The Chihuahua dog breed is the smallest of all dog breeds, with a typical weight range of three to six pounds. There is a large variety in size, shape, color, and even coat type.
Perhaps because of that range, and because of their loyal attachment to their owners, the Chihuahua dog breed is a very popular pet.
But is this lapdog right for you? Let’s take a closer look at the type of family it will suit.
What’s In This Guide
- Chihuahuas At A Glance
- In-depth Breed Review
- Chihuahua Training And Care
- Pros And Cons Of Getting A Chihuahua
Our readers’ most popular and frequently asked questions about this tiny breed.
- Are Chihuahuas good family dogs?
- What were Chihuahua dogs originally bred for?
- How smart is a Chihuahua dog?
Breed At A Glance
- Popularity: 32 out of 190 breeds ranked by the AKC
- Purpose: companion
- Weight: typically between 3-6 pounds
- Temperament: loving but feisty
Chihuahua Breed Review: Contents
- History and original purpose
- Fun facts about Chihuahuas
- Chihuahua appearance
- Chihuahua temperament
- Training and exercising
- Chihuahua health and care
- Do Chihuahuas make good family pets?
- Rescuing a Chihuahua
- Finding a Chihuahua puppy
- Raising a Chihuahua puppy
- Popular Chihuahua breed mixes
- Products and accessories
History And Original Purpose
There is some debate about the origins of this breed.
Most people assume they come from Mexico. This is a logical assumption, since the breed was named after the state of Chihuahua, Mexico.
However, they didn’t get this name until the 1800s. And it is still quite possible they came from another country.
Some of their ancestors may also have been native pet dogs. The Techichi dogs of the Toltec civilization are very similar.
This would mean the breed has been in Mexico for a very long time. Possibly even thousands of years!
Some people believe they can trace the Chihuahua’s ancestors back to the 1500s.
Fun Facts About Chihuahuas
What do Britney Spears, Demi Moore, Paris Hilton, and Madonna all have in common? They have all been pictured with their Chihuahuas.
You can bet that photos of the breed with celebs have helped to increase the popularity of these little cuties!
And the breed has also been featured in a number of films, sometimes even as the main character. Beverly Hills Chihuahua is a classic example.
Despite his tiny size, the Chihuahua is as much a dog as any other breed. These little dogs enjoy doggy activities, and have a long history of being friends with humans.
Although small in size, they have quite a loud bark and are great watch dogs. In this way, they are like many terriers.
The Chihuahua is a very small and dainty dog. He has a balanced body shape and long arched neck. His eyes are large and round, and typically set fairly close together.
Large, upright ears complete the look. They also add to the dog’s ‘cute as a button’ appeal!
Chihuahuas can come in many colors, combinations, and variations.
Many breed standards do not specify the ideal height of a Chihuahua, but its height can range between 6 to 12 or even to 15 inches.
Both the USA and UK Chihuahua breed clubs put a top weight limit of 6 pounds on the breed. But there is often a difference between a dog bred for show and one which is a companion animal.
Many pet Chihuahuas weigh more, possibly even up to ten pounds. And that is not a bad thing, as long as the dogs in question are not fat.
Types Of Chihuahua
Breed standards call for an apple-shaped head, with a fairly short muzzle and eyes that are round but which do not protrude from the head. This type is referred to as “apple head.”
There are some Chihuahuas with flatter, less domed heads. These are known as deer head Chihuahuas. Some people prefer the dogs with flatter heads.
These two types are not separate breeds, merely variations within the breed.
The same is true of what are popularly called teacup Chihuahuas. These are very small variants. This can happen when the dogs are bred down purposefully, such as mating runts with runts. Or it may happen as the result of introducing a dwarfism gene.
But there, sadly, a lot of health issues when it comes to very small Chihuahuas.
We do not recommend purchasing a “teacup” variation of any breed, and especially not a breed that already tends to be very small and fragile. Breeders who specialize in teacup Chihuahuas do not generally have the overall health of the dog at heart.
For more information on this, please read our in-depth article on teacup Chihuahuas.
Long Haired Chihuahuas Vs. Short Haired Chihuahuas
The story is a little bit different when it comes to coat length variations, however. This breed is split into two coat types, short-haired and long-haired.
It is thought that the short-haired variety came first. The coat of a short-haired version will be smooth, soft to the touch, close and glossy.
The long-haired Chihuahua is the same size and shape. They simply have longer fur. This should be soft and flat or slightly wavy.
Long haired varieties have more fur on their ears, legs and tail too.
Other than that, there is really no difference between them!
You may have heard that this breed can be grumpy, or even prone to snap. There is some truth in that. However, there are many friendly Chis, too.
Chihuahuas have a terrier-like temperament. They can be a little feisty, to put it mildly. These little dogs definitely have big personalities!
With their long history as companion dogs, though, many are loving and devoted to their owners.
This devotion can, however, lead to guarding. This in turn can lead to growling, and even snapping.
