A purebred Chihuahua showing the classic features of the breed
|Common nicknames||Chi, Chi-chi|
|Domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris)|
The Chihuahua // (listen) (Spanish: chihuahueño) is the smallest breed of dog and is named after the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. Chihuahuas come in a wide variety of colors, and two coat lengths.
The Chihuahua's history is convoluted, and many theories surround the origin of the breed. Both folklore and archaeological finds show that the breed has origins in Mexico. The most common theory is that Chihuahua are descended from the Techichi, a companion dog favored by the Toltec civilization in Mexico. No records of the Techichi are available before the 9th century, although dog pots from Colima, Mexico, buried as part of the western Mexico shaft tomb tradition, which date back to 300 BC, are thought to depict Techichis. The earlier ancestors probably were present before the Mayas as dogs approximating the Chihuahua are found in materials from the Great Pyramid of Cholula, antedating 1530 and in the ruins of Chichen Itza on the Yucatán Peninsula. However, genetic evidence reveals very little pre-European genetics in modern chihuahuas (<2%), suggesting that interbreeding with European dogs has left little of the original American lineage (while possibly retaining a similar form).
Wheeled dog toys in Mesoamerica range from Mexico to El Salvador. The earliest of these were found at Tres Zapotes in Veracruz, Mexico, which date to 100 AD, indirect evidence that a Chihuahua-like breed was in Mexico over 1400 years before the first Europeans arrived.
Dog effigy pots dating to around 1325 AD discovered in Georgia and Tennessee also appear to represent the Chihuahua. In 1850, a pot featuring the Chihuahua-like dogs was unearthed in old ruins at Casas Grandes in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which dates from 1100–1300 AD showing the long history of such dogs at this site, although most artifacts relating to its existence are found around Mexico City. It has been argued that these pots arrived with survivors from the Casas Grandes site in Chihuahua, Mexico, after it was attacked and destroyed around 1340 AD.
In a 1520 letter, Hernan Cortés wrote that the Aztecs raised and sold the little dogs as food. Colonial records refer to small, nearly hairless dogs at the beginning of the 19th century, one of which claims 16th-century Conquistadores found them plentiful in the region later known as Chihuahua. Small dogs such as Chihuahuas were also used as living hot-water bottles during illness or injury. Some believe this practice is where the idea of pain being transferred to animals from humans originated, which gave way to rituals such as burning the deceased with live dogs, such as the Techichi, to exonerate the deceased human's sins. Chihuahuas as we know them today remained a rarity until the early 20th century; the American Kennel Club (AKC) did not register a Chihuahua until 1904.
Chihuahuas are the smallest breed recognized by some kennel clubs.
There are two varieties of Chihuahua recognized by the AKC– the Smooth Coat (shorthaired) and the Long Coat (longhaired). Both the Smooth and the Long Coats have their special attractions and are equally easy to keep clean and well groomed. The UK Kennel Club considers the two as distinct breeds; matings between the two are not eligible for KC registration.
Dogs of either coat type may be identified as either "apple head" or "deer head" Chihuahuas, particularly in the United States. Apple heads have rounded heads, close-set eyes, and relatively short ears and legs. Deer heads have flat-topped heads, more widely set eyes, larger ears, and longer, more slender legs. While deer heads were popular in the mid-20th century, current breed standards defined by registries such as the AKC specify the apple-head conformation.
Breed standards for this dog do not generally specify a height; only a weight and a description of their overall proportions. Generally, the height ranges between 6 and 9 in (15 and 23 cm); however, some dogs grow as tall as 30 to 38 cm (12 to 15 in). Both British and American breed standards state that a Chihuahua must not weigh more than 5.9 lb (2.7 kg) for conformation. However, the British standard also states that a weight of 4–6 lb (1.8–2.7 kg) is preferred. A clause stating. "if two dogs are equally good in type, the more diminutive one is preferred" was removed in 2009. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale standard calls for dogs ideally between 1.5 and 3.0 kg (3.3 and 6.6 lb), although smaller ones are acceptable in the show ring.
Pet Chihuahuas (that is, those bred or purchased as companions rather than show dogs) often range above these weights, even above 10 lb if they have large bone structures or are allowed to become overweight. This does not mean that they are not purebred Chihuahuas; they just do not meet the requirements to enter a conformation show. Oversized Chihuahuas are seen in some of the best, and worst, bloodlines. Chihuahuas do not breed true for size, and puppies from the same litter can mature in drastically different sizes from one another. Also, larger breeding females are less likely to experience dystocia (obstructed labor). Typically, the breed standard for both the Long and Short Coat Chihuahuas will be identical except for the description of the coat. Chihuahuas have large, round eyes and large, erect ears, set in a high, dramatically rounded skull.
The Kennel Club in the United Kingdom and the AKC in the United States recognize only two varieties of Chihuahua: the long coat, and the smooth coat, also referred to as longhaired and shorthaired. The term smooth coat does not mean that the hair is necessarily smooth, as the hair can range from having a velvet touch to a whiskery feeling. Longhaired Chihuahuas are actually smoother to the touch, having soft, fine guard hairs and a downy undercoat, which gives them their fluffy appearance. Unlike many longhaired breeds, longhaired Chihuahuas require no trimming and minimal grooming. Contrary to popular belief, the longhaired breed also typically sheds less than its shorthaired counterparts. Up to three or more years may be needed before a full longhaired coat develops.
