Chihuahua

Introduction | History & Health | Temperament & Personality | Breed Standard

Chihuahua

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Introduction

The Chihuahua, a companion dog of diminutive size, has been known as the Chihuahua Kortaar, the Smooth-coat Chihuahua, the Chihuahua Langhaar and the Longcoat Chihuahua. It also has been called the Mexican Dwarf Dog, the Ornament Dog, the Raza Fina and the Pillow Dog. Chihuahuas have a plucky, almost terrier-like temperament that serves as an effective alarm system. They are alert, bold, feisty little dogs with saucy expressions and playful dispositions. Chihuahuas are most famous for their tiny stature, which arguably makes them the perfect portable "purse dog" or "pocket pet." They should not be underestimated because of its size. This is a highly intelligent and athletic breed. Chihuahuas that are not properly socialized can become snappy towards children and strangers, and their delicate bone structure requires special attention so that they are not injured by jumping off of high places or being hurt by rambunctious children. The Chihuahua was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904, as a member of the Toy Group. They are consistently ranked among the top ten in popularity of breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club.
The Chihuahua is not to exceed 6 pounds and ideally stands between 6 and 9 inches at the withers. They come in both smooth and long coats, which are judged equally without preference. Their tail should be full and long, resembling a plume, and feathering on the feet and legs is preferred. Chihuahuas have talon-like feet with long, curved nails. Their coat is easy to care for and can come in any color. Their upright ears should be cleaned regularly. The Chihuahua tends to shiver when cold, excited or nervous.

History & Health

History

The exact origin of the Chihuahua remains shrouded in legend and lore. Evidence of similar tiny dogs dates back to the 9th century in artifacts, written descriptions and artwork from many parts of the world. There was a small, silent dog that occupied Mexico for several centuries called the "Techichi," which is evidenced in stone carvings that closely resemble the modern Chihuahua. When the Aztecs conquered that part of the world in the 12th century, they brought with them a tiny, highly prized hairless breed similar to dogs then found in China. Some authorities speculate that the modern Chihuahua descends from a cross between those two early breeds. Interestingly, despite the Techichi's close connection with Mexico, a letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand of Spain mentions that he found a small, mute domesticated dog in what today is Cuba that closely resembles the Chihuahua. Some people claim that Chihuahuas are purely of European origin, developed from the small Comforter Dogs of the Middle Ages, while others believe that the original breed homeland is Malta or China. There is little firm evidence to support any of these theories, and the most commonly accepted view is that the Chihuahua developed as a dwarf pet dog in ancient Mexico.
When Cortez conquered the Aztec civilization, these little dogs largely were lost. However, in the mid-1800s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, canine remains thought to be the ancestors of the Chihuahua were discovered in ruins of an emperor's palace. Archaeologists have discovered countless remains of tiny dogs thought to be predecessors of the Chihuahua throughout Mexico, often in human graves. Apparently early fanciers of the breed believed that upon cremation and burial of both dog and owner, the sins of the human would be transferred to the dog, and the wrath of the deity would be averted. Chihuahuas were thought to guide the human soul through the underworld into the afterlife, fighting off evil spirits. These legends are a rich part of the history of this breed, regardless of whether or not they are true.
In about 1850, the first Chihuahuas were brought to the United States from Mexico. Many were poorly bred and malnourished. The hardiest of these survived to establish a breeding base, and both short and long-coated varieties became popular. Modern Chihuahuas differ substantially from their poorly cared-for predecessors. They are alert, intelligent and clannish, preferring the company of their people and their own breed over all others.
The American Kennel Club recognized the Chihuahua in 1904, with no distinction between varieties except for coat length. The first three AKC registered Chihuahuas were long-coated. The first champion, a dog named Beppie, was entered into the American Kennel Club Stud Book in 1908. The Chihuahua Club of America was formed in 1923. The two coat varieties were separately recognized in 1952. This tiny dog gradually became one of the most popular breeds in North America, especially well-suited to urban life. It retains its popularity world-wide.

Health

The Chihuahua is a long-lived breed with an average life expectancy of 15 years or more. The breed is known for having open fontanels, called a "molera," which is a soft spot on the top of the skull. Breed health concerns may include collapsing tracheas, eye problems, hypoglycemia, mitral valve disease, medial patellar luxation, congenital elbow luxation, pulmonary stenosis, patent ductus arteriosus, melanoma, hydrocephalus, endocardiosis, pattern baldness, cryptorchidism, testicular neoplasia, foramen magnum dysplasia and seizures.

Temperament & Personality

Personality

Small and sassy, the Chihuahua is the tiniest of all dog breeds, often weighing in at less than four pounds. Their personalities are varied, ranging from shy and timid to plucky and outgoing. All Chihuahuas are fiercely loyal to the people they love, and eat up as much attention as they can get. They will often posture toward bigger dogs, barking their little hearts out, but always seem to recognize and welcome the company of other Chihuahuas. They tolerate being dressed up, and in the winter time will welcome the warmth of a sweater. Some have a reputation for being quite mean to strangers, but this stems from their protective of their owner and the fact that the only defense mechanisms they have are their bark and their teeth. They are an economical companion, as they don't eat much, and are a good choice for first-time dog owners.
All Chihuahua owners agree that this breed is an endless source of laughs. Their big eyes and ears, combined with an uncanny ability to cause mischief, provide hours of entertainment for the entire family. They also love to be warm. They will follow the sun's rays around the house all day, and when the sun goes down will burrow into couches, chairs, blankets and laps in order to stay cozy.

