Popular Dog Breeds: Chihuahuas

Saucy and alert, the popular Chihuahua originally comes from Mexico. They are right at home in the city or cuddled up beside you wherever you may live. Don’t let their small size fool you though. Chihuahuas are quite feisty and can easily take charge of your home.

History
The Chihuahua is named after the Mexican state of the same name, where the earliest examples of the breed were discovered in modern times. The small dogs were used in religious ceremonies and were pets for the upper classes at one time. The dogs are probably descended from the Techichi, ancient companion dogs of the Toltecs. Records of these dogs date to around the 9th century but it is possible that the dogs were also present during earlier Mayan times. Dogs similar to the Chihuahua have been found in materials from the Pyramids of Cholula and at Chichen Itza on the Yucatan peninsula. Chihuahuas were first recognized by the AKC in 1904.

Temperament
Chihuahuas are alert, highly intelligent dogs and they make excellent companions. Although they are small in size, they should not be underestimated. The breed has many Terrier-like qualities, although they developed on their own, in a different part of the world from the Terrier breeds. They are smart, curious, often bold and confident, and they don’t always listen to commands. The breed standard describes them as having an attitude of “self importance, confidence, self-reliance.” Chihuahuas make good family pets but they are usually better in homes with slightly older children. Their small size means they can sometimes be injured by very young children who play too roughly or who might fall on them.

Chihuahuas often become very attached to one person in a home which may or may not be a problem. In some instances they can become overly jealous of their favorite person. They can also have problems getting along with other pets.

Appearance
Chihuahuas come in both longcoats and smoothcoats. Any color is acceptable – solid, marked, or splashed. The dogs have a well-rounded “apple dome” skull and the body is a little off-square in shape. The breed is not supposed to weigh more than 6 pounds but many pet Chihuahuas weigh more than this. Chihuahuas typically stand 6 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder.

Smoothcoated dogs require very little grooming. Longcoated dogs need to be brushed a little more often.

Health
Chihuahuas are a very long-lived breed. It is not unusual for a Chihuahua to live well into his teen years. Some Chihuahuas live to be 18 or 20 years old. The lifespan for the breed is estimated to be 10-18 years. However, like all dogs, they can have some health issues. Teeth can be a problem in the breed, as with many Toy dogs. They may not fit properly or some may be missing. They can also have more problems with tooth decay and losing teeth than larger breeds.

Hydrocephalus can occur in Chihuahua puppies. Molleras occur in Chihuahuas but this is normal for the breed. The skull is not fully formed at birth and there is a soft spot that continues to fill in during the puppy’s first six months. Owners need to be careful during these months so the puppy’s head is not injured.

Hypoglycemia can also be a problem for Chihuahuas, especially for puppies. This is not unusual with Toy breed puppies or very small dogs. It refers to low blood sugar. You should make sure to feed Toy puppies several small meals per day until they are older and can better regulate their blood sugar.

Since Chihuahuas have very large eyes they can be at risk of eye injury. Be sure to clean their eyes and face regularly and check for any wounds or scratches.

Other possible health problems include issues that can affect many Toy breeds such as luxating patellas (slipped kneecaps) and collapsed trachea (a weakness in the tracheal wall that can be exacerbated by pulling against a leash). Heart murmurs and pulmonic stenosis are also possible concerns.

Regular visits to the veterinarian will catch many problems before they become serious. If you are interested in getting a Chihuahua, you should talk to a breeder and be sure to ask about health issues in the breed.

Training
Chihuahuas are very smart dogs but that doesn’t mean they are always easy to train. Like many Toy breeds, they can be hard to house train. Allow extra time for house training and lots of patience. Be sure to praise and reward your Chihuahua when he potties where you want him to go. Like other dogs, Chihuahuas respond well to positive reinforcement. Chihuahuas can be very strong-willed dogs and it’s important that you remain in charge. Even though they are small dogs, you should continue to treat them like dogs and not like small children. If you don’t maintain your authority with your Chihuahua, it’s very likely that he will take control. There is such a thing as Small Dog Syndrome where small dogs are spoiled to such an extent that they no longer respect their owners. In these cases the dog can become very hard to live with. You can avoid this problem by socializing your Chihuahua from a young age. Take him to puppy kindergarten classes. Attend a basic obedience course with him. Make sure he has good manners at home and when you go places with him. You and your Chihuahua will both be happier if you know which one of you is in charge.

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