Introduction

To know me is to love me." -- Chihuahua's motto, if they could talk.

Please note that this is a guide only, and should NOT replace veterinarian advice.

If you already own a Chihuahua, then I'll be preaching to the converted when I say that they are loyal, sweet-tempered, and gentle. The Chihuahua, can wear a remarkably human expression at times; she or he will want to be with you most, if not all, of the time. A warning to casual dog owners: Don't buy a Chihuahua if you don't have the emotional real estate in your heart or the time for the complete love and attention of this furry little person.

History

Carvings found in the Monastery of Huejotzingo, on the highway from Mexico City to Puebla, give strong evidence as to the Chihuahua's origins. This monastery was constructed by Franciscan Monks around 1530. The Monks used stones from the Toltec civilization. Little is known of the Toltecs, but we do know that they existed as early as the 9th century A.D. in what is now Mexico. The Toltecs had a breed of dog they called the "Techichi". And the carvings on the stones at Huejotzingo give a full head view and a picture of an entire dog that closely resembles the modern-day Chihuahua. From this evidence, we can safely assume that the Chihuahua is a descendant of the Techichi.

Additionally, there are remains at some pyramids and other pointers to the early existence of the Techichi at Chichen Itza in Yucatan.

The Techichi was a religious necessity among the ancient Toltec tribes and later among the Aztecs. Archaeologists have found the remains of this breed in human graves in Mexico and in parts of the United States.

Physical Description

Chihuahuas go under the classification of "toy breeds." They are the smallest breed of dog in the world. They are, in fact, the only "natural" toy breed. That is, they are naturally small and aren't a result of "breeding-down" larger breeds, as were other toy breeds.

Chihuahua can be smoothcoats or longcoats. Interestingly, there is no breeding distinction made between the two in the United States, since in the States, both smoothcoats and longcoats can occur in a litter; however, in the United Kingdom, smoothcoats and longcoats are considered two different breeds and are never interbred.

The breed standard, approved September 11, 1990 disqualifies any dog over 6 pounds from the conformation ring; however, they can weigh up to 9 pounds or more.

One of the Chihuahua's most distinctive characteristics is its head, which is well-rounded and referred to by breeders as an "apple-dome" type skull. In contrast, its muzzle is extraordinarily tiny in contrast. Pink noses are sometimes found on blonde Chihuahuas.

Another distinctive physical feature of the Chihuahua is the ears: large, held erect, and flaring to the sides at an angle of about 45 degrees, the Chihuahua uses its ears to express a variety of emotions and responses.

The eyes, usually dark and luminous, are wide-set. Again, blondes may have lighter eyes. Tears are often produced in abundance to keep the large eyes lubricated, and it is not unusual for tears to fly from a Chihuahua's face when it shakes its head during play.

The back should be level and the rib-cage rounded. Some Chihuahuas may actually have barrel-shaped rib-cages, but professional breeders find this undesireable. The hindquarters are muscular and thin.

The Chihuahua has stick-like legs and dainty feet. The tail is longish carried either in a sickle fashion or in a loop with the tip touching the back.

Finally, coat color: there are a variety of shades, including brindle, blonde, black, brown, fawn, blue, and "splashed." It is interesting to note that Mexico prefers the jet black with tan markings, and the black and white spotted; the United States overwhelmingly prefers the solid colors, especially fawn.

Temperament

Chis aren't dogs, I'm convinced -- they are four-legged babies.

Chihuahuas are graceful, energetic, and swift-moving canines. They have often been described as having "terrier-like" qualities; that is, the qualities of being alert, observant, and keen on interacting with their masters. They are extremely loyal and get attached to one or two persons.

These tiny dogs are certainly unaware of their diminutive stature: they can be bold with other dogs much larger than themselves, and protective of their masters. They are fiercely loyal to their masters and wary of any strangers or new guests introduced into the household, which the Chihuahua considers to be its personal domain. For these reasons, Chihuahuas make good watch dogs (not guard dogs, though!).

The Chihuahua needs a great deal of human contact: touching, petting, and general attention. If the Chihuahua does not get this, she or he will use various attention-getting tricks until you give her/him attention. (The Ratwilder will sit up like a squirrel and stare at you until you understand that she is saying, "Pet me now!") Some owners who have had other, more independent breeds may find the Chihuahua too needy. However, Chis give alot of love and affection in return for your care.

