. The first Chihuahua registered by the American Kennel Club, in 1904, was named Midget. The Chihuahua Club of America was formed in 1923. Today, the Chihuahua ranks 13th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
Chihuahua Temperament and Personality
Chihuahuas are saucy and alert, with a mind of their own. They might not be able to talk, but that doesn’t prevent them from letting you know exactly what they want: usually plenty of quality time with their favorite person. Chihuahuas are often devoted to a particular person in the family and can even become obsessive about their desire to be with them and protect them. There’s a name for those dogs: “armpit piranhas.” If they’re being held and someone approaches the person holding them, the Chihuahua will make every effort to protect his person, whether it’s necessary or not.
Despite his tiny size, the Chihuahua is fearless, never timid or frightened. If you see him shivering, it’s usually because he’s cold. That’s why you see so many Chihuahuas wearing sweaters and jackets for dogs.
Chihuahuas have a reputation for being spoiled and untrainable, but that’s often because people don’t make an effort to train them. Chihuahuas are just like any other dog: they need consistent rules and structure if they are to learn effectively. They are highly intelligent.
What You Need to Know About Chihuahua Health
Tiny dogs often come with big health problems, and the Chihuahua is no exception. Many Chihuahuas live long, healthy lives, but the breed can suffer from a variety of health conditions including:
- Breathing difficulties caused by a windpipe that collapses in on itself
- Luxating patellas
- Eye disorders
- Congestive heart disease
- Certain neurological conditions
- Dental problems
Luxating patellas are an orthopedic problem. The patella, or kneecap, of most very small dogs, including the Chihuahua, can very easily become displaced, causing pain and lameness. In mild cases the knee quickly slips back into place on its own, but severe cases must be corrected surgically. Ask your veterinarian to examine your dog’s knees regularly, especially if you notice him limping or “bunny hopping” while running.
The Chihuahua’s round, protruding eyes are one of his most distinctive characteristics, but they are prone to a number of genetic eye disorders as well as to frequent injuries.
Chihuahuas frequently have what’s called a “molera,” or an open fontanelle, which is a soft area under the skin of the forehead where the bony plates of the skull have not fused together. It may eventually close up and become hard, but in some dogs, the molera never fully closes. While many dogs can live a normal lifespan with a molera, some may have a condition called hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in and around the brain), which can cause seizures and even death if not treated. A Chihuahua with a molera can live a perfectly normal life, but he is more prone to head injuries so he’s not the best candidate for a home with rambunctious children or bigger, rougher dogs.
Chihuahuas can also be born with a liver defect known as a portosystemic shunt, in which blood is diverted away from the liver. This may cause a buildup of toxins in the dog’s body, stunted growth, and can be fatal if not corrected with surgery.
Teeny-tiny Chihuahuas? They’re cute, but they are also fragile and more prone to medical problems like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Reputable breeders discourage people from buying the little two- and three-pounders because they usually lead to heartbreak.
Although Chihuahuas are prized for their small size, they’re often fed to obesity. A Chihuahua’s skeleton is not designed to carry much weight, and even a few extra ounces can be a significant burden to a dog this size. As with all dogs, leanness is far healthier – and cheaper, when it comes to veterinary costs. Keeping a Chihuahua lean is particularly important if he has luxating patellas.
Tiny mouths frequently mean there’s no room for proper development of teeth. It’s essential to get regular veterinary dental care for a Chihuahua, and he may need to have some teeth pulled to make room in his mouth for proper development of the rest of the teeth.
For a more complete rundown on Chihuahua’s health, check out this guide published by the Chihuahua Club of America.
The Basics of Chihuahua Grooming
Chihuahuas come in two coat types: smooth and long. Smooth Chihuahuas wear a velvety, shiny, close-fitting coat and have a ruff — an area of thicker, longer hair — around the neck. They have a scant covering of hair on the head and ears. The tail should be furry, not bare.
Smooth Chihuahuas shed, but they are so small that the amount is manageable for all but the most house proud. Brush them weekly with a rubber grooming glove or soft bristle brush to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy.
The longcoated Chihuahua is the product of a recessive gene, meaning a puppy must have the gene from both parents for the long coat to express itself, so he isn’t seen in litters as frequently as the smooth. The long, soft coat is flat or slightly curly, and the dog has a ruff around the neck, fringed ears, feathering on the legs and a plumed tail. The hair on the rest of the body is almost as smooth as that on the smooth Chihuahua. Longcoated Chihuahuas are beautiful, and they’re easy to groom, but they do shed seasonally.
Brush the longcoat with a soft bristle brush once or twice a week. Use a stainless steel comb to remove tangles from the hair on the ears, legs and tail.
If you brush the Chihuahua faithfully, he shouldn’t need frequent baths. If he spends a lot of time on your furniture or in your bed, though, there’s nothing wrong with bathing him as often as a couple of times a week. Use a gentle shampoo made for dogs and dry him thoroughly so he doesn’t get chilled. Never let him sit around and air dry.
