Chihuahua Breed Highlights

A dark-colored Chihuahua standing outside in the green grass

  • Chihuahuas are, quite literally, an ancient breed. Their roots can be traced to the Techichi dogs kept by the Toltecs and other Mesoamerican and Native American societies. Archeologists discovered artifacts depicting these Chihuahua ancestors dated as far back as 300 B.C. and European explorers reported seeing these small dogs in reports throughout the 16th century.

  • Chihuahuas are the only dog breed whose puppies are consistently born with a soft spot in their skull called the “molera,” which usually hardens by the time they are six months to one year old. Moleras are seen less often in Chihuahua mixes, toy breeds, or brachycephalic (flat-faced) puppies.

  • In 2014, the Arizona town of Maryvale was taken over by feral Chihuahuas, who, along with other stray dogs, would chase people down the street and otherwise terrorize the townsfolk.

Unique Physical Features

Trupanion Dog Breed Guide - Chihuahua illustration

Chihuahuas are known for being the smallest dog breed in the world, with the Guinness World Record being held by a Chihuahua named Heaven Sent Brandy, who measured only 6 inches long from nose to tip of the tail. But did you know they have two types of head shape? There’s the more round “apple head” or, the more slender “deer head” variation. The apple head is the standard for conformation (dog shows) in all of the major kennel clubs.

Unique Personality

Trupanion Dog Breed Guide - Chihuahua illustration

Chihuahuas have a big personality in a tiny body, and they tend to be a one-person dog. Once they fall in love with you, you’re their person! Bred as companion dogs, they love to be with their humans, resulting in the nickname “Purse Dogs” as they tend to be carried everywhere. Tiny but mighty, they won’t back down when they feel they need to protect their owner.

Preferred Lifestyle

Energy Level

dog energy level - medium (mall walker)

With Kids

Icon - outline of a little boy and girl

Chihuahuas can have a difficult time with young children who tend to be rough with animals. Proper socialization is key.

With Other Pets

Icon - cat and dog outline

The Chichi’s small size can also make living with other animals challenging if they’re no taught, from a young age, how to properly engage with animals of various sizes and energy levels.

Environment

Icon - outline of a house

Their tiny size makes them a great choice for apartment living, and their daily exercise needs are easily met by a quick walk around the block or indoor play.

Average Lifespan
(Range)

14 to 18 years

Average Size
(Range)

6 - 10 pounds

Breed Group

Toy

Similar Breeds

  • Papillon

  • Italian Greyhound

  • Chinese Crested

  • Miniature Pinscher

  • Xoloitzcuintli

History of the Chihuahua 

A white and fluffy Chihuahua dog

The Chihuahua’s ancestors were plentiful across what is now Mexico and the Southern United States before Europeans arrived in the Americas. Chihuahuas are believed to be descendants of the Techichi dogs kept by the Toltecs, with depictions of these types of dogs found on artifacts dating as far back as 300 BC in western Mexico. After the Toltec empire collapsed in the early 12th century, the Aztecs are believed to have taken the Techichi dog and bred it smaller, closer to our modern Chihuahua. Indigenous people kept these dogs as companions, used them to keep warm, and even believed they could take away pain and illness.

When Europeans arrived in the Americas, they saw these small, nearly hairless dogs in great numbers, especially in the region of Mexico known as Chihuahua — hence the breed’s name. In the late 1800s, many tourists from the United States brought them back across the border. And that’s how another amazing dog breed established roots in America.

U.S. History of the Chihuahua Over Time

The Chihuahua was first recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1908 when they registered a Chihuahua named “Beppie.” The Chihuahua Club of America was founded in 1923. It wasn’t until 1952 that the AKC officially separated the Chihuahua into two varieties based on coat type.

The breed gained popularity in the 1960s when many dog owners began looking for puppies that could grow to be companion dogs rather than working dogs, and the Chihuahua fit perfectly in their urban lifestyle (and often, their handbags). The Chihuahua once again grabbed the spotlight in the 1990s when Taco Bell chose a Chihuahua named Gidget to be their spokesdog, and celebrities such as Paris Hilton showed off their own Chihuahuas.

