In Dog Breed Corner this month is the Chihuahua! Check out the Chihuahua’s stats, personality, trainability, health, grooming and more! Does your Chihuahua need some quality care? You can find Chihuahua-friendly Pet Sitters in Wollongong, Cairns, Adelaide, and all across the nation!
Quick Facts ✔
Height – 15 – 23cm
Weight – 1- 3kg
Lifespan – 15 years
Country of origin – Mexico
Breed type – Toy
Best breed for-
Chihuahua Breed History ♜
The Chihuahua that we know and love comes from – you guessed it! – Chihuahua. That is, Chihuahua, the northern state in Mexico that shares a border with Texas.
Everything about Chihuahua is huge. In fact, it’s the largest state in Mexico. Sprawling across the state is the largest desert in North America – the Chihuahuan Desert. It’s home to impressively tall cacti, huge canyons, and distant mountains. In other words, this is a land where nature is large and in charge.
And then, you see the Chihuahua – the smallest dog breed in existence. How in the world did this tiny breed come from this expansive place? Let’s size up the interesting history of the Chihuahuan Chihuahua.
The first official recordings of Chihuahuas can be traced back to 1884. These little dogs were known to be sold as tourist souvenirs along the Mexico-US border. They became popular enough in the US to earn a registry with the American Kennel Club in 1904.
But, let’s pause. These little guys didn’t just pop into existence in the late 19th century. What’s the backstory?
This is where the oral traditions and archaeology come in. This is an old breed. Most experts agree that Chihuahuas predate Spanish colonialism, probably by a few thousand years.
The most ancient evidence we have of Chihuahua existence dates back to about 3000BC in a gravesite in what today is Kentucky. There, archaeologists found a mix of human and small dog remains. What this tells us is that Chihuahua-like dogs were probably traveling with and being traded between indigenous groups throughout North America.
Farther south, in Central America, archaeologists found more recent, and even more Chihuahua-like remains dating back to between 300BC and 100AD. The dogs found in these sites were known as Techichi, and they were about double the size of modern-day Chihuahuas.
And this is where the historical evidence merges with lore.
According to legend, these dogs were held in high esteem in Maya – and later Aztec – societies. The Aztecs believed that the afterlife was an underworld that could only be reached with the help of loyal canine guides. The Techichi were therefore often sacrificed and buried with their beloved Owners so that the two could pass onto the next life together. Although it breaks our doggo-loving hearts to think about, this was a ritual rooted in respect and awe of the very special Chihuahua. These dogs were so revered that historians believe the last Aztec emperor, Moctezuma II, kept up to hundreds of these little puppers running around his palace.
With Spanish colonialism, Chihuahuas struggled to survive, and came close to extinction throughout the next few hundred years. Eventually, this resilient little doggo made a come-back, and nowadays, you can find them all over the world. Chihuahuas are one of the most recognisable dog breeds today, and they’re not about to give up their role as beloved family pet.
Personality Traits ★
There’s no arguing it – this breed carries around a reputation for being “yappy and snappy.” We would argue, though, that the Chihuahua isn’t an inherently aggressive or loud or poorly behaved pup. In fact, when properly trained and cared for, the Chihuahua is a loyal, lively, and affectionate companion suited for a variety of households. Sure, they’ll always have a quirky personality, but this is a dog with plenty of love and humour to share.
It’s important to have empathy for a Chihuahua if we’re going to understand their personality. This is a small dog in a big world, and once we can see things from their perspective, we can get a better sense of why they may act the way they do. Take a moment to imagine life from the point of view of a Chihuahua. You’re the smallest dog breed on the planet. Humans are giant. Cats are often larger than you. Even rodents or big fish in a tropical fish tank could probably intimidate you.
Issues with territorial aggression or aggression towards others, then, may be your Chihuahua telling you that they don’t feel comfortable in their space or in the company of other dogs or strangers. Instead of writing this dog off as ‘snappy’ or jealous, it would be much more helpful to think about how we might make them feel comfortable and confident in their environment.
Similarly, when a Chihuahua is characterised as loud and yappy, we might think about what causes them to bark all the time. Is it that they get nervous when they hear loud noises or unpredictable movements? Do they always bark at incoming strangers? Chihuahuas will often sound the alarm because they’re tiny enough that the world may seem full of alarm-worthy dangers. Again, making a Chihuahua feel more confident and safe will help to alleviate some of the tendency to bark at everything.
Another personality stereotype of the Chihuahua is that they’re untrusting of new people. For some Chihuahuas, particularly the ones without proper socialisation, that may be true. It can take a little while for this tiny pup to come around to new people, and they generally enjoy a household in which they can attach to a single or select group of family members. But that doesn’t mean they’re closed off to building new relationships. These doggos are perfectly happy mingling at the dog park or getting to know their new dedicated Pet Sitter.
The amazing thing is that when you work on socialisation and confidence training with a Chihuahua (which we’ll cover in the next section!), you get the chance to see this breed’s true colours. A happy Chihuahua is a pleasure to have around. They’re energetic, bright-eyed, and playful. They will gladly follow around their favourite humans for companionship. And they’ll keep you and your family laughing with their amusing antics. Whether it’s being the centre of attention at your next BBQ or curling up with you while you enjoy your morning coffee, a Chihuahua will never falter in their role as lovable sidekick.
