Chihuahua: The Ultimate Guide


The chihuahua is most famous for being one of the world’s smallest breeds of dogs. They are full of energy and have cheeky personalities. They also don’t allow their small size to get in the way of anything they want to do!

If you’ve recently purchased a chihuahua, or you’re thinking about getting one, you’ll find all the information you need to know about this Napoleonic little dog in this ultimate guide. We’ll discuss their breed traits, appearance, trainability, and the ongoing cost of owning a chihuahua. 

In the end, you’ll have a much better idea whether or not this is the breed for you! 

Chihuahua

Key Facts

Average Lifespan

The average lifespan of a chihuahua ranges from 10-20 years. This gives them one the longest life expectancies in the canine world. 

Minimum Exercise (per day)

You might think that a tiny chihuahua would only need a few minutes of exercise per day given their small size. However, this isn’t the case. Chihuahuas need at least one hour of exercise per day, broken down into two segments. This could be a half-hour morning or evening walk, followed by a game of fetch later in the day. 

Coat Length

Depending on their lineage, a chihuahua can have either a shorter, smooth coat or a longer coat with an undercoat. Their coats also come in a variety of colors including cream, fawn, red, sable, black, and white. 

Minimum Cost (per month)

When you factor in dog food, monthly flea and worm treatments, toothpaste, toys, and other essentials, you can expect the monthly cost of keeping a chihuahua to amount to around $75. 

Appearance

Size

It’s a well-known fact that chihuahuas are one of the smallest breeds of dogs in the world. In fact, they are so small that they are categorized as “Toy Breeds” by the American Kennel Club. Other breeds in this category include Affenpinschers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Italian Greyhounds. 

It takes around 6 months for a chihuahua puppy to reach their adult size, and they will stop growing around their first birthday. 

Average Height

Dogs are measured from the ground to their withers, which is the highest point of their shoulder. The average height for a chihuahua from ground to withers is just 6-9 inches. 

Average Weight

Chihuahuas aren’t only one of the smallest dogs on the planet, they are one of the lightest as well! A fully grown chihuahua will top the scales at an average weight of 3lbs – 6lbs. 

Temperament

Apartment Living

Chihuahuas are a great choice of dog if you live in an apartment. Their small size means that they won’t take up as much space as a larger dog and, while they still need at least an hour of exercise per day, they don’t need a yard to run around in for hours. 

Chihuahuas are also people-loving dogs so they don’t mind living in close quarters with their family.

However, it is worth noting that they can be quite vocal when they want to be! Some training and socialization can help with this, but it’s something you need to be aware of unless you want to receive noise complaints from your neighbors. 

Good for Novice Owners

Since they are so small, chihuahuas are a good choice if you’ve never owned a dog before. However, as with all breeds, consistent training is needed from a young age if you want them to be as well behaved and obedient as possible. 

If you’ve never trained a dog before, a chihuahua is also a good choice for your first dog as they pick up new skills very quickly. They also form an incredibly strong bond with their owner so, once they’ve learned the command, they’ll likely follow it every time moving forward. 

Sensitivity Level

Chihuahuas have quite a high sensitivity level and they won’t enjoy living in a home with loud noises or frequent visits from guests. They like a regular daily routine as well, and if this isn’t stuck to they can get depressed or start to develop behavioral issues. 

Tolerates Being Alone

If there’s one thing that you need to know about chihuahuas it’s that they absolutely hate being on their own. They were bred to be companions and, as such, they can suffer from extremely bad separation anxiety if left on their own for too long. 

If you or another family member can’t be at home most of the time, a chihuahua wouldn’t be the best dog for you. If you’re still adamant that you want a chihuahua but you can’t have them with you at all times, you’ll need to book them into a dog daycare facility where they can socialize with other dogs and people.  

Tolerates Cold Weather

As they are so small and light, chihuahuas feel the cold weather more than most other dog breeds. During the winter, it’s best to keep them cozy with a dog jumper. It’s also a good idea to invest in a good-quality dog coat when you take them for a walk. 

