The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world. But packed into his tiny body is a forceful and larger-than-life personality. He doesn’t see himself as little, In fact, he sees himself as dogdom’s alpha. He thinks he can take on any person or any dog, and often he will.
But the real question is, have you got what it takes to handle him? They can be charming, fun, and bold. But they aren’t suited to everyone and every family. Because these pups can be assertive, many owners let the behavior continue instead of correcting the problem. This leads to aggression, which can be dangerous. They also have a sweet side, they just need to be well trained like any other dog breed.
Taking on any dog is a long-term commitment that needs research. But the Chihuahua has his own set of unique needs that you need to be aware of. Because of their longer lifespan of up to 16 years, you could be committed to this pup for a lot longer than a dog with a shorter lifespan. Think you’ve got what it takes? Let’s dive in and learn all about this famous little Mexican dog breed.
The Chihuahua is an ancient dog breed whose history dates back thousands of years. And to understand the Chi, you need a very quick history lesson. Unlike many purebred dogs, his past is shrouded in mystery. But we know it all began thousands of years ago with a dog known as the Techichi. The Techichi was very similar to the Chihuahua, but he was much larger and heavier than the Chi.
The Techichi belonged to the Toltecs. But in the 12th century, the Aztecs overthrew them. It is believed that it was the Aztecs who bred the Techichi to be much smaller. In the 16th century, the Spanish defeated the Aztecs and destroyed their civilization completely. And it was believed, up until the 19th century, that this little dog was lost forever.
Fast forward to the 19th century. Americans started to become interested in Mexico and their culture and traveled far and wide. It was in the state of Chihuahua that little dogs resembling the long-lost canine treasure, the Techichi, were discovered. The dogs were named the Chihuahua, and they were taken back to America. And as they say, the rest is history.
Our love affair with the breed hit it off in the 1940s and 50s, thanks to Xavier Cugat. Cugat was the leading figure in the spread of Latin music. He was famous for opening his shows with his dog in one hand and his baton in the other. Ever since then, he has been popularized in films such as ‘Legally Blonde’ and ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua.’
They are famous for his small stature, but he is equally renowned for his bossy personality. He thinks that he can take on the world blindfolded with his paws tied behind his back. And to be fair, he probably could! Yes, it is this comical and cocky persona that we love. But it also gets him into trouble.
Too often, Chi moms and dads let their baby Chi get away with naughty behaviors. Leading to something known as ‘small dog syndrome.’ He’ll pick fights with other dogs and protect his place on the sofa if you allow him to. We’ll discuss little dog syndrome more in the training section.
He has a lot of energy for such a small dog, and he has a big bucket list! They are curious, inquisitive, and can get restless. As a fast learner, he excels in doggy agility courses and obedience trials. He can be stubborn, though, so be prepared for that as you begin training.
He is very affectionate with his family, and he’ll love to snuggle into the crook of your arm in front of the fire. The Chi craves the company of his humans and hates to be left alone. Chihuahua’s are among the most likely dogs to suffer from separation anxiety. So, his family needs to be around most of the day.
He does not care for humans that he doesn’t know. He’ll likely be aloof with them, and you can be sure he will be vocal when a stranger steps foot on ‘his’ property. If you aren’t a fan of yappy dogs, you’d be wise to avoid this breed. But if you are seeking an estate manager, this breed could be the one for you.
Size & Appearance
The Chi is a toy-sized pup, literally, as he weighs no more than 10 pounds. He measures between 3 and 6 inches tall, from paw to shoulder. The smallest dog in the world is a pup named Milly, who measures 3.8 inches tall. She was so little that when she was born that she could fit in a teaspoon and weighed 28g. Teeny tiny indeed!
The breed standard sets out the desired appearance. Overall, he is described as “a graceful alert, swift-moving compact little dog with a saucy expression.” He has a well-balanced body that is a little squarer than it is round. Although he is small, he is muscular and athletic.
His breed standard describes that his head should be domed in an apple shape. But there are, in fact, two Chihuahua head shapes – the apple head and the deer head. His head shape has little to no bearing on his personality. In comparison to his head, his ears are large. They are always erect, adding to his saucy expression. His eyes are also large, and his tail is long and held high.
Coat & Colors
The breed has two coat choices, and these are the smooth coat and the long coat. The smooth coat should be close and tight but glossy and soft to the touch. The hair is usually thicker on his tail and around his neck. Dogs that have a short-short coat sometimes don’t have an underlayer. Smooth-coated Chi’s who have thicker coats usually have an underlayer.
