Chihuahuas are little bundles of energy. They make great companions for pamperers, couples and apartment dwellers. Despite their small size, Chihuahuas are feisty. They can snap at boisterous kids and can be suspicious of strangers, so they're not for every family.
The Beginning of the Breed
Chihuahuas originated in Mexico -- they're named after a Mexican state. The breed comes from an ancestor known as Techichi, a type of hairless dog who was popular among the Mesoamerican Toltec society as far back as the 9th century. The modern Chihuahua is a cross between the Techichi and a small dog that made it to Alaska from Asia.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized Chihuahuas as a breed in 1904. AKC puts the Chihuahua in its Toy Group, which includes some of the smallest breeds of dogs.
According to the AKC, Chihuahuas come in nine standard colors, of which five are solid, and 21 additional coat combinations. Chi coats come in two varieties, long and short, and can have a number of marks and brindling. The average weight for a Chihuahua is between 2 and 6 pounds; AKC notes no average height. The breed-standard Chihuahua's ears are upright and large, forming an almost 90 degree angle. The tail is long -- never docked -- and usually carried up or in a loop over the dog's back.
Temperament and Personality
Chihuahuas are quick, agile, highly intelligent dogs. They're curious and mischievous. The AKC and other authorities report that Chis are clannish -- they like Chis but not other breeds. They can be good with children who are mature and gentle, but they're not suitable for small kids. They can be grumpy and even mean. They can be fearsome when provoked. They're slow to warm to outsiders.
Because they don't require a lot of exercise, they can do well in apartments -- but they don't do well spending time alone. Chihuahuas can be stubborn; early training and regular reinforcement ensures they are behaved and socialized.
Health Problems and Considerations
Chihuahuas live long lives, with many reaching 16 years or more. They are a healthy breed, with few genetic problems except for slipped stifle, a weakness of the joints that can lead to knee fracture. Chihuahuas have a soft spot on their heads at birth, which makes them susceptible to serious injury and death if stuck on the soft spot before it closes.