Chihuahua is a graceful, alert, swift-moving compact little dog with saucy expression, and with terrier-like qualities of temperament.
This breed requires expert veterinary attention in areas such as birthing and dental care. Dental care is a must for these small dogs, whose jaw size makes for weaker teeth. Although daily brushing provides the best preventative measure, feeding a dental diet or using dental chews for dogs is an effective approach pet owners can take to help prevent and control accumulation of plaque and tartar to avoid consequences of severe periodontal disease. The best physical characteristics of dog food to contribute to cleaning a dog’s teeth would be food that is large and dense, that way there is more time spent chewing which leads to the surface of the teeth being cleaned.
Chihuahuas, and other toy breeds, can be affected by hydrocephalus. Chihuahua puppies with hydrocephalus have an abnormally large head, are lethargic and do not grow at the same pace as their siblings. A true case of hydrocephalus can be diagnosed by a veterinarian, though the prognosis is grim. Apple head Chihuahuas can have moleras, or a soft spot in their skulls, and they are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull. This is not a defect; it is a normal adaptation facilitating the passage through the birth canal and growth and development of the domed type of forehead. The molera is predominant in the apple heads and is present in nearly all Chihuahua puppies. The molera fills in with age, but great care needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. Some moleras do not close completely and require extra care to prevent injury.
Chihuahua puppies can be at risk for hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, sleepiness, uncoordinated walking, unfocused eyes and spasms of the neck muscles or head pulling back or to the side, fainting and seizures. Hypoglycemia can be avoided with adequate nutrition and frequent feedings, especially for Chihuahuas who are younger, smaller or leaner. Chihuahua owners should have a simple sugar supplement on hand to use in emergencies, such as Nutri-Cal or original formula Karo syrup. These supplements can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth to rapidly raise the blood sugar level.
On the other hand, as with any dog, owners should take care not to overfeed their Chihuahua, since obesity can result in increased rates of joint injuries, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis, and shortened life span. As in other breeds with large protruding eyes, Chihuahuas are prone to eye infections or eye injury. The eyes may water in response to dry air, dust or air-borne allergens. Collapsed trachea is a health concern that is characteristic of the Chihuahua breed. Chihuahuas may tremble or shiver when stressed, excited or cold. Chihuahuas, especially the short coat variety, are less tolerant of cold than larger breeds, and require a sweater and/or boots in cold weather. They will seek warmth in sunshine, under blankets, or on furniture, or human laps.
Chihuahuas are also known for luxating patella, a genetic condition that can occur in all dogs. In some dogs, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not shaped correctly and a shallow groove is created, causing the patella to luxate or slip out of place, sideways. The knee cap sliding across the bony ridges of the femur can cause some pain. The affected chihuahua will hold its leg flexed, and foot off the ground until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and lengthens, after which the animal feels no discomfort and continues with activity.
Chihuahuas are also prone to some heart-related disorders, such as heart murmurs and pulmonic stenosis, a condition in which the blood outflow from the heart’s right ventricle is obstructed at the pulmonic valve. Some Chihuahuas may present separation anxiety as a result of being so close and loyal to their owner. This is a fairly common cause behind any pacing, excessive salivating, destructive chewing, or barking, howling or whining in dogs. There are many treatments and tips to help prevent separation anxiety in dogs.
Small and sassy, the Chihuahua is the tiniest of all dog breeds, often weighing in at less than four pounds. Their personalities are varied, ranging from shy and timid to plucky and outgoing. All Chihuahuas are fiercely loyal to the people they love, and eat up as much attention as they can get. They will often posture toward bigger dogs, barking their little hearts out, but always seem to recognize and welcome the company of other Chihuahuas. They tolerate being dressed up, and in the winter time will welcome the warmth of a sweater. Some have a reputation for being quite mean to strangers, but this stems from their protective of their owner and the fact that the only defense mechanisms they have are their bark and their teeth. They are an economical companion, as they don’t eat much, and are a good choice for first-time dog owners. All Chihuahua owners agree that this breed is an endless source of laughs. Their big eyes and ears, combined with an uncanny ability to cause mischief, provide hours of entertainment for the entire family. They also love to be warm. They will follow the sun’s rays around the house all day, and when the sun goes down will burrow into couches, chairs, blankets and laps in order to stay cozy.
