Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
Chihuahuas are famously small, but this breed has a colossal personality. Classified as a toy breed, these little pups are often chock full of confidence and attitude. In fact, they’ll likely hold their own among dogs who are ten times their size. Still, to the ones they love, Chihuahuas have a reputation for being intensely loyal, protective, and sweet dogs.
The world’s smallest dog breed also has a fascinating history, a fun-loving flair, and a mischievous side. Although this little bruiser isn’t for everyone, Chihuahuas can make for excellent companions. If you’re looking for love in miniature form, the Chihuahua might be the right dog for you.
Also Known As…
Chi. Chi-chi. Little Nugget. Mr. Big. Gidget. Hell-raiser. “That’s the biggest little dog I’ve ever seen!”
Chihuahuas are one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. Most historians agree that they originated in Chihuahua, the largest state in Mexico. Although they, of course, weren’t named Chihuahuas at the time, Mexicans started selling them to American tourists in the late 1800s when they crossed the border from Texas. It was during these exchanges that the dog picked up the name of its home state.
Yet, even before this, it’s speculated that Chihuahuas are the descendants of the ancient dog, Techichi. These thin-framed companion dogs roamed pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilizations. Later, during the period of the Mayans (1800 BC to 900 AD) these 10-20 pound dogs were often found buried with their humans. Archeologists have also discovered figurines of these dogs, which share many similar characteristics with the modern day Chihuahua.
Some historians also guess that Chihuahuas were created through the breeding of Techichi dogs and Chinese Crested dogs, which often weigh in at 10 pounds. Others argue that these dogs have European descent. Still, new DNA evidence supports the theory that Chihuahuas are the great-great-great grandchildren of ancient Mexican dogs. Today, they can be found as companion animals all over the world.
Tiny! This breed is 5-8 inches tall.
Not exceeding six pounds.
Chihuahuas don’t receive a lot of recognition for their gentle natures, but perhaps they should. This breed grew in popularity during the early 1900s, partially due to their sweet dispositions and adoration of their humans. Still, their impressive “big dog” personalities get a lot more attention for obvious reasons. Chihuahuas are clever dogs that will rule your home (and your neighborhood) in the absence of other leadership.
These little dogs are also known to be highly devoted to just one or two people in their families. Even though they’re less likely to be a friend to everyone, they’re still often fun loving and entertaining. Plus, Chihuahuas make excellent pocket-sized guard dogs. They’ll likely yap at any intruder, be it the mailman, the neighbor’s cat, or a squirrel.
Intelligence / Trainability
This tiny breed is alert and vivacious, making them highly trainable. Despite their intimidating attitudes, Chihuahuas are often eager to please their human companions. Thus, through positive and clear training practices, most Chihuahuas should learn a variety of tasks and behaviors quickly. They’ll also likely excel in obedience classes, as long as they’re not overwhelmed by much larger, overexcited dogs.
Keep in mind that this breed needs a strong leader. When they’re itty-bitty puppies, people can make the mistake of letting Chihuahuas do want they want. Yet, even though they’re small, every dog deserves to be well socialized and trained so that they can exist peacefully amongst others. Without direction and guidance, they’re liable to take over and rule with a feisty fist.
Chihuahuas are ideal urban pets. Their size makes them perfect for any apartment-dweller. They also enjoy daily walks or even games of fetch in the park, which is very doable in a city. Yet, this breed historically spends times in the villages and rural areas of Mexico. Therefore, this little munchkin can also be a great suburban dog.
Due to the Chihuahua’s size, it’s important to keep in mind the threat of bad weather and predators. Special care must be taken when the temperature drops in the winter, as Chihuahuas have thin coats and low body fat. Furthermore, these dogs are so small that they’re vulnerable to wildlife. If you’re in an area where birds of prey, coyotes, or raccoons may be present, always keep your Chihuahua on a leash directly next to you. Or, better yet, tuck them safely inside your purse or coat.
Good For Families And Kids?
Depends on the Chihuahua and/or kid! Chihuahuas are too delicate to deal with roughhousing from young children. (Not that any dog should have to deal with roughhousing.) They also might growl, snap, or bite when feeling threatened by kids. As they’re far more susceptible to injury due to their small stature, it’s best to have Chihuahuas around older, well-behaved children.
That said, around responsible and calm kids, Chihuahuas can be a wonderful dog. They often like playing fetch, cuddling on the couch, and taking a stroll around the block. Just watch where you step when you live with a Chihuahua!
Chihuahuas are one of the longest living dog breeds with an average life expectancy of 14-16 years.
