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Chihuahua dog breed characteristics, origin and care

Chihuahua Breed Profile by Bondi Vet

Chihuahua breed characteristics

  • Size: Toy
  • Traits: Bold. Energetic. Courageous. Loyal
  • Maintenance: Medium maintenance, brush coat 1-3 times a week
  • Lifespan: 12 to 20 years

The charming little Chihuahua has a big personality on a tiny frame. This petite dog just needs a mature master to adore and a warm place to snuggle.

Choose a Chihuahua if you are seeking a cute canine to carry around with you wherever you go.

Where I'm From

The tiny Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed around and originates from the Chihuahua region of Mexico. Though their true ancestry remains mysterious, the dogs are thought to be an ancient breed. They are likely descendants of small companion dogs favoured by the Toltec civilisation, and later the Aztecs, that inhabited the region thousands of years ago. Artefacts depicting similar looking dogs have been found in the tombs, pyramids and ruins of various parts of Mexico and beyond.

The Chihuahua as we know it today was imported into the United States from Mexico in the 1850s where it became a popular pet and registered as a breed in the early 1900s. From there the little dogs spread far and wide, and have become a favoured pet around the world, including in Australia.

What I Look Like

Chihuahuas truly are tiny dogs that only weigh a few kilograms. They have big round eyes and large pointy ears that sit on a small head. They can be shorthaired with a soft, smooth coat or longhaired with a wavy coat. Chihuahuas can be variety of colours from fawn, chestnut, sand, silver or blue (dark grey) to black and tan. They can also come with a range of patterned coats including tri-colour, brindle, spotted and merle.

How I Act

Chihuahuas are spirited little dogs with big personalities. Whilst energetic and lively, they can be difficult to manage if not socialised early with many different sorts of dogs and people. Though small, these alert dogs do not suit a family home with small children as they can get easily hurt and may bite if they feel threatened. Chihuahuas also might be aloof around unfamiliar people. They require a firm master that will not spoil them or they could become overly protective or neurotic.

Chihuahuas are keen students that want to please their masters. Training and socialisation needs to begin early to ensure a well-adjusted and well-mannered pet. They will also enjoy dog sports along with obedience training. Crate training will help when trying to housetrain a Chihuahua. Some positive reinforcement and treats for a job well done will make training a Chihuahua trouble-free.

Even though Chihuahuas are small dogs they still require 20-30 minutes of daily exercise to stay fit and healthy. This could be a walk around the block, games played within the home or dog sports, anything to use up some of that endless energy. Exercise will also temper any destructive behaviour.

Looking After Me

Chihuahuas are generally healthy dogs but can be prone to a number of genetic and small dog-related issues. Medical complaints include slipping kneecaps, which causes walking difficulties, hyperglycemia, heart problems and breathing difficulties. They are also prone to being born with a soft spot in their skull, much like a human newborn, so require careful handling when they are very young.

It is advisable to check the temperament and medical history of a puppy's parents and view veterinarian clearance certificates to ensure you get a healthy dog though not every ailment can be predicted. Be very wary of uncertified backyard breeders.

They are a long-living dog breed and could be around for up to 15-20 years.

Chihuahuas are so tiny they only need a couple small meals of high quality dog food per day. They are picky eaters so it is best not to vary their food staples too much.

Though Chihuahuas have two lengths of coat, short and long, they require only minimal grooming of a weekly brush and a bath when dirty. They shed in spring and autumn, but due to their size don't leave too much hair around the house.

Chihuahuas feel extreme weather conditions. In winter they will need a dog coat when they head outdoors, and perhaps a soft and warm little corner in the sun where they can bask at home. They are known to shiver, which can be due to cold, but also stress or excitement.

They are not outside dogs and should not be kept outside unsupervised for any lengths of time due to the danger of being attacked by larger animals. They need to live indoors with their masters.

Am I the pet for you?

Chihuahuas suit older owners and seniors looking for a companion pet. They are perfect for apartment life and toting around in a dog handbag as long as they get enough daily exercise.

Pros

  • Chihuahuas are ideal companion dogs for older owners that want to take their pets wherever they go. They really do fit in specially designed doggie bags and travel happily with their masters.
  • Chihuahua's small size means they don't cost a lot to feed or need much cleaning up after. Along with their easy care coats, they are relatively low-maintenance pets.
  • Chihuahuas' big ears are useful when listening out for intruders. They make good watchdogs that alert the entire household when wanted or unwanted visitors appear at the front door.

Cons

  • Chihuahuas are not suitable pets for small children, as they can bad-tempered and bite when handled roughly.
  • Chihuahuas are also very delicate and can easily be injured by a child or even when jumping out of people's hands or off the couch. Ramps should be placed around furniture they frequent to prevent bodily harm.
  • Chihuahuas can be fiercely loyal to only one member of the household and may become over-protective and aggressive if they feel their master is threatened. They can also be yappy dogs. Training will help deter these behaviors.

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