Chihuahuas are small dogs with a huge personality. Named after a state in Mexico, Chihuahuas come in a wide variety of colors, and two coat lengths.
The origin of the Chihuahua
Based on folklore and archaeological finds, the Chihuahua originates from Mexico. They are believed to be descended from the Techichi, a dog breed that was favored as a companion by the Toltec civilization. At some point during the 15th century, Chihuahuas were actually utilized as food by the Aztecs, who raised and sold them for this sole purpose. The dog breed was also used as a living hot-water bottle by the ill or the injured, with some strongly believing that this practice allowed the pain that humans felt could be transferred to the animal. The Chihuahuas we recognize today were a rarity until the early 20th century, with the American Kennel Club (AKC) registering a Chihuahua in 1904.
What does a Chihuahua look like?
Chihuahuas are among the smallest dog breeds in the world, ranging between 15 and 23 cm in height and weighing between 0.91-2.72 kg. However, some purebred Chihuahuas may not fall in this size bracket, especially if they have large bone structure or are overweight. They have large round eyes that bulge slightly from their sockets and large, erect ears.
There are two varieties of Chihuahuas according to the AKC: the Smooth Coat with short hair and the Long Coat with relatively long hair. Despite being referred to as smooth coat Chihuahuas, this variety does not necessarily have smooth hair, with textures ranging from velvety to whiskery. In fact, the Long Coat variety tend to have smoother hair, with soft, fine guard hairs and a downy undercoat, hence the fluffy appearance. In addition to requiring minimal grooming and trimming, the longhaired breed also sheds less hair than the shorthaired breed, a fact that is quite surprising.
Both shorthaired and longhaired breeds are usually identified as “apple head” or “deer head” Chihuahuas. Deer heads usually have distinct flat-topped heads, widely set eyes, longer snouts, relatively larger ears, longer and more slender legs. Apple heads on the other hand have rounded heads, more close-set eyes, a bulbous snout, shorter ears, and legs. Deer heads were common in the mid-20th century, with their popularity gradually waning in favor of apple heads.
Chihuahuas occur in a wide range of colors, from solid to marked, spotted, or a wide variety of other colors and patterns. Some of the most notable colors include white, black, mixed, brown, fawn, red, cream and chocolate. Some Chihuahuas possess a mottled color appearance known as the merle coat pattern which is not conventionally considered to be part of a breed standard.
What is a typical Chihuahua's behavior?
What Chihuahuas lack in size, they make up for with feisty and aggressive behavior, inherited from their parents and grandparents. However, like all dogs, they can be given obedience classes, socialization and training to improve their behavior. Chihuahuas are quite intelligent, therefore with adequate positive reinforcement, they are able to grasp training quite fast. The alert nature of Chihuahuas and general suspicion of strangers make them excellent watchdogs. Chihuahuas that are inadequately socialized can be easily provoked to attack, so they are not suitable for families with younger children.
Chihuahuas tend to be fiercely loyal to one particular person, so you can expect them to be overprotective around other people or animals. Additionally, Chihuahuas are not too often introduced to dogs of other breeds, consequently failing to achieve the appropriate level of interaction as compared to other dog breeds that have been socialized to interact with other breed types. Consequently, Chihuahuas tend to prefer the companionship of other Chihuahuas. When it comes to families, Chihuahuas are most likely to adapt to homes with older children who understand how to properly manage them. Otherwise, they are more suited for owners that don’t have children.
The health of a Chihuahua
Chihuahuas require special veterinary attention when it comes to birthing since they tend to experience dystocia, or obstructed labor. This is because the newborn’s head is usually bigger than what the mother’s small pelvis can accommodate. Therefore, Chihuahuas have a high rate of Caesarean sections.
Dental care is also crucial for this small breed since their small jaw size means weaker teeth. There are various ways to curb any potential dental issues such as plaque and tartar accumulation, including feeding your Chihuahua a dental diet or using dental chews. However, the best preventive measure is the daily brushing of their teeth.
Chihuahuas with an apple head shape are more likely to have a soft spot in their skulls. They are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull, an adaptation that facilitates the passage through the birth canal. Although the skull usually fills with age, it is important to take extra care during the first six months of life of the Chihuahua puppy. Some of the "soft spots" do not close completely, therefore great care is always required to prevent unintentional injuries.
A common trait observed in Chihuahuas is trembling or shivering. This usually occurs when they are cold, stressed or excited. Smooth Coat breeds are more susceptible to cold than the Long Coats, therefore during cold weather, they typically require coats, sweaters and boots to keep warm.
Chihuahua puppies are prone to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Signs of low blood sugar you should look out for include general lethargy, uncoordinated walking, fainting, unfocused eyes and seizures. To prevent hypoglycemia, ensure that you feed your Chihuahua balanced nutrition and at frequent intervals, especially if they are younger or smaller in size.
Other potential health problems that afflict Chihuahuas are heart-related disorders such as heart murmurs and pulmonic stenosis, and separation anxiety issues especially when they are so close and loyal to their owners. However, separation anxiety is remediable in dogs, with various treatments and tips.
High-quality dog food that is appropriate for the dog’s age will contain all the nutrients that your Chihuahua needs to stay healthy. Avoid giving your dog tables scraps, especially cooked bones and food with high-fat content. To prevent obesity, exercise your Chihuahua for about half an hour daily, careful not to overexert them. Although treats are an important aid in training your Chihuahua, be careful not to give too many treats to control weight.
The lifespan of Chihuahua is usually between 12 and 20 years, so with the appropriate dog food and health care, your dog will live a long and happy life.
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Youtube: Chihuahua 101- Feeding, Grooming, Training & Health Care of a Chihuahua https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fTcObEZmtSg