Tolerates Hot Weather

Originally from Mexico, chihuahuas love the hot weather and will happily spend all day basking in the sunshine. However, this must be done under supervision as extreme temperatures can cause their tiny bodies to overheat. 

Affectionate with Family

Chihuahuas have gotten a bit of a bad press over recent years for being aggressive, but they are actually really affectionate little dogs. They are loyal, gentle, and love nothing more than spending some quality time with their owners. They have also been known to reflect their owner’s emotions, having formed such a close bond with them. 

Kid-Friendly

Chihuahuas might be affectionate, but they really only like adults, and they aren’t known for being kid-friendly at all. The main reason for this is because they have such a high sensitivity level. Most kids are noisy and will run and scream around the house, which a chihuahua will see as a threat and, if pushed too far, they may react negatively. 

Kids also have a tendency to be a little heavy-handed when it comes to pets and, again, a twisted ear or accidental pinch on the neck could cause a chihuahua to snap. 

Dog Friendly

While chihuahuas aren’t a recommended pet for children, they are quite happy living with other dogs. Once they’ve been introduced and the hierarchy of the pack has been established, they’ll settle in and happily play with other dogs without any issues. 

Friendly Toward Strangers

As a general rule, chihuahuas are friendly towards strangers as long as they don’t feel as though they pose a threat. For instance, if you were to meet a friend in the street that your dog hasn’t met before, they’ll reflect your emotions and be as happy as you are to meet them. However, if you feel threatened in the presence of a stranger, they’ll pick up on this and may start acting aggressively to protect you. 

Health and Grooming

Chihuahua

Shedding

The amount of hair that a chihuahua sheds ultimately depends on their coat type. Smooth, short-haired chihuahuas shed just a little and, with some regular bruising, this is more than manageable. Long-haired chihuahuas shed a lot more and they need to be brushed daily. A trip to the dog groomer is also advised during hot weather.

Drooling

Chihuahuas do not drool at all. They may leave a little patch of drool behind if they’ve been in a deep sleep, much like a human would. But, throughout the day, they won’t sport long strings of drool hanging from their mouths. Nor will they leave traces of drool all over your home!

Grooming

As with shedding, the grooming needs of a chihuahua depend on their coat type. Smooth, short-haired chihuahuas will need to be brushed once or twice a week with a rubber grooming brush. Long-haired chihuahuas need to be brushed daily using a soft-bristle or pin brush. 

Frequent brushing also takes away the need for regular baths, which your chihuahua will thank you for as they hate water! They will need an occasional bath, however, and it’s best to use a special dog shampoo with as many natural ingredients as possible when you do this. 

It’s also quite important to check your chihuahua’s ears regularly and, if necessary, clean them using a cotton ball and some ear cleaning solution. You’ll also need to trim their nails and brush their teeth. 

General Health

Like most smaller dogs, chihuahuas are much stronger than they look and they don’t really have many general health complaints. As long as they are fed a nutritious diet and exercised properly, there’s no need to worry about expensive vet bills or medication. The fact that they can live up to 20 years is a further testament to their overall health.

Common Health Problems

While chihuahuas are generally healthy dogs, there are some health risks associated with them, just as there are for any other breed of dog. Below, you’ll find a list of some common health problems that chihuahuas are susceptible to developing.

  • Patellar Luxation: This is a health problem that affects quite a lot of toy breeds and it occurs when the leg bones haven’t lined up properly when growing. This can lead to lameness, arthritis, and in some cases, surgical intervention may be required. 
  • Hypoglycemia: This is another common health problem for smaller dogs. Also known simply as “low blood sugar”, hypoglycemia is easily treated as long as it’s caught in the early stages. If left untreated, it can be potentially fatal. Signs of hypoglycemia include slowness and constant trembling or shivering. 
  • Heart Murmurs: This occurs when there is a continuous imbalance in the amount of blood reaching the heart, and it usually indicates a more serious underlying condition. A chihuahua diagnosed with heart murmurs will usually be placed on medication, given a special diet, and should take less exercise.
  • Collapsed Trachea: A collapsed trachea is often a sign of too much exercise or too much exposure to heat. It occurs through excessive, rapid inhalation and this causes the trachea to flatten. 
  • Hydrocephalus: This is an accumulation of fluid in the brain which causes the head to look swollen. It also places pressure on the brain, which can lead to severe headaches. Some cases can be fatal and, unfortunately, there isn’t a cure. However, most cases can be treated using steroids which help to reduce the amount of pressure. 