Chihuahua Trainability & Training Tips
For an inexperienced Dog Owner, training a Chihuahua can seem like an impossible task. This is a dog with a lot of energy and assertiveness. And it can appear that, because they’ve always got an eye on what’s going on around them, they’ll never fully focus. Plus, because they’re so small and make such little mess, many Chihuahua Owners drag out the training process. After all, it’s easier to simply pick them up or keep using training pads long after they should be properly trained.
As with all small dogs at risk for Small Dog Syndrome, Chihuahua’s should be trained just as rigorously as any other dog. But, there are a few concessions that you can make to ensure success when training a Chihuahua.
First, remember to see things from the perspective of your tiny pup. Training them in the middle of a busy park where they’ll be distracted by bigger dogs, birds flying overhead, and loud noises, is going to overwhelm them. So, start out your training sessions in a quiet, safe place where you can work on basic commands. Then, the both of you will have more confidence when you start to transition those training sessions into more public places.
The same goes with socialisation. It will do your Chihuahua no good to throw them into the part of the dog park reserved for large breed dogs. That will likely traumatise them and make their aggression spike. Instead, start slowly with dogs that you know are friendly and laid-back. One-on-one interactions can prepare your pup for more social settings.
The most important part of training a Chihuahua is to start young. Once the idea is in their mind that the world is a big, scary place, you will have a much longer road to socialisation and confidence-building. Of course, whatever age a Chihuahua comes into your life, you should take the time to train them properly.
Now, there’s one last thing that we should mention about Chihuahua training. Make sure that you know when it’s appropriate to pick them up. After all, while basic command training will minimise many risks, this is still a dog that is sometimes targeted by larger dogs, easily overlooked in crowds of people, and unsafe in areas where there are birds of prey or other native predators. So, it may be necessary to scoop up this little dog when their safety can’t be guaranteed by their training.
Chihuahuas are great for apartments as well as larger homes with some small dog accommodations like ramps and puppy gates. That said, some Chihuahuas can be quite vocal, so they may not be ideal in quiet apartment buildings. Of course, with confidence training, quiet commands, and proper exercise, your Chihuahua may be less prone to barking.
This breed does have high exercise needs for small dogs, so be ready to take your Chihuahua out for a few short walks per day. We say short because this is a dog without the best temperature regulation. They may benefit more from frequent, short walks rather than longer walks in which they are vulnerable to overheating. A trusted Dog Walker is the perfect way to ensure that your Chihuahua gets enough exercise while you’re away.
Learn more about Chihuahua living accommodations by reading our article, Five Considerations when Caring for Small Dogs.
Chihuahua Grooming ✄
There are two different coat types for the Chihuahua – smooth and long. Both coat types are very easy to keep clean and release an average amount of shedding. For the smooth coated Chihuahua, simply brush with a soft-bristled brush about once per week. And for the longer-haired variety, keep a comb or pin brush handy for brushing about twice or three times per week.
In terms of bathing, a Chihuahua doesn’t generally need a bath more than once per month or every six weeks. In the interim, it’s a good idea to keep some doggie wipes on hand to keep your pup’s face and ears clean.
As with all doggos, regular teeth brushing is a must. Periodontal disease is fairly common in this breed, so don’t skip this important grooming practice!
Chihuahua Health +
Unfortunately, the Chihuahua is at risk for a variety of health issues. In addition to dental health issues, they may also be particularly susceptible to hypoglycemia, certain types of heart disease, and luxating patella.
Small dogs are also at higher risk for tracheal collapse. Make sure that your Chihuahua has a properly fitted walking harness. Their leash should never be attached directly to the collar around their neck.
Above all, injury is the leading health risk for a Chihuahua. Make sure that everyone in the family, especially small children, know how to handle this little dog properly.
Fun Fact ♥
There’s no doubt the Chihuahua is a pretty smart pup. But did you know that they have the largest brains in the canine world? Well, we should say Chihuahuas have the largest relative brain in the canine world. That means that in comparison to their body mass, Chihuahuas have the largest brain of the bunch. Not so surprising when you see those adorable apple-shaped heads of theirs!
But does this mean that Chihuahuas are the hidden geniuses of all our canine companions? Science says, “It’s possible…but probably not.”
According to an article in Scientific American, if you want to predict intelligence in any animal, you can’t rely solely on brain size or relative brain size. In fact, we’re not really sure what makes one dog (or one species) smarter than the next.
But hey, if you feel your Chihuahua is smarter than the average dog, we won’t argue with you!
Final Thoughts on the Chihuahua
Despite their less-than-enthusiastic public opinion, Chihuahuas deserve our praise and admiration. This is a pup with a long, fascinating history. They’ve been worshipped. They’ve come back from the brink of extinction. And they’ve proven themselves to be great companion animals, show dogs, and even movie stars.
If you’re looking for a dog with a one-of-a-kind personality, never-ending loyalty, and the flexibility to keep up or cuddle up, the Chihuahua should be on your radar. With proper training, a safe, warm environment, and a good dose of empathy from their loving Dog Owners, this breed will thrive.