The Chihuahua dog breed is one of the most fascinating and complex. Over the years, they have become incredibly popular and managed to carve a unique niche in people’s hearts.
However, chihuahuas aren’t always known for being cute and cuddly. Each has its unique personality, and some are as spicy as the food served in Chihuahua, Mexico, where their name is derived.
Whether you’re a fan of the breed or simply curious about their origins and personality, you’ll find plenty of great information in this article. You’ll learn what makes them such great companions and where they might prove to be a challenge in the home.
Different Types of Chihuahuas
Chihuahuas come in various shapes and sizes. While they have the same general look, they vary from coat appearance and size. There are seven types of Chihuahuas right now. They include the following.
- Apple Head
- Deer Head
- Short Coat
- Long Coat
Each type of Chihuahua has a specific look and is usually very easy to identify from one another. If you plan to get a Chihuahua, consider these options along with any health implications the type tends to have to ensure you get the best match for your preference.
This type of Chihuahua is usually no bigger than nine inches tall and won’t usually be over five pounds. These little guys can have many health problems due to extensive breeding for size. Although they are smaller in size, the personality is still the same.
The Merle Chihuahua refers to the coat pattern and coloration. Their coat is spotted and speckled and can have solid patches of coloration that vary between white to dark brown and even black.
Much like in the case of the miniature or teacup variety, they have health problems resulting from a specific breeding. This coloration exists in both long and short coat varieties, and they can have either a deer-shaped or apple-shaped head.
The long-haired Chihuahua can grow a soft, thick coat. This type of coat requires frequent bathing and upkeep to keep the dog comfortable and clean. The coat reaches maturity around three years.
One benefit is the coat doesn’t shed often, which is ideal for maintaining a home hair-free. This is also a type of Chihuahua frequently presented in shows because of its striking appearance.
The short-haired Chihuahua is incredibly popular with people all over. One of the most significant benefits of owning this dog is the minimal grooming and shedding, but it still sheds more than the long-haired variety.
Be adamant about bathing and keeping them clean to avoid irritation to the skin and raw spots. People with allergies might consider the long-haired variety, but either is relatively low maintenance aside from the need to keep them bathed regularly.
The deer head variety has a different body type from the norm. This is a favorite type among enthusiasts, but not so much with breeders or people showing them. The name suggests they have an elongated head like a deer and more minor bulbous features.
The muzzle is thinner, and they have eyes set much wider apart. Although there are no medical drawbacks to having this type of Chihuahua, it’s really a personal preference instead of a standard for breeding and show.
The apple head variety of Chihuahua is what you think of when you refer to the breed standard. This is the preferred look for showing these dogs and for breeding. However, it has medical disadvantages, such as frequent incidents of fluid building up in the skull around the brain.
Their eyes tend to bulge somewhat as far as looks go, and they have a very short, sharply protruding muzzle. They are also wider and thicker than the deer head variety and have shorter, thicker legs.
Temperament and Personality
The Chihuahua is known for its unique personality. They are very bold and courageous dogs who regularly express their feelings and preferences.
Although each dog has a unique personality, as a whole, the breed isn’t known for being shy or backing away from possible danger. Chihuahuas seem to think they are much bigger than they really are at times.
However, they are fiercely loyal and love attention from their families. At times they are downright adorable and can charm just about anyone.
Additionally, this breed needs plenty of attention and near-constant companionship. This breed also tends to have separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. It can begin expressing undesirable characteristics if they don’t get the one-on-one care and love they need regularly.
This breed needs to be cared for indoors only. They are in no way suited for outdoor life. They tend to have a delicate system and need the indoors’s protection to help them feel secure and stable.
Care and Interaction
Many tend to have issues with Chihuahuas that get rehomed or have their lives uprooted after an owner passes. Many older individuals like them because they need constant attention and tend to be very protective of owners.
This is, unfortunately, the reason many end up in shelters or looking for fosters. When seniors pass, their dog needs care and a new home. However, behavior problems usually begin with loss or change of environment.
If uprooted, they can become fearful, aggressive, withdrawn, and anti-social. Chihuahuas also don’t do well in a shelter environment and may have trouble with adoption if they begin exhibiting trauma-related issues.
If you decide to foster a Chihuahua or adopt them from a shelter, be aware of these factors influencing their behavior. Give them patience and time to adjust, and they may eventually warm up and overcome those issues.
Adopting Older Dogs
Adopting an older Chihuahua also has its challenges. These dogs become set in their ways and need an understating owner to provide them with love and care in a way that makes them feel comfortable.