Chihuahuas don’t need a lot of vigorous activity, so they are well suited for apartments and condominiums. Despite their size, they should be walked daily because it is easy to end up with an obese Chihuahua.
The ease of training a Chihuahua depends upon the dog itself, and it’s own particular bloodline. Whereas some dogs can be trained out of fearfulness, timidity, aggression or rowdy behavioral, a Chihuahua’s temperament is determined solely on his genetics. If he comes from high-struck parents, he will be high-strung. If he comes from an easy-going, friendly line, he’ll be the same. Regardless of the individual dog’s personality, training should be consistent, involve lots of positive reinforcement, and plenty of treats. Treating a dog this size with a harsh hand will only cause problems. Chihuahuas are notoriously hard to house train, and many owners resort to litter boxes or indoor grass patches. They hate cold weather and despise the rain, and many times will flat out refuse to relieve themselves in such conditions.
Barking is the number one behavioral problem with Chihuahuas. Even easy going individuals who enjoy the company of new people will bark to announce that person’s arrival. Some Chihuahuas are prone to bark literally every time a house guest makes a move, which can be alienating to friends and family. It is very important to socialize Chihuahuas as early and as often as possible, so that they are welcoming of new people.
Grooming a Chihuahua is a breeze, whether the dog has smooth or long hair. Weekly brushing will keep the coat healthy and will remove loose hair. They shed lightly year round, which, for a dog this small, amounts to almost nothing. They shed a bit more heavily during season changes, and the long haired Chihuahua’s undercoat may fall out in clumps, so brushing may need to be more frequent at these times. Regular brushing also ensures that this low-maintenance dog only needs to be bathed once every two months. Chihuahuas are prone to tear stains around their eyes. There are several over the counter wipes that can be used to remove the discharge. The ears should be checked weekly for signs of infection. If they emit an odor, or wax is visible, the ear should be cleaned with a veterinarian-approved cleanser. This breed is prone to dental problems, so weekly tooth brushing is a must. Start brushing the dog’s teeth as a puppy, so he will be used to it and not fight this beneficial practice.
The Chihuahua’s history is convoluted, and there are many theories surrounding the origin of the breed. Both folklore and archaeological finds show that the breed originated in Mexico. The most common theory is that Chihuahuas are descended from the Techichi, a companion dog favored by the Toltec civilization in Mexico. No records of the Techichi are available before the 9th century, although dog pots from Colima, Mexico, buried as part of the western Mexico shaft tomb tradition which date back to 300 BC are thought to depict Techichis. It is probable that earlier ancestors were present before the Mayas as dogs approximating the Chihuahua are found in materials from the Great Pyramid of Cholula, predating 1530 and in the ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán Peninsula. In fact, wheeled dog toys representing the Chihuahua have been unearthed across Mesoamerica from Mexico to El Salvador. The earliest of these were found at Tres Zapotes in Veracruz, Mexico, which date to 100 AD, indirect evidence that the breed was in Mexico over 1400 years before the first Europeans arrived.
Dog effigy pots dating to around 1325 AD discovered in Georgia and Tennessee also appear to represent the Chihuahua. In 1850, a pot featuring the Chihuahua was unearthed in old ruins at Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which dates from 1100–1300 AD showing the long history of the breed at this site, although most artifacts relating to its existence are found around Mexico City. It has been argued that these pots arrived with survivors from the Casas Grandes site in Chihuahua, Mexico, after it was attacked and destroyed around 1340 AD.
In a 1520 letter, Hernan Cortés wrote that the Aztecs raised and sold the little dogs as food. Small dogs such as Chihuahuas were also used as living hot-water bottles during illness or injury. Some historians believe this practice is where the idea of pain being transferred to animals from humans originated, which gave way to rituals such as burning the deceased with live dogs, such as the Techichi, to exonerate the deceased human’s sins. Chihuahuas as we know them today remained a rarity until the early 20th century; the American Kennel Club (AKC) did not register a Chihuahua until 1904.