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The Chihuahua

Updated on September 3, 2008

Tiny, Tough, and Terrifying!

The chihuahua is the smallest known breed of dog on the planet. But just because he's small in size doesn't mean he's any less tough. Chihuahua's are some of the most comical dogs, full of character that would hardly fit in a dog five times the size. They make great companion dogs and work wonderfully for people who live in small apartments in the city. But just where did this tiny, pugnacious breed come from, and what are they made of today? Read on to find out.

History

The Chihuahua is thought to be the first dog of the Americas, and record of its ancestor, the Techichi have been found as early as the 9th century. Pictures of a dog resembling a slightly larger Chihuahua have been found at the Great Pyramid of Cholula dating to the 2nd century BC, so its obvious that the Techichi was a very old breed.

After the Toltecs were conquered by the Aztecs the Techichi was adopted as a pet of the upper classes, as well as an important part of religious ceremonies. The Techichi was thought to guide the spirits of the dead to their eternal resting place, and was a very important part of death rituals.

After the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors the Techichi began its transformation into the Chihuahua we know today. Orginally the Techichi was a bit larger than the Chihuahua we know today, but it is probable that it was crossed with miniturized Chinese dogs, such as the Chinese Crested and Pekingnese. The breed continued to change over many hundreds of years until it was officially rediscovered in old ruins near Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Thus the tiny dog became known by the same name, and its popularity began to rise in the Southern United States, such as Texas, New Mexico, and California.

Appearance

The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world, and for show quality the dog must not weigh more than six pounds, though the smaller the dog the higher the placement usually. There are no restrictions on height, which usually ranges from six to ten inches at the withers. Chihuahuas bred for companionship are often larger than the AKC standards, making for a less delicate and breakable dog.

Many breeders will try to list puppies for sale as "teacup", "toy" or other variations. The fact is that there are no variations on the original Chihuahua, and though the size can vary widely within the breed, you should never pay extra for a puppy marketed as any of these things.

As far as coat goes the Chihuahua comes in both long and short-coated versions. The long-coated dgos have a downy undercoat covered by long guard hairs, and are usually very soft and fluffy. Short-coat Chihuahuas range from velvety to whiskery feeling, depending on the coarseness of the hairs. Chihuahuas do not manage well with cold, and usually require sweaters when the temperature dips below about 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

The AKC standards allow any color of coat, so their are many unique variations of color within the breed. Some of these include:

  • fawn
  • brindle
  • masks
  • spotting
  • tri-color

and so on and so-forth. The only color that has issues is Merle, because of the genetic problems associated with the coloring. These issues are causing the AKC to reconsider Merle as a permissable color for showing.

Temperament

The temperament of a Chihuahua is curious and completely unique. A Chi is a fiercely loyal animal, often attaching to one person and guarding him or her jealously. They are also a very curious breed, and will get into mischief if left alone. The breed takes time to warm up to strangers, and will be very skittish around new people at first. Chihuahuas are often described as high-strung, but with proper training and lots of socialization the dog can overcome this trait. Because they are so small and nervous around quick movements Chihuahuas are not recommended as dogs for small children.

One curious behavior of the Chihuahua is the tendency to burrow into covers. If a Chihuahua sleeps in a bed with people, he will get under the covers and go all the way to your feet. It is thought that this behavior is a relic of times when the breed lived in the wild, and burrowed into the ground at night for warmth.

Health Issues

Chihuahuas are prone to a few breed specific health issues, like any other purebred dog. One of the more serious issues is hydrocephalus, where fluid build-ups in the skull cause abnormal pressure on the brain. The prognosis for this disease is usually pretty grim.

One curious breed trait is the presence of moleras, or soft spots in the skull that never truly grow in. These don't prove debilitating to the dogs, but extra care must be taken with a Chihuahua's head, especially during the fragile puppy months (first six).

Finally, Chihuahua's can also suffer from hyperglycemia, as they have very fast metabolisms. They must be fed regularly in order to keep their blood sugar up. Quality food is important to Chihuahuas.

Conclusion

The Chihuahua is a unique breed that makes a loyal companion and great cuddle buddy. If you are looking for one, please consider adoption, I often see these guys at the pound, often because their elderly owner has died. Good luck finding the Chihuahua of your dreams, and may you bring each other much happiness!

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