The Chihuahua is the world's smallest dog breed and its history is shrouded in mystery. Some believe that it originated in Asia, others that it came from Europe. But no matter where the breed got its start, it really is a dog of Mexico. This coupled with the fact that in several Mayan dialects "chi" means dog, would seem to place the ancestors of the Chihuahua in the Mayan period. The Chihuahua comes in two varieties: smooth with a short, close-lying, glossy coat, and the long-coat, with soft-textured, flat or slightly wavy hair that forms a fringe of longer hair on the neck, legs, and tail. To many people the long-coat variety is a mere variant of the typical, short-haired Chihuahua, different only in coat length. To others, it is a separate breed. Those who support the idea that this is a distinct type do so because they believe that it is the result of one or more crossing with other breeds. Pomeranian, Papillon and pekingese are said to have been used to create this variety. Chihuahuas are affectionate, but they also make excellent watchdogs. They are very loyal and get attached to one or two persons. The breed is very sociable with its own kind and several Chihuahuas can live happily in the same household.
The Chihuahua received its name from the northern part of Mexico bearing the same name, that borders on the Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico boundary lines. Through archeological digs and the work of paleontologists, they have pieced together a history that goes back at least to 5th century A.D. The Mayan Indians of South America made clay sculptures of small dogs that resemble a Chihuahua "type" and are believed by some to be the first to develop a relationship with one of the Chihuahua's ancestors.
Photo courtesy of Chihuahua kennel Van't Eiland Ouburg
Chihuahua breeder from Belgium specializing in Long Coat and Smooth Coat Chihuahuas
Another theory about the beginnings of the Chihuahua places it with the Spanish conquerors who invaded Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. It is believed that they had with them a small, black and tan, terrier type dog. A native people of Mexico, known as Toltecs, (the people that conquered the Mayans), were known to have invaded the southern and central parts of Mexico by 1100 A.D. They possessed a dog of small stature which was heavy-boned and long-coated. The dog was known as a Techichi. These Spanish dogs were bred with the native Techichi and the Chihuahua resulted.
When people in the United States were introduced to this tiny dog with a great personality, they were referred to as "Texas Dogs" or "Arizona Dogs." Since then, Chihuahuas have undergone a great deal of change and breeders have made great strides in improving their temperament.
Two Varieties of Chihuahua
The modern Chihuahua comes in two varieties: long coat and smooth coat. Most breed enthusiasts see the smooth coat as the original Chihuahua, and it has always been the most popular of the two varieties in the United States. The long-coated type has been interbred with other Toy dogs, such as the Papillon, but now this variety is strongly established as a separate entity. Today, the long coat and the smooth coat are shown in separate classes, but apart from length of coat, the varieties are identical in both character and conformation.
Most Chihuahuas are very sociable and usually interact well with their master and family. They are basically shy around other breeds of dogs, but recognize and tend to get along with their own kind, so much so that Chihuahuas have been described as clannish. However, the way a Chihuahua reacts around other pets may vary with individual dog.
The Chihuahua may not be appropriate for a family with very young
children if the kids tend to be rough with pets. Sometimes, the dog will become intolerant of undisciplined toddlers. However, Chihuahuas make excellent house pets for single people, seniors and most anybody else. These dogs crave attention and never ending love.
Although a little guy, at less than six pounds, the Chihuahua has a terrier-like personality, being alert, observant, and keen on interacting with their masters. The Chihuahua is unaware of his small stature. He can be bold with other dogs much larger than himself, and protective of his master. Chihuahuas are fiercely loyal to their masters and greatly suspicious of any strangers coming into their household. For these reasons, Chihuahuas make good watch dogs.
Chihuahuas are among the most appealing of all dog breeds, and Chihuahua puppies are absolutely irresistible. However, it is important that you do not succumb to temptation and rush into Chihuahua ownership before giving it a serious consideration. You may think that a small dog is easy to care for, but, in fact, the responsibility and commitment is exactly the same as if you were taking on an Irish Wolfhound!
Caring For Male Chihuahua
It is generally thought that Toy dogs mature more quickly than the larger breeds, but this is not necessarily the case with the Chihuahua. A male will not be fully mature until he is around 18 months of age, and his adolescent or "junior" phase is generally around 12 to 18 months. At this time, a male Chihuahua may not look his best. He has lost his early bloom, and is caught between puppyhood and adulthood. This is of little consequence to the pet owner, but it can be a nervous time if you are planning to show your Chihuahua.
Temperamentally, the adolescent male may show few changes in behavior. He may mess around a little, and be a bit slower to respond to you, but he is unlikely to be confrontational. Try to be patient with your Chihuahua at this time, and give lots of praise and reward when he responds correctly.
If you are not planning to show your Chihuahua or use him for breeding, neutering is a sensible option. However, it is important to wait until the dog is fully mature - around 18 months of age - before allowing him to be castrated. If the operation is performed too early, the dog is in a period of suspended development, and this may have an effect on his temperament. The advantage of neutering is that your Chihuahua will not be on the lookout for female Chihuahuas in season every time you go out.