Chihuahua Behavior and Training

Chihuahuas are a smart and saucy breed. They work to please their owners and learn quickly. Keeping their minds engaged with training, especially when they are young puppies, builds the human-canine bond and helps prevent unwanted behavior.

Plays Well with Others?

  • Chihuahuas need proper proactive exposure to new sights, sounds, people, dogs, and other animals as a young puppy to prevent any future fear or reactivity. Because they bond closely to one person (or a few family members), they tend to be protective and territorial when strangers approach.

TRAINER TIP

Pair meeting new people or animals with high-value training treats or a favorite toy, and keep introductions short and sweet, so it doesn’t get overwhelming.

  • Their small size makes living with children difficult, as they can easily be injured with rough handling and don’t enjoy a lot of noise and activity. However, they will do well with children if they are socialized from puppyhood, and the children are respectful in their handling of the dog. Young children and dogs should always be supervised, and it’s helpful for a dog to have their own “safe space” where they can go when they need some quiet time.

  • Chihuahuas tend to hang with their own breed, enjoying the company of other Chihuahuas more than other larger breeds. They thrive in a one-dog household where they can rule the roost. However, when properly introduced and socialized as a puppy, they can live with other animals successfully.

TRAINER TIP

Helping Chihuahuas feel comfortable around bigger dogs is especially important. Their outsized “tough-guy” personality can make them an easy target for larger dogs if they try to start something out of fear reactivity.

Graphic - bouncing red ball image

Exercise Requirements

Chihuahuas may be small, but they have quite a lot of energy! Fortunately, their size makes it easy to provide them with adequate exercise, simply by walking around the home or around the block if the weather allows. Many Chihuahuas love to play with toys as well, providing another opportunity for exercise and bonding.

Their petite size means they shouldn’t be jumping from heights such as furniture or out of the car, as it’s easy for them to injure themselves. Chihuahuas can even be seriously injured in jumps or a fall from their owner’s arms. They’ll appreciate easier access to their favorite couch nesting spots with a ramp or dog stairs, and should be lifted in and out of cars and on and off furniture.

VETERINARIAN TIP

A few extra kibbles, treats, or shared “people food” can quickly add up to obesity-inducing calories, which causes discomfort, health issues, and a shorter lifespan. Avoid a chunky Chihuahua to help them live a long and happy life!

Mental Enrichment Needs

Mental enrichment is important for Chihuahuas, helping to keep them entertained and prevent unwanted behaviors. Keep their brain sharp by teaching new tricks, attending obedience classes, joining a dog sport, and providing dog puzzles and interactive toys. These activities are a great outlet for your Chihuahua puppy's energy.

Common Behavioral Issues

The Chihuahuas’ small size can lead to feelings of vulnerability or fear. As a result, they often learn to lash out defensively when they feel threatened. This can be prevented by working on gentle handling techniques when they are puppies and providing positive exposure training through introductions to a variety of people, animals, and environments that might be otherwise scary to such a small dog.

Chihuahuas are often described as “yappy” dogs — and they can bark a lot! To avoid potential problems, they simply need to be taught what to do instead of barking (being quiet, or a nice sit-stay) when someone, for example, comes to the door. Their sharp intellect makes this type of training fairly easy. Though some owners don’t initially see the need for training a small dog, all dogs benefit from training programs and practices to help build good habits and establish bonds with their human. Positive reinforcement training is crucial for a well-adjusted and happy Chihuahua!

TRAINER TIP

Inappropriate and aggressive behaviors such as nipping, biting, or resource guarding by Chihuahuas are often seen as “cute” because they don’t cause serious injury as a larger dog would. However, a dog displaying aggressive behaviors is usually doing so out of fear or insecurity. For the overall well-being of a Chihuahua (and everyone’s safety!), it's important that they aren’t forced to display these behaviors in an effort to be “cute” or “go viral” on social media. Responsible Chihuahua owners will help their dogs feel safe and teach them appropriate behaviors, using proper management and positive reinforcement methods.

