Chihuahua

Breed At A Glance

Classification
Toy

Personality
Courageous, lively, proud and very devoted to their owner

Life Expectancy
15+ years

Average Height
6-9 inches

Average Weight
2-6 lbs

Coat Color
Varies

Coat Length/Texture
Short-haired, or long-haired with a soft undercoat

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

General Temperament

The Chihuahua can be described as “a big dog in a little dog’s body.” They are known to be alert, confident and saucy, often challenging much larger dogs without regard to obvious size differences. They can be quite curious, but are also very devoted to a single owner and won’t venture far from them. They have even been known to get jealous of their owner’s human relationships. Their compact size allows this breed to be adaptable to many different environments, including smaller homes and apartments, although they are an energetic breed and still require a daily walk to maintain health and minimize destructive behaviors.

Chihuahuas are not well-suited as small children’s pets because of their size, temperament, and tendency to bite when frightened. It’s recommended that children be of school-age or older before adding a Chihuahua to the family. They are intelligent, but their sassy nature can make training difficult. Positive reinforcement works best with the Chihuahua.

Breed History

The Chihuahua is the oldest dog breed in North America, originating in the Mexican state of the same name. It appears that the breed was once wild, then domesticated by the Toltec civilization. Eventually, Chihuahuas were introduced to Europe, possibly as a result of the travels of Christopher Columbus.

Modern Chihuahuas are much smaller than their ancestors. It is theorized that the introduction of the Chinese Crested into the breeding line caused the reduction in size. The Chihuahua was accepted in the American Kennel Club in 1904.

Body Structure and Composition

The Chihuahua is the smallest of all dog breeds worldwide, although the breed standards do not usually specify a height, only a weight and a description of their overall proportions. As a result, height varies more with Chihuahuas than with most other breeds, from 6 inches up to as much as 15 inches at the shoulder. The Chihuahua is more robust than it appears, with a level back and legs coming down straight and square. The tail is curled up over the back or to the side. Chihuahuas have an apple-shaped head and a short and pointed muzzle, with large ears that are usually held erect. They come in two varieties: long coat and smooth coat (or “short haired”). They are found in almost any color or variation.

Medical Information

Chihuahuas are prone to some genetic anomalies, often neurological ones, such as epilepsy and other seizure disorders. This breed, in general, has a tendancy to tremble, but this is not a health-related issue and should not be mistaken for a seizure-related disorder; rather, it occurs when the dog is excited or nervous, and may be a function of the body releasing heat.

Chihuahua puppies are born with disproportionately large skulls that can become stuck in the birth canal, so they are often delivered via Caesarian Section. They are also born with a molera, an unclosed section of the skull which usually closes by adulthood, but which in rare cases remains open throughout life, leaving the dog susceptible to injury. The molera should not be confused with Hydrocephalus, a condition in which a puppy has patchy skull platelets rather than a solid bone. These puppies are typically lethargic and do not grow at the same pace as their siblings. The diagnosis is usually grim for puppies with Hydrocephalus.

Slipped stiffle, a condition which occurs when the kneelike joint above the hock in the hind leg of a dog slips and may require surgery, is common with Chihuahuas. Due to their protruding eyes and low ground clearance, Chihuahuas are prone to eye infections. They also often tend to wheeze and snore because of their short muzzles.

Chihuahuas are picky eaters and great care must be given to their nutrition. Be careful not to overfeed this breed or expose them to too much human food. Overweight Chihuahuas are prone to joint injuries, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis, and shortened life span. Although they can easily be carried, exercise is just as important for this energetic breed as it is for others.

Although there are some people who don’t believe in dressing their dogs like people, the Chihuahua does not handle cold weather well and may appreciate a warm sweater in the winter. Grooming is generally simple with a Chihuahua; a monthly bath, along with periodic brushing and nail clipping, should do the trick. It’s also important to frequently check/clean a Chihuahua’s ears.

Anecdotal Information

In recent years, the Chihuahua has developed a very iconic presence in the United States and has been used as a spokesdog in commercials for large companies, perhaps the most famous of which is Taco Bell dog. In addition, it has appeared in many blockbuster Hollywood films, such as Legally Blonde and Transformers, and has been the subject of many children’s books and cartoons. The Chihuahua’s compact size, portability and devotion to its owner has turn it into a “fashion accessory” for celebrities and socialites.

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