It has been noted that the long-coated Chihuahua grows a more profuse coat after castration, which can be viewed as a bonus, depending on your enthusiasm for grooming. The other possible side effect is obesity. A castrated dog tends to put on weight more easily, and this must be safeguarded against. In terms of health, a castrated dog will be less likely to suffer prostate disorders, and the risk of testicular cancer is virtually eliminated.
Caring For Female Chihuahua
A female Chihuahua is sexually mature when she has had her first season. The timing of this may vary dramatically between individuals; some may have their first season at around eight months, others as old as 15 months.
Despite the major hormonal changes taking place, the female Chihuahua seems to float through adolescence, and rarely gives cause for concern. She is less likely to go through and "ugly duckling" phase than the male, and she will generally continue to be her usual sweet and sunny self.
In most breeds, spaying is recommended for females that are not to be used for breeding, but this is not always the case with Chihuahuas. Compared with castration in the male, spaying in the female is a much more serious operation, and the implications of this should be considered. The tiny Chihuahua is very vulnerable under anesthetic, so there is risk involved. Research has shown that there are health benefits involved with spaying, such as a reduced risk of mammary tumors, and a lower incidence of pyometra (a life-threatening womb infection). However, this must be considered alongside the side effects of obesity and urinary incontinence, which may occur in the spayed female. This is an important decision to make, and it would be wise to discuss the pros and cons with your vet before taking action.
Different dog breeds can suffer from common canine diseases and Chihuahuas are not an exception. Learn more about dog health in general, common canine diseases, preventive care, skin disorders, dog eye and ear infections and more.
There have been some evidence that some Chihuahuas may be susceptible to severe reactions to Leptospirosis vaccines and can develop distemper encephalitis, kidney and liver failure. The 2003 report of the AAHA Canine Vaccine Task Force indicated that the DOI (duration of immunity) following challenge studies in dogs was equal to or greater than 7 years for the three canine "core" vaccines against distemper virus, parvovirus (CPV-2) and adenovirus (hepatitis, CAV-1).
Some veterinarian experts maintain that the practice of re-vaccinating animals annually is largely based on historic precedent supported by minimal scientific data; unnecessary stimulation of the immune system does not result in enhanced disease resistance and may expose animals to unnecessary risks.
Which vaccinations your Chihuahua needs depends on a number of factors, including your Chihuahua's age, health, medical and behavioral history and living situation. You should discuss with your veterinarian and decide which vaccinations your Chihuahua really needs. Some are essential for health, some required by law, and others optional, depending on your dog's situation.
The AKC standard for the Chihuahua says these dogs should weigh no
more than 6 pounds, and if you have ever seen a picture of a Chihuahua you will readily notice how tiny they actually are. Breed standards in different countries vary and in Britain, for instance, 2-4 pounds weight is the accepted standard. According the F.C.I. standard, dogs over 6 pounds are disqualified.
Other Names: Chi
Country of Origin: Mexico
Utilization: Companion Dog
Registration FCI Classification: Group 9 - Companion and Toy Dogs; Section 6 - Chihuahueño; AKC Classification: Toy Group
Size: Small (6-9 inches at shoulders)
Colors: All colors are acceptable. Colors range from snow white to jet black and can be solid, marked or splashed.
Litter Size: 3
Life Span: 12-15 years
Grooming Requirements: Needs regular brushing, ear cleaning and nail trimming.
Personality: Intelligent, alert, curious and hardy. Chihuahuas are wary of strangers and make good watchdogs. They make excellent companions to elderly and single people.
Social skills: Usually get along with other small animals but can be extremely suspicious about strange dogs.
Suitability for Children: Not the best choice for families with young children. They can be snappy with small children and have low tolerance of them. These dogs are not recommended to families with children under 4.
Exercise Needs: Little
Train Ability: Can be difficult to house break.
Health & Behavioral Issues: Chihuahua Health Problems
Photo courtesy of manuncios.com.mx
Contrary to false advertisements, Chihuahuas are not classified by size. Typical Chihuahuas weigh between 3 to 6 pounds. Dogs a little larger than 6 pounds make excellent pets, especially when children are in the family, but you should think twice before buying an especially tiny Chihuahua. Pups wrongly advertised as signature or teacup often are below the breed's standard, too delicate for the average home and may have health problems. These sepcimen are very fragile and high-strung. Anyone desiring this variety of dogs would be better off with a hamster.
Many people are drawn to the tinyest Chihuahuas available. Ads for teacup or so-called pocket Chihuahuas boast boast of tiny dogs. The Chihuahua club of America frowns on the use of these misleading terms. Despite of the undeniable appeal, several drawbacks accompany these dogs, including missing teeth, large moleras, and injuries. Tiny Chihuahua puppies will suffer more often from these health problems than larger puppies.
Bred for an extremely small size, teacup Chihuahuas are predisposed to transient juvenile hypoglycemia, so they have to be given insulin on a daily basis. Their knees are prone to dislocation if they try to go up and down the stairs.
Many breeders suggest a dog weighing about 4 pounds (1.8 kg) is ideal - small enough to be cute yet large enough to be fairly sturdy.
