Chihuahua

katy towle 26 July 2021

Who can resist the allure of the tiny but mighty Chihuahua? This Mexican dog has a larger than life personality despite being the smallest pedigree dog in existence. They are a popular pet internationally and have been owned by the likes of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Some Chihuahuas have a reputation for being ‘devil dogs’ that are snappy with people other than their owners. This trait means that they may not be the best choice for families with young children. On the whole though, this is a confident breed who enjoys being social.

Breed history

The Chihuahua is a truly ancient breeds that has been in existence for many hundreds of years. Popularised in Mexico about 200 years ago, the breed was further refined in neighbouring Texas. Unlike many other ancient breeds, the Chihuahua was not bred for a specific purpose other than keeping us humans company.

The name ‘Chihuahua’ comes from the Mexican state of the same name. They were recognised within the Toy Group by the UK Kennel Club and are described by them as being ‘bold and saucy in temperament’.

General appearance

One of the most desired features of the Chihuahua is the wide number of coat colours they are available in. Black, chocolate, gold, fawn, red, white and many more; it is little wonder that this stylish dog is a favourite breed in Hollywood. There are both smooth (short) and long coated varieties of the Chihuahua.

Petite, a fully grown Chihuahua will weigh as little as 2kg and will stand at about 20cm-25cm tall. They have a very domed skull and eyes that bulge slightly. Their erect ears look a little oversized for their bodies and their muzzles are not snubbed like similar dogs their size. 

Temperament

Many Chihuahuas are described as suffering from ‘small dog syndrome’. Despite (or perhaps because of!) their size, they can act like a large and dangerous dog. They may growl and bark viciously when approached. They may jump up on people, commandeer sofas and generally act like brats. Due to the dog’s small size, these behaviours are sometimes ignored by well-meaning owners and they can thus escalate with time. Thankfully, this behavioural syndrome can be largely avoided with the right training.

Alert and brave, the Chihuahua has many desirable traits. They take on challenges at full throttle and like to get stuck into new adventures. They devote themselves to their owners and will become strongly bonded to them.

Chihuahuas do have a reputation for being yappy and will bark whenever a new person arrives in the home. For some though, having this ‘alarm’ is a positive trait.

Health considerations 

Due to their very small size and as they have been inbred over time, there are specific health conditions that are more common in Chihuahuas than in other dogs. This is something that should be considered before purchasing this breed. Ideally, seek out a breeder who is aware of these issues and only uses healthy stock to breed.

  • Luxating patella. Knee caps that pop in and out of place can make a dog skip when walking.  Some are mildly affected and only suffer minimal irritation during their lifetime. Others, however, may experience chronic issues and a great deal of pain due to their luxating knee cap. They are graded from a 1 to a 4, with 4 being most severe. For those with a grade 3 or 4 luxation, surgery is often considered. All dogs with joint disease benefit from joint supportive foods such as Pooch & Mutt’s Joint Care kibble.
  • Dental Disease. The small jaw of the Chihuahua means they are prone to dental crowding and periodontal disease. Signs can include bad breath, red gums and difficulty eating. Owners can help their Chihuahua out by brushing their teeth each day and offering treats such as Pooch & Mutt’s ‘Fresh Breath’ mini bone dog treats.
  • Legg Calvè Perthes Disease. This orthopaedic condition is most common in small pedigrees and can cause lameness and muscle wasting in early life. It is diagnosed by x-rays and severe cases are treated with a surgery called a ‘Femoral Head and Neck Osteotomy’ (FHO).
  • ‘Dry Eye’. As the eyes of the Chihuahua can sometimes stick out a little, they are more prone to becoming dry. The medical term for this condition is ‘Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca’. Signs can include watery eyes, thick ocular discharge and rubbing at the eyes. Affected dogs tend to be plagued with chronic eye infections. It is easily diagnosed as the vet will measure the tear production and notice it is low. Treatment usually consists of daily eye drops.

Trainability 

While Chihuahuas are clever and good at getting what they want, they aren’t exactly biddable. Similarly, most are not food driven so won’t always respond to a tasty treat during training sessions. While independent, if you form a strong bond with your Chihuahua, they are more likely to respond to your training cues.

Grooming

How much grooming your Chihuahua will need depends on their coat type. Shorter-furred breed members only need to be brushed twice weekly while longer-furred dogs should be brushed each day.

It is important to brush the teeth of your Chihuahua every day and this is a habit that should start during their puppyhood.

Exercise

It’s true that the Chihuahua is pint-sized but this does not mean that they don’t enjoy exercise as much as the next dog. Adult chihuahuas require about an hour of activity each day. This can consist of hikes or games and owners need to work hard to vary their schedule and keep them engaged.


Feeding considerations

As the Chihuahua is so very small, they are prone to obesity. Many owners complain of ‘low appetites’ but the truth is that they only need a small amount of food to keep them going.

It is typically advised that Chihuahuas are fed dry kibble rather than wet food. This is because wet food can cake on teeth leaving them prone to plaque and calculus build up.

You'll find a handy feeding calculator on every product page here at Pooch & Mutt to help you identify how much of our health led recipes are right for the age, size and weight of your dog.

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