Fiercely intelligent, large (in spirit) and in charge, this smallest of breeds is nobody's lapdog. Chihuahuas are one of the first American breeds and were once believed to be spirit-guides, protecting the dead on their journey through the underworld. Today, these high energy, easy-to-groom dogs make constant companions for the person willing to train them.
Chihuahuas (or “Chis,” as their fans call them) can grow up to under 6 pounds and live to between 12-20 years. The breed is recognized by the American Kennel Club and classified as a member of the Toy group.
AKC Recognized: Y
Breed's Original Pastime: Companion
Breed Group: Toy
Average Lifespan: 12-20 years
Bark Factor: I love to talk!
AKC RANKING 10
FAMILY companion, Southern (pariah)
AREA OF ORIGIN Mexico
DATE OF ORIGIN 1500s
ORIGINAL FUNCTION ceremonial
TODAY'S FUNCTION companion
AVERAGE SIZE OF MALE Height: 6-9 Weight: <6
AVERAGE SIZE OF FEMALE Height: 6-9 Weight: <6
OTHER NAME none
Energy level High energy
Exercise needs Low
Playfullness Not very playful
Affection level Somewhat affectionate
Friendliness toward other dogs Shy
Friendliness toward other pets Friendly
Friendliness toward strangers Shy
Ease of training Easy to train
Watchdog ability High
Protection ability Not very protective
Grooming needs Low maintenance
Cold tolerance Low tolerance
Heat tolerance High tolerance
BEHAVIOR & TRAINING
WHAT IS A CHIHUAHUA'S PERSONALITY LIKE?
Though a high energy and social dog, Chihuahuas aren't particularly playful. They can be affectionate, but they definitely play favorites — Chihuahuas tend to attach closely to one person. The breed is shy around strangers (human or animal) and can be fairly territorial.
WHAT IS CHIHUAHUA'S BEHAVIOR LIKE?
Perhaps it's the Chihuahua's tiny stature that makes them nervous around other dogs and strangers in general. Even so, they can live well in some multi-pet families and are more cat-friendly than many other breeds. While they're not the most intimidating of watch dogs, you'll always know when someone's at the door. Chihuahuas tend to bond closely with one person or family and are most at ease with teenagers and adults, who are less likely to accidentally play too “ruff” with them.
HOW EASY IS IT TO TRAIN A CHIHUAHUA?
Chihuahuas are independent-minded and aren't the easiest to train, but they're very smart and can definitely learn if you're patient and consistent with them. Start early to discourage barking, nipping, and aggressiveness toward other dogs. Your Chihuahua will respond to treats and praise if you follow through.
CARE & HEALTH
HOW MUCH DO CHIHUAHUAS SHED AND WHAT ARE THEIR GROOMING NEEDS?
Chihuahuas can have either smooth, shiny hair or long, somewhat curly hair. They have relatively few grooming needs. Weekly brushing with a soft-bristled tool or rubber grooming glove can help keep smooth-coated Chihuahua's coat and skin in tip-top shape. Long-haired Chihuahuas shed seasonally and should be combed to prevent tangles, especially on the tail, ears, and legs. Be sure to clean your Chihuahua's big ears regularly with a vet-recommended solution — never use cotton swabs.
When regularly brushed, most Chihuahuas won't need baths very often. Luckily, their small size means there's not much to brush. When you do bathe your Chihuahua, dry the dog thoroughly — this breed is very sensitive to cold temperatures!
WHAT HEALTH PROBLEMS DO CHIHUAHUAS HAVE?
Their small size does make them prone to some fairly sizable health concerns. This breed can experience trouble breathing from collapsed windpipes, displaced kneecaps, eye disorders, some neurological conditions, and dental problems caused by the size of their mouths. Many are fed to obesity, which can further aggravate other medical conditions.
Chihuahuas' eyes make them vulnerable to genetic disorders and injuries. Smaller Chihuahuas can be prone to hypoglycemia. Many Chihuahuas also have an open fontanelle (molera), a soft area in their foreheads where their skull plates have not fused. This can lead to fluid buildup in and around the brain (hydrocephalus), which must be treated to prevent seizures and even death. Chihuahuas with moleras are prone to head injuries, and should be placed in homes without small children or large dogs.
Breed history has moved while this section is under construction. Please check out the first tab for fun facts about this breed's history. You can also read on to learn about this breed's ideal family situation.
ARE CHIHUAHUAS GOOD FOR PEOPLE WITH ALLERGIES?
The American Kennel Club doesn't list Chihuahuas among its breeds recommended for allergy sufferers.
You can reduce your furry friend's impact on your allergies with frequent baths and brushings to reduce loose hairs and allergy-aggravating proteins in your pet's dander. Use a damp cloth to wipe off your dog after playing outside. Smaller dogs have less surface area, so they produce comparatively less dander than larger breeds — definitely something to keep in mind with tiny pup like a Chihuahua! Remember that no breed is 100% hypoallergenic, and any breed can aggravate allergies.
WHAT'S A CHIHUAHUA'S BEST DAY?
Sitting on your lap. Following you to the bathroom. Walking with you to the mailbox to retrieve the mail. Lying next to you on the couch. Watching you cook dinner. Any day your Chihuahua can be wherever you are is his best day ever!
SHOULD I ADOPT A CHIHUAHUA?
If you're a large, social family living in Alaska, hoping your canine friend will cuddle up on the couch with you after protecting your ranch from wolves, you might want to consider another breed.
However, for small families living in apartments or homes in warm climates and looking for a join-or-die companion who fits in a (pet-safe!) doggie-bag—the Chihuahua might be your perfect match. Chihuahuas aren't always the cuddliest, but they're smart, independent, vigilant, easy to groom, and won't drag you out to the dog park three times a day. If you work from home, keep the thermostat above 70 degrees, have older children or teenagers, and love dogs who speak their minds, you might be Chihuahua-ready.
Have you decided that a Chihuahua is the perfect dog for you? Why not be your new best friend's hero and adopt a rescue! Be sure to check out our article on what to expect when you're adopting a dog or cat.