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Chihuahua - Breed Profile

The Chihuahuas are lively, comical, entertaining little dogs, with high intelligence and a quirky personality all rolled up into a small package.

HISTORY

The true origins and history of the Chihuahua have long been shrouded in mystery. It can be hard to sort through what is actually fact, and sometimes fanciful speculation. Rich with history and legend, the tiny Chihuahua dates back to pre-Columbian Mexico, and is the oldest breed in the Americas. Chihuahuas are believed to descend either from the Techichi, mute companions to the Toltecs, or from small Chinese dogs brought to the Americas by the Conquistadors; it is also possible that both theories are accurate and the Chihuahua is a mix.


The remains of dogs resembling the Chihuahua have been found in the Pyramids at Cholula on the Yucatan Peninsula, which predate the 16th century. The Aztecs, who eventually conquered the Toltecs, adopted the Chihuahua as a sacred icon of the upper class. It is said the dogs were used in religious ceremonies to redress sins and as guides for the spirits of the dead. 


Marilyn Monroe with her Chihuahua Josepha

Christopher Columbus refers to the tiny dog in a letter to the King of Spain. Without doubt, the Chihuahua's main home was present-day Mexico, but the breed's immigration to Europe may have been Columbus' doing.

Genetic testing suggests that the modern dog as we know it originates with other modern breeds around the 1800's. This tiny dog was found along the borders between Mexico and Arizona - in particular the then capital - Chihuahua!

The first Chihuahuas were introduced into Australia back in 1955.


APPEARANCE


The Chihuahua is a lightly-built dog, tiny and fragile with a large rounded skull and big dark eyes. There are two types, the smooth-coated and long-coated. 


They are usually less than 20cm (8″) tall and weigh between 0.9-1.8kg (2-4lb).

There are two forms: the smooth-coated which has a soft, short, close coat; and the long-coated which has a long, soft, flat or slightly curly coat with fringed ears, feathered feet and legs and a ruffle around the neck. Coat colours range from white through cream, sable, sand, blue to black.


For the Long Coat Chihuahua standard, visit this ANKC page

For the Short Coat Chihuahua standard, visit this ANKC page


TEMPERAMENT

They can become very attached to their owners and reserved around strangers, and especially around children if not used to them.

Chihuahuas tend to be high-strung and prone to nipping, snapping and even biting when frightened or threatened or when defending his people or territory.
While primarily a companion dog, some owners call the Chihuahua a ‘pocket watchdog’ which can be noisy if visitors arrive. Many older people enjoy and encourage this early warning system.



Some of these tendencies can be helped through early socialisation and training. Unfortunately, too many people with Chihuahuas allow them to become little tyrants, displaying manners that would not be acceptable in a larger dog. 

Chihuahuas have a reputation for being spoiled and untrainable, but that’s often because people don’t make an effort to train them. Chihuahuas are just like any other dog: they need consistent rules and structure if they are to learn effectively.



HEALTH & LIFESPAN

Tiny dogs often come with big health problems, and the Chihuahua is no exception.

Many Chihuahuas live long, healthy lives, but conditions seen in the breed include breathing difficulties caused by a windpipe that collapses in on itself.

Luxating patellas are an orthopedic problem. The patella, or kneecap, of most very small dogs, including the Chihuahua, can very easily become displaced, causing pain and lameness. In mild cases the knee quickly slips back into place on its own, but severe cases must be corrected surgically. Ask your veterinarian to examine your dog's knees regularly, especially if you notice him limping or "bunny hopping" while running.


Chihuahuas frequently have what's called a "molera", or an open fontanelle, which is a soft area under the skin of the forehead where the bony plates of the skull have not fused together. It may eventually close up and become hard, but in some dogs, the molera never fully closes. While many dogs can live a normal lifespan with a molera, some may have a condition called hydrocephalus (fluid buildup in and around the brain), which can cause seizures and even death if not treated.




The Chihuahua's round, protruding eyes are one of his most distinctive characteristics, but they are prone to a number of genetic eye disorders as well as to frequent injuries.

Teeny-tiny Chihuahuas? They’re cute, but they are also fragile and more prone to medical problems like hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). 

Most Chihuahuas live 12-14 years.



GROOMING

Chihuahuas come in two coat types: smooth and long. Smooth Chihuahuas wear a velvety, shiny, close-fitting coat and have a ruff — an area of thicker, longer hair — around the neck. They have a scant covering of hair on the head and ears. The tail should be furry, not bare.

Smooth Chihuahuas shed, but they are so small that the amount is manageable for all but the most house proud. Brush them weekly with a rubber grooming glove or soft bristle brush to remove dead hair and keep the skin and coat healthy.

The long-coated Chihuahua is the product of a recessive gene, meaning a puppy must have the gene from both parents for the long coat to express itself, so he isn’t seen in litters as frequently as the smooth. The long, soft coat is flat or slightly curly, and the dog has a ruff around the neck, fringed ears, feathering on the legs and a plumed tail. The hair on the rest of the body is almost as smooth as that on the smooth Chihuahua. Long-coated Chihuahuas are beautiful, and they’re easy to groom, but they do shed seasonally.


Brush the longcoat with a soft bristle brush once or twice a week. Use a stainless steel comb to remove tangles from the hair on the ears, legs and tail.

If you brush the Chihuahua faithfully, he shouldn’t need frequent baths. If he spends a lot of time on your furniture or in your bed, though, there’s nothing wrong with bathing him as often as a couple of times a week. Use a gentle shampoo made for dogs and dry him thoroughly so he doesn’t get chilled. Never let him sit around and air dry.




Keep your Chihuahua’s big ears clean with a solution recommended by your veterinarian. Don’t use cotton swabs inside the ear; they can push gunk further down into it. Wipe out the ear with a cotton ball, never going deeper than the first knuckle of your finger.

Trim his nails regularly, usually every couple of weeks. They should never be so long that you hear them clicking on the floor.



HOUSEPET POTENTIAL




Chihuahuas really need to live indoors and their diminutive size means their space and exercise needs are accommodated inside the home. However, they are active little dogs that enjoy a walk.

Chihuahuas can be easily injured if dropped or handled incorrectly, so supervision of young children around Chihuahuas - as with all dogs -  is required at all times.


They are well suited to homes with older adults and may be great companions for people with limited space.

For more information on the breed, please contact:

Chihuahua Club of NSW
Chihuahua Club of QLD
Chihuahua Club of SA
Chihuahua Club of VIC

If you’d like to rehome a Chihuahua, please contact:

Chihuahua Rescue Australia

Chihuahua Rescue Victoria

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