#28 The Chihuahua


The history of this quintessential South American dog is not entirely clear, but archeologists agree that the Chihuahua likely originated in the region of Mexico that bears the dog’s name. The Chihuahua is most likely a relative of the Techichi dog, which was a companion animal bred by the Toltec civilization.  Records of this Chihuahua ancestor date back to 300 BC.  There is also evidence that Chihuahuas were brought to present-day Georgia and Alabama in the 14th century thanks to the discovery of dog effigy pots in the area.  In the 16th century, explorer Hernan Cortes reported that the Aztecs sold Chihuahua-like dogs at the market for food.  However, by the 19th century Chihuahuas were kept by Colonials, and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1904.

Chihuahuas are well known for being little dogs with big personalities, often being described as sassy yet charming. However, they are not often suitable for homes with small children as they can become aggressive if not properly trained and socialized from an early age.  They are highly protective and loyal to their owners, and will boldly attack other people and animals despite their small size.  They do best with other Chihuahuas or Chihuahua mixes, often eschewing the company of other breeds.  Chihuahuas like to burrow themselves into homemade dens, and therefore care must be taken by owners that they do not accidentally harm these small dogs by sitting on a pile of blankets or pillows that the Chihuahua might be hiding under.

Chihuahuas can appear in a wide variety of colors, conformations, and coat lengths. Short-coated and long-coated versions exist, with some kennel clubs considering the two varieties distinct.  Thanks to their small size, both varieties are easy to care for and are considered low maintenance.  The next distinction is whether the dog has a “deer” head or “apple” head.  A deer head Chihuahua has a flatter head, larger ears, longer legs, and wider set eyes while an apple head Chihuahua has a rounder head with shorter legs and ears and closer-set eyes.  Currently, the American Kennel Club only accepts the apple head conformation.  Chihuahuas bred for show must not weigh more than 6 lbs.  For pet Chihuahuas this standard is relaxed, with many larger conformations reaching weights of 10 lbs or above.  There are 9 accepted colorings and 6 admissible markings per the American Kennel Club, including black, cream, fawn, red, and chocolate; as well as merle markings, black brindling, and black sabling.

Chihuahua health must be monitored throughout the dog’s life. As a toy breed, they suffer from common small-dog problems, such as poor dentition.  Their small jaw size can create weaker teeth, so preventative dental care is a necessity for this breed.  Nearly all apple head Chihuahuas also have moleras, which are soft spots in their skull.  While most moleras fill in within the first 6 months of life, some never go away and must be monitored to prevent injury.  Eye injuries are common due to their small heads and large eyes, and collapsed tracheas are also typical of the breed due to their fine skeletal structure.  With proper care Chihuahuas can live to be quite old, with average life spans ranging 15 – 20 years.

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