AT A GLANCE: The Chihuahua
- Sassy, energetic, and loyal
- Typically 5 to 8 inches tall
- Often weigh less than 6 pounds
- Small, dainty build
- Round head with large, erect ears
- Hair coat is long or smooth, in a variety of colors
- Average lifespan of 14 to 16 years
Physical characteristics of the ChihuahuaChihuahuas are one of the smallest dog breeds, often weighing less than six pounds, and standing only about five to eight inches tall. They have a characteristic round, apple-shaped head, with large, erect ears and expressive eyes. Their small, dainty bodies are supported by long, thin legs, and their long tail is often carried up over the body. Chihuahuas come in a variety of colors, and can have a smooth or long hair coat. Their size makes them too small and fragile to be handled by small children.
Personality and temperament of the Chihuahua
Chihuahuas are curious, alert dogs who love to spend their days trailing after their owner. They are not always fond of strangers, but tend to form a strong bond with one particular person whom they will shower with affection. They are protective of that person, often to a fault.
Chihuahuas are naturally high-strung, and they need early socialization and training so they do not perceive new people and environments as a constant danger. Because the puppies are small and cute, owners often tolerate bad behavior, but Chihuahuas need gentle, firm training from puppyhood to prevent them from becoming poorly mannered adults who rule the house.
Chihuahuas can make loyal pets for families with older children, elderly people, or single owners. Because they need only a little space and don’t require a large exercise area, they thrive in a variety of living conditions, from small city apartments to sprawling country homes.
Common health concerns for the ChihuahuaChihuahuas are relatively healthy dogs, with an average lifespan of 14 to 16 years. Whether you currently own a Chihuahua or are considering adding one to your family, be aware of the following common health concerns:
Some Chihuahuas are born with a bone defect that causes their kneecaps to move out of their normal groove. Affected dogs may limp or intermittently hold their leg up while walking or running.
Hydrocephalus, which means “water on the brain,” describes a condition common to Chihuahuas where excess cerebrospinal fluid builds up in brain cavities and increases intracranial pressure. Hydrocephalus is a serious condition that can cause severe headaches, seizures, and death.
Small-breed dogs, such as Chihuahuas, can develop a windpipe that collapses when they inhale. Breathing becomes difficult, and affected dogs often exhibit a goose-honk cough.
Retained puppy teeth
All dogs develop a set of puppy teeth that normally falls out as their adult teeth emerge. A Chihuahua’s puppy teeth may not be pushed out when adult teeth come in, and the extra teeth cause crowding and accumulate tartar more easily.
Other health concerns include:
- Dental disease
- Keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye
- Heart disease
- Avascular necrosis of the femoral head
- Urinary stones
Caring for the Chihuahua
Smooth-coated Chihuahuas need only occasional brushing to remove loose hair, but long-haired varieties require more frequent brushing to prevent tangles, as well as professional grooming to maintain their longer coat. Both types need occasional baths, ear cleanings, and nail trims.
Small-breed dogs have a higher risk of excessive tartar accumulation and dental disease. Chihuahuas should have their teeth brushed daily and need regular, professional dental cleanings by veterinarians to prevent painful periodontal disease and tooth loss.
Chihuahuas love to run and play, and are happy bouncing after a ball either in the house or the backyard. They are ideal dogs for people who live in an apartment or the city, because they do not require much room to exercise. They are happy to walk with you daily, but you must remember that they have to work hard to keep up and can tire quickly. In the winter, Chihuahuas become chilled easily and often need a sweater to stay warm.
The Chihuahua is the perfect dog for you if:
- You want a dog who will form a strong attachment to you
- You live in an apartment or condominium with little or no outdoor space
- You don't have small children
- You have minimal time for daily exercise
- You are willing to provide a significant amount of early socialization and training