Activities the Chihuahua Enjoys

Trupanion Dog Breed Guide - Chihuahua illustration

Chihuahuas do well in size-appropriate activities:

  • Small Dog Agility

  • Trick Training

  • Canine Freestyle

  • Rally Obedience

Chihuahua Coat Type

Chihuahuas come in two coat types: Smooth and Long. A smooth-coated Chihuahua actually tends to shed more than the long-coat, who tend to shed only seasonally. The long-coat Chihuahua has a flat or wavy topcoat and a softer undercoat, along with fringed ears, plumed tail, and fur “furnishings” on their feet and back of their legs that only require simple trimming, if any. Some smooth-coated Chihuahuas even have a double-coat, with a soft, insulating undercoat, while other smooth-coats only have a single layer of fur — making them more susceptible to cold temperatures.

Shedding Level

dog shedding level - 3 of 5 piles of fur

3 out of 5 piles of fur

Grooming Requirements

  • Low Maintenance
  • Weekly Brushing
  • Regular bathing
  • Seasonal

Smooth-coat Chihuahuas need weekly brushing and regular baths to keep the coat shiny and healthy, and to manage shedding.

Long-coat Chihuahuas also need weekly brushing and regular baths to ensure the longer coat stays soft and shiny. The “furnishings” of the legs and feet usually don’t need professional grooming. But some owners choose to trim or neaten up the feathers on the back of their legs.

Introduce your Chihuahua puppy to the grooming experience from a young age to create a positive association and make future grooming easier and less stressful for all.

Best Brush for Chihuahuas: Bristle brush (for smooth coats), Pin brush & Slicker brush (for long coats)

Famous Owners of the Chihuahua

  • Christina Ricci (Actress)

  • Paula Abdul (Singer/Reality Judge)

  • Reese Witherspoon (Actress)

  • Brian Littrell (Singer)

  • Jamie Lee Curtis (Actress)

  • Mickey Rourke (Actor)

  • Madonna (Singer/Actress)

  • George Lopez (Comedian/Actor)

  • Marilyn Monroe (Actress)

Famous Chihuahuas

  • Gidget the Taco Bell chihuahua

  • Moonie from Legally Blonde (Gidget’s brother!)

  • Paris Hilton’s chihuahuas Tinkerbell and Pixie

Chihuahuas in Books, Movies and TV

  • Beverly Hills Chihuahua

  • Ren Höek from Ren & Stimpy

  • Tito in Oliver & Company

Non-Endorsement Statement: The social media posts displayed here do not imply any endorsement of these people or products, nor does it imply they endorse Trupanion or our product.

Common Health Conditions for the Chihuahua Breed

Use the chart of Trupanion claims data below to find out what health conditions happen most frequently for Chihuahuas. Every Chihuahua is unique, but understanding what health conditions are likelier to occur can help you be a more prepared pet owner.

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Here's what our
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Trupanion member Kelly

Kelly

Groton, CT

Condition: Sarcoma

The Trupanion policy paid: $18,522.39

"My golden Kelly was young when I found a softball-sized lump on Kelly’s left hind leg. Four weeks straight of radiation, six rounds of chemo and checkups every three months, including x-rays and full blood panel were needed. Because of Trupanion, I didn’t have to address the biggest deciding factor that most people face—can I afford this? I can honestly say Kelly is alive today because of the financial support Trupanion provided."

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Axl

Ontario, Canada

Condition: Pneumonia, Hip Dysplasia, Lameness

The Trupanion policy paid: $2,084.01

"At two, our German shepherd Axl was diagnosed with pneumonia. Trupanion took care of all our financial concerns. At four, his hip issues led to pain medications, rehabilitation and rest, which all resulted in improved pain-free movement. I’m so grateful that we chose a plan that not only covers the cost of his treatment but also any physical therapy or rehabilitation he may need."

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Trupanion member Bella

Bella

Ellijay, GA

Condition: Cushing’s disease, tumor, cruciate rupture

The Trupanion policy paid: $15,283.83

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