Chihuahua Dog

Breed Category: Toy
Country of Origin: Mexico
Average Size: 15-25 cm (at the withers)
Average Weight: 2-3 kg
Average Life Span: 15-17 years
Grooming Requirements: Low
Exercise Requirements: Low

History

The Chihuahua is the smallest breed of dog and is native to the country of Mexico.  It is named for Chihuahua, a state in northern Mexico that shares a border with the United States.  The earliest known record of this type of dog was found in this region, where it first became popular.  Today it maintains its reputation as a popular companion dog.

While the origin of the Chihuahua is largely undecided, some suggest that the breed stemmed from the fennec fox, a small breed of fox from North Africa.  Like the modern day Chihuahua, the fennec fox has a small body, large eyes and oversized ears.

Another theory is that the Chihuahua descended from the Techichi, a companion dog kept during Mexico’s ancient Toltec civilisation.  Artwork and fossils dating back to the 9th century paint the portrait of a dog similar in appearance to the Chihuahua, though the modern breed is slightly smaller in size.

Additionally, some believe that the Chihuahua originated on the Mediterranean island of Malta, as European art from the late 1400s depicts a dog that bears a strong resemblance to the Chihuahua.

Appearance

While all Chihuahuas are small, the breed boasts a wide variety of colours, sizes and coats.  The Chihuahua breed is sometimes categorised by size using terms such as miniature, pocket size, standard and teacup though most reputable breeders avoid these terms.  This type of dog can range from 15-25 cm in height and typically weighs between 2 and 3 kg.  The Chihuahua’s body is short, small and mostly proportionate.  The ears and eyes appear oversized on its tiny body, which are physical characteristics for which the breed is best known.

The Chihuahua’s coat is either long or smooth in texture, though the fur of long-coated Chihuahuas is often softer and smoother to the touch than the smooth-coated variety, which may be coarser in texture.  The coat is generally low maintenance and requires only occasional brushing.  The Chihuahua’s coat comes in a wide variety of colours and patterns.  The coat can be black, blue, chocolate, cream, fawn, tan, white or a combination of these colours.  It can be solid or spotted, though a merle coat is not accepted in the Australian breed standard due to health risks associated with the gene that causes the merle pattern.

Temperament

Chihuahuas have a reputation of being temperamental in nature, so early obedience training is important when the breed is kept as a companion dog.  The Chihuahua is extremely loyal to its caregiver and may become aggressive towards people or animals the dog feels are a threat to that relationship.

This breed is generally recommended for a single owner rather than a family, as they are not always tolerant and patient with young children.  If a Chihuahua is kept as a family pet, it is important that children treat the dog gently and with care in order to prevent the dog from snapping or biting.

Chihuahuas love a warm place to sleep and will often burrow themselves inside blankets or covers.  This is also a behaviour that helps them feel safe and secure.  The Chihuahua may tremble when it is excited, scared or cold.  This is common with the breed and is not usually an indicator of a health issue.

The Chihuahua is a highly intelligent, feisty and confident dog that does not require a great deal of exercise.  For this reason, it is suitable for those who live in big cities or apartments.

Health

The Chihuahua is very small in size, so even a slight weight gain can put undue stress on its organs and muscles.  Overweight Chihuahuas are also at a higher risk for diabetes.  Eating too much, especially unhealthy foods, is also hard on the dog’s teeth and may result in dental problems.

This breed may be at risk for epilepsy and low blood sugar.  The manner in which their eyes protrude from the head also make the breed more susceptible to eye injuries or infections.  Additionally, a heart condition or murmur may be present in the Chihuahua.

Another condition for which the Chihuahua may be at risk is hydrocephalus, which is a build-up of fluid in the brain.  This causes swelling and often leads to death.

A healthy Chihuahua can live to be 15-17 years of age.