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When hearing the breed name ‘Chihuahua’ – a small but tough dog is often what comes to mind! The Chihuahua is the smallest recognized dog breed in the world; originating from the Mexican state with the same name, and anyone who has ever spend time with a Chihuahua knows that there is a lot more dog in that tiny body than what one might expect. The Chihuahua seems entirely unaware of their unimpressive size and will go up against a dog 50 times as big without as much as a second thought! Whether this makes the Chihuahua brave or delusional is open for discussion, but there is no question about it being a wonderful family dog with a massive personality.
History of the Breed
Archeological discoveries and tales told by natives all indicate that the breed’s origin is the state of Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Some theorists believe that it might be a descendant of a companion dog known to have been popular with the Toltec civilization – the Techichi, but this is scientifically unconfirmed. There is a possibility that the Chihuahua existed already before the Mayans since there have been findings discovered close to the Great Pyramid of Cholula that indicate that a Chihuahua-like dog once lived there.
Old toys from Mexico and El Salvador also indicate that the Chihuahua (or a similar looking breed) has been around for quite some time; possibly about 1500 years before the Europeans came to Mexico. In 1850, in the ruins of what was once known as Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, a pot was discovered with what appeared to be the same Chihuahua-like dogs painted on it.
The Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés wrote about the Chihuahuas in a letter in the 1520s, stating that they were used as food in some regions, and as live hot-water bottles for the sick, the injured and during cold weather. Records held by colonizers state that a Chihuahua-like dog breed was commonly found in the geographic area that we today know as Chihuahua, Mexico.
It wasn’t until early in the 20th century that the modern-day Chihuahua resurfaced, and the American Kennel Club (known as ‘AKC’) registered the first one as an official breed as late as 1904. Despite their late registry date, it seems like the Chihuahua (though perhaps not quite as we know it) had already been around for a few hundred years
This miniature dog breed is so small it is often outsized by other pet animals; such as rabbits, some large guinea pigs, cats, and chinchillas. It comes in a variety of recognized colors and coat patterns and is found all over the world in the homes of avid Chihuahua lovers. The Chihuahua can be a picky eater, and it is stubborn but also sweet and fun to be around.
The American Kennel Club recognizes two different varieties of the Chihuahua – the shorthaired (Smooth Coat) and the longhaired (Long Coat), which are classified as two different breeds by the UK Kennel Club, but not in the United States. In the UK, a mix between the two coat varieties is not eligible to be registered.
Both longhaired- and shorthaired Chihuahuas are then divided into two categories – apple head Chihuahuas and dear head Chihuahuas, based on the shapes of their heads. The apple head has a rounder head shape with eyes close together, and shorter legs and ears, while the dear head has larger ears, slender and long legs, a flat head and wide-set eyes. Dear heads were generally more popular around the time when the first Chihuahua was registered, in the early 20th century, but today it is the apple shaped head that is desired and defined by official registers.
American and UK breed standards are similar but with a few differences; where the weight standard of a maximum of 5.9lbs (2.7kg) is the same, but where the UK prefers dogs weighing between 4 and 6lbs (1.8-2-7kg). Not all pet Chihuahuas fit the breed standard; and they may be smaller or larger than what the AKC and the UK Kennel Club considers correct, which only means they might not do good in dog shows but could still make excellent family pets.
The Chihuahua tends to be extreme in its temperament, but it can manifest itself in different ways. Some Chihuahuas are nervous and shy – especially around people they don’t know well – and others are cocky and overly sure of themselves. The nervousness of the Chihuahua is something that often demonstrates with shivering, whimpering, fear of touch and strangers, and/or excessive barking. The barking can be directed towards other dogs, but the fear and nervousness seem to be reserved for humans, which is why it is extremely important to properly socialize a Chihuahua from an early age.
These small but stubborn dogs can be aggressive towards bigger canines and are frequently seen barking like tiny bark machines when out on walks or when out in the yard. For some reason, a Chihuahua will often get along with another Chihuahua – almost as if they recognize individuals of their own breed!
Despite its small size, the Chihuahua is a breed that is full of love and loyalty towards its owner. This is why they can sometimes come across as aggressive towards strangers; due to wanting to protect the human they have chosen as theirs. They need very little space and are perfect for apartments, yet they also love to be out and about and can walk surprisingly far without showing the slightest indication of being tired. It is a great dog for a first-time owner, and for those with reduced living space, and thanks to their small size they are also cheap to maintain since they don’t eat much.
