Originating in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico, these tiny creatures have a history of being treated like little gods and goddesses! The only authentic "toy" breed, by that meaning nothing has been genetically tampered to achieve their minute size; most have giant egos and are legends in their own minds.
There are two types of Chihuahuas. The Apple Dome or more affectionately referred to as an Apple Head and the Deer Head. The names totally describe the physical characteristics of each. Because of the size and shape of their heads, most Chihuahuas are born by Caesarian section. There is a soft spot on their heads, called a "molera", where the skull is not totally sealed. Caution must be taken when handling this teeny dog, as with most, the space may remain unsealed their entire life.
They come in a variety of colors. Some solid, others splashed, merle or marked. Responsible Chihuahua breeders are trying to do away with the merle line, as they have a propensity to be deaf, blind or both.
There are long and shorthaired types of Chihuahuas. Needless to say, the longhaired type requires a bit more effort in grooming. They also shed more.
Chihuahuas can weigh as little as two pounds, with an average weight around six pounds. Care must be taken with overfeeding, as they do gain weight quickly, leading to serious health issues. Their average life span can be 15 years or more.
In addition to weight gain, their most common health issues include: rheumatism, slipped stifle, eye problems, wheezing, colds, stress, epilepsy and seizures. A rapid drop in blood sugar is usually the source of most epilepsy and seizure episodes. They can be fatal. It is a good idea to keep Nutra-Cal, Karo or maple syrup handy. Slipping just a little from your fingertip into their mouth can prevent a tragedy.
Because of their size, extra precautions must be taken to keep them away from toxic products as well as protect them from the cold and overheating. It's a good idea to keep a sweater handy and use it when needed. These dogs are cat-like when it comes to following the sun. Keep an eye on them to prevent them from overheating.
What is most commonly heard to describe a Chihuahua is: proud, self-important, affectionate, playful, silly loyal, alert, demanding, stubborn, and jealous. Add to that list: a good watchdog, overly confident, intelligent, aggressive with dogs they are not familiar with and loveable. A Chihuahua without obedience training and socialization at a very young age may develop serious behavioral issues, including being fearful. They can quickly take on what is called Small Dog Syndrome if not desensitized and shown boundaries early on. Because they are so small and usually very spoiled, they are master manipulators and can become what is known as "fear biters."
They need fair, firm and consistent leadership at all times. Otherwise, you will find yourself calling a trainer and describing classic behavioral issues the trainer has heard countless times from other exasperated Chihuahua owners. It is much easier and less expensive to start that puppy on the road to being a well mannered, well adjusted dog by enrolling in a positive reinforcement, punishment-free Puppy Kindergarten, than wait too long and have to modify unacceptable behaviors.
Because of their tendency to protect themselves by snapping, if not raised with and/or desensitized to children while young, they may not make the ideal pet for a young family. Be aware, they can sometimes become overly attached to and possessive of one member of the family.
Like lots of small dogs, house-training can be a taxing challenge! Stay calm. Be patient and consistent. They will eventually make the association as to where they need to go, to do what they have to do!
Do not be taken in by unscrupulous marketing gimmicks. There is no such thing as a "Teacup," "Pocket" or "Mini" Chihuahua. Make sure you use a responsible, trustworthy breeder. It is well worth the extra few dollars. All too often, Chihuahuas are impulsively purchased from flea markets and pet stores. Horrendous puppy mill and/or sloppy backyard breeding usually produce an animal that can make what should be a fantastic experience, expensive and even heartbreaking.
Even though they do not require much exercise, one of the biggest mistakes many Chihuahua owners make is not walking their dog enough. They need to be walked! To avoid tracheal collapse, it is recommended that a harness rather than a collar be used when walking them.
Bottom line: Do your homework! Learn as much as you can about these little canine divas and divos before making a commitment to them. You will find yourself immediately captured by their endearing nature. If you make it clear right from the start just who is the boss, a Chihuahua just may be the perfect dog for you. Note: California has an enormous number of Chihuahuas in shelters and rescues. Check them out. It could be where you find your new best friend patiently waiting for you.