Potential for Weight Gain

Chihuahuas have an average risk for developing obesity as, while they are small, they will happily eat anything you offer them. To help manage their potential for weight gain, they should be given at least one hour of exercise each day. They should also be given a diet that is rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and that is the correct portion size for their height and weight. 

Trainability

Easy to Train

Despite having gained a reputation for being ferocious, stubborn little dogs, chihuahuas are relatively easy to train. However, consistency is key and it will be up to you as the owner to enforce a strict training regime from a young age. Once they picked up these new skills and forged a strong bond with you, they’ll carry on following your orders for the rest of their lives. 

Intelligence

While chihuahuas are quite easy to train, they don’t have the reputation of being one of the most intelligent dog breeds. They’ll happily learn basic commands such as “Sit”, “Stay”, and “Leave”, but don’t expect them to jump through hoops or take on an agility course. They simply won’t be interested, nor do they have the intellectual capacity to figure it out!

Potential to Bite

It’s quite rare for a chihuahua to bite its owner, a stranger, or another dog. However, as with all dog breeds, there may come a time when they feel threatened and this can cause them to snap and bite. They may also choose to bite if they feel you need protecting, or if they are being provoked. Again, this is one of the reasons why they aren’t a good choice for homes with children. 

Tendency to Bark or Howl

You’ve likely heard the phrase “Their bark is worse than their bite” and this couldn’t be more accurate when talking about the chihuahua. While they’ll only bite if they feel threatened or provoked, they will have no problem barking at anything and everything.

Chihuahuas are a very vocal breed. They can also change their bark and their howl depending on how they are feeling so, even if they are excited and happy, they may choose to celebrate with a barking session. 

The main reasons that a chihuahua will start excessively barking include:

  • Protection
  • Alarm
  • Fear
  • Boredom
  • Attention Seeking
  • Greeting
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Compulsive Behavior

Excessive barking can be managed through consistent training but, since chihuahuas are such vocal dogs, this is something that you’ll need to do for the rest of their life. 

History

Chihuahua

For many years, there has been some debate as to where the chihuahua originated. Some believe that it hailed from Europe, while others believe it originated in Mexico. However, looking at certain archaeological evidence and Mexican folklore, it’s more than likely that their origins lie in Mexico. 

The first recorded evidence of the modern Chihuahua dates as far back as the 1800s. Entrepreneurial Mexican would breed them and sell them to tourists, who saw these tiny little dogs as quite the novelty!

In 1904, the first chihuahua registered in the United States was named “Midget”, and the popularity for the breed skyrocketed from there. They were especially popular with wealthy ladies who saw them as tiny companion dogs. 

Costs

The first thing you need to think about when figuring out the costs of owning a chihuahua is the price of the dog itself. They are one of the less expensive breeds, but they still come with a price tag of between $300-$800, depending on the breeder and their lineage. 

The next thing to think about is your ongoing costs. This includes monthly flea and worm medication, food, toys, brushes, toothpaste. This can average around $75 per month. 

Fun Facts

  • The title of “The World’s Oldest Chihuahua” went to “Megabyte”, who reached the age of 20 years and 265 days. 
  • Even though they are famed for having ears that point straight upwards, chihuahuas are actually born with floppy ears. 
  • Early Aztecs believed that chihuahuas had healing powers that allowed them to transfer disease from humans to themselves in a bid to protect their owners.
  • Chihuahuas form such a strong bond with their owners that they have been known to die of a broken heart after being abandoned or if their owner has passed away. 
  • Chihuahuas have both dominant and recessive genes. This means that a litter of chihuahuas may be mixed with long-haired and short-haired pups, even if both the parents are short-haired. 
  • Teacup chihuahuas are one of the lightest dogs in existence and rarely exceed 3lbs in weight. 

Kerry White

Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners. Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.

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