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the search for a dog
Black chihuahua in autumn

Breed overview

  • Breed group – Toy Group (American Kennel Club), Companion Dog Group (United Kennel Club)
  • Height – 5 to 8 inches
  • Weight – Should not exceed 6 pounds
  • Coat length & texture – Short, soft, and smooth or long
  • Coat color – Coats can come in any solid color and may have markings or splashes. 
  • Exercise needs – High
  • Intelligence – High 
  • Barking – Highly vocal 
  • Life span – 14 to 16 years
  • Temperament – Spunky, protective, charming, and loving 
  • Hypoallergenic – No
  • Origin – Mexico

👉 No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but some are better than others for allergy sufferers.

Chihuahua fun facts

  • The Chihuahua is one of the world’s oldest breeds. The Aztecs and Toltecs likely used Chihuahuas as companions, food, and for religious purposes. 
  • Some consider “teacup Chihuahuas” to be smaller versions of this breed. But, the Chihuahua Club of America is clear—there are not different types of Chihuahuas. A Chihuahua is a Chihuahua. The organization fears these other labels are a marketing ploy by breeders to get people to pay more for puppies. Pups marketed as “teacup Chihuahuas” often have more health issues compared to their counterparts
  • Don’t let the small size of this breed fool you. Chihuahuas are energetic pups that need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.
Chihuahua lounging on blanket

Chihuahua temperament and characteristics

Chihuahuas may be one of the smallest breeds, but they have huge personalities. They are known for their charm and loyalty. Though the AKC breed standard states Chihuahuas may not exceed six pounds, these dogs often have a Napoleon complex. Sometimes, they get very attached to a single person. Because Chihuahuas love their humans so much, their alert and protective natures take over when a stranger or guest approaches. In other words, Chihuahua owners should prepare for a good bit of barking

Chihuahuas aren’t usually great first best friends for young children. Little kids may tug at their erect ears or poke their prominent eyes, and Chihuahuas — understandably — don’t enjoy that. Some Chihuahuas may get along with other dogs or cats, while others may prefer to have their parents’ laps all to themselves. Breeders, shelters, and rescues will usually schedule an interaction between your current dog and the Chihuahua you would like to welcome into your family. They can also provide information on how the specific Chihuahua gets along with cats.

Common Chihuahua health problems

The good news for prospective Chihuahua parents is that this small dog breed has a relatively long lifespan. Chihuahuas live 14 to 16 years on average and often lead happy, healthy lives. But the Chihuahua breed is susceptible to some health conditions. Knowing signs and symptoms can help owners get their pets prompt care, which may lead to better outcomes.

  • Dental disease. Research shows Chihuahuas are prone to dental disease. These issues include severe gum inflammation and retained deciduous dentition when a tooth erupts in younger dogs.
  • Heart disease. As a small breed, Chihuahuas are more prone to heart disease. Coughing and excessive lethargy are potential symptoms of congestive heart failure, which is more common in middle-aged and senior dogs than younger ones.
  • Obesity. The Chihuahua is a tiny dog and not supposed to exceed six pounds, but research shows obesity is common. Studies show obesity can shorten lifespan. 
  • Collapsed trachea. The trachea is the windpipe. When it collapses, it makes airflow to the lungs challenging and can lead to breathing difficulties

👉 Reputable breeders should be able to inform prospective buyers of any genetic health problems in the Chihuahua’s family.

Cost of caring for a Chihuahua

Though Chihuahuas are generally healthy, the need for care will usually come with a price tag. How much a pet parent has to pay for treatment depends on the dog’s health problems. Owners can sometimes treat or mitigate dental disease by brushing a Chihuahua’s teeth daily. Professional extractions and cleanings can cost $2,000 to $5,000. Walking a dog and limiting treats are no-cost ways to prevent or treat obesity. Stent surgery to treat a collapsed trachea can cost more than $2,000.

Pet health insurance is one way to potentially reduce out-of-pocket expenses, particularly if the owner purchases the plan early. Other alternatives, such as a pet savings account or community-based programs, may help.

History of the Chihuahua

Much of the history of the Chihuahua is a topic of debate. It’s generally thought that these dogs, one of the oldest breeds, originated in Mexico. The Aztecs and the Toltecs probably used Chihuahuas in many ways, including as companions, food, and for religious purposes. In the 1800s, some Americans traveled to Mexico and brought home these adorable little purse dogs. Chihuahuas began appearing in dog shows in 1890, and the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1904. They became more popular in the 20th century. Their small size made them ideal for city dwellers, and their apple head, prominent eyes, erect ears, and sassy personalities endeared them to many pet owners in the United States.

