The Chihuahua is named after the Mexican state where it was discovered in the mid-1800s. Some experts think the Aztecs or Incas developed the dog, while others say it can be traced to Spanish dogs as far back as the 1500s.
They may be pint-sized, but the Chihuahua has a big personality so it’s no wonder they are one of the most popular breeds of pet dogs today. They can be rather fierce, despite their diminutive size. They’re excellent companions and very loyal, but can develop undesirable personality traits if not socialised properly early on.
Chihuahuas weigh around 2 kilograms and stand at only around five inches high. They can have a smooth and short coat, or a long and soft one with fringed ear and legs and come in almost any colour. They have a domed skull, short and pointed muzzles, big and round eyes, and large pointing ears – in comparison to their size at least!
The Chihuahua is a very intelligent breed, and can be wilful at times, so use positive training methods to set clear boundaries. They are active little things so while they only need around a 30 minute walk a day, you’ll need to keep their brains and bodies busy to stop them becoming anxious, neurotic, and developing other behavioural problems.
Early socialisation with children, strangers and other animals in a safe and positive way is so important. They do tend to forget their size and don’t back off if they are confronted by a large or aggressive dog, so you do need to be very mindful of this when out on walks or socialising them in new environments.
While they are very affectionate and make for great family pets, they really aren’t recommended for homes with young children as their small stature does increase their risk of being injured. They are vulnerable little creatures and it’s so easy to pick them up and try to protect them when out and about, but this only reinforces their cautious nature.
The Chihuahua is definitely not a breed that copes well with being left alone as they can be prone to separation anxiety.
When it comes to their health and lifespan, Chihuahuas are considered a healthy breed, however heart disease is common in Chihuahuas. While there is no actual cure for heart disease, there are medications and things you can do to slow its progress, so early detection is important.
They can be prone to persistent fontanelles as well as several neurological conditions associated with abnormalities of the brain, spinal cord and base of the skull including hydrocephalus, Chiari malformation and atlanto-axial subluxation. Some live symptom free, while others may require complex surgery with a veterinary neurosurgeon to have a chance at a normal life.
Like many small dogs Chihuahuas are also prone to patellar luxation, which is the dislocation of the kneecap. Likewise, dental disease is common in toy breeds, like the Chihuahua, as well.
Fortunately, most of the conditions Chihuahuas are susceptible to are treatable, so that’s where choosing the right pet insurance for your dog can help and ask the breeder to provide certified health clearances for patellas and heart conditions.
About the Author: Lara Shannon is a certified dog behaviourist and trainer, pet food nutrition specialist, Executive Producer and Host of Pooches at Play on Channel 10 and editor of Poochesatplay.com. Lara also runs her own dog training business in Melbourne’s Bayside area and is the Author of World of Dogs and Eat, Play, Love Your Dog