The long hair coat is, you guessed it, medium to long in length. Most long-coated Chi’s have an undercoat, but not all do. The hair should be straight or slightly wavy and be soft and silky to the touch. The hair around his ears, legs, and neck should be feathered and light. His tail will be plumed. Long-haired pups are often mistaken for the Papillon breed. It is thought that the long-coats came about as a result of mixing the Papillon into the Chi lineage.
When it comes to his jacket, this breed has one of the most varied options of color to choose from. He has the choice of solid colors, including black, tan, cream, chocolate, to name just a few. The Chi can also sport multi-colors, such as tri-color, blue and tan, and fawn. He can also sport a straight white coat as well. He also has the option of extra shades and markings, including merle, brindle, and black masking.
The Chihuahua is a sprightly little pup who has lots of energy to burn. Thankfully, his short legs mean that he doesn’t need lots and lots of exercise. He needs around 30 minutes of exercise every day to keep him happy and healthy. Going for a stroll around the neighborhood will satisfy his curiosity and please his nostrils that crave new smells.
Several times a week, he’d love to do something more exciting than just walking. Taking him to the local park or forest for off-leash walkies and fetch will pique his interest. He will also enjoy a trip to the local doggy park. But just be careful with larger dogs around because his little body is at risk of injuries. When you do take him out, be sure to use a Chihuahua harness rather than a collar. Chis are prone to tracheal collapse, and a harness takes the pressure away from his neck.
These pups are a bouncy little dogs who need to be entertained. He’ll love to play in between exercise sessions. Finding him a bunch of toys to play with will keep him entertained for hours and allow you to get on with some chores. Chew sticks and treat dispensing treat toys are a great option for him. Tug of war and treat hide and seek are great interactive options too.
This breed is perfect for apartment living. As a small pup, he is suited to live in the tiniest of box apartments. Of course, he is fit for large home living. You just need to be sure that he cannot get lost or escape from the yard. You also need to supervise him when he is outdoors. Birds of prey, coyotes, and other hungry creatures will lick their lips at the sight of a Chi. So, be sure to always keep him under supervision.
They are best suited to families with older children. Being so small, younger children will see him as a toy that they can play with. Many dogs have been accidentally injured by young children. And an irritated dog is never a good mix for excitable children either. If your children can understand how to handle a dog, he makes a good family pet for sure.
Dogs who are socialized well as a pup are usually fine to live with dogs and other pets. However, if he isn’t socialized well, there is a big chance that he will not do well in a multi-pet household. The breed is known to become overprotective, and many Chis do not like sharing their family. This is a big consideration to make when inviting this dog breed into your life.
His feistiness and potentially overprotective nature mean that socialization is a crucial part of his training process. Reputable breeders will start this from a young age. Being with mom and his littermates will go a long way to show him how to interact with dogs and the world around them. You need to continue socializing him with other dogs, animals, humans, and situations and teach him polite doggy etiquette.
As we mentioned earlier, this breed is prone to suffering from something labeled as little dog syndrome. Essentially, to avoid this, treat him as though he were a big dog. Do not allow him to become overprotective, possessive, or let him think he’s the boss. If he naughty, correct him, and do not allow him to pick fights with other dogs because he’ll likely come off worse despite his feistiness.
We hate to break it to you, but this is an independent dog who can be a tough cookie to train. He is intelligent, but you can be sure that if he doesn’t want to partake in a training session, he won’t. The trick for success with training him is to keep training sessions short and fun.
The Chihuahua is an anxious dog without his humans around. For this reason, we advise crate training him. Finding a Chihuahua-sized dog crate is important, but the right crate can lower his anxiety when you have to leave him.
The Chihuahua is a healthy dog breed, and he can expect a long average lifespan of 14 to 16 years. But for him to enjoy many years to come, you need to keep up to date with his vet checkups, exercise him regularly, and feed him the best quality food that you can afford. Like all dog breeds, certain health conditions affect him more than others. In no particular order, here they are:
The main two cardiac conditions that affect the breed are patent ductus arteriosus and mitral valve disease. Essentially, they are caused by an abnormal formation of the heart. If not treated, it can lead to heart failure. This will be picked up at the vets, which makes regular health checks a must for the Chi.
The breed is prone to various eye concerns. The most common are progressive retinal atrophy, which is the deterioration of the retina. And glaucoma, which is a disease that damages the optic nerves in the eyes. Both can lead to complete blindness if untreated.
This is common in many small breeds, and it is characterized by a floating kneecap. It is present at birth but does not present itself as an issue until maturity. Look out for symptoms such as stiffness and exercise intolerance.
A molera is where the skull does not fuse properly, leaving a soft spot on his skull. It can be felt in the top center of his head and can be the size of a dime. This isn’t anything to panic about, and a very high percentage of Chihuahuas have it. This means head injuries can be more common.
