Small, full of personality, looks great in a sweater…yes, we’re talking about Chihuahuas. This popular companion dog is loyal (sometimes fiercely), playful, and famously adorable. And, as is the case with other little dogs, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a Chihuahua who doesn’t know how to amp up the cuteness to get what they want.
Learn more about Chihuahua dogs in this in-depth breed profile, and let us help you decide whether a Chihuahua is the right kind of dog for you.
Table of Contents
- Origin: Mexico
- Size: very small
- Chihuahua Lifespan: 14-16 years
- Energy Level: high
- Breed Group: toy dog
Chihuahuas have a distinctive look: small body, pointed ears, big expressive eyes. Most people are familiar with the short-haired Chihuahua, with a smooth coat that looks like it can’t possibly keep the dog warm. However, there are also long-haired Chihuahuas. Still, all Chihuahua dogs need a little extra warmth in cold weather (that’s why all those cute sweaters were invented).
Among long-haired and short-haired Chihuahuas, there are two distinct Chihuahua body types: apple head and deer head. The apple head variety of Chihuahua is shorter, with a round head and eyes set close. The deer head Chihuahua is taller, with a flat-topped head and eyes set wide.
Ever heard of a hairless Chihuahua? Although they may look similar to a Chihuahua, these dogs are a different breed, known as the Xoloitzcuintli.
You may have also heard of toy and teacup varieties of Chihuahua. These are not officially recognized breeds, but rather smaller dogs of the same breed. Weighing in at under five pounds, teacup Chihuahuas are the tiniest ever. It’s not a good idea to work with so-called teacup breeders, as these extra-tiny dogs often suffer from health concerns due to their unnatural size.
Chihuahuas have an extremely wide range of colorings, including white, black, brown, chocolate, brown, fawn, red, cream, and mixed. They can also have a special form of coloring called merle, which is a mottling of the base coloring with lighter splotches.
As far as grooming goes, Chihuahuas are relatively easy to maintain. Weekly brushing for short-haired Chihuahuas (more for long-haired varieties), and a once a month bath should be enough. Nails should be trimmed every few months. To clean eye discharge, use a warm, wet washcloth.
Pet parents, be aware: a Chihuahua’s personality is not entirely up to you. Chihuahua dogs take after their parents and grandparents, which means that some Chihuahuas are more mild-mannered, while others are more anxious and aggressive. But that doesn’t mean that good training and socialization don’t go a long way.
Whatever their baseline personalities, you’ll find that Chihuahuas are loyal to their owners, sometimes to a fault. And they’re not particularly fond of other people or dogs (unless, of course, those dogs are also Chihuahuas).
Here’s some Chi behavior you can expect: an overall expressive playfulness, some catlike behavior (like perching high and sunning), and building dens under the cover of soft things like blankets and pillows (or in your laundry basket). Some Chihuahua beds are made especially to create a den-like feel.
Experts say that Chihuahuas tend to exhibit terrier-like behavior, which means that they’ll be feisty, and full of personality. Chihuahuas are intelligent dogs, which means they can tend to be stubborn. Consistent training from a patient dog parent is a must.
A Chihuahua might seem like a lap dog (and will spend plenty of time cuddling), but they also need regular exercise. That means daily walks and playtime.
Because of their small size and temperament, Chihuahuas also need a calm home environment, preferably without small children, who are more likely to make the dog anxious or hurt the dog on accident.
Despite their specific needs, Chihuahuas are very adaptable and make good pets in even small city apartments. Bundle them up for the cold weather, and they’ll be happy almost anywhere.
Ideal Human for a Chihuahua
The best Chihuahua owner will have plenty of time for their pet, on many levels. Pet parents will have to spend extra time on training and socialization. Chihuahuas also don’t like to be left alone—being left alone, combined with lack of exercise and play, will exacerbate any underlying aggressive or anxious behavior.
