The ultimate small-space pet, the Chihuahua is big on personality in contrast to its tiny stature.
Chihuahuas are well known and well-loved little dogs who often have very distinct and strong personalities. They have a reputation for having more personality than size and can vary from the ultimate couch potato to a veritable firecracker up for anything.
They love to accompany their owners on outings and are known for being celebrity handbag dogs. They often bond incredibly closely to their owners and need good socialisation at a young age so they grow up to be confident dogs.
A fierce Chihuahua is a wonder to behold, they will take on much larger dogs, with little awareness of their size. Surprisingly they will often win these battles with pure bluff and bluster. They are happy, playful and affectionate at times and do not cope with long periods of solitude.
WHAT DOES THE CHIHUAHUA WANT IN THEIR PERFECT LIFE PARTNER/FAMILY?
My ideal owner is happy to take me everywhere, even if this means carrying me into shops and cafes. I don’t need lots of exercise, but I do need to be the centre of attention at home and when out and about. My ideal evening is spent curled up on the couch with a special someone having heart-to-heart chats.
AT A GLANCE
|Height (at shoulder)||15-25cm|
Stubborn/strong willed – Chihuahuas are known to be a little stubborn at times. They can be easily trained if motivated with positive training methods are used, but they will often have a mind of their own.
Courageous – No one ever told the Chihuahua that they are small. They will often take on much bigger dogs and will rarely back down if challenged. They can also be a little timid if not socialised when young and these dogs must be carefully watched around small children.
Lively – Chihuahuas are very active little dogs and need lots of activity and stimulation. They are often very excitable, particularly when their owners come home.
Loyal – A Chihuahua will often bond very closely to one person in the family and be extremely loyal. This can translate to a dog that is not suited to long periods of being alone and perhaps even a bit snappy if not socialised appropriately.
EXERCISE & TRAINING
|Exercise Requirements||Low – 0-0.5hrs per day|
|Training Requirements||Low – 0-0.5hrs per day|
Chihuahuas are small, lively and often very active at home. Their small stature means a walk can be fairly short, but they do like to accompany their owners on regular outings and trips to the café and shops. They are not suited to long periods of solitude and will often pine for their owners if left alone. If you are considering a Chihuahua ensure you socialise your pup and expose them to lots of different people, noises and situations prior to 12 weeks of age. A confident, socialised Chihuahua is a pleasure to own, while an anxious, fearful dog can be aggressive towards young children and other big dogs.
Chihuahuas are ideal apartment pets, they do require company, training and mental stimulation like any dog, but they don’t necessarily require long walks. Chihuahuas can be strong-willed little things, and will easily run the show if not given strict rules and consistent training. Training a Chihuahua is fairly low maintenance but they can be difficult to motivate if they are not food-motivated. They need lots of training prior to 6 months and socialisation, but as they get older they don’t require so much ongoing work.
|Trips to the Groomer||No- easy care at home|
|Brushing||Low – Little to now brushing|
|Hair fall||Moderate Shed- will drop some hair, but not excessive|
|Coat Type||Short or long-haired varieties|
Chihuahuas come in a long and short-haired variety. The long-haired version needs weekly brushing and may require more frequent baths, depending on their lifestyle. They are otherwise very low-maintenance as their coat is not continuously growing like the poodle so they don’t need clipping. They will shed, so a daily or weekly brush will help stop this extra hair reaching the carpet.
|Good With Kids||Good – okay with older kids, but maybe not those under 5|
|Good With Other Small Pets||Medium – Ok with other pets, supervision advised|
|Sociability||Medium – Can live alone or with others.|
Chihuahuas are saucy little dogs, who are often described by their owners as fun-loving, busy little dogs. They love nothing better than to be with their favourite person and will bond very closely to their owners. Without early socialisation and boundaries they can become a little demanding, so they are ideally suited to experienced owners and those that have time to take their dog with them on outings.
Although Chihuahuas can get on well with other dogs and animals, they do tend to be very people-oriented little dogs and are quite happy in a single-dog household, so long as they get lots of cuddles, pats and play from their family.
Chihuahuas can be good with children if socialised and brought up with them, but their small fragile size and loyal temperament makes them ideally suited to adult families rather than young children. Chihuahuas can be great with other pets if they grow up with them, and certainly their small size means they are little threat to small pocket pets.
|Overall Expenses (Annual)||Low $1000-$1500|
|Veterinary Expenses (Annual)||Low – $100-$300|
|Food Expenses (Weekly)||Low cost $5 – $10 per week|
As a smaller dog, preventative health care needs are much lower cost compared to large-breed dogs. They are generally fairly robust when it comes to vet visits, but will often require regular dental cleans, so pet insurance is recommended. They are prone to a few other health problems and can be at risk of falls and injuries from being stepped on or through rough play with other dogs.
HEALTH & WELLBEING
MAJOR HEALTH CONCERNS
Dental disease – Small breed dogs often get significant dental disease, sometimes through poor diet and lack of chewing, but also simply due to genetic factors. Implementing daily brushing, diets that involve chewing and perhaps water additives can help.
Luxating patellars – Chihuahuas often have knee caps that pop in and out, sometimes with no pain, but in a relatively small number of cases they need surgical correction.
Hydrocephalus – Chihuahuas, due to their dome-shaped head can sometimes develop excess fluid in the brain, which is usually apparent at a young age and causes neurological signs, including vision deficits, seizures, abnormal behaviour or they may appear less intelligent than usual.
Tracheal collapse – many Chihuahuas have a characteristic ‘goose honk’ cough with exercise or excitement due to the tracheal cartilages being a little weak, this can lead to increased risk of airway infections.
Heart Disease – There are several types of heart problems the Chihuahua can get. Some are congenital, but more commonly they can get mitral valve endocardiosis which leads to a murmur that can progress to coughing and exercise intolerance.
PREVENTATIVE CARE & WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
Dental care – Chihuahuas are prone to developing dental disease at a young age, so preventative daily brushing can help to keep their mouths healthy, you can read more about dental care here.
Weight control – keeping your Chihuahua a healthy weight will help to limit the risk of problems from luxating patellars or tracheal collapse.
Hypoglycaemia – as puppies toy breeds are prone to developing hypoglycaemia if not fed several small meals a day, particularly if they are very active dogs.
Harness walking – to avoid damage to the delicate trachea and reduce the risk of prolapsed eyes, your Chihuahua is best walked with a harness rather than a collar.
Ask your vet to regularly check your dog’s heart and if there is a murmur make sure the resting respiratory rate stays below 30 breaths per minute.
BREED ORIGIN AND INTERESTING FACTS
Chihuahuas have a fascinating history. One theory is that they are descended from the Techichi, which was kept by the indigenous people of Mexico around 800-1000CE and possibly even used sacrificially and for food.
They were imported into the US during the 1890s and were popularised by actresses as lap dogs and fashion accessories in their early incarnation, as well as today.
Currently the Chihuahua is generally considered by most kennel clubs to be the smallest breed and is usually listed in the top 10 most popular.
A Chihuahua has taken out the Worlds Ugliest Dog title at Petaluma California twice, once was a cross-breed called Yoda in 2011, but a pure-bred Chihuahua also won in 2012, her name was Princess Abby. Princess Abby suffered from an interesting condition called bipedalism which meant her hind legs were significantly longer than her forelimbs.
RESCUE A CHIHUAHUA
Petfinder lists all types of dogs who need homes, both purebred and mixed breeds, adults and puppies.
The ASPCA often has Chihuahuas for adoption, just do an advanced search on their adoption page.