This is a toy-sized dog whose mouth, and stomach, are small. He only eats around half a cup of food a day. Less active or smaller Chis will need less food than this, so you’ll need to work out how much your Chi needs according to the package instructions. Because his mouth is so tiny, it is important to feed him a kibble that he can eat. Many high-quality brands out there make a toy-sized and small breed kibble, which is ideal for the Chihuahua.
Another reason to pick good quality food is that it will provide him with a well-balanced diet. It will include meat protein, healthy carbohydrates, omega fats, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Which cannot be found in raw meat alone. He has different life stages that require different nutrition, so be sure to learn about what food your Chihuahua needs.
Their grooming needs are relatively simple, considering how small his body is and how little hair he has. He is a light to moderate shedder throughout the year and sheds just a little more during the shedding seasons. The best way to control his shedding is to brush him regularly. If he is a short-haired Chi, he’ll only need brushing once a week. If he is a long hair Chi, he’ll require brushing twice a week. Those that have an undercoat will shed heavier than those who do not.
A short-haired Chi will need a soft bristle brush, and a longer-haired Chi will need a pin brush. His feathering fur will need extra attention because it is prone to matting. Remember, when brushing him, take extra care around his skull just in case he has a molera. Get your dog used to the grooming process from an early age.
They need washing once every 8 to 12 weeks, maybe more frequently if he is a long-haired Chi, as he’ll pick up more dirt. Never wash him any more than 4 weeks at a time because it will damage his natural coat oils. Use a gentle doggy shampoo that will not irritate his skin, and look for natural ingredients such as coconut oil or oatmeal.
Their teeth are compact and need brushing several times a week. This will help to break down the build-up of bacteria and periodontal diseases. Trim his nails once a month, or as and when they need trimming. And be sure to check his eyes for excess drainage. They enjoy being pampered, and it serves as bonding time too.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
This is a popular dog breed who is in demand, which means that there are plenty of good dog breeders around. It also means that there are many bad ones, too, so you need to pick wisely. Look for reputable breeders that will insist you meet them and the puppies in person. They must be able to produce health certificates and keep in touch with you throughout the pregnancy. Another good sign of a top-quality breed is being put on a waiting list.
A great place to start is the American Kennel Club’s list of Chihuahua breeders. The average price of a Chi pup falls around $800. If you choose a popular breeder or seeking a puppy from an award-winning lineage, you can expect to pay more than this. Remember that you also need to factor in other puppy costs, including crates, harnesses, bowls, toys, and beds. As well as veterinary care and insurance.
A poor-quality breeder, or worse, a puppy mill, doesn’t care for their dogs, puppies, or parents. They will breed sick dogs who are likely to produce sick pups. And because they are raised in cramped and dirty conditions, they are likely to be unsocialized and exhibit behavioral problems. Although it might seem as though you are doing a good deed by saving a Chi from these conditions, you shouldn’t. You’ll only fuel the bad breeding and receive an ill puppy in return.
Rescues & Shelters
Breeders aren’t the only option. If you’re not set on a puppy, you should consider adopting. Head out to your local rescue shelters. Because he is so popular, you are bound to find a few waiting for their forever homes. Speak to the staff who will talk you through the dog’s background and the adoption process.
If this doesn’t work out for you, other rescue organizations dedicate their time solely to the breed. The Chihuahua Club of America lists rescue centers by state, and it is a great place to start your search. There are also other breed dedicated rescue organizations, so be sure to search for them online. If you are open to adopting a mixed breed Chi, a rescue will likely have many available options.
As Family Pets
- This is an intelligent breed but can be stubborn.
- They are sometimes thought of as less intelligent due to their stubbornness.
- Don’t expect a fully obedient dog in the Chi.
- He needs at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
- The Chihuahua is lots of fun and a sassy pup.
- He is affectionate with his family and protective of them.
- He is suspicious and aloof with strangers.
- This pup will keep barking at strangers to let them know they are in charge.
- The Chi craves human company and hates to be left alone.
- He is great with older children.
- The Chi will sometimes do well with other animals if properly socialized.
- He is suited to apartment living; just be sure to supervise him when outdoors.
- Find the perfect name for your Chihuahua
The Chihuahua is a mighty personality packed into a compact canine body. And despite his tiny size, he is a lot to handle. He needs a family that can spend most of their time with him, be firm with his training, and keep up with his socializing needs throughout his lifetime. If you can offer him this, along with his other doggy needs, he could just be the perfect pup for you. He will spoil you in love and doggy kisses, with Mexican feist and gusto.