If you want to compete with your Chihuahua in obedience and agility, a dog that is near the top of the allowed weight limit will generally have an easier time. Even conformation dogs may be hindered by a tiny size. Since many shows are held outdoors with somewhat tall grass, the tiniest Chihuahuas will have difficulty moving with ease. If you intend your Chihuahua as a companion for a child, a larger dog is usually better suited. A rough guide to adult weight can be arrived at by doubling the pups weight at 14 weeks of age. Of course, this is not exact, but it can give you a general idea for most lines of Chihuahuas.
Of all purebred dogs, the Chihuahua is perhaps is the longest lived, most easily living into her teens. Although health problems are not many compared to other breeds of dogs, Chihuahuas suffer from heart valve problems. Many small breeds suffer from some form of chronic heart valve disease, and a genetic predisposition is suspected. The Chihuahua most often experiences mitral insufficiency, which is a problem with a mitral valve that separates the flow of blood on the left side of the heart. Chihuahuas are at risk to be born with a cleft palate, hydrocephalus, cryptorchidism (retained or missing testicle), or suffer from kidney stones.
Questions & Answers About Chihuahuas
- What Are Chihuahuas Most Suitable For? - According the FCI standard, Chihuahuas are utilised as companion and watch dogs. Most owners prefer this toy breed for its extraordinary loyalty to his master. Chihuahua loves people and is always happy to be cuddled on a lap. The loving Chihuahua is the perfect therapy dog, bringing comfort to both children and adults in need. Despite his size, he is a mini guard dog, as he will be quick to bark if strangers approach. He is ofthen described as having terrierlike qualities, and this can be seen in his fearless, outgoing nature.
- Can Chihuahuas be trained to participate in dog sports? -
Dispite the fact that they are most commonly perceived as "lapdogs", Chihuahuas are succesfully trained in a number of different disciplines, including Competitive Obedience, Flyball, and Agility.
- We have small children. Will Chihuahua be the right choice for our family? - If you have very small children, a Chihuahua is not a good choice. A tiny dog could easily get injured in the rough and tumble of family life. Most responsible breeders will not sell a puppy to a family that has children under eight years of age. Chihuahuas have one trait peculiar exclusively to this breed - molera, or open fontanel. It can be felt as a soft spot on the top of the dogs's head. In other breeds (and in human babies), the frontal bones of the cranium fuse soon after birth. In some Chihuahuas, this process may take a lot longer, or the bones may never fuse completely. In 50 percent of Chihuahuas born with this condition, the bones will fuse by the age of three. Although a Chihuahua with a molera is perfectly healthy, the dog should be treated with more care, as the head is more vulnerable.
- We have other dogs. Is Chihuahua likely to get along with them? - If you already own a Chihuahua dog, there is no problem. If you have a bigger breed, you must be confident that your dog is well trained and will not take advantage of a small size dog. You must supervise the interaction of your Chihuahua puppy or dog with a bigger breed and praise him for being friendly with the Chihuahua.
- Where can I buy a Chihuahua puppy? - You can find a breeder by contacting directly your local Chihuahua club for a list of breeders. Another helpful place to find a breeder is dog shows.
- Which gender is better - male or female? - Many pet owners say that male Chihuahuas are more affectionate and friendly. Female Chihuahuas are less predictable in their choice of their special person - some are friendly with everybody, other prefer one person. However, regardless of gender, a Chihuahua will be loyal and affectionate companion.
- Do Chihuahuas require a lot of grooming? - The long-coated variety is more time consuming than the smooth-coat one. The feathering around the ears and the tail will mat and tangle unless it is groomed on a daily basis. The smooth-coat Chihuahua is obviously easier to care for.
- What should I look for when buying a Chihuahua puppy? - When you go to the breeder to look at the puppies, look for the following signs:
It is important to see the mother with her puppies. The mother should look fit and happy to show off her puppies. The Chihuahua will "drop" her coat after having a litter, so don't be surprised if she is looking a bit sparse.
- The puppies should be in a clean, fresh-smelling environment. There should not be evidence of leftover food.
- The puppies should be well covered, but certainly not fat.
- The coat should be clean with no sign of dandruff.
- The eyes should be bright with no evidence of discharge.
- The ears should be clean and free from bad odor. If puppies are at around 8 week of age, their ears should be in erect position
- Are Chihuahuas difficult to house break? - No. Puppies are quick learners and if you follow a few simple rules, you will be surprised how quickly your Chihuahua puppy learns to be clean. When you take your puppy outside, use the same spot in the yeard, and use the same command. The puppy will soon build up an association and soon will understand what is required. Praise him lavishly. Housebreaking is much easier if you are using a crate. A dog is loath to foul his sleeping quarters, and he will soon learn to wait until he is let out of his crate.
- Do Chihuahuas bark a lot? - Normally, a Chihuahua will bark to warn you if a stranger approches the house. Sometimes, he will bark for attention, or when he is left on his own and is experiencing separation anxiety. If he barks for attention, you need to stop this behavior. Most Chihuahuas respond well to some simple techniques.