Keeping more than one Chihuahua can greatly ease the dog's stress when left alone each day if the owner works. (They will compete for your attention when you get home, though!) Because they are by nature gentle, loyal, and sweet-tempered, Chihuahuas are ideal for single people, the elderly, the handicapped, and shut-ins. They will keep you company for hours by lying on your lap or beside your torso if in bed, and treat you like royalty. No one with a Chi in their household will ever be truly alone!

Care and Maintenance

Chihuahuas are a good breed for city-dwellers, or those who just don't have the time to walk their dogs that often. They are quite happy in apartments, as long as there is enough to play with and explore. (They love exploring like most dogs.)

Opinions from dog authorities differ on how often to bathe a Chihuahua. Some say that bathing too often removes the natural oils from the coat, and thus dandruff will result and the coat will look dull. Others say that shampooing on occassion with certain brands of shampoo can actually enhance the sheen of the coat. When bathing, take care not to get water into their ears, as an infection can develop.

Since the Chihuahua is mainly a housepets, you will need to trim their nails at least once a month. On the smaller Chis, cat claw trimmers can be used. It's good to start a nail-trimming routine early-on so that your dog becomes accustomed to your handling its paws (not to mention getting used to the big shiny clippers!).

Consult your veterinarian on the periodic cleaning of your Chihuahua's ears and teeth, booster shots, and vaccinations.

Special Medical Problems

Owners should be aware that Chihuahuas are prone to "weak knees." This can occur as they get older. If it causes difficulty in walking, take your dog to the vet.


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is their life-span?
Toy breeds live the longest of any size dog. Expect a life-span of 11-18 years, although the latter is rare.

How much exercise do they require?
Not much. This little breed has short bursts of energy each day which quickly die down. You should provide toys for your Chi to keep it occupied. Old slippers are ideal, as well as stuffed toys with squeakers inside. You can certainly take your Chi on walks. (You'll make many an acquaintance due to the diminutive and unusual appearance of your Chihuahua!)

When buying a leash for your Chihuahua, remember that its neck is rather small and delicate compared to other dog's necks. You cannot (and, indeed, should not) yank your dog around by the leash if s/he has a neck collar on. Use a body-harness for two reasons: safety and comfort. If fitted right, it will give your Chi a secure and comfortable walk, and harnesses also ensure your dog cannot escape -- a real concern if you live in an urban area.

There are two kinds of body harnesses: one kind goes over the head of the dog and buckles under the torso in an H-design. This is good, but an even better harness is the Y-design, which doesn't touch the throat at all.

I've heard they're nervous, high-strung dogs. Is that true?
Yes, they are high-strung dogs. I define "high-strung" as follows: barks easily, does not adapt easily to change in environment, is suspicious of strangers and will growl at them, and flips in circles and jumps around when excited (like when you come home after a five-minute absence, for instance).

However, with the person that they have bonded with (i.e., their master[s]), they do not display most of these characteristics; infact, they display radically different personalities. Chihuahuas are truly the "Jekyll-and-Hyde" of dog breeds: your friends will see the worst side of them and never believe you when you tell them that your Chi is really a gentle, sweet-natured dog.

There is good news, though. If you socialize your Chi at an early age, they will be less stressed when new environments and people are introduced to them in adulthood. Proper socialization is critical, then, and at the earliest age possible.

Are they good with children?
Generally, no. Be careful when walking your Chihuahua to keep your Chi well away from toddlers and young children, who are often uninhibited and will approach your dog. One leading cause of injury and death to Chis is from kids falling or stepping on them.

Again, this is general good advice; some Chihuahuas are friendly around children (usually as a result of de-sensitization). In this case and others, the master's knowledge of his or her Chihuahua and good judgement should prevail.

Is my Chihuahua a dog or a mole?
It is a characteristic of the Chihuahua to prefer to sleep under a cloth or blanket. They will even get under pillows in order to feel snug.

If you are raising a pup, be sure to provide them with a soft towel or blanket in their sleeping area so they can burrow underneath it.

So don't be surprised if your Chihuahua scrambles under your blankets at night, even though your house or apartment may not be particularly cold.

Does my Chihuahua expect a suntan?
Chihuahuas are quite the sun-worshipers. They prefer to bask in the sun for hours and have been known to lie in a spot of sun no larger than the size of a half-dollar. Unfortunately, they are not sensible in this regard and will stay in the sun even when panting begins. Watch your Chihuahua in hot weather to be sure that they don't suffer from heat stroke.

My Chihuahua's shivering. Is this because s/he's cold?
Chihuahuas do shiver when they're cold, but they also shiver when they are wary, excited, unhappy, or frightened. This is a result of having a high metabolism, and is a normal characteristic of this breed.

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