If you do need to leave the house for shorter periods of time, consider crating your pet. The ideal Chihuahua parent will probably work part-time, or from home, so that they can spend maximum time caring for and bonding with their pet. That said, enlisting the help of a trusted pet sitter or daycare provider can be a lifesaver. In-home daycare is best for Chihuahuas given their small size.
Training a Chihuahua
With a spunky, intelligent dog like a Chihuahua, positive reinforcement is best (no scolding), and they’ll need frequent consistent obedience training. Some say it’s better to suggest that a Chihuahua do something than to demand it, and while Chihuahuas enjoy being rewarded with treats and praise, they’ll want variety, and only have the patience for short training sessions. To get ahead of the game, try training them on an empty stomach, and accept that it’s going to be time-consuming, but worth it in the long run.
For the reasons we’ve already mentioned, house-training Chihuahuas is notoriously difficult. Chihuahuas are small and sneaky, and unless you’re really vigilant, you’ll probably find them toileting in secret places.
To prevent the carpet from becoming a favorite pee spot, use a crate or gates to keep the dog out of the no-go areas, and take frequent trips outside to potty. Be sure to use plenty of treats and praise when they go where you want them to!
Like other small dogs, chihuahuas are more prone to specific health problems related to their size. Chihuahuas will need more dental care than other dogs. Daily brushing, dental chews, and the right dog food will help. Chihuahuas are also predisposed to tracheal collapse. Invest in a good harness that will safely fit your Chihuahua and take the pressure off the neck area.
Chihuahuas are also predisposed to other health conditions, including hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), eye infection, luxating patella (when the kneecap tends to move out of its normal position), and (more rarely) hydrocephalus and heart conditions.
History of the Chihuahua
The Chihuahua dog is originally from Mexico and named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua. The first Chihuahuas were officially recognized in the United States by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904, but Chihuahua history runs deep. This dog is thought to descend from the Techichi, an ancient companion dog from the Toltec civilization (as early as the 9th century), but dog toys from as early as 100 AD have been found depicting Chihuahua-like dogs.
Getting a Chihuahua Dog
Getting a Chihuahua is simple, but it’s important to be prepared. If you’re adding a Chihuahua puppy to your life, you’ll want to spend plenty of time teaching basic obedience, socializing the puppy to other people and dogs, and teaching important skills like sleeping through the night and going to the bathroom outside.
Finding a Chihuahua puppy or adult dog can be as easy as an internet search, but be careful of puppy mills and internet scams. There are many ways to find a reputable breeder, and it’s good to ask around, visit before committing to payment, and trust your gut.
Another way to find a Chihuahua is to adopt a rescue. Unlike puppies, rescues often come spayed and neutered, and with all their shots. Many Chihuahua rescues are surrendered by individual owners, and these dogs are likely to know basic commands and be socialized. If not, that doesn’t mean you can’t work with them. Contact a trusted dog trainer for more information on how to teach a dog who hasn’t experienced much structure, or how to help a dog who has been traumatized to feel safe and welcome.
To find breeders who have to meet stringent requirements, use the AKC search tool to find a reputable Chihuahua breeder near you. When you visit, be sure to ask about any health issues in the dog’s bloodline, and discuss any genetic tests you might want to run.
Whether you’re an aspiring or current Chihuahua parent, Chihuahua love is serious business. Advertise your admiration with this fun coffee mug.Shop on Rover
More on Chihuahuas
Want to know more about Chihuahuas? Rover has you covered on everything from top Chihuahua names to the best beds, leashes, and gifts for this breed.
- Everything Chihuahua
- Chihuahua Puppies: Everything You Need to Know
- Deer Head vs Apple Head Chihuahua: Everything You Need to Know
- Top Chihuahua Names in America
- Perfect Gifts for Chihuahua Lovers
- Best Dog Beds for Chihuahuas
- The Top 4 Leashes for Chihuahuas
Getting a Dog Resources
For more information on what it’s like to buy and care for a dog, here are a few resources to get you started: