Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Breed Lists

Small Dog Breeds: The Small and Mighty Chihuahua

The Chihuahua is a fearless dog with a big personality that more than makes up for his small size. Originating from Mexico—with a history tracing back to the 9th century AD—the dog breed became officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904, leading to the Chihuahua’s current standing as the 29th most popular dog breed.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Oh My, What Big Ears You Have

Chihuahuas can be either long- or shorthaired and are found in a variety of colors. Aside from their coat, all Chihuahuas have distinct trademark characteristics. Often diluted by cross-breeding for the Chihuahua’s desirable small size, the signature large, erect ears, large eyes, apple dome skull and weight under 6 pounds make the purebreds stand out among other small dog breeds and Chihuahua mixes.

The average Chihuahua life span is 15 to 17 years old, which is drastically longer than most dog breeds, especially larger dog breeds. With proper care, nutrition specialized for small dog breeds, and lucky genetics, the Chihuahua life span can even reach 20 years!

PERSONALITY AND TEMPERAMENT: Big Character in a Small Bod

The AKC says the Chihuahua temperament is fearless and self-assured. Embodied in these alert, little dogs are terrier-like qualities—they’re known to be graceful, charming and sassy. Small but mighty, the Chihuahua temperament is characterized by a bold personality. Often showing dominance over other (even larger) four-legged family members, Chihuahuas are known to take the alpha position in their households. Though mostly friendly with other pets, Chihuahuas can become protective and exhibit territorial behaviors with a mighty bark to warn visitors or invaders not to enter their claimed space.

Though a Chihuahua temperament can be dominant, these dogs become devoted and loyal partners once they warm up to you. Small dog breeds, though filled with energy, usually require less exercise and a less active lifestyle than larger dogs, making the Chihuahua a great fit for an apartment lifestyle, a home with a large, fenced-in backyard, or anywhere in between!

Originating from the northern state of Chihuahua in Mexico, Chihuahuas are bred for warm climate. Because of this, they often have a difficult time acclimating to cool temperatures. Though best suited for warm, temperate climates, a quality dog sweater or jacket will be sure to keep your Chihuahua comfortable—even on the chilly days!

HEALTH: Small, but Mighty

Generally speaking, Chihuahuas are healthy dogs. As with any dog breed, however, there are potential health concerns and risks to keep in mind, but you can work with your veterinarian to actively prevent them. Health issues such as patellar luxation and cardiac or eye diseases are conditions to beware of when you have a Chihuahua. Due to their large eyes, particles are much more likely to become trapped and cause irritation. Lubricating the eyes will counteract the potential threat of eye problems.

It is important to remember that if a Chihuahua gets into a doggie danger zone in your home and finds harmful chemicals, such as mothballs, or gets into the Easter candy stash, it can be fatal. Due to their small size, very little of a harmful toxin can do a lot of damage to a Chihuahua.

The small size of Chihuahuas is one of their most desirable features for owners, however, it’s also the reason that these micro-pups occasionally get caught underfoot. The most common, and probably most dangerous health threat to Chihuahuas, is injury. Always being aware of where your dog is will keep him from getting caught in between your feet and away from looming threats.

DIET: Whet Your Appetite

Chihuahuas may not eat much, but their diet plays a vital role in their overall health. Newborn Chihuahua puppies weigh less than half a pound, so the nutrition that they receive from day one will be important in keeping them healthy and happy.

Breed-specific dog food, such as Royal Canin Chihuahua Adult Canned Dog Food will support your dog’s unique needs without compromise. The Royal Canin Chihuahua formulas provide high palatability to entice your dog’s taste buds while promoting a healthy coat and aiding in stool and odor reduction. By satisfying their demanding appetites, Royal Canin will keep even the fussiest Chihuahua coming back for more! For the young Chihuahua puppy, Royal Canin Chihuahua Puppy Dry Dog Food provides similar benefits with the added advantage of natural defense support from eight weeks old to eight months.

Feeding a breed-specific dog food will ensure that your dog is not only getting the nutrition that he needs, but also that the kibble is designed for his jaw shape and size. “Kibble size should be matched to the dog’s size,” says Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club, “Frequency of feeding is also an important consideration, especially for very young, toy breed dogs.” Talk to your veterinarian about a recommended feeding schedule.

GROOMING: Little Bundles of Love

Both long- and smooth-coat Chihuahuas shed year-round, making them non-hypoallergenic, however, due to their size, Chihuahua hair is relatively sparse, which makes it easy to clean. Shorthaired Chihuahuas only need to be brushed once or twice a month to help redistribute their natural coat oils, while long-coated Chihuahuas should be brushed once or twice a week to remove dead hair and help disperse and prevent knots.

In addition to regular brushing, ear cleaning and dental hygiene routines will work to prevent ear infections and dental disease, respectively. Contact a Chewy expert to find grooming products that will work best for you and your pet!

Dr. Klein recommends that “Potential owners research and fully understand breed characteristics, health issues and personality traits,” before deciding which pet and breed is the right fit. Whether you find a litter of Chihuahua puppies from a reputable breeder or adopt a senior Chihuahua from your local animal shelter, be prepared to provide endless belly rubs to a little pup with lots of spunk!

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