At the mention of “Chihuahua”, most people will think of a pint-sized yapper in a handbag. But there’s more to this pocket rocket than being a one-time pet de jour for celebrities.
Chihuahuas have a long history that stretches back to the Toltec civilisation in Mexico, which makes them the oldest dog breed from the Americas. In fact, they took their name from a Mexican state where ancient ceramic pots depicting tiny dogs were discovered in the 1800s.
Today, it’s the 24th most popular breed in the US and is officially recognised by kennel clubs as the smallest dog in the world. And as most owners will tell you, it also has one of the biggest personalities.
Chihuahuas are tiny compared to other dogs and can be as short as 15cm, with a maximum height of 23cm. They weigh an average of 1.5kg-3kg, with no huge size difference between males and females.
Apart from their size, Chihuahuas are also characterised by a small head, short muzzle and large round eyes that are set far apart. They also have large pointy ears and a tail that curls over their back or slightly to the side.
They come in two variations – short haired and long haired. Both are available in a wide range of colours and colour combinations.
Chihuahuas are quite lively, proud dogs and have bravery and cheerfulness by the bucket load. However, due to their size and cuteness, most owners tend to baby Chihuahuas, which can lead to severe behavioural issues, like jealousy, aggression and suspicion. This is also the reason why Chihuahuas are generally not recommended for families with children, as they can be untrustworthy if not trained and socialised properly.
To prevent this, owners need to be firm during training and always treat a Chihuahua the same as they would a bigger dog. This will help prevent “small dog syndrome” and make for a more pleasant pet.
Chihuahuas are indoor dogs and don’t deal well with the cold. They are excellent apartment dogs, but owners are reminded that their small size doesn’t mean that they can be kept in small spaces.
Like any other breed, Chihuahuas need to be physically and mentally stimulated to keep them from developing behavioural issues. The breed is quite active and will do well with a daily walk or some playtime.
Chihuahuas have fewer genetic defects than other dogs, but are prone to a few health issues resulting from their smaller size. These include weight gain, weak teeth and wheezing due to their small muzzles. Their size also means that most Chihuahuas can only give birth via Caesarean section, as puppies are born with large heads. Owners should be mindful of puppies’ heads as they are born with a molera (a soft spot on the skull). This should close up within 6 months, but can remain open throughout life.
Health concerns aside, Chihuahuas have quite a long lifespan. They can be part of your family for between 15-20 years.