Keep your Chihuahua’s big ears clean with a solution recommended by your veterinarian. Don’t use cotton swabs inside the ear; they can push gunk further down into it. Wipe out the ear with a cotton ball, never going deeper than the first knuckle of your finger.
Chihuahua’s a prone to long nails, so trim them regularly (usually every couple of weeks). They should never be so long that you hear them clicking on the floor.
Choosing a Breeder for Your Chihuahua
Finding a good breeder is a lot like finding the right partner: It takes time and patience, but it’s ultimately worth the effort. How do you know when a breeder is reputable? Here are some basic tips.
Signs of a good breeder
The breeder is associated with an established club. Look for a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Chihuahua Club of America and who has agreed to abide by the club’s code of ethics. It specifies that its members should evaluate all breeding stock for hereditary faults, never sell dogs to pet stores, and take back Chihuahuas they have bred in the event that the buyer cannot keep them. The CCA lists member breeders on its website, but it’s still important to interview them before buying.
The breeder offers a health guarantee on her puppies. Run, don’t walk, away from breeders who do not perform necessary genetic and health testing on their lines. Reputable breeders will be able to provide formal documentation on these tests and will offer a health guarantee on her puppies (think of it like a warrantee).
The breeder asks and answers questions honestly. You will never find a “perfect” line of dog who is immune to all genetic health issues. Good breeders will be open and honest about what health problems are common in Chihuahuas and how often particular issues occur in their own lines. They will also ask as many questions of you, the buyer, as you will ask of them. Responsible breeders care about the type of environment in which they are placing their puppies.
Signs of an irresponsible breeder
The breeder seems more interested in making a quick buck. Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. These types of breeders may offer the convenience of allowing you to select and buy puppies online sight unseen. While these things may make the process easier, they are almost never associated with responsible breeders.
The breeder tries to sing the praises of a “teacup” or “toy” Chihuahua. These types of characteristics are not more valuable or desirable than a properly-sized dog of four to six pounds. Extreme miniaturization brings with it nothing but health problems and a shortened lifespan. Language like that is a huge red flag that you’re dealing with a seller more interested in money than the good of the dogs or the broken hearts of the people who buy them.
The breeder’s operation shows signs of being a puppy mill. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
Adopting a Chihuahua from a Rescue or Shelter
If you are more interested in adopting rather than shopping for a Chihuahua, there are many great options available. To help you on your search, use these tried and true tips.
Take advantage of online search engines. Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com are fast and easy ways to expand your search for the perfect Chihuahua. They let you to be very specific in your requests (like housetraining status) or very general (all the Chihuahuas available to adopt across the country). Or, if you’re specifically looking for an animal rescue group in your area, AnimalShelter.org can connect you to one fast.
Talk to the pet pros. You may be closer to an adoptable Chihuahua than you think. Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about what you’re looking for. Professionals like vets, dog walkers, and groomers often have connections people outside of the industry don’t have. They may have more insight into where to look for an adoptable Chihuahua near you.
Reach out to a breed rescue. The Chihuahua Club of America’s rescue network are full of Chihuahua lovers whose sole mission is to help these dogs thrive. They are often the first group people turn to when they need to surrender a Chihuahua to find a new home. Rescue clubs like these can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family.
Also, these groups tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Chihuahua home with you to see what the experience is like.
Once you reach the fated day when you finally bring home your new best friend, make sure to set up a veterinarian appointment as soon as possible. Your vet can help you identify any unknown problems and set up a plan to ensure your Chihuahua can live as long and happy a life as possible.
How long do Chihuahuas live?
On average, Chihuahuas live between 12 and 20 years old. The most common cause of death in Chihuahuas is heart disease, which may be prevented by keeping your pup at a healthy weight.
Why do Chihuahuas shake?
Dogs can shake for a variety of reasons. Chihuahuas are among the most notable dog breeds who shake frequently, and this is in large part due to their high metabolisms. When Chihuahuas get nervous or excited, their metabolisms may cause them to shake in response. This also affects their ability to regulate their body temperature. Animals with high metabolisms burn off their heat quickly, so they shiver to generate more heat in colder temperatures.
Do Chihuahuas shed?
Yes, Chihuahuas do shed year-round. However, due to their very small size and shorter coat, it’s unlikely that their hair will become much of a nuisance in your home.
What were Chihuahuas bred for?
Chihuahuas have a long lineage that dates back to the ancient Aztec and Toltec cultures of the Mexico region. There are many theories as to why Chihuahuas were originally bred, but among the most popular are that they were bred for religious sacrifice and as food for human consumption. Fortunately, these adorable dogs are no longer threatened by such practices and instead enjoy wonderful lives on the laps of owners who love them around the world.
Are Chihuahuas smart?
Chihuahuas often get a bad rep for being stubborn and difficult to train. However, Chihuahuas are actually highly intelligent and respond well to positive training methods. In fact, with proper instruction Chihuahuas can compete at high levels of dog sports, like agility and obedience trials.