The Chihuahua is a saucy little hot tamale and not just because of his association with a certain fast-food Mexican restaurant. He's renowned for being the world's smallest dog, but he may well have the world's biggest personality stashed inside that tiny body. That larger-than-life persona makes him appealing to men and women alike.
Fun loving and busy, Chihuahuas like nothing better than to be close to their people. They follow them everywhere in the house and ride along in tote bags when their people run errands or go shopping. It's not unusual for Chihuahuas to form a close bond with a single person, and they can become very demanding if they're overindulged.
Besides being affectionate housemates, Chihuahuas are intelligent and fast learners. They can compete in agility and obedience trials with just as much enthusiasm and success as larger dogs. That said, they're willful little dogs. You'll be most successful if you can persuade them that competing ó or simply doing as you ask ó is fun. Use positive reinforcement in the form of praise and food rewards when training your Chihuahua. He won't respond to harsh treatment.
It's important when considering the Chihuahua to take into account his small size. Chihuahuas are curious and bold explorers. They've escaped from GARDENS through small gaps in the fence and can squeeze into places that other puppies and dogs wouldn't be able to fit. And even though they tend to rule the roost, they can be accidentally injured by rambunctious larger dogs.
Chihuahuas are not recommended for homes with children under the age of eight, simply because of the chance of injury by a young child. Regardless of your family situation, it's important to remember to socialize your Chihuahua to children, adults, and other animals. Chihuahuas are mistrustful of strangers, which makes them good watchdogs, but they need to learn to meet people in a friendly manner. It's also important to remember that Chihuahuas tend to forget they are small and will stand up to a larger aggressive dog; as a result the Chihuahua needs vigilant supervision in new situations, while they're on walks, and when they're in the yard.
The Chihuahua's personality and unique size make him a wonderful go-everywhere companion. People who live with Chihuahuas become devoted to them, and many say that once you share your life with one, there will be no other dog breed for you.
Choose a Chihuahua breeder who provides health clearances for patellas and heart conditions.
The Chihuahua is a long-lived breed; expect to care for him for up to 18 years.
Chihuahuas are prone to shivering when they are cold, excited, or scared. Provide your Chihuahua with a sweater or coat when he goes outdoors in cold or wet weather.
Chihuahuas can be unfriendly toward other dogs if they're not socialized when young. Chihuahuas don't back down from other dogs and this can cause a problem if they encounter a large aggressive dog.
Don't leave your Chihuahua unattended in the GARDEN. He could be attacked by a hawk, other birds of prey, or larger dogs or FOXES.
Chihuahuas can be reserved with strangers. Choose a puppy that was whelped and raised in a home with a lot of human interaction.
Chihuahuas are not the best dog to have when you have young children. Chihuahuas are fragile and a toddler may hurt the dog while playing. Most breeders won't sell puppies to homes with children younger than eight years.
The Chihuahua's ears can be prone to ear wax build up and dry skin.
Chihuahuas are happy as companions, but they do need 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily and can go for much longer than you might expect. Monitor your Chihuahua, especially when he's a puppy, so that he doesn't wear himself out.
Chihuahuas have larger than life personalities and will run your life if you let them. They can be destructive when bored and can become finicky eaters if their diet is fussed over. Establish ground rules and stick with them or you'll find yourself giving up your comfortable chair because your beloved pet has told you to move.
To get a healthy pet, never buy a puppy from a backyard breeder, puppy mill, or pet store. Find a reputable breeder who tests her breeding dogs for genetic health conditions and good temperaments.
The typical Chihuahua weighs 3 to 6 pounds. There are Chihuahuas that are smaller, but they tend not to be very healthy. Chihuahuas can also be oversize, with some reaching 12 or more pounds. These can be good choices for families with children.
The bold and confident Chihuahua is often described as being terrier-like. His alert nature and suspicion of strangers make him an excellent watchdog. He's sensitive and thrives on affection and companionship.
Chihuahuas often bond to a single person, although they're usually willing to make friends with new people if properly introduced. Expect them to be a little reserved at first, though. Chihuahuas can be timid if they're not properly socialized as puppies.
Like every dog, Chihuahuas need early socialization ó exposure to many different people, sights, sounds, and experiences ó when they're young. Socialization helps ensure that your Chihuahua puppy grows up to be a well-rounded dog.
The Chihuahua doesn't have any major health problems, but like all breeds he can be born with or acquire certain conditions. Not all Chihuahuas will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them so you can be informed when you interview breeders and can know what to look for throughout your Chihuahua's life.
