Whether your dog is a purebred Chihuahua or a Chihuahua mix, learning about their breed can explain a lot about your pet’s personality, habits and overall health. Or maybe you’re interested in adopting one and doing a bit of research ahead of time.
“These dogs love being the center of attention and can quickly become jealous if they think someone else is getting more attention,” Dr. Amber Koch, DVM, a veterinarian at MedVet Norwalk, says. “They’ll happily sit in your lap while you watch TV.”
So it makes sense to note that Chihuahuas are usually loving lap dogs whose worlds revolve around their people. Here’s what else you need to know.
The perfect purse pups, Chihuahuas are the smallest dog breed, weighing in at only around 6 pounds and standing between 5 and 8 inches tall. Chihuahua’s bones are fragile due to their small size. Even a minor fall or collision can mean a broken bone, so Chihuahua parents should be watchful and observant.
“There are already several challenges in caring for a 6-pound dog, which become amplified when they are made smaller,” Dr. Koch says. “Smaller pups are easier to lose track of and can be stepped or sat on by even the most diligent owners.”
“Shaking is a normal state for Chihuahuas and nothing to be concerned about,” Dr. Koch says. “Chihuahuas shake for multiple different reasons. Because they’re so small, they tend to have less body fat than larger dogs. This gives them less of a barrier from the outside world and can make it a bit more difficult to regulate their body temperature.”
In colder weather, it’s best to bundle up your pup in a coat or sweater to shield them from cold temperatures. Chihuahuas may also shake due to a naturally hyperactive metabolism or as a stress response.
Chihuahuas can have heads that resemble the shape of an apple, with large eyes and shorter snouts. Other varieties are known as deer head Chihuahuas and have longer snouts and narrower, deer-like heads.
Related: Mutt or mixed-breed dog profile
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Just like most little dogs, Chihuahuas have big personalities. They’re known for being vocal, brave and a bit feisty. They do have a propensity to nip if not properly socialized, but are incredibly affectionate dogs that form deep bonds with their family when trained from a young age.
Due to their size, Dr. Koch advises against having a Chihuahua in a home with young children, as they may get hurt around kids who are roughhousing. These low maintenance, pint-sized pooches can be perfect for single adults or couples looking for companionship.
“It can be difficult for children to understand how careful they need to be around such small dogs, and they may inadvertently injure them,” Dr. Koch says. “Children may also be seen as competition if they receive more attention than the pup.”
Chihuahuas come in a wide variety of colors including black, black and tan, blue and tan, chocolate, cream, cream and white, fawn, red and white — they’re also available in long-haired and short-haired varieties.
Long-haired Chihuahuas usually need regular brushing and/or trips to the groomers to keep their coats healthy and clean.
Wirehaired and hairless Chihuahuas are uncommon and usually a sign of a mixed breed. Hairless Chihuahuas are rare and likely a result of a genetic defect.
Like other small dogs, Chihuahuas can suffer from luxating patellas or dislocated kneecaps.
“When the kneecap is out of place, it can be painful. You may notice your dog limping and then recovering,” Dr. Koch says. “Their recovery means the kneecap went back in place on its own. This doesn’t always require intervention, but your veterinarian can help decide when it’s time to take action.”
Chihuahua parents need to be extra cautious about letting them jump on and off high surfaces. Their size makes them prone to injury, so families should be aware of surroundings so they don’t accidentally step or sit on the pup.
“Smaller dog breeds are prone to disease involving valves in the heart,” Dr. Koch says. “These valves are normally responsible for maintaining one-way flow of blood through the heart. Over time, these valves can degenerate, allowing a small amount of blood to regurgitate, or go the wrong way through the heart. This does not cause a problem at first, but as this continues over a period of time, it can lead to heart failure.”
As with all dogs, it's important to give Chihuahuas a safe space when you bring them home. If you plan to crate train your pup, you should also provide them with clean blankets to help them keep warm and cozy.
Are you interested in adopting a Chihuahua, Chihuahua mix or any pet at all? Check out our shelter partners to find your new best friend.
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