They also seem more capable than some other breeds of turning on their owners. A 2008 study found that they were one of the most aggression prone breeds.
Training And Exercising Your Chihuahua
Some Chihuahuas are easier to train than others. They are very smart dogs. Some work at advanced levels in competitions or on TV.
However, your devoted pup may show his loyalty with unwanted guarding, or be difficult to potty train. He also will need thorough socializing as a puppy.
It’s important to get good Chihuahua-specific training advice from the beginning.
Due to their small size, they don’t need a huge amount of exercise. This doesn’t mean that they can go without a daily walk or having some yard time. Little dogs still need to run and play outdoors. Regular but light exercise will also help keep this dog in top condition.
Potty training very tiny dogs can be a little more tricky. You will need to be patient.
Very tiny dogs have very tiny bladders. They therefore need to empty them more often.
Be patient and persistent. Follow good potty training rules, and you’ll succeed. Crate training may also be useful.
Chihuahua Health And Care
Chihuahuas are definitely prone to certain health issues. Most are due to their size. This article goes into more depth.
Being on the small side is a health advantage when it comes to dogs. But being very tiny indeed is not.
Hence, tiny dogs share a range of sometimes serious health problems.
They are prone to stress injuries like patellar dislocation. This is where the kneecap pops out of place. The Canine Health Information Center recommends that the breed are health tested for patellar issues, as well as cardiac and eye troubles.
Other health problems include epilepsy and low blood sugar. There is also a risk of tracheal collapse.
It’s usually possible to avoid very low blood sugar by feeding your Chihuahua little and often.
In other words, more small meals rather than one or two larger meals each day.
Chihuahua Dental Problems
Extra dental care is needed for tiny dogs. Their teeth get crowded together in their little mouths.
This crowding makes decay more likely.
This breed needs all the help it can get against dental disease. Daily tooth brushing is a must. However, it can’t ensure good dental health.
Diet can be an ally in fighting tooth decay. Steer clear of sweet treats. Food high in sugar content could make dental issues more likely.
Your Chihuahua will need regular dental checks. Keep an eye on his mouth yourself too.
This way you can spot early on if it looks bad. Dental work can then be carried out early.
This breed also suffers from difficulty giving birth. They often need assistance.
Why this happens exactly isn’t incredibly clear.
But it is likely to be due to the extreme physical features of the dog. Namely, the bulging head shape. Breeding for this head shape, sadly, isn’t helpful when it comes to health.
This is vital to keep in mind if you intend to have puppies.
Your female Chihuahua will need extra care during birth. This is likely to mean additional costs.
There is also the danger of necrotizing meningoencephalitis.
In this illness, brain tissue swells and dies off. This results in random and strange movements.
It can also bring about severe pain.
Chihuahuas have this risk in common with some other toy breeds. It’s likely also a result of their small heads.
Don’t forget, if you have any worries about your dog’s health, your vet is the person to contact.
Chihuahuas can easily be poisoned by quite small amounts of chocolate. Or, indeed, any other substances that are toxic to dogs. This is due to their size.
Be very careful to avoid letting your dog eat chewing gum. It often contains xylitol, which is a poison to all dogs.
The Chihuahua is not just small. He is also fragile and prone to broken bones.
These dogs are at risk of injury from being knocked or dropped by their human family. Falls and other accidents in the home can be serious.
Tiny dogs are also at risk from other dogs. Whether in attack or in play, a larger dog could pick a Chihuahua up and shake him. Such trauma could result in serious injury or even death.
Sadly, fatal attacks can and do happen. So you will need to take steps to ensure your dog’s safety outdoors.
Be careful when out walking. Mind who you allow your dog to approach or play with.
You can’t be as off-hand as you might be with larger dogs. This is especially true with puppies, as they’ll be even tinier!
Chihuahua Lifespan And Grooming
So how long do Chihuahuas live? Even with all the above issues, we’ve seen many claims for long life in Chihuahuas.
But a study published in 2010 looked at 407 Chihuahuas, including 71 death reports. The study found that the breed has an average lifespan of about 12.4 years.
Despite this, their lifespan is by no means the worst dog breed when it comes to a long life.
Short haired Chihuahuas are very low maintenance. They don’t need much grooming.
Still, it’s good to get any dog used to having a brush run through its coat.
If you are busy, the short haired dog will be fine if you skip a few days. Their long-haired cousins will require more frequent brushing. Their fur may also need a light trim to keep them in good order.
Do Chihuahuas Make Good Family Pets?
It’s true that as popular as Chihuahuas are, they’re frequently found as a family pet, and often along with other dogs as well. However, we cannot recommend that you choose this breed if you have small children or larger dogs.
Chihuahuas are fragile and easily injured if dropped by children.
Children under the age of seven also can’t control how tightly they grip your little dog. They can hurt them.
And larger dogs could easily hurt the Chihuahua, even without meaning to.