This breed is generally healthy. Over the decades though, as Chihuahuas have been bred to become smaller and smaller, some medical problems have arisen. If buying a Chihuahua from a breeder, it’s important to screen for common health issues. These issues include heart problems, eye disease, patellar luxation, and epilepsy.
When choosing a responsible breeder, you’ll also want to stay away from terms like “teacup” or “miniature.” These terms often indicate Chihuahuas that have been bred down to become even smaller, even if health issues arise. Given that these variations in breed aren’t recognized by any dog breed organizations, it’s also likely that breeders are simply charging more money for the same type of dog. The only recognized differentiations in Chihuahuas are variations in their coat and the shape of their head: “deer head” or the rounded “apple head” versions.
Chihuahuas may be small, but they’re still mighty. Depending on the athleticism and physical capabilities of each individual dog, Chihuahuas may benefit from a slow daily trot to the park. Others may enjoy two short but brisk walks a day. The majority of these little dogs enjoy running, playing, and chasing toys in a small space.
Keep in mind that, with this breed, there is a risk of overexertion. If a Chihuahua starts to pant, lies down, or is struggling to keep up, it’s time to scoop her up and carry her home.
Friendly With…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/other pets?)
One of the enjoyable aspects of living with a Chihuahua is watching them boldly prance around the room, greeting anyone who arrives. They’re also generally wary or even standoffish with strangers on the street, but can be socialized to become more warm.
While some Chihuahuas can become over-sheltered and develop low self-esteem or fear, they’re generally friendly with other dogs and cats. That stated, low self-esteem—as well as overprotectiveness and dominance—can all manifest as reactivity. Like all dogs, this breed needs to be socialized and trained before visiting the dog park or rooming with a cat.
It’s also important to keep Chihuahuas’ safety in mind around other animals at all times. Extra small and/or meek-mannered Chihuahuas are especially vulnerable to attack.
Coat & Grooming
Chihuahuas come in two different coat varieties: smooth-coat or longhaired. The smooth-coat Chihuahua needs very minimal brushing to keep looking dapper. Longhaired Chihuahuas require more maintenance. It’s recommended that you brush them at least once a week to avoid any mats or tangles.
While this breed usually keeps itself very clean, occasional bathing will also help keep them looking their best.
Toys Chihuahuas Would Like Best
They may be little, but these resilient dogs often have a strong bite! Petite but durable Super Chewer Toys will likely keep a Chihuahua occupied for weeks, months, or years. Many Chihuahuas also love playing fetch with small squeaky toys or balls.
Of course, they also love to cuddle up with soft Plush Toys.
For a more extensive list, check out the following article: What Are The Best Toys For Chihuahuas?
Due to their small stature, Chihuahuas are more prone to obesity than other breeds. On top of regular daily exercise, this dog should also receive a high quality healthy diet. Remember that treats can also add up very quickly for a six-pound animal. Only provide snacks or rewards on occasion and in miniature amounts.
Does your Chihuahua suffer from anxiety or joint pain? Consider trying some of the below supplements. But as always, consult your veterinarian first.
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Bulldog with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
For older Chihuahuas or dogs suffering with arthritis or joint pain (or even just Chihuahuas who like to sleep a lot!), a comfortable, supportive dog bed is probably a good idea.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Chihuahua Of Your Dreams
- Chihuahua Rescue & Transport is a foster-based group that places Chihuahuas in homes across the U.S. Unfortunately, tiny Chihuahua puppies are often purchased by people inexperienced with dogs. When they get older, they’re abandoned. This rescue seeks to save those dogs in these circumstances.
- I Love My Chi Database is also a great place to start when looking to adopt a Chihuahua. Again, due to over breeding and high rates of abandonment, there are many of these dogs in search of homes. Thus, most states have at least one or more local Chihuahua rescue.
- Adoptable Chihuahuas on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Chihuahuas
These senior rescue Chihuahuas (and their younger rescue kitten sibling) are not only incredible adorable, but they’re also incredibly good at advocating for the adoption of older pets!
Mervin is a senior rescued Chihuahua now living the good life in New York City. With a tongue that flops outside of his mouth, big round eyes, and a whole wardrobe of costumes and clothes, little Mervin will melt your heart.
This Japanese Instagram account features two of the cutest Chihuahuas around. This pair can often be spotted doing “zoomies” in parks, wrapped up in towels after a bath, or playing with their rescued Cocker Spaniel pals.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Chihuahua’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂
Featured image via JemandtheMisfits/Instagram