One of the world's smallest dog breeds, the Chihuahua is currently a popular dog to own as a pet, fitting into most people's lives easily. Named after a state in Mexico, this little dog with a big personality is something of an enigma in the dog world having a somewhat puzzling history.
Mexican or European - there are many theories surrounding the evolution of this minute dog. Historians and breed experts are divided about the origins of the Chihuahua but it does seem likely that it originated in Mexico, a theory supported by archaeological finds and local folk tales. It is said that this dog descended from a breed common to an ancient Mexican civilisation called the Toltec whose favourite canine companion was the Techichi. Believed to be a small dog, records dating to the 9th century as well as 'dog pot' burials, in certain parts of Mexico which date from 300 BC, are thought to support this theory. However, other experts believe that the Chihuahua originated from Spain or Malta with the evidence for this pointing to paintings and frescoes (even one featuring in the Sistine Chapel), which depict small dogs with features similar to that of the Chihuahua. Evidence to support the 'European theory' of origin lays primarily with the fact that many of these paintings were completed before Christopher Columbus returned from his 'New World' voyages, meaning it would have been impossible for these painters to have seen a Mexican dog.
The first records of the modern Chihuahua date to the 1800's when entrepreneurial Mexicans began to sell them to tourists in the local area. The first Chihuahua registered was one in the US in 1904 named 'Midget', and the popularity of them took off from there, being particularly popular as a ladies companion. By the late 1800's, they had become a popular pet in the UK
Average height to withers: Both males and females generally between 6-10 inches but have been known to grow up as much as 12-15 inches.
Average weight: both males and females are generally less than 3kg
There is no other breed which looks quite like the Chihuahua. Of a fragile appearance, (in fact the personality of this dog is anything but), with a large head, round, luminous eyes and large pointed ears, this fantastically characterful dog is unique. Many breeders now describe their dogs as 'teacup' 'miniature' or 'pocket size' however, this is not recognised by the Kennel Club and this naming is thought to be more of a current trend due to the popularity of this breed.
Long or short haired, this is a dog which comes in a variety of coat colours and patterns, either solid or a combination of two colors. Most common colors include black, tan, fawn, cream, white, blue, silver, chocolate and red. There is no one colour which is more valuable or desirable in terms of pedigree or KC registration and is simply a personal choice.
A sassy, smart and somewhat stubborn dog, a Chihuahua must be chosen with care, especially in a family situation with small or young children who may not be fully able to understand the temperament and behavioural needs of this breed. That said, when socialised and trained correctly this dog can be very loyal and loving and a joy to own, but the owner must have the time and the inclination to do this otherwise you may end up with a spoilt, dominant and difficult dog. This Chihuahua loyalty can become misdirected towards other people on occasion as the little dog with a big heart 'defends' its owner, again underlining the importance of early socialisation and direction. They appear to be able to live with other Chihuahuas very well, indeed over the company of other breeds of dogs.
This is a dog which requires little exercise and seems to positively enjoy being carried around, enjoying the world from a different view perhaps? However, if no exercise or play routine is in place, the Chihuahua may become overweight quickly.
Chihuahuas are notorious for problems with their teeth and eyes and therefore a regular dental routine and eye attention are vital. Human food should be avoided. Due to their small size, the smallest amount of high fat or sugary treats can result in a very overweight Chihuahua. If this occurs, they are more prone to increased rates of joint injuries, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis, and shortened life span. This breed requires specific veterinary attention when giving birth due to its small stature and pelvis compared to the large head size of the puppy.
Along with other toy breeds, Chihuahuas are prone to a disease called Hydrocephalus. It is often diagnosed by the puppy having an abnormally large head, during the initial months of life along with symptoms such as a soft skull plate rather than a solid bone. They are often lethargic and do not grow as well as their litter mates. The outlook for a pup with this is not usually positive. That said, as a breed, they do exhibit a soft spot in their skulls, and they are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull. As the pup grows, this will usually join and complete, but care needs to be taken during the initial months until the skull is fully formed. Many vets not familiar with the breed or inexperienced breeders can mistakenly confuse this with actual Hydrocephalus.
Chihuahuas are prone to Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Left unattended or unnoticed, Hypoglycemia can lead to coma and death. The owner needs to take care to avoid this by feeding frequently, such as every three hours for very small or young puppies. Chihuahua owners should have a sugar supplement on hand to use in case of emergencies. These supplements can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth to rapidly raise the blood sugar level. Signs of this include uncoordinated movements and lethargy.
Chihuahuas are prone to eye infections or eye injury due to their round and protruding eyes and just being quite low to the ground. The eyes also water frequently to remove allergens. Daily wiping and cleaning will keep the eyes fresh and healthy.
The longer haired variety will require more frequent grooming than its shorter haired counterpart, however, both types will benefit from daily attention to their eyes and teeth, as outlined in the health section, as well as daily exercise to prevent any excess weight creeping on (in conjunction with a healthy diet).