It is a fun-loving breed that brings out many daily laughs, and they are often seen hiding in blankets, chasing sunbeams on the floor, balancing on the back of furniture, looking up at you with those big curious eyes or – let’s face it – barking so hard at something that you worry they might implode. It is a vocal dog with a strong personality and a big heart, and it is hard (if not impossible) not to love them. (and c)
Grooming Needs & Care
Chihuahuas are not considered hypoallergenic dogs since they tend to shed all year around. Their small size, however, makes the shedding barely noticeable and generally very easy to clean and control. Short-haired Chihuahuas usually only need to be brushed once or twice a month; to remove loose hair, skin cells and oils, while long-haired pups should probably be brushed 1-2 times per week to keep the coat looking soft, well-kept and clean.
Regular baths can also be beneficial, and it is important to keep the ears clean to avoid ear infections and to brush the Chihuahua’s teeth since they are prone to oral diseases such as teeth loss, gum disease, and bad breath.
One thing to pay special attention to when grooming is the Chihuahua’s nails. Since it is a light-weight dog, their nails might not be kept short due to wear and tear, like those of a heavier- and a well-exercised dog might. Chihuahua nails grow and grow, and they grow fast, so make sure you cut them often enough for them not to become an issue. The nails should never reach the ground, as they can cause discomfort and unnatural paw placement when walking. If possible, teach the dog to remain calm when having their nails cut from an early age, or go see a veterinarian for help if you struggle when trying to do it yourself.
What to Feed a Chihuahua?
While the Chihuahua does not eat much, it is still essential to choose a dog food product that sees to their nutritional needs. A quality dog food will have real meat among its first ingredients, plenty of fruit and vegetables, be free from artificial colors, preservatives and flavors, and be tasty enough for a picky eater to want to gulp down. Some small dogs have sensitive stomachs, so look for a product with fiber (found in for example pumpkin, barley, carrots and more) to aid with digestion.
Kibble size is also important, since the Chihuahua has a very small jaw, and might be unable to chew larger pieces properly. Adequate kibble size can also help with teeth cleaning, so make sure you choose a product made for small- and/or miniature breeds, as these also have recipes adjusted to fit the needs of a tiny dog.
It is cheap to feed a Chihuahua since their daily food intake is low, which means that most dog owners can afford a quality product. One thing is feeding a Great Dane with the best dog food product on the market (that, for sure, can get pricey), and feeding a Chihuahua. Remember that Chihuahuas could live for over 15 years if cared for well, so take your time to research dog food options, to find the best fit for you and your Chihuahua pup. After all, Chihuahuas make wonderful best friends, and you will want to have them with you for as long as possible.
Collar or Harness?
Pulling isn’t usually an issue with the Chihuahua since it weighs very little and can’t really get anywhere unless you get it, but despite this, it is still important to choose a harness over a collar. Yes, collars are adorable and great for a personal look, but toy breeds have very sensitive necks and can end up with life-threatening injuries if yanked too hard by their necks. Crushed windpipes are more common than what most dog owner’s think, which is not something you ever want to happen to your beloved fur friend. That said, it is in everyone’s best interest to invest in a small dog harness for walks and outings.
You can get help fitting a harness by the employees at your local pet store, or you can take your pup’s measurements and order a harness online where the selection might be bigger. In most cases though – if your Chihuahua fits the breed standards – you can probably safely choose the smallest size available and find that it fits perfectly. If you absolutely want your Chi to wear a collar – have them wear it indoors with a dog tag or your phone number printed on it, just in case they would ever escape the backyard, but switch to a harness when heading out for a walk for your dog’s safety and comfort.
Chihuahuas & Kids
Due to their small size and fragile bone structure, the Chihuahua is not an ideal dog for very young children; since young kids often aren’t aware of their own strength. Dogs and children interacting should always be kept under strict supervision, but since accidents can happen very fast, it is best to wait until the child are a bit older before bringing a Chihuahua into the family. This is to guarantee the safety of the dog, because even if they think they are the biggest dogs in the world sometimes – they have tiny bones that can easily break if something goes wrong.
If there is already a Chihuahua in the family by the time a new baby arrives – then you just must make sure you keep an eye at them at all times, to avoid any unnecessary incidents. Teach the dog to respect the baby, and the baby – as soon as he or she is old enough to understand – to respect the dog.
A Big Dog in a Very Small Body
Not only is the Chihuahua a wonderful family addition and friend, but it is also a big dog packed into the body of a small and easily transported package. It is easy to take with you on trips and vacations (most airlines will allow a Chihuahua to fly in-cabin), they don’t require space when at home, they do great when taken along for outdoor adventures and are incredibly loyal towards humans in their family. It is the ultimate pocket-sized friend (just don’t tell your Chihuahua that – they have no idea!), and once you win a Chihuahua over – it is yours forever.