Chihuahuas occur in virtually any color combination, from solid to marked or splashed, allowing for colors from solid black to solid white, spotted, sabled, or a variety of other colors and patterns. Colors and patterns can combine and affect each other, resulting in a very high degree of variation. Common colors are fawn, red, cream, chocolate, brown, mixed, white, and black. No color or pattern is considered more valuable than another.
The merle coat pattern, which appears mottled, is not traditionally considered part of the breed standard. In May 2007, The Kennel Club decided not to register puppies with this coloration due to the health risks associated with the responsible gene, and in December of that year, formally amended its breed standard to disqualify merle dogs. The Fédération Cynologique Internationale, which represents the major kennel clubs of 84 countries, also disqualified merle. Other countries' kennel clubs, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Germany, have also disqualified merle. However, in May 2008, the Chihuahua Club of America voted that merles would not be disqualified in the United States, and would be fully registrable and able to compete in AKC events. Opponents of merle recognition suspect the coloration came about by modern crossbreeding with other dogs and not by natural genetic drift.
How a Chihuahua behaves depends on the genetic temperament of his or her parents and grandparents. However, as with all dogs, socialization and training are very important. Like many small dogs, Chihuahuas are less likely than large dogs to be given obedience classes, socialization, or appropriate exercise and training. Frequent victims of "small dog syndrome", in which owners feel no need to provide the kind of training and socialization routinely provided for larger dogs, untrained Chihuahuas suffer the same predictable behavior problems as other untrained dogs regardless of the breed. However, they thrive well when given appropriate socialization and training.
Poorly socialized or frightened Chihuahuas can be easily provoked to attack, so are generally unsuitable for homes with small and undisciplined children. The breed tends to be fiercely loyal to one particular person and in some cases may become overprotective of the person, especially around other people or animals. They are frequently not introduced to or socialized with dogs of other breeds, and as a result do not interact as well with them, as other dogs that have been socialized to interact with different breed types and tend to have a "clannish" nature, often preferring the companionship of other Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes over other dogs. These traits generally make them unsuitable for households with children who are not patient and calm. If properly managed by older children, 13 and up, they can adapt to this kind of living with a dedicated owner. The temperament of its owner can make a difference in the temperament of the pup.
Chihuahuas love their dens and often burrow themselves in pillows, clothes hampers, and blankets. They are often found under the covers or at the bottom of the bed, deep in the dark and safety of what they perceive as their den. Chihuahuas also enjoy time in sunlight.
This breed requires expert veterinary attention in areas such as birthing and dental care. Dental care is a must for these small dogs, whose jaw size makes for weaker teeth. Although daily brushing provides the best preventive measure, feeding a dental diet or using dental chews for dogs is an effective approach pet owners can take to help prevent and control accumulation of plaque and tartar to avoid consequences of severe periodontal disease. The best physical characteristics of dog food to contribute to cleaning a dog's teeth would be food that is large and dense, so more time is spent chewing, which leads to the surface of the teeth being cleaned.
Chihuahuas, and other toy breeds, can be affected by hydrocephalus. Chihuahua puppies with hydrocephalus have an abnormally large head, are lethargic, and do not grow at the same pace as their siblings. A true case of hydrocephalus can be diagnosed by a veterinarian, though the prognosis is grim.
Apple head Chihuahuas can have moleras, or a soft spot in their skulls, and they are the only breed of dog to be born with an incomplete skull. This is not a defect; it is a normal adaptation facilitating the passage through the birth canal and growth and development of the domed type of forehead. The molera is predominant in the apple heads and is present in nearly all Chihuahua puppies. The molera fills in with age, but great care needs to be taken during the first six months until the skull is fully formed. Some moleras do not close completely and require extra care to prevent injury.
Chihuahua puppies can be at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Signs of hypoglycemia include lethargy, sleepiness, uncoordinated walking, unfocused eyes, spasms of the neck muscles or head pulling back or to the side, fainting, and seizures. Hypoglycemia can be avoided with adequate nutrition and frequent feedings, especially for Chihuahuas that are younger, smaller, or leaner. Chihuahua owners should have a simple-sugar supplement on hand to use in emergencies, such as Nutri-Cal or corn syrup. These supplements can be rubbed on the gums and roof of the mouth to rapidly raise the blood sugar level.
However, as with any dog, owners should take care not to overfeed their Chihuahua, since obesity can result in increased rates of joint injuries, tracheal collapse, chronic bronchitis, and shortened lifespan.
As in other breeds with large, protruding eyes, Chihuahuas are prone to eye infections and eye injury. The eyes may water in response to dry air, dust, or airborne allergens.
Chihuahuas may tremble or shiver when stressed, excited, or cold. These dogs, especially the short coat variety, are less tolerant of cold than larger breeds, and require a sweater/coat and/or boots in cold weather. They seek warmth in sunshine, under blankets, or on furniture, or human laps.
