Breed Group: Toy

Temperament and Behavior

While stereotyped as high-strung, Chihuahuas, or Chis (Cheez) as they are sometimes called, can be quite variable. Some are bold, some are withdrawn. Some are lively, some are serene. Some are feisty, some are mellow. Some are strong-willed, some are agreeable. Some are confident, some are timid. Some are stubborn, and some are accommodating. Some are friendly with all, some hate everyone but their owner. But whether inside or out, most are highly active and all bond closely with their owner. A Chihuahua usually gets along well with most household pets. But with dogs, he recognizes and prefers his own breed, usually creating a commotion when he sees an unknown canine. Keeping at least two together is a good idea. Alert, more vocal than most breeds, and suspicious of strangers, all combine to make him an exceptional watchdog. But because he is so fragile, he offers no ability as a guard dog and is not recommended for families with children under 12 years old. The smallest of all breeds, many seniors enjoy Chihuahuas, as they are easy to lift, groom, house, feed, and care for, with the one caveat that they are extremely difficult to housebreak. Consider an indoor litter box. Most enjoy the role of companion dog, sometimes being carried in a purse or pocket. They need little exercise not provided by their normal activity and a daily walk.
Physical Characteristics
Tiny with large, erect ears and large dark eyes, the Chihuahua is immediately identifiable. They come in a variety of colors including fawn, sand, chestnut, silver, black, steel blue, and more. There are two varieties – the common short-hair, and a long-haired variety. The typical height of a Chihuahua is 6-9 inches, and the weight is 2 to 6 pounds. Because of the Chihuahua’s small size, they tend to get cold easily. Sweaters are recommended when temperatures dip below the mid 50’s F. Chihuahuas require almost no grooming and shed only lightly. Their small size makes them more susceptible to injury from relatively minor physical trauma.
Trainer's Notes
Chihuahuas tend to be yappy; barking must be discouraged from the very beginning. Socialize puppies early and often. A well-socialized Chihuahua can be amicable with strangers and other dogs. Chihuahuas are smart and easier to train than many breeds. But housebreaking is a real challenge. Much more than most breeds, a Chihuahua’s personality is formed by their genetic predisposition and the socialization and training he is provided. Because of the increased importance of socialization and training, the terrior-like attitude of many, and how easy it is to injure them, they are not recommended for the first time dog owner.
Photo © by Vindhyana available under the CC 3.0
Chihuahua (long hair)
Chihuahuas are a reasonably healthy breed with just over 5% suffering from Hip Dysplasia and another almost 5% suffering from a luxating patella. Because they are a small breed, puppies are subject to Hypoglycemia. They also tend to have a range of problems with their eyes. They are sensitive to anesthesia, vaccines, and chemicals and should not be casually medicated or sedated. The average lifespan of a Chihuahua is about 15 years.
A popular breed in the US, Chihuahuas are ranked 11th in the number of registrations received by the American Kennel Club, with between 23,000 and 24,000 dogs registered in a typical year.
Breed History
The Chihuahua is the smallest breed in the world, and the oldest breed in North America. Native to Mexico, the breed is named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The breed has a long history, and according to legends, is thought to have been involved in the religious rituals of the Toltec and Aztec Indians. Chihuahuas are also thought by some to have been introduced by the Chinese. Some believe the Chihuahua’s true history is a combination of the two. However, it is known that after Cortez decimated the Aztecs in the 16th century, the little dogs were left to fend for themselves. In 1850 a group of small dogs was found living in Chihuahua, Mexico and some were brought to the US. In 1904 the breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club.
Additional Information
The breed was used in an advertising campaign by the Taco Bell restaurant chain. Famous owners of Chihuahuas include Paris Hilton, Paula Abdul, Josephine Baker, Red Buttons, Billie Holiday, Sugar Ray Leonard, Madonna, Jane Mansfield, Martina Navratilova, and Rosie O'Donnell. The National (US) Breed Club is The Chihuahua Club of America.

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