Realize that adopting an older Chihuahua means you’ll likely need to adapt to them rather than the other way around. You should expect to provide a home on their terms and accept their personality.
Although they may warm up or act more pleasant with time, they are likely to retain their personality traits for the rest of their lives.
Chihuahua puppies need support and love but also firm boundaries from the earliest point. They prefer to be in charge, so you’ll have to set the rules early on in their lives.
Begin training them and socializing them with people, animals, and traveling early on to ensure they grow up to be well adjusted and without negative personality traits.
To accomplish this task, you’ll need to spend plenty of time with them and exhibit extreme patience. Their strong personalities make it challenging to train them, but they are obedient and willing to please their owner once you do.
Traits to Consider
If you’ve ever met a Chihuahua, you likely know they like to bark at most things. Be it noises, passersby, knocking, or anything at all. If you want to have a Chihuahua, you’ll likely need to provide it with space and few frequent distractions.
Also, consider the noise level for where you live. Not all neighbors want to hear your cute little fur bundle barking at a leaf blowing by in the night. Consider the space you have and whether or not it has frequent traffic and noise, which they don’t like either.
However, that’s not to say that some Chihuahuas can’t adjust to life in cities and small areas; it just requires training from an early age and positive reinforcement.
The overall health of the Chihuahua is fair. They tend to have various congenital problems resulting from breeding and their overall body composition.
As mentioned earlier, Apple head types have frequent issues with fluid build upon the head, but other conditions that frequently occur include the following.
Teeth and Gums
Did you know that you need to brush a Chihuahua’s teeth frequently? That’s because Chihuahuas get food trapped in between their teeth easily.
Because they have very small mouths and lots of space for food to settle, it is easier for plaque or tartar to accumulate. When they collect on the teeth and gums, Chihuahua’s develop gum disease. If gum disease is left untreated, it leads to abscesses, lost teeth, sores, and bleeding.
Chihuahuas are prone to developing something called hydrocephalus. The stem of the condition created by the soft spot on the Chihuahuas head is called molera.
Much like a human infant, sometimes Chihuahuas have large molera spots, and the resulting conditions allow spinal fluid to accumulate and surround the brain.This condition causes various issues and symptoms. They can include the following.
- Neurological symptoms
- Coordination loss
- A swollen head
Hydrocephalus is most common in apple head Chihuahuas. However, these conditions can happen to any Chihuahua of any type.
The sclera is the white portion of the eye. When it develops a parasite that causes inflammation, it can leave them blind.
The parasite causes the sclera to harden and affects eyesight. There are also more than the average eye problems for Chihuahuas. It’s one of the reasons they need regular vet checkups, regular grooming, and a safe place to live.
This condition is when the kneecap of the dog dislocates. It’s also known as patellar luxation and is observed early in the dog’s life, usually at approximately four months of age. The symptoms of this condition can include the following.
- Avoiding a leg
- Holding legs in the air
In some extreme cases, surgery helps to correct the condition. Although it’s initially painful, it lessens with time and becomes more manageable.
The trachea tends to collapse in Chihuahuas and causes them to have trouble breathing. Some symptoms can include a chronic cough with a wheezing sound. If the condition causes them to faint or have blue gums, you need to get them treated as soon as possible to prevent serious damage or death.
As mentioned earlier, Chihuahuas are very social creatures. If cared for properly and acquired at an early age, they can make incredible companions for people of all ages and are known for being great with children.
In fact, experts agree. Chihuahuas are among the best watchdogs for a home. Although they can’t defend a Home well, they can definitely alert owners and occupants to any danger for intruders, both human and animal, on the property.
Chihuahuas live to be over 14 years of age, on average, and very rarely weigh over 10 pounds. They are usually good with other animals and cats and provide your home with outstanding security by way of barking and howling.
Although this breed should live indoors, they also need plenty of outdoor exercises and activity. You need to walk them daily and make sure you play with them. Use toys or other objects to encourage activity.
The Chihuahua diet needs to be balanced to help prevent nutrition-related conditions. Without the proper diet early on when they are puppies, the breed can have growth issues and developmental delays. Some problems caused by an unbalanced diet can include the following.
- Blood sugar conditions
If you have a puppy, you’ll need to feed it a frequent small meal throughout the day. This breed is highly active as a puppy and frequently needs to power up with good food.
Keep in mind that they have small stomachs and can’t handle large, heavy meals. Be sure to feed them a specially balanced diet for their breed every few hours while they’re active. If your puppy doesn’t have a great diet, it will be sluggish and not play.