Some Chihuahuas may present separation anxiety as a result of being so close and loyal to their owners. This is a fairly common cause behind any pacing, excessive salivating, destructive chewing, or barking, howling, or whining in dogs. Many treatments and tips can help prevent separation anxiety in dogs.
The lifespan for a Chihuahua is usually between 12 and 20 years.
Chihuahuas are also known for luxating patella, a genetic condition that can occur in all dogs. In some dogs, the ridges forming the patellar groove are not shaped correctly and a shallow groove is created, causing the patella to luxate or slip out of place, sideways. The knee cap sliding across the bony ridges of the femur can cause some pain. The affected chihuahua will hold its leg flexed, and foot off the ground until the quadriceps muscle relaxes and lengthens, after which the animal feels no discomfort and continues with activity.
Chihuahuas are also prone to some heart-related disorders, such as heart murmurs and pulmonic stenosis, a condition in which the blood outflow from the heart's right ventricle is obstructed at the pulmonic valve.
In popular culture
- The 2008 film Beverly Hills Chihuahua is all about Chihuahuas, including a white one named Chloe, a mixed-colored one named Papí, and the many Chihuahua warriors.
- The series Evil Con Carne shows a Chihuahua named Enrique Jr., that was owned by Hector Con Carne. In one segment, he learned Spanish.
- Taco Bell used a Chihuahua as its advertising figure and mascot from 1997 to 2000.
- In baseball, a team in the Pacific Coast League based in El Paso, Texas is called the El Paso Chihuahuas.
- In the 2004 film Meet the Fockers, Bernie and Roz's dog, Moses, is a Chihuahua.
- Nickelodeon's Ren and Stimpy TV franchise features a Chihuahua named Ren Höek.
- Squirt in Pound Puppies
- Chiquita in Scooby-Doo and the Monster of Mexico
- Tracker in PAW Patrol
- In the film Legally Blonde, the main character of Elle Woods owns a Chihuahua named Bruiser. The dog makes a reappearance in the sequel and is joined by another Chihuahua, with the main plotline revolving around finding Bruiser's mom and releasing her from an animal testing facility.
- Cartoon Network's animated series Courage the Cowardly Dog occasionally features a Chihuahua named Shirley the Medium.
- Disney's 1988 animated film Oliver and Company features a chihuahua named Tito.
- Chihuahueño Chihuahueño (perro), Wikipedia in Spanish
- "Chihuahua History". American Kennel Club. Retrieved April 3, 2011.
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- "LostWorlds.org - Ancient Chihuahuas in Southeastern U.S". 2012-02-14. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
- "LostWorlds.org - Ancient Chihuahuas Once Roamed, and Eaten, in Southeastern U.S. (+video)". 2012-02-15. Retrieved February 15, 2012.
- "Hernan Cortés: from Second Letter to Charles V, 1520". Fordham University. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
- Pedro Baptista Pino y Juan Lopez Cancelada, Exposición sucinta y sencilla de la Provincia del Nuevo México y otros escritos. Ed. Jesus Paniagua Perez. Valladolid: Junta de Castilla / León: Universidad de León, 2007, p. 244: "even in the desert the tiny dogs could be found, hunting rats, mice, and lizards. " The footnote that follows alludes to starving Conquistadores reportedly hunting and stewing the dogs (Universidad Veracruzana, Arquivo Viejo, XXVI.2711).
- Coile, C. (2000). The Chihuahua Handbook. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, p. 3: "Small dogs have been used as living hot-water bottles throughout the world for centuries. Placing a warm dog onto an aching body part can be soothing, and it may be where the idea arose that the pain was being transferred from the person to the dog."
- Coile, C. (2013). Chihuahuas: Everything about purchase, care, nutrition, behavior, and training. Hauppauge, NY: Barron’s Educational Series, p. 7: "Only in 1904 did the American Kennel Club (AKC) register its first Chihuahua; a total of five were registered that year.”
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- "CCA-Teacup Statement". Chihuahuaclubofamerica.com. May 30, 2009. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
- American Kennel Club Chihuahua page, retrieved on July 29, 2007.
- "Kennel Club breed standard". Thekennelclub.org.uk. May 15, 2006. Archived from the original on January 3, 2009. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
- "Chihuahua Breed Standards | Chihuahuas as Pets". Retrieved 2018-12-19.
- "Chihuahuas: What's Good and Bad About Chihuahua Dogs". Retrieved July 10, 2016.
- Burke, Kelly. "Chihuahua Obedience Training". Chihuahua Traits. Archived from the original on November 16, 2015.
- The Chihuahua, Dog Owners Guide at canismajor.com.
- About Chihuahuas, British Chihuahua Club, retrieved on July 29, 2007.
- Coile, D. Caroline (2010). The Chihuahua handbook (2nd ed.). Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron's Educational Series. p. 27. ISBN 978-0764143304.
- Logan, Ellen I. (2006), "Dietary Influences on Periodontal Health in Dogs and Cats", Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, Elsivier Saunders, 36 (6): 1385–1401, doi:10.1016/j.cvsm.2006.09.002, PMID 17085242
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