Chihuahua: Breed Profile, Characteristics, & Care Guide

| Updated: August 18, 2023
long hair white chihuahua sitting on short cut grass, side profile

Have you ever wondered where chihuahuas came from and how they became so popular? Chihuahuas are named after the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where they were first found in the mid-1800s. But their exact origin and ancestry are still a mystery. Some experts think they came from the Techichi, a small dog the ancient Toltec and Aztec civilizations kept. Others say Spanish traders or explorers from other places like China or Malta may have brought them to Mexico.

No matter where they came from, chihuahuas have been loved as pets for centuries by people from different cultures and backgrounds. They have also been in many movies, TV shows, books, and artworks, showing their unique charm and personality.

Read on to discover more about chihuahuas’ different types and variations, their health and care tips, their personality and temperament, and their training and socialization needs. By the end, you’ll understand what makes chihuahuas such wonderful dogs and how to take good care of them.

History of Chihuahuas

One of the most intriguing aspects of chihuahuas is their history. Where did they come from, and how did they become so popular? The answer is not so simple, as there are many theories and speculations about the origin and ancestry of this breed. However, most historians agree that chihuahuas have a strong connection to Mexico, where they were first discovered and named.

The Mexican Connection

The name chihuahua comes from the Mexican state of Chihuahua, where some of the earliest specimens of this breed were found in the mid-1800s. The state of Chihuahua is the largest of Mexico’s 32 states, bordering Texas and New Mexico to the northeast. It was a mining and trading center, as well as a site of political and military conflicts during the colonial period.

The dog breed of chihuahua is generally accepted to have originated in Mexico as early as the 9th century, based on legends, artwork, and artifacts. The breed was known in other parts of the world, possibly brought by explorers, traders, or immigrants from other regions such as China or Malta. The breed was officially registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904.

The Techichi Theory

One of the most plausible theories about the chihuahua’s history is that it descended from the Techichi, a small dog kept by the ancient Toltec and Aztec civilizations. The Techichi was a small, mute dog with fat bodies and large, chihuahua-like ears. It was used as a companion animal, a source of food, and a guide to the afterlife.

The Toltecs were a powerful civilization that ruled central Mexico from the 10th to the 12th century. They were conquered by the Aztecs, who adopted many of their cultural and religious practices. The Aztecs believed that dogs were guardians of the afterlife and used them in burial ceremonies. They would often sacrifice, mummify, and bury dogs alongside their owners, believing that their canine companions would join them in the afterlife.

The Aztecs also valued dogs as pets and kept large packs of them. They had nine different words for “dog” in their language, some of which referred to specific varieties. They believed that some dogs had special powers or abilities, such as healing or divination. They also used dogs for hunting, herding, and warfare.

Some historians believe that the Techichi was one of the breeds that the Aztecs kept and revered. They think that the Techichi was bred with the Xoloitzcuintli (Xolo), another ancient Mexican dog breed that was hairless or had very little hair. The result was the chihuahua as we know it today: a small dog with a short or long coat and a variety of colors and patterns.

Other Theories

While many historians and experts widely accept the Techichi theory, it is not the only one. Some other theories about the chihuahua’s history are:

  • The Chinese theory: This theory suggests that chihuahuas originated from China and were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders or explorers. Proposed evidence for this theory is the similarities between chihuahuas and some Chinese dog breeds, such as the Pekingese or the Shih Tzu. Some also point out that China has a long history of breeding small dogs for companionship or entertainment.
  • The Maltese theory: This theory proposes that chihuahuas descended from Maltese dogs that were brought to Mexico by Spanish colonists or missionaries. Proposed evidence for this theory is the similarities between chihuahuas and Maltese dogs in terms of size, coat type, and color. Some also argue that Malta has a history of trading with Mexico and other parts of the world.
  • The Fennec fox theory: This theory claims that chihuahuas are related to Fennec foxes, a small desert animal native to North Africa and parts of Asia. Proposed evidence for this theory is the similarities between chihuahuas and Fennec foxes in terms of appearance, behavior, and habitat. Some also believe that ancient people domesticated Fennec foxes and crossed with dogs to produce chihuahuas.

These other theories about the chihuahua’s history are not widely accepted or supported by solid evidence. Particularly the theory involving Fennec foxes due to the glaring inability of these two species to mate. After all, dogs and foxes have differing numbers of chromosomes and incompatible genetic material. It’s a shame since that is my personal favorite; I just love foxes.