For this reason, and because of the possible aggression and guarding problems mentioned above, the breed is not recommended as a pet for a family with small children.
Rescuing A Chihuahua
If you are thinking of getting a Chihuahua, do consider rescuing an older dog that needs a home.
Consider adopting from an animal shelter. There are many small dogs waiting for a loving home.
Adopting a dog will save the often considerable fees you would pay to a breeder. And it gives a needful dog another chance in life.
TIP: Bringing home a rescue dog? A great way avoid “accidents” is to treat them like a puppy.
They won’t instinctively know where you want them to pee. Let them out often. And keep them on a washable floor until they have settled in.
For Chihuahua rescues, take a look at our list below.
Finding A Chihuahua Puppy
On the other hand, you may want the chance to pick your baby Chihuahua and watch them grow. In this case, you will likely have a lot of options as these are popular dogs. But there are some cautions in order.
Make sure you pick a breeder who is open about health testing and parents’ background. The parents of your puppy will help to give you a good idea of the puppy’s future nature. It is a good idea to ask to meet both parents. Make sure they are each friendly when you see them.
Please be sure to avoid puppy mills, pet stores, and backyard breeders. The first two will not have the best interest of the puppy at heart, and will be focused on making money, often at the expense of the stock’s health. The second often will not have health tested their dogs.
Put Your Dog’s Health First
Don’t be sucked into buying a puppy from very tiny parents. Slightly larger dogs may even be healthier. More space in the skull and mouth will help ensure a better quality of life.
So it’s a good idea to avoid any breeder that is selling ‘teacup’ puppies. A bigger baby Chihuahua will have a better chance of a long and healthy life.
For helpful information on finding puppies, take a look at our puppy search guide.
One thing to keep in mind is the likelihood of finding a mixed breed dog that has one Chihuahua parent. This is actually often a benefit to the dog’s health. And mixed breeds are increasingly popular.
Raising A Chihuahua Puppy
Remember, temperament is only partly inherited. The way puppies are raised is important too.
Being very thorough with socialization is the key to a friendly dog. This will help to avoid the puppy growing into a snappy or grumpy adult.
Caring for a vulnerable puppy is a big responsibility. There are some great guides to help you with all aspects of puppy care and training. You’ll find them listed on our Chihuahua puppy page.
Popular Chihuahua Breed Mixes
Are you interested in a mixed breed Chihuahua?
There are lots of varieties available:
- Chihuahua Poodle mix
- Jack Chi mix
- Pomchi mix
- Chihuahua Terrier mix
- Chihuahua Dachshund mix
- Pitbull Chihuahua mix
- Chug mix
Comparing The Chihuahua With Other Breeds
It can be hard to truly compare one breed with another, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to know which breed will suit you best.
Let’s compare the Chihuahua with the Shih Tzu. Both small dogs, with spunky personalities, they yet have more differences than they do similarities. Which breed is right for you?
If you’re thinking of getting a Chi, but not entirely set for some reason, you might also like to consider these other small breeds.
Pros And Cons Of Getting A Chihuahua
- Not well suited for homes with kids
- Better as only dogs or with other small dogs
- Many health issues
- Potential for aggression and guarding
- Very fragile
- Loyal and loving
- Perfect for small houses or apartment living
- A good possible choice for single people or for couples, as well as families with older children
Chihuahua Products And Accessories
Chihuahua Breed Rescues
As popular as Chihuahuas and their mixes are, there always seem to be some in need of a home.
Breed rescue organisations include:
- Chihuahua Rescue and Transport (USA)
- Rescue UK
- Chihuahua Rescue Australia and
- Canadian Chihuahua Rescue and Transport
Do you know about a breed rescue that’s not on our list? Comment below and let us know.
References And Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal
- Schalamon et al. 2006. Analysis of Dog Bites In Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years. Pediatrics
- Duffy D et al. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2008
- Strain G. Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk. The Veterinary Journal 2004
- Packer et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation On Canine Health. PlosOne
- Adams VJ, et al. 2010. Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- Canine Health Information Center
- CHIC Health Testing – Chihuahua, The Chihuahua Club Of America
- Capik, 2010. Periodontal Health vs. Various Preventive Means in Toy Dog Breeds. Acta Veterinaria
- Priester, 1972. Sex, Size, and Breed as Risk Factors in Canine Patellar Dislocation . JAVMA
- Higgins, 2008. Necrotizing Meningoencephalitis in Five Chihuahua Dogs. Veterinary Pathology
- The Chihuahua Club Of America
- The British Chihuahua Club
- Gendler, 2007. Canine dystocia: Medical and surgical management Vet Folio
- Crossley, 2005. Periodontal Disease in Carnivores Dentistry For Small Animal Practitioners
- Periodontal Health vs. Various Preventive Means in Toy Dog Breeds
- Brutlag, A., et al., 2015, Xylitol Toxicity in Dogs, VCA