Friday, August 26, 2011


This tiny toy sized dog known for it’s brave, courageous, and proud demeanor is the smallest breed. It was named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.

Chihuahuas make good companion dogs. They’re fiercely loyal and tend to become very attached to one owner. They do enjoy affection and have been known to show it in return by licking their owner’s faces.

These lively, agile, happy, and adventurous dogs tend to be quite strong willed. It’s important that they have proper human leadership. They can be difficult to train and house break but are intelligent and learn quickly with patience. Chihuahuas respond well to proper, firm, gentle training. Positive reinforcement is key to succeeding with these stubborn souls.

It’s important not to allow them to get away with things that you’d not allow a bigger dog to do. Many tend to allow small dogs to get away with more and baby them. An example of this is jumping up on people. It may be cute to see a tiny dog putting his little paws on your leg. However, if this is allowed you’re telling them that this dominant behavior is okay. This will lead to them thinking they’re the pack leader and that leads to behavior issues such as jealousy and aggression with others. They’ll also become suspicious of everyone but their owner.

Chihuahuas that develop this pack leader mentality may be prone to snapping at humans, especially children. In general it’s not recommended that this breed is around children unless properly socialized. The key is to socialize these dogs well from a young age and continue throughout their lives. Just like any other breed the better socialized they are the better behaved.

Also it’s important to give them a lot of exercise. There’s a huge misconception about small dogs. Many think that they don’t need to be walked as much. They assume that these dogs get plenty of exercise running around during the day. However, this is not true. Walks are crucial for a dog’s well being. They not only provide much needed exercise and energy release they provide mental stimulation as well.  It also satisfies their natural migration instincts.

It’s important to treat them no different then you would a larger dog. Owners that realize that their Chihuahua is no different then another sized dog will get a more appealing temperament. They need to make sure that they are the pack leader and not the dog. If this is done they are more likely to be trustworthy around others.

The true history of this unique breed is not entirely known. There’s many theories surrounding the origin. Folklore and archaeological finds show the breed originated from Mexico. The  most common and thought to be most accurate is that they descended from the Techichi, This was a companion dog of the Toltec civilization in Mexico. No records of the Techichi prior to the 9th century exist. It’s probable that ancestors of the dogs were present prior to the Mayans. Dogs much like the Chihuahua were found in materials from the Cholula Pyramids predating 1530. Also they were found in the Chichen Itza ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula.  Other historians believe they came from the island of Malta in Mediterranean.

European paintings of small dogs that resemble Chihuahuas also give possible creedence to the this theory. One of the most famous is a fresno in the Sistine Chapel by Sandro Bottcelli dated 1480-1482. The fresno, Trials of Moses shows a boy holding a tiny dog with a round head, large eyes, big ears and characteristics of the Chihuahua.

This particular painting was finished ten years before Columbis returned from the New World. Botticelli would not have seen a Mexican dog but he depicted a dog that looked much like a Chihuahua. Reportedly in 1850 a progenitor of the breed was found in ruins near Casas Grandes. This is in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. This is where the dog gets their name.

Most artifacts relating to the existence of this breed are found around Mexico City. However, Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico in the U.S. were where they first rose to prominence. Since then they have remained consistently popular as a breed. They were first recognized by the AKC in 1904. The present day Chi is much smaller then their ancestors. This change is thought to be due to the introduction of miniaturized Chinese dogs, such as the Chinese Crested dog into the South America by the Spanish.

Description and standards
Chihuahuas are known for their large dark or sometimes ruby colored eyes that are set well apart. They have large erect ears and their long sickle shaped tails either curl over their back or to the side. The beautiful short or long coat can be either wavy or flat. Solid, marked, and splashed markings can come in white, chestnut, fawn, sand, silver, sable, steel blue, black, tan, and parti color and any combo of those colors.

Their bodies are longer then they are tall. Their heads are well rounded like an apple in shape. The muzzle is short and pointed with a well defined stop. Commonly referred to as either Apple or Deer heads. One has a short nose and rounded head similar to an apple. The other has a longer nose and elongated head.

The breed standard doesn’t specify height only weight and a description of overall proportions. This results in varying heights. Height usually ranges from 6-10 inches. Some can grow as tall as 12-15 inches. British and American standards both state that the Chihuahua must not weigh more then 6lbs for conformation. The British standard also states the weight of 2-4lbs is preferred. In fact if two dogs are equally good in type the diminutive one is preferred.

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) standard is 3.3-6.6lbs. Smaller ones are more acceptable in show rings. Pet quality often range above these weights. Some are even above 10lbs if they’ve got large bone structure or allowed to become overweight. This doesn’t mean they’re not purebred but do not meet the requirements for conformation shows. Oversized Chihuahuas can be found in both good and bad bloodlines. The standards for both long and short coats are typically identical except for coat description.

It’s important to know that terms like Teacup, Pocket Size, Tiny Toy, Miniature, or Standard are marketing gimmicks. They’re made up to inflate a puppy’s value. These aren’t recognized by the breed standards.

United Kingdom’s Kennel Club and the American Kennel Club only recognize two Chihuahua varieties. The long coat and the smooth coat also known as the short coat. Genetically they are both the same breed. Short coat doesn’t mean the hair is smooth. The hair can range from velvet touch to whiskery. Long haired Chis are smoother to the touch. They have soft fine guard hairs and downy undercoats. This gives them their fluffy appearance. Unlike many other long hair breeds Chis require no trimming and grooming is minimal. Contrary to what people may believe the long haired Chihuahuas typically shed less then the short. It can take up to two or more years before the full long haired coat develops.