Far and wide, though, the one thing most historians agree on is that chihuahuas have a strong Mexican heritage and are one of the oldest dog breeds in existence.

Breed Overview

Dog Breed Chihuahua
Nicknames Chi, Chi-Chi, Chico, Taco Bell Dog
Coat Long or short
Coat Colors Any color or combination of colors
Coat Patterns Solid, spotted, brindle, merle, etc.
Weight 2 to 6 pounds
Height 5 to 8 inches at the shoulder
Lifespan 14 to 18 years
Origin Mexico
Breed Ranking 33rd most popular dog breed in the US according to the AKC

Types and Variations of Chihuahuas

Did you know that there are only two official types of chihuahuas based on their coat length? According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), these are the long and smooth coats. The long-coat chihuahua has a soft and silky coat that can be straight or slightly wavy. The smooth coat chihuahua has a short and glossy coat that lies close to the body. Both types come in many colors and patterns, like black, white, fawn, red, chocolate, blue, merle, brindle, spotted, or tri-colored.

But some people also classify chihuahuas based on their head shape, body size, or other features. The AKC or other official organizations do not recognize these but are often used by breeders or owners to describe their dogs. Some of these unofficial types of chihuahuas are:

  • Apple head chihuahua: This type has a round, domed head with a short muzzle and big eyes. According to the AKC breed standard, this is the preferred head shape for show dogs.
  • Deer head chihuahua: This type has a longer, narrower head with a longer muzzle and smaller eyes. This head shape is more like that of their ancestors, the Techichi.
  • Pear head chihuahua: This type has a head that is wider at the bottom than at the top, with a medium-length muzzle and medium-sized eyes. This head shape is considered a fault by the AKC breed standard.
  • Teacup chihuahua: This type is not a separate breed but a term used to describe very small chihuahuas weighing less than 3 pounds. But this term is not supported by the AKC or other reputable organizations as it encourages bad breeding practices that can cause dog health problems.
  • Fawn chihuahua: This type refers to a color rather than a type. Fawn is a light brown or tan color that can be solid or mixed with other colors or markings.
  • Merle chihuahua: This type also refers to a color rather than a type. Merle is a pattern of dark patches on a lighter background that can affect the coat color as well as the eye color of the dog. The AKC breed standard does not accept Merle as it can be linked to genetic defects such as deafness or blindness.
longhaired brown and white chihuahua lounging on a couch in front of a small christmas tree

Health and Care Tips for Chihuahuas

Do you want your chihuahua to live a long and healthy life? Chihuahuas are usually healthy dogs that can live up to 14 to 18 years if well cared for. But like any other breed, they can have some health issues that owners should know about and prevent if possible. Some of these health issues are:

  • Patellar luxation: This is when the kneecap slips out of its normal position, causing pain and lameness. It can be born with it or caused by injury or obesity. Mild cases may not need treatment but severe cases may need surgery.
  • Hypoglycemia: This is when the blood sugar level drops too low, causing weakness, tremors, seizures, or even coma. It can be caused by stress, fasting, or illness. It’s more common in young, small, or underweight chihuahuas. To prevent it, owners should feed their dogs small and frequent meals and avoid giving them sugary treats or human food.
  • Dental problems: Chihuahuas are prone to dental issues such as plaque, tartar, gingivitis, and tooth loss due to their small mouths and crowded teeth. Owners should brush their dogs’ teeth regularly and give them dental chews or toys to keep their teeth clean and healthy.
  • Eye problems: Chihuahuas have large and protruding eyes that are vulnerable to injuries, infections, or diseases such as glaucoma, cataracts, or dry eye. Owners should check their dogs’ eyes regularly and keep them clean and moist with eye drops or ointments. They should also avoid exposing their dogs to bright sunlight or dust that can irritate their eyes.
  • Tracheal collapse: This is when the cartilage rings that support the trachea (windpipe) become weak and collapse causing breathing difficulties, coughing, gagging, or fainting. It can be caused by genetics, obesity, trauma, or chronic respiratory infections. Mild cases may be managed with medication and lifestyle changes but severe cases may need surgery.
  • Hydrocephalus: This is when there is an abnormal accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, causing increased pressure and neurological problems such as seizures, blindness, or behavioral changes. It can be born with it or acquired due to infection, trauma, or tumor. It can be diagnosed with imaging tests such as MRI or CT scan and treated with medication or surgery.

These are some of the most common health issues that chihuahuas may face but they are not the only ones. Owners should always talk to their vets if they notice any signs of illness or discomfort in their dogs and follow their advice for prevention and treatment.