Buying from a responsible breeder will help ensure that you get the healthiest Chihuahua possible. A puppy from a reputable Chihuahua breeder will be vaccinated and dewormed before you take him home. Responsible breeders use only physically sound, mature (at least 2 years or older) dogs, and test their breeding stock for genetic diseases pertinent to the breed, such as luxating patellas (bum knees) and heart disease.
Both parents should have health clearances, documentation that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Chihuahuas, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for patellas and heart disease. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).
Health clearances are not issued to dogs younger than 2 years of age. That's because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity. For this reason, it's often recommended that dogs not be bred until they are two or three years old.
The following conditions may affect Chihuahuas:
Patellar Luxation: Also known as "slipped stifles," this is a common problem in small dogs. It is caused when the patella, which has three parts-the femur (thigh bone), patella (knee cap), and tibia (calf)-is not properly lined up. This causes lameness in the leg or an abnormal gait, sort of like a skip or a hop. It is a condition that is present at birth although the actual misalignment or luxation does not always occur until much later. The rubbing caused by patellar luxation can lead to arthritis, a degenerative joint disease. There are four grades of patellar luxation, ranging from grade I, an occasional luxation causing temporary lameness in the joint, to grade IV, in which the turning of the tibia is severe and the patella cannot be realigned manually. This gives the dog a bowlegged appearance. Severe grades of patellar luxation may require surgical repair.
Hypoglycaemia: Hypoglycaemia, or low blood sugar, is a possible problem with all toy breed puppies. [Note: I have left this as toy breed here. There is a difference between toy size and small dogs-the difference, say, between Chihuahuas and yorkies and beagles and mini dachshunds.] Hypoglycemia is easily treatable in the early stages but can be fatal if not treated. It is important that breeders and owners of toy breed puppies recognize the signs and symptoms because this condition can sometimes be misdiagnosed as viral hepatitis or encephalitis by veterinarians. A puppy with hypoglycaemia will slow down and become listless, followed by trembling or shivering. Place some honey under his tongue and get him to the vet immediately. If the situation is allowed to continue, he'll eventually collapse, go into convulsions, fall into a coma, and die. Any time your Chihuahua is limp, with grayish-blue gums and tongue, it's an emergency. Hypoglycaemia occurs in toy puppies when they don't have the fat reserves to supply adequate glucose in times of stress or when they don't eat regularly.
Heart Murmurs: Heart murmurs are caused by adisturbance in the blood flow through the chambers of the heart. They're an indicator that there may be a disease or condition of the heart that will need to be monitored and treated. Heart murmurs are graded on their loudness, with one being very soft and five being very loud. If disease is evident, as diagnosed through x-rays and an echocardiogram, the dog may require medication, a special diet, and a reduction in the amount of exercise he gets.
Pulmonic Stenosis: This congenital heart disease occurs when blood doesn't flow properly through the heart because the pulmonic valve is malformed, causing an obstruction. This means the heart must work harder and can become enlarged, leading to heart failure. Treatment depends on the severity of the disease. In mild cases, there's little or no obstruction and no treatment is necessary. If the dog is severely affected by the disease, surgery is recommended, but the procedure differs depending on the location of the blockage.
Collapsed Trachea: It is not completely understood how this occurs, but the rapid inhalation of air causes the trachea to flatten and makes it difficult for air to enter the lungs, much like a soda straw being drawn on too vigorously. This condition may be inherited; it occurs in certain breeds, and dogs with it show an abnormality in the chemical makeup of their tracheal rings in which the rings lose their stiffness and become unable to retain their circular shape.
Hydrocephalus: Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can accumulate in the brain because of a congenital defect, obstruction, or the result of trauma during birth, placing pressure on the brain. The head looks swollen or enlarged, but the diagnosis can be confirmed with an ultrasound if necessary. There's no cure for hydrocephalus, although in mild cases steroids can help reduce fluid pressure. A shunt can also be used to divert fluid from the brain to the abdomen. Puppies with severe cases usually die before they're four months old, which is a good reason to delay purchasing a Chihuahua until that age.
Open Fontanel: Chihuahuas are born with a soft spot on the top of their head. Usually the soft spot closes, much like a baby's will, but sometimes one will not close fully. Treat these dogs gingerly. An accidental blow to the head can kill them.
Shivering: Shivering is a common occurrence in Chihuahuas. The mechanics of why they shiver or tremble is unclear but it usually occurs when the dog is excited, stressed, or cold.
Despite the Chihuahua's small size, like all dogs he needs exercise and training. The amount of energy an adult Chihuahua has can be surprising. He'll endlessly chase squirrels in the backyard and is willing to play as long as you are. Chihuahuas enjoy walks, supervised romps around the yard, and retrieving toys. They'll go until they drop, so it's important to make sure they don't tire themselves out, especially on hot days.
