Critter Culture
Tiny Dog, Big Heart: Facts About the Chihuahua

Tiny Dog, Big Heart: Facts About the Chihuahua

Critter Culture Staff



Of all the dogs in the world, the Chihuahua is probably one of the most misunderstood. But, there are many reasons why the American Kennel Club lists these tiny, yet graceful canines at number 35 on their list of most popular breeds. While they may be small in stature, Chihuahuas have plenty of personality to make up for it. They can be a bit stubborn and strong-willed, but they’re intelligent and affectionate companions that will bring you many years of faithful companionship.


The Chihuahua has genetic origins in Mexico

Archaeologists have discovered the likenesses of the Chihuahua dog on artifacts from lost civilizations all over the world. While historians don’t agree on the breed’s origins, they are likely the descendants of the Techichi dog, a heavier dog from the ancient Toltec civilization that lived in central Mexico in the 9th century. At one point, historians believed the dogs may have come from China. But geneticists specializing in canine ancestry say modern Chihuahuas share a DNA type with that of the Toltec companion dogs, which indicates this breed has Mexican roots. The name comes from the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

breed Techichi dog chihuahua by Bachova / Getty Images


Size matters, but not to the Chihuahua

One of the most visible aspects of a Chihuahua is its size. As an adult, they should grow to between five and eight inches in height and weigh no more than six pounds. Males usually have shorter bodies than females. Yet, even though the AKC includes them in the toy breeds category, the Chihuahuas don’t seem bothered by it. They’ll stand up to much larger breeds if the need arises, so owners need to take special care to guard them against potentially harmful situations.

size males six pounds canine knape / Getty Images


There are two different types of coats

The Chihuahua breed has two coats, smooth or long. They can be a variety of colors, including black, blue, chocolate, fawn, cream, red, gold, silver, or white. Or, they can be a combination of these colors, with white markings. Some coats are brindled, a single solid color with streaks of another color. Others are sable, meaning the hairs have black tips, with a base color of fawn or silver. Many chihuahuas have a black or blue mask, or markings in white, cream, fawn, red, or a merle or dappled pattern.

black white mask markings puppies ~User7565abab_575 / Getty Images


They have a big personality

Although charming and loyal, Chihuahuas have the attitude of a much larger dog. Without guidance, they can take over a household using little more than their saucy demeanor, fearlessness, and a protective instinct toward their favorite human. The only time a Chihuahua shivers is when it’s cold. Being timid or afraid is not in their nature. A unique trait of the breed is, outside of their human BFF, they prefer to spend time with other Chihuahuas rather than other breeds.

charming loyal saucy chihuahuas Kurt Pas / Getty Images


Chihuahuas often attach with one person in the household

While the breed can adapt to a family, single-person households are generally a better fit. Most Chihuahuas tend to bond with one individual in the home, even if there are other people that they interact with every day. Their desire to be close to their main person can become obsessive without proper training. They make a great watchdog due to their protective nature and will bark whenever they feel a threat is nearby. Their hearing is ten times more sensitive than a human’s, so they’ll hear sounds long before their humans do.

close human watchdog sleeping Giulio_Fornasar / Getty Images


They’re smart and devoted lapdogs.

A book published in 1994 ranking the intelligence of dogs placed Chihuahuas at a below-average level based on opinions of obedience judges. But those familiar with the breed questioned the accuracy of the low ranking. Working dogs like Border Collies or German Shepherds, for example, have higher obedience and working intelligence levels. A Chihuahua’s motivation is to be a devoted companion. Breeders honed them to be lap dogs and develop strong bonds with their owners. Their intelligence is both instinctive and adaptive, which researchers say is more important. However, it doesn’t mean that some Chihuahuas can’t excel at obedience trials as well.

intelligence motivation instinctive adaptive companion miodrag ignjatovic / Getty Images


They need exercise and training like any other breed

The Chihuahua is an excellent apartment dog, sheds very little, and requires minimal grooming. They take up very little space. Chihuahuas prefer curling up next to their favorite person, rather than running around and wreaking havoc in their home. These little canines have a lot of energy, but they tire out easily. Because they tend to be stubborn and strong-willed, socialization with people and other dogs is important, beginning in puppyhood. Daily walks, obedience, or agility classes, and other activities will help prevent behavioral issues and keep them physically fit.

White and black chihuahua running through grass towards the camera. Bigandt_Photography / Getty Images


A Chihuahua has specific dietary needs

Chihuahuas have high metabolisms. Twice-a-day feedings with quality dog food will keep your Chihuahua healthy. However, these tiny dogs tend to become overweight, so owners should keep an eye on the pet’s daily calorie consumption. As puppies, Chihuahuas need access to food at all times, or they will become hypoglycemic, meaning they’ll experience low blood sugar. Signs of the condition are listlessness and a lack of energy. Hypoglycemia can be a life-threatening condition.