Besides knowing the health issues that chihuahuas may have, owners should also take good care of them and groom them to keep them happy and healthy. Some of the care tips for chihuahuas are:

  • Feeding: Chihuahuas have a fast metabolism and need a high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs. Owners should feed them a balanced and complete dog food that is suitable for their age, size, and activity level. They should also avoid overfeeding them or giving them human food that can cause obesity or digestive problems.
  • Grooming: Chihuahuas have different grooming needs depending on their coat type. Long-coat chihuahuas need regular brushing to prevent mats and tangles and occasional trimming to keep their coat neat and clean. Smooth-coat chihuahuas need less brushing but more bathing to keep their coat shiny and healthy. Both types need regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and eye care to prevent infections or injuries.
  • Exercise: Chihuahuas are active and energetic dogs that need daily exercise to burn off their calories and stimulate their minds. Owners should give them at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day, such as walking, playing, or training. They should also give them mental stimulation such as toys, puzzles, or games to keep them from getting bored or destructive.
  • Training: Chihuahuas are smart and eager to please dogs that can learn many commands and tricks if trained properly. Owners should start training them from an early age using positive reinforcement methods such as praise, treats, or toys. They should also be consistent and patient with their training and avoid harsh or negative methods that can hurt their trust or confidence.
  • Socialization: Chihuahuas are loyal and affectionate dogs that bond strongly with their owners and family members. But they can also be wary of strangers or other animals if not socialized well from an early age. Owners should introduce them to different people, places, sounds, and situations in a positive and safe way to help them become well-adjusted and friendly dogs.

Personality and Temperament of Chihuahuas

So, what makes chihuahuas so special? Anyone who has been around one will know they have huge personalities in tiny bodies. But they are also confident, curious, and charismatic dogs that love to be the center of attention. They are highly loyal, devoted, and protective of their owners and family members. They often follow them around and alert them of intruders or dangers with their loud and high-pitched barks.

But chihuahuas are not for everyone. They can also be stubborn, independent, and territorial dogs that can be hard to train or housebreak. They can also be aggressive or possessive of their owners or belongings if not corrected or socialized properly.

Chihuahuas are also sensitive, nervous, and vocal dogs that can suffer from separation anxiety or bark a lot if left alone or ignored. They can also be easily scared or startled by loud noises or sudden movements.

Chihuahuas can also be demanding, needy, and clingy dogs that crave constant attention and affection from their owners, which can lead to them being jealous or resentful of other pets or people that share their owners’ attention.

So, chihuahuas are best for owners who are experienced, patient, and dedicated to their dogs. They also need owners who are willing to give them enough exercise, stimulation, and socialization to keep them happy and healthy. They are not recommended for owners who are busy, absent, or inconsistent with their dogs. They are also not ideal for families with young children or other large or active pets that can hurt or intimidate them.

Chihuahuas are amazing dogs that can bring their owners a lot of joy and love. But they are not for everyone. Prospective owners should do their homework and understand the pros and cons of owning a chihuahua before deciding to get one. They should also make sure to find a reputable breeder or rescue group that can provide them with a healthy and well-bred chihuahua that matches their personality and lifestyle.

groomed chihuahua posing for a picture in front of an intricate background


You’ve just read an article about chihuahuas, the world’s shortest dog breed. You’ve learned about their types, variations, health, care, training, and socialization. You’ve also learned about their personality and temperament and how they can be wonderful companions for the right owners.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and learned something new about these awesome dogs. If you have any questions or comments about this article or chihuahuas in general, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great day! 😊

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Are Chihuahuas smart?

Yes, chihuahuas are very smart dogs that can learn many commands and tricks if trained properly. They are also curious and alert dogs that can solve problems and adapt to different situations. However, they can also be stubborn and independent dogs that may challenge their owners or test their limits.

Why do Chihuahuas shake?

Chihuahuas may shake for various reasons, such as cold, excitement, fear, stress, pain, or illness. Chihuahuas have a high metabolism and a thin coat that makes them more sensitive to temperature changes. They may also shake when they are happy, nervous, or anxious.

Why are Chihuahuas so mean?

Chihuahuas have a strong instinct to protect their owners and family members, but they may also be suspicious of strangers or other animals if not socialized well from an early age. Their small size and big personality combined with instinctually territorial nature encourages them to jump at the first sign of a threat. Which many people perceive as mean.

How long do Chihuahuas live?

Chihuahuas are generally healthy dogs that can live up to 14 to 18 years if well cared for

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