As much as they enjoy playing outdoors, Chihuahuas should never live outside. They aren't safe from raptors such as hawks, FOXES, or other larger dogs that could go into your GARDEN. They are bred as companions, and the best place for a companion is with you.
Training a Chihuahua can be an enjoyable task. They are successful in several different dog sports such as agility and obedience, but puppy kindergarten and basic obedience class are important even for a Chihuahua who's strictly a companion. Your Chihuahua will meet many different dogs and people in class, contributing to his socialization, and he'll learn the manners all dogs should know.
Chihuahuas are as easy to housetrain as any other breed as long as you take them out frequently and on a consistent schedule. Puppies need to go out as soon as they wake up in the morning, after every meal, after naps, after playtime, and just before bedtime. Using a crate to confine them when you're unable to supervise them will teach them that they can control their bladder and prevent them from having accidents in the house. If they're not crated, plan to take them out every one to two hours, and don't crate them for more than two to four hours at a time except overnight.
Beyond housetraining, crate training is a kind way to ensure that your Chihuahua doesn't get into things he shouldn't. Like every dog, Chihuahuas can be destructive as puppies. They might not do as much damage as a Lab puppy, but those little teeth can definitely leave their mark. Crate training at a young age will also help your Chihuahua accept confinement if he ever needs to be boarded or hospitalized. Never stick your Chihuahua in a crate all day long, however. It's not a jail, and he shouldn't spend more than a few hours at a time in it except when he's sleeping at night. Chihuahuas are people dogs, and they aren't meant to spend their lives locked up in a crate or kennel.
Train your Chihuahua using positive reinforcement techniques such as food rewards, praise, and play, and you will soon find that he can learn anything you can teach.
Recommended daily amount: 1/4 to 1/2 cups of high-quality dry food a day
NOTE: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference ó the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl.
How to Avoid Chihuahua Mixes
Don't be fooled by cheap prices, handwritten pedigree's .early release of pups under 8 weeks .
As a Chihuahua Breeder with many years of experience, I get letters and emails from people all the time with questions about this fabulous breed. One of the most often asked questions I get from people is about size and weight. People who did not buy their Chihuahuas from me ask why they have a Chihuahua that weighed so little as a young pup and now tops the scales at fifteen or even twenty pounds? Many also wonder why their ears and snouts are so extended?
Many unethical Breeders use an old trick to double their profits on toy pups. They breed Chihuahuas mixed with Mini-Pinchers. Why? Because both breeds have pups that look almost identical during the first eight weeks of life, but Chihuahua-Mini Pin mixes produce eight or more pups, compared to purebred Chihuahua females which usually have litters of one to three pups and rarely more then four. That means more profit for them, but a mixed pup for you. The difference between the purebred and the mix becomes very obvious as time passes.
Purebred Chihuahua pups have a unique look to them. The differences start to become obvious by the time the pups reach nine to twelve weeks of age. Mixed pups feature ears and heads that seem much too large for their body frame. Snouts on mixed pups are very extended, much more so then one would expect to find on any type of Chihuahua.
The two basic body types of purebred Chihuahuas are Apple heads and Deer heads. Apple heads tend to have shorter snouts, while Deer heads have elongated snouts. Still, the Deer heads have much shorter ears and snouts then the Chihuahua-Mini Pin mixes. Those trying to sell mixes as purebreds will often tell unsuspecting customers that the reason for a pups larger snout is that itís a Deer head. But mixes have much longer snouts, extremely over-sized ears and heads that seem much larger then their bodies can support.
One might think that purebred papers will guarantee a purebred pup, but that isnít always the case. In many instances Breeders have been able to manipulate various purebred registries and get papers for pups from mixed parents. Looking at the parents also doesnít work. Most unethical Breeders will have bogus parents with similar colours all ready to be viewed.
The key to making sure a Chihuahua is what itís supposed to be is proportion. Whether the Chihuahua pup in question is a longhair or shorthair, they should have a body that is evenly proportioned. No matter how young the puppy is, its ears, head and body should look proportionate with ears and a nose that do not seem unusually large or long. Because Chihuahuas are ancient dogs that werenít created by any known genetic manipulation like other toy dog breeds, there can be a lot of diversity when it comes to colour and length of hair. But body proportions on most Chihuahua pups are very even at almost any age.
As a Breeder I hear horror stories all the time from people who have bought pups from other areas and ended up with mixed breed dogs or animals too ill to survive, so buyer beware!
The basic colours for purebred Chihuahuas are white, fawn, black, tan, red, blue, the super rare merles or a mixture of any of the above.
Mixes also love to bite on and chew everything they can find, compared to purebred Chihuahuas which are not known for that type for behaviour.