The Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog in the world, and is named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. In spite of their name, it is not certain that these little dogs actually originated there. Some fanciers believe that they first appeared on Malta, and traveled to Europe on trading boats. However, most people believe they did originate in Mexico, and this is supported by the presence of 9th century carvings in Mexico that show small dogs with round heads and large pointed ears.
This breed was recognized by the AKC in 1904, and has consistently been one of the most popular breeds of dog in the United States.
Characteristic of the Chihuahua is the round head, shaped very much like an apple. Their muzzle is pointed, and their big ears are erect. They have large brown expressive eyes, and their fine tail is usually carried high over their back.
There are two varieties of this breed, long coat and short coat. The long coat can be straight or wavy, both being extremely attractive. Any color is acceptable under the breed standard, so you should find a Chihuahua in a shade that takes your fancy.
These little dogs could almost fit in your pocket. As adults, they weigh only 6lb, or 3kg, and grow to only 9 inches (23cm) at the shoulder. Chihuahuas have been photographed with socialites, either being carried in their arms or in a doggie tote bag.
The Chihuahua epitomises the phrase, “big dog in a small body”. They are confident and brave, and don’t seem to be aware that they are so tiny. They are loyal and affectionate to their owner, and there’s nowhere they’d rather be than by their side, or in their arms.
It is important that the Chihuahua is well socialized as a puppy, to prevent them becoming timid and nervous. These little dogs are intelligent and learn quickly, and respond very well to positive methods of training. It is important that your Chihuahua isn’t treated like a child substitute, because this can lead to bad behavior being tolerated, just because they are so little and so cute. If this happens, your Chihuahua may become snappy, jealous and suspicious of those they don’t know.
Chihuahuas share the same tendency to have luxating patellas, or slipped kneecaps, as other small breeds of dog. This condition causes a characteristic skipping lameness, and can lead to arthritis if it isn’t surgically corrected.
They also can suffer from dental problems, including baby teeth that don’t fall out, and overcrowding. Their skull fontanelle may not close over as they grow up, which leaves them at risk of brain injury if they bump their head.
Puppies can develop hydrocephalus, where there is an increase in fluid accumulation in the cavities of their brain. Symptoms are neurological, and can include sleepiness and seizures. In people this condition causes headaches, but it’s not easy to tell if your dog’s head hurts. Affected pups often have an extremely large head, more so than normal Chihuahuas. Treatment is either medical, in which drugs are used to reduce the production of fluid in the central nervous system, or surgical. This involves placing a shunt to drain fluid from the brain. These little dogs have a guarded prognosis.
Another common condition in the Chihuahua is tracheal collapse. The trachea, or windpipe, is held open by rings of cartilage. In many small dogs, these are weak and don’t do their job well. Affected dogs often have frequent coughing spells, and ideally should wear a harness instead of a collar to reduce pressure on their neck.
There is a genetic tendency in this breed to having a condition called cystinuria, which may lead to them developing bladder stones. This affects male dogs more than female dogs. At this stage there isn’t a genetic test for cystinuria in the Chihuahua. Treatment involves removing any stones that develop, and managing their diet to reduce the amount of cystine in their urine.
The Chihuahua is easy to care for. Bathing should be done monthly if necessary. The short coated variety only needs a weekly brush with a grooming mitt, while the long haired Chihuahuas coat should be combed and brushed weekly to prevent knots and tangles.
They will get all the exercise they need from a good game of ball or chase, but will still enjoy a regular stroll around their neighborhood. In fact, Chihuahuas should be taken out regularly, to become familiar with their environment. This will prevent them becoming anxious and nervous just because they aren’t used to the sights, sounds and smells around them.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because your Chihuahua is small, they will be easy to keep under control. Without socialization and training, they can be nervous and even aggressive, so make sure you put the time into taking them to puppy classes and continuing on with obedience training throughout their life.
The Chihuahua is an indoor dog, perfectly suited for apartment life. Because they don’t cost much to feed or care for, they are ideal for those on a budget.
They are not the best breed of dog for young boisterous children. The tiny Chihuahua may feel threatened by their size, and snap to protect themselves. Also, children can inadvertently step on them, which will result in injury to the dog. They are a better choice for seniors or adults who will enjoy pampering their tiny companion.
Smaller dogs tend to have a longer lifespan, and the Chihuahua will be your best friend for as much as 15 years.