A photo of a chihuahua mix pet dog eating a homemade peanut butter birthday cake against a purple studio background laurapea / Getty Images


Chihuahuas have long life spans

One of the top benefits of sharing your life with a Chihuahua is that they have the potential for being around for a long time. These pint-sized pets have a life expectancy of 14 to 16 years. But like all breeds, there are health conditions that regularly occur within the breed. Smaller dogs like the Chihuahua tend to have issues with displaced knee caps. Because of their protruding eyes, they are also prone to genetic eye disorders. And, some Chihuahuas have a molera, a soft area under the forehead skin, where the bony plates of the skull failed to fuse. A veterinarian can identify the issue through an exam.

life span healthy smaller chihuahua Ksenia Raykova / Getty Images


There is no teacup-size size Chihuahua

Some breeders charge a premium price for a super-small Chihuahua. They may be cute, but the AKC does not recognize any sizes outside of the breed standard. Dogs described as “teacup size,” weighing two to three pounds, are more fragile and prone to medical issues, including hypoglycemia. The recognized health challenges—such as eye disorders—that occur in the Chihuahua breed can have more serious health implications in these smaller dogs.

teacup size small health tiny chihuahua TRAVELARIUM / Getty Images


Chihuahua-proofing your home

Chihuahuas may be small, but their curiosity knows no bounds, and you'll need to make sure your home is a safe haven for your pint-sized companion. Remove any hazards or potential dangers within their reach, such as loose cords or toxic plants. Use childproof locks on cabinets to prevent access to harmful substances.

Swallowing small objects can lead to serious health issues, so regularly check for any items that may have fallen to the floor and keep them out of your chihuahua's reach.

Close up of a white child safety lock on a cabinet Meredith Heil / Getty Images


Stress-free traveling with chihuahuas

Chihuahuas love being close to their humans, so naturally, you'll want to take them along on your adventures. Whether you're embarking on a road trip or flying to a new destination, proper planning is crucial for a stress-free journey. Secure your chihuahua in a well-ventilated crate or a properly fitted harness when traveling by car. Make frequent stops for stretching, bathroom breaks, and hydration. Never leave your chihuahua unattended in a parked car, as they can overheat quickly.

If traveling by air, familiarize yourself with the airline's pet policies and requirements. Ensure your chihuahua is comfortable in an airline-approved carrier and has the necessary documentation, such as health certificates and identification tags. Gradually introduce your chihuahua to the carrier before the trip to help alleviate anxiety.

brown short hair chihuahua dog sitting in front of traveler pet carrier bag with travel accessories, ready to travel. Safe travel with animals. Phuttharak / Getty Images


Chihuahuas and agility competitions

Think chihuahuas are all about cute outfits and lapdog activities? Think again! These tiny canines can surprise you with their athleticism and agility. Chihuahua agility competitions are a fantastic way to showcase their skills and bond with your pet. Agility training keeps your chihuahua physically and mentally stimulated. The courses typically consist of obstacles such as jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and A-frames. Chihuahuas can excel in agility and impress everyone with their speed and precision.

When starting agility training, remember to use positive reinforcement and rewards to motivate your furbaby. Take it slow and allow them to build confidence gradually. Joining a local dog training club or enrolling in agility classes can provide professional guidance and a supportive community of fellow chihuahua enthusiasts.

Tiny little Chihuahua Kyle Reynolds / Getty Images


Chihuahuas as therapy dogs

Despite their small size, chihuahuas possess a remarkable capacity to provide emotional support and comfort as therapy dogs. Their empathetic nature and affectionate demeanor make them ideal companions for individuals experiencing physical or emotional challenges.

Chihuahuas are known for their strong bond with their owners, and this bond extends to those in need. Whether visiting hospitals or nursing homes, or participating in therapy programs, these little bundles of energy have a way of brightening people's days and offering a sense of calm and happiness.

Their small size allows them to be easily transported and comfortably sit on laps or bedside tables. The presence of a dog can help reduce anxiety, provide companionship, and even motivate recovery. If you have a well-trained and socialized chihuahua, consider exploring therapy dog certification programs in your area.

woman hugging dog ChayTee / Getty Images


Chihuahuas' influence in pop culture

Chihuahuas have made quite a mark in pop culture, appearing in many movies and television shows. Their tiny size and distinct appearance have captured hearts, from the iconic portrayal of Bruiser, Elle Woods' beloved chihuahua in "Legally Blonde," to the Taco Bell commercials featuring the charismatic mascot. Their sassy attitude and undeniable charm have made them popular choices for comedic and endearing roles in the entertainment industry.

These cultural representations have not only increased chihuahuas' visibility but have also perpetuated their reputation as spirited and lovable companions. It's no wonder that these little dogs continue to hold a special place in the hearts of dog lovers everywhere.

dog spa wellness damedeeso / Getty Images


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