Activity Requirements

Chihuahuas don't need a lot of vigorous activity, so they are well suited for apartments and condominiums. Despite their size, they should be walked daily because it is easy to end up with an obese Chihuahua.

Trainability

The ease of training a Chihuahua depends upon the dog itself, and it's own particular bloodline. Whereas some dogs can be trained out of fearfulness, timidity, aggression or rowdy behavioral, a Chihuahua's temperament is determined solely on his genetics. If he comes from high-struck parents, he will be high-strung. If he comes from an easy-going, friendly line, he'll be the same. Regardless of the individual dog's personality, training should be consistent, involve lots of positive reinforcement, and plenty of treats. Treating a dog this size with a harsh hand will only cause problems.
Chihuahuas are notoriously hard to house train, and many owners resort to litter boxes or indoor grass patches. They hate cold weather and despise the rain, and many times will flat out refuse to relieve themselves in such conditions.

Behavioral Traits

Barking is the number one behavioral problem with Chihuahuas. Even easy going individuals who enjoy the company of new people will bark to announce that person's arrival. Some Chihuahuas are prone to bark literally every time a house guest makes a move, which can be alienating to friends and family. It is very important to socialize Chihuahuas as early and as often as possible, so that they are welcoming of new people.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
A graceful, alert, swift-moving compact little dog with saucy expression, and with terrier-like qualities of temperament.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Weight – A well balanced little dog not to exceed 6 pounds. Proportion – The body is off-square; hence, slightly longer when measured from point of shoulder to point of buttocks, than height at the withers. Somewhat shorter bodies are preferred in males. Disqualification – Any dog over 6 pounds in weight.

Head
A well rounded "apple dome" skull, with or without molera. Expression – Saucy. Eyes - Full, round, but not protruding, balanced, set well apart-luminous dark or luminous ruby. Light eyes in blond or white-colored dogs permissible. Blue eyes or a difference in the color of the iris in the two eyes, or two different colors within one iris should be considered a serious fault. Ears – Large, erect type ears, held more upright when alert, but flaring to the sides at a 45 degree angle when in repose, giving breadth between the ears. Stop – Well defined. When viewed in profile, it forms a near 90 degree angle where muzzle joins skull. Muzzle – Moderately short, slightly pointed. Cheeks and jaws lean. Nose – Self-colored in blond types, or black. In moles, blues, and chocolates, they are self-colored. In blond types, pink noses permissible. Bite – Level or scissors. Overshot or undershot, or any distortion of the bite or jaw, should be penalized as a serious fault. A missing tooth or two is permissible. Disqualifications – Broken down or cropped ears.
Chihuahua (Long Coat)

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck – Slightly arched, gracefully sloping into lean shoulders. Topline – Level. Body – Ribs rounded and well sprung (but not too much "barrel-shaped"). Tail – Moderately long, carried sickle either up or out, or in a loop over the back with tip just touching the back.
(Never tucked between legs.) Disqualifications – Docked tail, bobtail.

Forequarters
Shoulders – Lean, sloping into a slightly broadening support above straight forelegs that set well under, giving free movement at the elbows. Shoulders should be well up, giving balance and soundness, sloping into a level back (never down or low). This gives a well developed chest and strength of forequarters. Feet – A small, dainty foot with toes well split up but not spread, pads cushioned. (Neither the hare nor the cat foot.) Dewclaws may be removed. Pasterns – Strong.

Hindquarters
Muscular, with hocks well apart, neither out nor in, well let down, firm and sturdy. Angulation – Should equal that of forequarters. The feet are as in front. Dewclaws may be removed.

Coat
In the Smooth Coats, the coat should be of soft texture, close and glossy. (Heavier coats with undercoats permissible.) Coat placed well over body with ruff on neck preferred, and more scanty on head and ears. Hair on tail preferred furry. In Long Coats, the coat should be of a soft texture, either flat or slightly wavy, with undercoat preferred. Ears – Fringed. Tail – Full and long (as a plume). Feathering on feet and legs, pants on hind legs and large ruff on the neck desired and preferred. (The Chihuahua should be groomed only to create a neat appearance.) Disqualification – In Long Coats, too thin coat that resembles bareness.

Color
Any color - Solid, marked or splashed.

Gait
The Chihuahua should move swiftly with a firm, sturdy action, with good reach in front equal to the drive from the rear. From the rear, the hocks remain parallel to each other, and the foot fall of the rear legs follows directly behind that of the forelegs. The legs, both front and rear, will tend to converge slightly toward a central line of gravity as speed increases. The side view shows good, strong drive in the rear and plenty of reach in the front, with head carried high. The topline should remain firm and the backline level as the dog moves.

Temperament
Alert, projecting the 'terrier-like' attitudes of self importance, confidence, self-reliance.

Disqualifications
Any dog over 6 pounds in weight.
Broken down or cropped ears.
Docked tail, bobtail.
In Long Coats, too thin coat that resembles bareness.

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