Long-haired chihuahua looking at camera

Caring for your Chihuahua

Chihuahuas may be small dogs, but they have plenty of needs. Caring for a new puppy of any breed can feel challenging at first. First up should be a trip to the vet, scheduling vaccinations, and puppy-proofing your home. You’ll also want to ensure your dog has all the necessities, from water dishes to items to keep them comfortable during teething.

Exercise 

Chihuahuas are small dogs with tons of energy. They need frequent mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Since these dogs are prone to obesity, physical activity is a must. They don’t need hours-long walks, but they do need to get out daily. Playtime at a dog park or in the backyard is also a way to keep your Chihuahua moving. 

Chihuahuas are very devoted animals, and they do best in a home where someone can be as committed to them. After a walk, these pups are usually game to cuddle in your lap. If you need to leave the house for long periods, sending the Chihuahua to doggie daycare is a way to ensure all their needs are met.

Chihuahua in a green field

Grooming 

Chihuahuas have two distinct coat types: long and short. Chihuahuas with long coats will need daily brushings with a bristle brush to keep their fur smooth and tangle-free. Others with short hair do not require as frequent brushings — once per week with a rubber or bristle brush should do.

Since these dogs are prone to dental disease, it’s essential to brush their teeth once per day. Dr. Erica Irish notes that a veterinarian may recommend professional cleanings once or twice per year. Frequent nail trimming can prevent overgrowth and breakage, and ear cleaning once or twice per month can nix bacteria and parasites. Always clean the pet’s ears after a bath, which you should give them at least once every three months.

Diet and nutrition 

Chihuahuas are tiny dogs that are prone to obesity. Keeping a healthy diet of at least 90% dog food and a maximum of 10% treats is essential to their health. Most Chihuahuas do best on a diet consisting of a food with the AAFCO seal. This seal certifies that the food meets dietary requirements. 

The food bag or can will have suggested daily amounts. Chihuahuas should eat twice per day once they are four months old. Younger puppies under four months old will need three or four daily meals. If the food bag gives a daily amount, divide it by two.

Ultimately, your dog’s veterinarian is the best resource for portion size. A five-pound, fixed adult dog only needs 237 calories per day. If your dog has special health conditions, such as obesity, your vet can advise on how much to feed them.

Training your Chihuahua

Chihuahuas need training from a young age. These dogs are smart, but training can sometimes be a bit challenging. Consistency is essential.

It’s also important to keep training positive. It may take some time for some Chihuahuas to pick up on commands, while others may learn more quickly. The ASPCA and Humane Society emphasize that positive reinforcement, such as praise and treats, works better than punishment and yelling. Remember, even during training, treats should only make up 10% of a Chihuahua’s diet. Use small, low-calorie treats. When training, start with one or two-word commands, such as “sit” and “stay,” and keep sessions short.  

Chihuahua walking

Breeds similar to the Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are the perfect fit for some households but not others. Whether you’re on the fence or not, it’s always a good idea to educate yourself on and consider other, similar breeds. Here are a few breeds similar to the Chihuahua.

  1. Pomeranian. Another tiny, charming breed, Pomeranians are loyal and loving.
  2. Yorkshire terrier. Like Chihuahuas, Yorkies are alert and make great purse dogs. 
  3. Jack Russell terrier. These upbeat pups are lively and protective but tend to be better with other pets.

Frequently asked questions

Are Chihuahuas a good family pet?

It depends on your family. Chihuahuas often get attached to a single person, but they can make good family pets. Chihuahuas aren’t always great with small children and generally do best in an adult-only home or ones with older children. Chihuahuas also do well in homes with only one person.

Do Chihuahuas like to be cuddled?

Chihuahuas are called “lap dogs” for a reason. They enjoy being cuddled, particularly by a person they know and love.

How smart is a Chihuahua?

Chihuahuas are smart but can be a bit stubborn. Sometimes, training can take time. It’s important to stay positive and consistent as you help your Chihuahua fulfill their potential.

What are the pros and cons of owning a Chihuahua?

Chihuahuas are small dogs that pack a ton of personality into their tiny bodies. They are energetic, alert, and love to be loved. Though they’re small, Chihuahuas require daily exercise to keep them stimulated and prevent obesity, a health condition the breed is prone to.

Chihuahuas are not known for being good with young children, so they may not do best in a home with tiny humans. They are very protective of their owners, so they are tentative around strangers and bark a lot. A reputable breeder, rescue, or shelter can help you find the right puppy for your lifestyle and home.