The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed with a small pear-shaped head and a short pointed muzzle with a black or self-coloured nose. The standard height for a Chihuahua is between 15 to 23 cm while the average Chihuahua weighs only 1 to 3 kg. It is a little longer than it is tall. The Chihuahua has large eyes which are round and dark; sometimes they can be luminous in colour. The large ears are erect. The moderately long tail is carried like a sickle curled over the back or to the side. Two varieties of Chihuahuas exist: the more common short-haired variety and the long-haired type. Each is considered a distinct breed by the UK Kennel Club. The coat of the long-haired Chihuahua is either flat or slightly wavy with feathering on ears, feet and back legs and forms a ruff around the neck. Coat colours can range from fawn, sand, chestnut, silver and steel blue but any colour is acceptable.
The Chihuahua was named after the Chihuahua state in Mexico and has a controversial history. It was originally believed to have descended from an ancient Aztec dog known as the Techichi, a native dog in Central and South America, which is a little larger than the Chihuahua. The Techichi was a revered dog and was believed that every family was known to have such a dog which was sacrificed and buried alongside a deceased family member to guide the soul to the afterlife. However, the lack of concrete archaeological evidences pointed to another theory that this breed was instead brought by Spanish merchants to Mexico via China during the galleon trade era, when dwarfing plants and animals was particularly popular in most parts of China. There is also a theory that the Chihuahua probably originated in Egypt as early as 3,000 years ago and that it was brought to Spain and then to Mexico by galleon traders. Although the age of its true origin is unknown, it was not until the 1850s when these were found in Chihuahua, Mexico and made popular by Xavier Cugat (the famous Spanish-Cuban band leader) to the American public. The Chihuahua was introduced to England in 1897 and was formally shown at the Ladies Kennel Club Show. By the start of World War II, less than 100 Chihuahuas were registered and was reduced to only eight by 1949. Today, the popularity of the Chihuahua is overwhelming, an average of 20,000 dogs are registered each year.
The Chihuahua is an excellent companion dog. Known for its devotion and intelligent personality, its size makes it a suitable pet in any living environment, be it a country dwelling or a city apartment. Its exceptional intelligence makes it responsive to training. It is a loyal breed, often being devoted only to one person, but proper socialization can alleviate this problem. It is also quite sensitive to cold weather because of its small size.
Training should be gentle and positive to properly reinforce the Chihuahua's intelligence and general attitude. Proper socialization at an early age with all members of the family is important so as to form a bond with everyone, instead of having a deep attachment only with an individual. It is sensitive to cold climate because of its size, but the long coat variety will do fine in cold weather even without additional protection. It is an excellent dog for an apartment dwelling, but any abode is suitable because it is quite an adaptable breed.
The long coat Chihuahua should be groomed daily and brushed with a soft bristle brush. Bathe once a month or when necessary and make sure the ears are checked regularly.
The Chihuahua is a long-lived breed, having an average lifespan between 15 and 20 years. However, it is not without health problems. A veterinary expertise is required in areas of birthing and dental care. Some of the other known health disorders that affects the Chihuahua are:
The Chihuahua is also known for its molera, a soft spot or a "hole" in the head. A symbol of pure breed Chihuahua. It is the only dog breed to be born with an undeveloped skull. The Chihuahua is also prone to eye infections because of its large eyes and low ground clearance.
The Chihuahua has a delicate nutritional requirement and it would be best if its diet may contain avocado blended with poultry and brown rice, which resembles its native dietary intake. Do not feed the Chihuahua anything that may contain beef or beet pulp.
Although some will tend to carry their Chihuahuas, it is recommended that the dog should be taken for a walk regularly to keep it physically and mentally fit. A body harness is recommended instead of using a collar.
The Chihuahua is not recommended with small children because it will not tolerate teasing. It is also not recommended to be with other larger animals because there is also the possibility that the dog might get hurt due to its very small size. It often prefers to be with other Chihuahuas over other breeds although it is a courageous breed and may fearlessly confront other larger animals.