Chihuahuas come in many color combinations: solid, marked, or splashed. Colors can range from solid black to solid white. Spotted, Sable, and a variety of other colors and patterns can also appear in the Chihuahua breed. The colors and patterns can combine and affect one another. This can result in many variations. Most common colors are fawn, red, cream, chocolate, blue, and black. No pattern or color is considered more valuable.

Merle is not considered part of the breed standard. In May 2007 The Kennel Club decided that any puppies with this coloration were not to be registered. This is due to the health risk of this gene. In December of that year the Breed Standard was amended so that any merle dogs were disqualified. The Federation Cynologique Internationale that represents the major kennel club of 84 countries disqualified the merle color as well.  Countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany also followed suit. However, in May 2008 the Chihuahua Club of America voted that this color wouldn’t be disqualified in the United States. It would be able to be registered and compete in AKC events. Those opposed to the coloration believe it came about by modern cross breeding with other dogs.

Choosing a Chihuahua must be done carefully. An owner’s temperament often effects the dog’s. Chis with an ill temperament can be easily provoked to attack. That makes them generally not suitable for homes with small children. This breed is known to be fiercely loyal to one owner. In some cases they even become over protective. This is especially true around other people or animals. They aren’t always able to get along with other breeds. Chihuahuas are prone to clan like nature. Often preferring the companionship of only their kind over others. Generally this makes them not recommended for children that aren’t patient and calm. These small dogs love their dens and are known to burrow into pillows, clothes, and blankets. Often they can be found under the covers or at the bottom of the bed. Deep in the dark safety of what they consider their den.

Health Disorders
Expert veterinary attention is often needed in areas like birthing and dental care. They’re prone to genetic anomalies. Neurological issues such as epilepsy and seizure disorders are common. Like other toy breeds Chihuahuas are prone to the painful disease hydrocephalus. It’s diagnosed when a puppy has a an abnormally large head during the first months of
it’s life. Other symptoms of hydrocephalus are patchy skull plates rather than solid bone, typically lethargic, also they don’t grow at the same pace as their littermates. Veterinarians can diagnose hydrocephalus but the prognosis is not good.

Another common issue for this breed is moleras. This is a soft spot in their skulls. They’re the only breed born with an incomplete skull. This does fill in with age but care still needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. However, some do not close completely and will continue to require extra care to prevent injury. Many veterinarians aren’t familiar enough with the breed and mistaken molera with hydrocephalus.

Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is another risk. This is especially dangerous in puppies. Not treated this can lead to coma and death. This can be avoided with frequent feedings. Every three hours for small and young puppies. It’s recommended that owners have a simple sugar supplement on hand in case of emergency. Nutri-Cal, Karo syrup or honey  can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth. These rapidly raise the blood sugar level.

Lethargy, sleepiness, low energy, uncoordinated walking, unfocused eyes, and neck muscle spasms or head pulling back or to the side are all symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Due to their large, round, protruding eyes and their relatively low ground clearance they’re prone to eye infections. Care should be taken to prevent them from being poked in the eyes. Their eyes are also prone to frequent watering to remove dust or allergens that may get into the eye. Daily wiping will help keep the eyes clean and prevent tear stains.

Collapsed trachea also known as reverse sneezing is a health concern of this breed

Chihuahuas have a tendency to tremble. This is not a health issue but occurs usually when the dog is stressed, excited, or cold. Cold can be a problem for these small dogs. When outside they can wear coats or sweaters to help keep them warm. Also they enjoy digging and snuggling into blankets while they sleep.

The average lifespan for a healthy Chi is between 10-17 years. (Another source said 14-18 years.)

Since Chihuahuas are sometimes picky eaters it’s important to provide the adequate nutrition. Wet or fresh food is often most appealing. Though it’s important not to go too long without a meal care should be exercised not to overfeed this small breed.

Dental care is important for these little dogs.

Human foods shouldn’t be given. Due to the dog’s small size high fat or sugary treats even given in small amounts can result in an overweight dog.  Being over weight they are more susceptible to increased joint injuries, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis. Also this can shorten their life span.

Luxating Patella is a known genetic condition very common in Chihuahuas.
In some dogs the ridges forming the patellar groove aren’t correctly shaped and a shallow groove is created. The patella will luxate or slip out of place or sideways in dogs with shallow grooves. This causes the leg to lock up and forces the Chihuahua to hold their foot off the ground. When the patella luxates from the femur groove it usually can’t return to the normal position until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and increases in length. This is why the dog may be forced to hold their leg up for a few minutes after initial displacement. When the muscles are contracted and the patella is luxated from the correct position the joint is held in a flexed or bent position. The knee cap sliding across the femur can cause pain due to the bony ridges of the femur. When out of position they feel no discomfort and can continue with activity.

Some Chihuahuas can also have heart related disorders such as heart murmurs and Pulmonic Stenosis. This is when the blood outflow from the heart’s right ventricle is obstructed at plutonic valve.

They are also prone to physical deformities especially seen as they get older.

Registered with:
CKC = Continental Kennel Club
FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
AKC = American Kennel Club
UKC = United Kennel Club
KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
NKC = National Kennel Club
NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
APRI = American Pet Registry Inc.
ACR = American Canine Registry
DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.

Information compiled from various sources. No copyright infringement intended. No monetary gain was received. Original was created August 26st, 2011 by Carrie McCormick.

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