Over the years Chihuahuas have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people around the world. The breed hails from Mexico where they are highly prized for their cuteness, their intelligence and the fact these tiny characters think they are bigger than they really are. One thing a Chihuahua is not, and that is purely a lapdog. Bursting with energy and character, these little dogs are great fun to share a home with. They are fiercely courageous and will stand their ground no matter what. They are also loyal and affectionate characters liking nothing more than to spend as much time with their owners as they possible can which means they do not tolerate being left on their own.
Although there is still some discussion as to how the Chihuahua first came about, whether they first appeared in Europe or Mexico, it seems the latter is the most likely all thanks to archaeological finds and local Mexican folk tales. There is some belief that the breed is a descendant of dogs that were around in ancient times when a Mexican civilisation known as the Toltec kept very similar looking tiny dogs called the Techichi. This theory on the origins of the Chihuahua is supported by dog burials found that date back to 300 BC.
With this said, there are other people who think the breed first appeared either in Spain or Malta with very similar looking dogs appearing in paintings and frescoes of the time. These images were done before Christopher Columbus came back from his voyage to the "New World" which means the Chihuahua existed in these regions of the world before his epic voyages across the Atlantic.
The first records of the modern Chihuahua date back to the 1800's when entrepreneurial Mexicans starting selling these tiny dogs to tourists who were visiting the country. The first Chihuahua, named "Midget" was registered in the US in 1904 and the popularity of the breed took off from that point on. They were especially popular with ladies who wanted tiny companion dogs. It was not until the 1800s that Chihuahuas became a popular choice here in the UK but it did not take long before these tiny dogs became a firm favourite elsewhere in the world too.
Height at the withers: Males 15 - 25 cm, Females 15 - 25 cm
Average weight: Males 1.8 - 2.7 kg, Females 1.8 - 2.7 kg
Chihuahuas are best described as being compact, small and dainty dogs that boast feisty personalities. They have nicely rounded heads with short, slightly pointed muzzles and well defined jaw lines. They also boast well defined stops which adds to their overall cute appeal. Their eyes are large and round, set well apart on a dog's head and they can either be dark or ruby in colour, although some Chihuahuas have lighter coloured eyes which is acceptable as a breed standard.
Their ears are large and they flare out being set at an angle of 45 degrees on a dog's head. Chihuahuas have a strong jaw line with a perfect and regular scissor bite where their upper teeth snugly overlap their lower ones. They hold their necks slightly arched and their shoulders are well laid back. Front legs are straight and set well under a dog's chest which allows for a lot of free movement.
As previously mentioned, the Chihuahua is a compact little dog and they boast nice proportions for their size. Their backs are level and they have well sprung rib cages and deep briskets. Hindquarters are well-muscled and their back legs are strong and muscular. A Chihuahua's feet are very small and dainty with nicely divided toes and well cushioned paw pads and neat nails. Their tail is medium in length and set high which dogs carry over their backs.
When it comes to their coat, Chihuahuas can either be smooth coated or long coated with hair that is soft to the touch and which has a natural sheen. Undercoats and ruffs are allowed as a breed standard. These tiny dogs come in a lot of colours and the only one that is never allowed is "merle". Acceptable colours include the following:
Chihuahuas are definitely not just lapdogs, they are alert, quick and feisty little characters that stand up for themselves when they feel they have to. They are a "big" dog in a small body and will take on the world without any hesitation. However, they are not "snappy" or withdrawn dogs, but rather spirited and highly intelligent which are just some of the reasons why they have remained such popular companion dogs.
They are quite wary and cautious by nature, but when they get to know a person they are fine around them. They are known to size up a situation or person which is a "self-preservation" trait seen in many of the breed. They are also known to have a bit of a stubborn streak in them. However, when well socialised and correctly trained, these little dogs become loyal and loving companions that are a joy to have around.
The one thing to bear in mind is that if not well handled and trained from a young age, Chihuahuas can become a little dominant and therefore unruly and harder to manage. All too often if they are spoilt, these little dogs can become a little defensive and protective of their owners.
Chihuahuas are not the best choice for people with young families because small children and toddlers might be a little too rough around these tiny dogs which could result in them scaring or injuring their pet. Any interaction between a Chihuahua and a child needs to be well supervised by an adult at all times.
When it comes to other dogs, Chihuahuas are generally good around them, especially if they have grown up with another of their kind or a different breed of dog. When it comes to cats and smaller pets, again they are usually okay if they have grown up with them, but may just want to chase an unfamiliar cat if they dare to come into a Chihuahua’s garden.
The average life expectancy of a Chihuahua is between 10 and 18 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
These tiny dogs are remarkably healthy and sturdy considering their size, but they are known to suffer from certain hereditary and congenital disorders that are worth knowing about if you are hoping to share your home with one of them. The health issues that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
Chihuahuas are the only breed of dog to be born with a skull that is not yet fully formed. As puppies grow their skulls finish developing, but care needs to be taken during the initial months until this happens. Many vets not familiar with the breed or inexperienced breeders can mistakenly confuse a skull that’s not yet fully formed with Hydrocephalus.
Chihuahuas also have a tendency to shake and quiver when they are anxious, stressed out or excited about something. They shake when they are feeling the cold too which is why it's important for these tiny dogs to wear a coat during the cooler winter months.
As with any other breed, Chihuahuas need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Chihuahuas are easy maintenance in the grooming department whether they boast a short of long coat. However, they do need and enjoy being brushed on a regular basis because they love the one-to-one attention they are given when they are being groomed. It also helps keep their coat and skin in good condition. Like other breeds, the Chihuahua tends to shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent grooming might be needed to keep on top of things.
Being such small dogs, the Chihuahua does not need masses of exercise, thirty minutes a day would be perfect. However, they do need to be given a lot of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. It's also important to keep a close eye on a dog's weight because Chihuahuas are prone to putting on too much if fed an incorrect diet and not given the right amount of exercise.
If you get a Chihuahua puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule for your new pet and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upset and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their diet again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature Chihuahua twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories which is important or they might start to gain too much weight, a problem all too often seen by vets in the breed.
If you are looking to buy a Chihuahua, you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a 3-year-old Chihuahua in northern England would be £18.26 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £39.16 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate pet insurance, they factor in a few things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not a dog has been spayed or neutered.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £30 - £40 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Chihuahua and this includes their initial vaccinations, neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to over a £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Chihuahua would be between £70 to £90 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Chihuahua puppy.
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