So, you’re probably wondering what to feed your Chihuahua puppy to ensure they stay healthy and active. The best option is fresh human-grade food that isn’t processed or artificial.
Consider feeding them veggies along with lean meats. Good meat options include lamb, turkey, beef, and chicken. Blend in sweet potatoes, rice, broccoli, and even carrots. Keep food fresh in your refrigerator if you want to cook for them in bulk.
You can also buy fresh, organic puppy and dog food from select retailers and pet specialty stores and delivery services. You’ll probably need to experiment with the food to discover what your dog likes because, just like humans, they have their own tastes and preferences.
Just like puppies, adult chihuahuas need fresh food. Please don’t feed them standard processed dog kibbles or soft canned food.
The artificial additives and preservatives contribute to weight gain and eventually obesity. Try to keep the dog under 10 pounds and ensure they get top-quality food as naturally as possible.
Try to feed a Chihuahua at intervals like a person, which would average three meals per day. That’s not including snacks. They need to keep their energy up to avoid dips in blood sugar and other issues with metabolism.
Another best practice is feeding your dog at the same time daily. It helps your dog regulate their bodies and ensures the food digests and converts to energy properly. However, be careful not to overfeed, and you might need to tailor their diet to accommodate any health issues.
Cautions on Diet
It’s tempting to want to share your food with your pet; however, this isn’t in their best interest. Chihuahuas need to stick to a diet their body can handle free from spices, salt, and common ingredients that can make them sick and overweight.
Additionally, if you feed your dog table scraps, they won’t want their own food and may develop eating problems along the way. Stick to a clean, healthy diet and avoid deviating from the schedule.
You’ll even need to be careful with treats. Don’t give them treats that are too large or hard because they pose a choking threat. Ensure they can easily chew things with their small teeth and fit nicely inside the mouth.
If you notice your dog not feeling well daily or seems deficient in nutrients, take them to the vet for a checkup to determine if the diet you’re feeding them is adequate to support their needs. If there is a deficiency, they may even suggest special supplements to give them a boost.
One of the most significant parts of owning a Chihuahua is caring for them properly daily. These little bundles of joy need lots of care and attention. Be sure you have the ability and time to provide what they need before committing to offering a home.
One thing to know is that potty training can be a chore with these little guys. It takes patience and persistence to get them completely trained to go outside or a designated area. If you don’t keep up with the training, they will likely use the bathroom indoors.
This is one of the reasons many of these breeds end up in shelters. Their owners become frustrated with their bathroom choices when they work all day and then don’t want to devote adequate time to properly train them to go in a particular area or outside.
Give it plenty of time for them to get the idea and give them plenty of praise when they go outside or their designated spot. You’ll also want to take them outside every few hours. They have a small bladder, and establishing a constant routine is the key. The process may also be about training yourself as much as it is training your dog.
Some erroneously think Chihuahuas are fine lounging around the house without much activity, but this is entirely untrue. These little dogs are highly athletic and very energetic.
They need regular exercise and activity to prevent them from developing anxiety, behavioral issues, health problems. You’ll need to commit to walking them daily to ensure they get the right amount of exercise, especially if you don’t have a yard or common space for them to enjoy.
Be sure to keep them on a leash or even a harness to ensure they don’t get away or try to chase another animal. You’ll also want to allow them frequent access to water, so it’s best to bring some along for them to enjoy, especially when the weather is warm outside.
Just like children, Chihuahuas also love to play. Give them a selection of toys to choose from, and be sure to interact with them, so they have an enriching experience.
This process also helps build bonds and establish a great relationship with your dog.
Remember that your shoes or other personal belongings may become their next favorite toy if you don’t provide adequate toys and interaction!
Regular grooming is a big part of owning a Chihuahua. They need regular brushing and baths to ensure they have healthy skin and don’t develop allergies. A bath twice per week or as needed if more than that is recommended.
Try to brush them every other day and keep their nails trimmed to help ensure they walk comfortably. The nail tends to grow quickly, so it needs to be done often. The best course of action is to make sure you get used to frequent nail trimmings at home, so you don’t need to bring them to a professional each time.
You also need to keep their teeth clean by brushing their teeth daily as mentioned previously. This helps ensure dental health and comfort. Use a dog safe toothpaste and a brush or cloth to do this grooming.
You’ll also want to pay attention to their ears. Make sure they don’t get infections or parasites in the ears. If they have dark buildup or a lot of wax, you’ll either need to treat their ears with ear medicine for parasites or use a special ear cleaning solution at least weekly. This process is essential for maintaining their hearing and preventing pain and discomfort.
