Breed of the Week: Chihuahua

This week we’re going to take a look at the Chihuahua, because my Pixie is part Chihuahua, the USA’s biggest little dog.  Of course, I don’t mean in size.  No, I mean in attitude!  As most Chihuahua owners will attest, the Chihuahua has one of the biggest attitudes of all small dog breeds (funnily enough, I knew Pixie was the little dog for me because she was lacking in that big attitude).  They’re feisty little fellows without any idea that they’re not actually big dogs.

Taco Bell

“Yo Quiero Taco Bell,” anyone?  The campaign ad featuring the little Taco Bell Chihuahua named Gidget was one of two reasons the Chihuahua started to gain popularity among modern dog lovers.  The other reason, as one might suspect, is the tendency of rich young women to tote them around in their handbags.  The most famous among these is Tinker Bell owned by none other than Paris Hilton.

Chihuahua (state)

There are many theories about how the Chihuahua came about, but all agree, due to archaeological finds and local folklore, that the Chihuahua originated in Mexico.  There were even wheeled dog toys found from Mexico to El Salvador that represent both the “apple head” and “deer head” varieties of the Chihuahua.  They were named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.

The Chihuahua is a perfect candidate for apartment living, needing very little exercise to keep them happy.  They also can be, and often are, trained to potty on newspaper or puppy pads should their owner live in a high-rise building.

They are, in general, fiercely loyal to one person and may become overprotective of them as a result.  This can turn into aggressive behaviors such as growling, charging, nipping, snapping, and even biting.  These behaviors should not be encouraged.  No, not even if they seem cute.  “Cute” behaviors such as these can get a Chihuahua in a whole heap of trouble with people, other dogs, even the household cat.  Remember, these are small dogs, despite that big attitude, and their bones are much more fragile than their larger counterparts.  Imagine what damage even a little bite from a big dog could do to them.  Don’t take the risk!  Discourage those inappropriate behaviors early on.

Unfortunately, too many Chihuahua (and other small dog) owners don’t regulate their dogs’ behavior and they turn into what I like to call little terror tyrants.  Those are the little dogs that display those behaviors that would be unacceptable in a big dog, such as nipping, growling, snapping, charging at other people and/or dogs when they approach, jumping up on people without permission, peeing or pooping in the house, etc.  This is one of the major reasons for a very long time I was not particularly fond of the Chihuahua.  I’m still not particularly fond of most Chihuahuas, but I now know that’s mostly due to the owners and lack of training rather than the dogs, themselves.  That’s why when I adopted Pixie I was determined (and still am) that she would be treated just like we treat our big dogs.

It doesn’t help matters that the Chihuahua has a reputation for being spoiled and untrainable, so a lot of people won’t even bother to try.  This reputation is due to the tendency of Chihuahua owners to spoil their dogs and then neglect to train them.  Chihuahuas are, in actuality, very intelligent dogs and learn well with consistent direction and positive reinforcement in the form of frequent treats and praise from their person.

Most Chihuahuas are alert, noisily so, and will yap at any person, animal, and sometimes even thing, that dares intrude on what they consider their territory.  They’re not very fond of strangers, overall, and prefer to keep their affection reserved for their appointed few – their person and, sometimes, their person’s family.

They are not suited to homes with small children both due to their small size and fragile bones and their tendency to be high-strung and prone to nipping.  They are, however, perfect for people wanting a companion dog that will shower them with affection and want to be with them all the time.  They are wonderful lap and bed-warmers and will take any opportunity to get up and just be with their chosen person.  Owners shouldn’t be surprised if they even burrow under the blankets with them.  Chihuahuas love their dens and often feel safest when in the darkness of cozy blankets, pillows, or clothes hampers.  Possibly the best kind of dog bed for a Chihuahua or Chihuahua mix is a covered one.

Pixie bed between feet

Pixie loves sleeping under my blanket between my feet when it’s bedtime!

The Chihuahua comes in two coat types, short (also known as smooth) and long.

Dog Chihuahua Chihuahua Puppy Animal
Short-haired Chihuahua
Chiwawa Dog Chihuahua Animal Small Dog Small Pet
Long-haired Chihuahua

Neither type is suited to the outdoors due to their small size, which makes it near impossible for them to retain body heat in cold weather.  Both coats are easy to maintain, although if one wants less shedding, I suggest going with the long-haired Chihuahua.  One would think the short-haired ones would shed less, but they don’t.  Both require minimal brushing, only once or twice a week, to keep them looking nice and minimize what hair they do shed.  They can be a variety of colors, including black, white, chocolate (Pixie), fawn, tan, blue, and red.  They can also have a variety of coat patterns from solid, to marked, to splashed, even merle, though the merle coat pattern in Chihuahuas is only officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in the USA, due to many believing it to be the result of modern cross-breeding rather than coming about naturally through genetic drift.

If you are considering purchasing or adopting a Chihuahua, please do your research!  These dogs are not for everyone.  They are small, certainly, and little work in the way of grooming or feeding, but they can be plenty of trouble in a small package!  Always take into consideration your living situation, your temperament, the dog’s temperament, and your financial capabilities before purchasing or adopting any dog.

Fun Fact:  “Armpit Paranhas” is the name given to Chihuahuas that snap at anyone that approaches them or their owner when they’re being held, usually under their owner’s arm, thus the name.

Do you or have you owned a Chihuahua?  Please tell us about him/her in the comments below!  I’d love to hear about your experiences with the breed.

Have suggestions?  Comment below!

Have a breed you’d like to see featured in our next Breed of the Week?  Leave your suggestion in the comments below!

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