Chihuahuas are small companion dogs, and they are often known as the Longcoat Chihuahua, the Chihuahua Kortaar, and the Chihuahua Langhaar. Some people refer to these dogs as the Pillow Dog or the Mexican Dwarf Dog as well. The Chihuahua has a terrier-like, plucky temperament that proves to be a great alarm system. This bold, alert, feisty breed has a playful disposition and saucy expressions, which means they shouldn’t be underestimated despite their small size. Famous for their small stature, which makes them a great “pocket pet” or “purse dog,” the breed is very athletic and intelligent. Socialization is essential for this breed, since failing to socialize Chihuahuas can result in dogs that snap at strangers or children. This breed continues to be ranked among the top ten most popular breeds within America today.
Figuring out the exact origin of Chihuahuas is difficult, since it’s shrouded in lore and legend. Evidence of very similar small dogs goes all the way back to the 9th century in artwork, written descriptions, and artifacts from many areas of the world. A tiny dog that resembles the Chihuahua, called the “Techichi” was popular in Mexico for multiple centuries, and the evidence of these dogs is found in many Mexican stone carvings. In the 12th centry, he Aztecs conquered that area of the globe, bringing with them a highly prized, tiny hairless breed of dogs, which were very similar to dogs seen in China at the time. Some experts think that today’s Chihuahuas descent from a cross between those early breeds.
While these small dogs were largely lost after the Aztec civilization was conquered by Cortez, in the 1800s canine remains believed to be the ancestors of Chihuahuas were found in an emperor’s palace ruins. Countless remains of these tiny dogs have been found across Mexico, and in many cases, they were found in human graves. Early lovers of this breed believed that when the dog and owner were both buried together, the sins of the owner were transferred to the dog, averting the wrath of the deity. The Chihuahua was also thought to be a guide to the human soul as they went through the underworld. These legends contribute to the rich history of the Chihuahua.
It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the first Chihuahuas were brought into the U.S. While many were malnourished and poorly bred, the ones that survived helped to establish the breeding base. Soon, both long and short-coated varieties became sought after. In 1904, the Chihuahua was recognized by the American Kennel Club. Later, in 1923, the Chihuahua Club of America was started. It wasn’t until 1952 that the two coat varieties were recognized separately.
The Appearance of Chihuahuas
The Chihuahua is the smallest dog in the world and the breed can weigh between 2-8 pounds. They have pointed muzzles and apple shaped heads. Chihuahuas have very round, dark, large eyes and the trademark large eyes sit erect on top of their head. These dogs have a longer length than they do height, and their cruved tails arc over their back.
Chihuahuas can be long haired or short haired. The long haired Chihuahua has long, soft hair that may be curly or straight. The hair is long around the tail, ears, and legs, which makes it look like the dog is wearing small pants. Smooth-coated, short haired Chihuahuas have shiny, smooth, short coats that lie flat against their body. They generally have a ruff of thick hair around the neck and a furry tail. The coat comes in many different colors. Common colors for Chihuahuas include silver, gray, white, black, blue, fawn, and chocolate. The breed may also be spotted merle, brindle, or tricolor.
The personality and temperament of a Chihuahua can vary. Some are plucky, others are outgoing, while some may be timid and shy. All of these dogs are very loyal to their owner and they love attention. While they seem to like the company of other Chihuahuas, they may bark and posture towards larger dogs. They are very protective of their owners, meaning they may not like strangers.
Chihuahuas can be very difficult to house train, which is why many owners choose to use indoor grass patches or litter boxes. Generally, the Chihuahua has a temperament determined by his genetics. If his parents were friendly and easy going, he’ll have a similar temperament. However, if he came from parents who were high strung, he’ll display a high strung temperament as well.
The main behavioral problem that owners encounter is barking. Even an easy going dog will probably bark to announce the arrival of someone new. Socializing Chihuahuas early and often is essential to make the dogs more welcoming to new people.
Grooming Your Chihuahua
Whether the Chihuahua has long or short hair, grooming is generally very easy. Brushing is only needed weekly, which will remove loose hair while keeping the coat healthy. The coat only sheds lightly throughout the year, and since they’re so small, shedding amounts to very little hair. When the seasons change, they may shed a bit more, and Chihuahuas with a long undercoat may begin to come out in clumps. This means that more frequent brushing may be needed during seasonal changes. As long as the dogs are brushed regularly, they only need baths every couple of months.
Since the Chihuahua is prone to tear stains, it’s a good idea to use dog-friendly wipes to remove any eye discharge. It’s also essential to check the ears for signs of infection each week. If wax is visible or the ears have an odor, a veterinarian approved cleanser should be used to cleanse the ears.
Chihuahuas are prone to dental issues, so it’s essential to brush their teeth weekly. To get the dogs used to oral care, it’s important to begin brushing the dog’s teeth when they are very young.
Working Roles of Chihuahuas
The Chihuahua is part of the companion dog group. They are popular companion dogs, so they rarely have working roles. In some cases, Chihuahuas have appeared in television shows and movies.
Chihuahuas generally are a long-lived breed, and they usually live to be 15 years old or older. The Chihuahua is known for open fontanels, a soft spot located on the top of their skull. Some of the common health concerns for Chihuahuas include:
- Pulmonary stenosis
- Eye problems
- Testicular neoplasia
- Foramen magnum dysplasia
- Collapsing traceas
- Medial patellar luxation
- Patent ductus arteriosus
- Pattern baldness
- Mitral valve disease
- Congenital elbow luxation