Chihuahuas get a bad rap sometimes because their owners don’t place enough importance on proper socialization. The right type of socialization focuses not just on human relationships but also on relationships with other animals.
These dogs need exposure to people of all ages and backgrounds in addition to frequent exposure to various pets. If you provide loving support to give them confidence when interacting, it becomes second nature to feel comfortable in situations where they meet or interact with various people and pets.
Another part of socializing is exposing them to different environments. If you live in a rural area, try slowly introducing them to more activity out and about so they won’t be afraid to journey to new locations with you. Keep them feeling secure and make an effort to get them used to traveling.
If you have children or plan to have your Chihuahua around them, there are some things to consider first. Children, especially young children, are sometimes loud and don’t know how to be gentle with small dogs.
You’ll need to show them how to interact with your dog appropriately and stay with them during interactions to help them adjust to being calm and gentle when petting and playing with little dogs.
It’s also an adjustment for dogs who don’t have much experience with children. You’ll also want to monitor their interaction carefully and watch for signs of aggression. Being present during this visit is the key to helping both the dog and the child learn the correct way to interact with one another.
A few mentions regarding travel: because the Chihuahua is so tiny, it is easy to bring them with you wherever you go with some obvious restrictions. When you travel with a small dog, always keep them close to you in crowded locations.
You don’t want foot traffic around them because someone could step on them or hurt them in some way accidentally. If you’re using public transportation, local authorities likely have travel guidelines for dogs.
You may even need a travel case or backpack to carry your dog for a while in transit. Check local rules and regulations to prevent having issues. If you travel in your own car, be sure to pack plenty of water and occasional treats.
In some cases, you might also need to bring some calming treats to make the ride smoother if it’s a long journey.
Do Chihuahuas swim? They can, but it’s not a natural activity for them. You can teach them how to swim in some cases, but some may never feel comfortable or have the desire.
If you want to teach them, you’ll need plenty of patience and get ready to give them plenty of attention and praise when they make progress.
It’s always a great idea to teach any dog to swim; however, if they find themselves in a situation where they need to swim to safety. Start slowly with the introduction to water.
Begin with inside bathing and then graduate to a larger tub or an outdoor kid pool. Get in the water with your dog to help them feel safer and more secure. Slowly allow them to gain confidence.
Most Chihuahuas will move their legs in a swimming motion above water, which is an instinct. If your dog doesn’t do this or does not attempt to swim independently, even with support, they might never learn.
If your dog learns to love swimming, you’ll want to invest in a flotation vest to keep them safe. Little dogs get overwhelmed and tired easily when swimming.
If they graduate from a kid pool to open water, be sure to stay with them and keep the vest in place so they can rest when necessary.
Removing Dangers and Safety Measures
One very important mention is regarding safety. Because of their small size, Chihuahuas are prone to accidents and injuries, unlike larger dogs. There are many dangers and potential situations that can hurt them or worse.
If you have a pool, be sure to have a gate. Pool covers won’t do the trick. If the cover isn’t on properly or the wind displaces it, there’s no protection. Little dogs can easily fall in and drown.
Even if there are concrete steps if they fall in and panic, the dog could tire easily or freeze up in that situation.
You can add safety measures by having a shallow rim around the edges for them to climb on, but the safety fence is the best way to keep them out.
If you have large dogs, be careful when they play with a Chihuahua. They can accidentally hurt them if they play too rough. Always try to monitor interactions until you feel comfortable with their play habits.
If you have neighbors or loose dogs in your area, always make sure you accompany your Chihuahua and have a plan to fend off menacing dogs. They can get hurt very quickly in a confrontation situation.
Be mindful of other large dogs at parks and in public. Keep an eye on dogs exhibiting aggressive behavior or those who try to rough house with your dog.
Chihuahuas are fun-loving, bright, willful, wonderful pets. It’s obvious it takes plenty of patience and willingness to train to get them to where they need to be, but it’s worth it. If you want a great companion who’s loving and even protective, they might be a great fit.
Be mindful of your life-work balance and make sure you have time for them. These dogs need lots of attention and work.
If you’re unsure, this might not be the breed for you. Sure they are cute and cuddly, but Chihuahuas are equally bold and active. They need plenty of exercise, play, socialization, and maintenance.
You’ll need to groom them in some way several times weekly. You should also be prepared for any health conditions that are exemplary of the breed.
This dog also needs special fresh food to help them look and feel its best. So, do you think you’re ready to welcome a Chihuahua into your life?