The Chihuahua may be the smallest breed recognized by the American Kennel Club, but don’t tell them that. These miniature canines are known for their big personality and strong sense of self-confidence. Loyal to a fault, Chihuahuas have been known to stand up to dogs 10 times their size as well as any stranger who steps into their territory without permission.
One of the oldest breeds in America, the Chihuahua dog’s ancestors once lived among ancient South American civilizations. Today, Chihuahuas are a national symbol of Mexico and are popular across the United States. Though their tiny size may make some people ask, “Is a Chihuahua a dog?” these small but mighty canines make wonderful pets for the right type of person or family. They can also rock a sweater like nobody’s business.
Chihuahuas are adaptable pets who can be a great fit for a variety of homes. Their small size and moderate exercise need make them ideal for apartment living. They are also generally low maintenance when it comes to grooming, but although they won’t leave piles of fur on the furniture, they do shed seasonally. However, that doesn’t mean Chihuahuas are a low-maintenance breed. They thrive on attention and require early socialization training to be their best selves. Take a look at the Chihuahua breed info below to see how they rank across a variety of characteristics. This can help you determine if a Chihuahua dog is the right choice for you.
Measured from the floor to the top of their shoulders when standing or sitting
Their average adult weight
The average number of years they live
Common fur colors
Black, brown, white, chocolate, red, cream, fawn, mixed
Their AKC classification based on heritage, traits, form and function
BEHAVIOR WITH KIDS
Diet and nutrition
Chihuahuas are energetic dogs who need high-quality food to support their fast metabolism. More sedentary Chihuahuas are prone to becoming overweight, so be sure to pair good nutrition with daily exercise. You can take your dog on short, slow walks. Those little legs can’t go far before tiring—though, of course, some members of the breed will prove the exception—or you can exercise your dog through playtime in the house.
The Chihuahua’s independent personality sometimes translates into being a choosy eater. If your pet has trouble finding a favorite flavor, consult your vet or talk to a Petco nutrition specialist. Remember that changing food too quickly can lead to gastrointestinal upset, and always make sure to feed your dog food that is appropriate to their life stage. Feed puppy food to puppies, adult food to adults and senior dog food to dogs 10 years old and older.
The number of calories you feed your dog will depend on their age, size and activity level. Your veterinarian can help you determine the best serving size for your Chihuahua. Consult your veterinarian about your pet’s specific nutritional needs.
- Dry Food: Hill’s Science Diet Adult Small Paws Lamb Meal and Brown Rice Recipe
- Wet Food: Royal Canine Breed Health Nutrition Chihuahua Loaf in Sauce Wet Dog Food
- Puppy Food: Blue Buffalo Blue Life Protection Formula Small Breed Puppy Chicken and Oatmeal Recipe
- Minimally Processed: The Honest Kitchen Dehydrated Whole Grain Beef Recipe Dog Food
Give your Chihuahua what they deserve with these dog solutions from Petco.
What is a Chihuahua if not a skillful charmer who knows exactly how adorable they are? For this reason, the intelligent and head-strong Chihuahua dog can be challenging to train. Patience is the key. So is getting an early start on training. Like any dog, Chihuahuas can retreat into shy or aggressive behavior if not socialized early.
A firm, positive and consistent training regimen is required to make lessons stick. Use praise and treats to reward positive behavior, and do not give in to barking or other attention-seeking habits. Stay strong. Chihuahuas love to test boundaries and aren’t beneath using their cutest puppy dog faces to get what they want.
Potty training can be the most difficult part of the training process. The Chihuahua dog breed is known for sneaking off to some forgotten corner of the home instead of going outside or using indoor potty pads. Stay on top of potty breaks by making an effort to take them out frequently until they become more comfortable with the routine. Puppies need to be taken out frequently for potty breaks—after they play, when they awake from a nap, after they’ve have a meal and a drink of water, etc. As they age, you should be able to make it a few hours between potty breaks, but keep in mind that they have small bladders inside those tiny bodies.
Puppy pads, dog litter boxes, crates and odor remover are all useful tools during the house-training process. You can create a custom curriculum at your neighborhood Petco training center by enrolling in private lessons, group classes or even online classes with our most expert certified trainers.
Common health problems
How long do Chihuahuas live? Up to 20 years, although 14 to 18 years is more common. That’s because these dogs tend to be healthy, although, like any breed, they are susceptible to certain health issues. Perhaps the biggest risk Chihuahua dogs face has nothing to do with an illness or genetic condition. Instead, everyday injuries can be highly damaging to these small, delicate dogs. A Chihuahua’s bones are fragile and can break easily if your pet falls off a couch, gets into a fight with a larger dog or is handled too roughly. Pet parents should always be vigilant, especially because Chihuahuas are often the least aware of their own vulnerabilities.
Other common health issues for the Chihuahua dog breed include heart disease, patellar luxation, hypoglycemia, seizures, hydrocephalus, tracheal collape, glaucoma and hip dysplasia. Chihuahuas are also somewhat notorious for poor dental health. Pet parents can help ward off gum disease, bad breath, cavities and tooth extractions by making dental health a priority.
Senior dogs with joint pain may benefit from these Well & Good chewable tablets that can help support cartilage tissue and joints. Consult your veterinarian for prescription-strength pain control when needed.
Dry eye and eye infections
If your dog suffers from dry eye or certain inflammatory eye conditions, a prescription for Optimmune from the Petco pharmacy may help, as can artificial tears and over-the-counter eye lubricants. Consult your vet for a recommendation.
Wild Alaskan salmon oil is a dog food supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids. This may help support overall cardiovascular health while also improving your dog’s coat. Heart murmurs are very common in older Chihuahuas, so ensure your pet is having a veterinary exam at least once a year.
A calming aid like this GNC Pet Well soft chew that contains chamomile, ginger and passionflower may help relieve feelings of anxiety.
Every dog should have a daily dental routine. This Well & Good finger toothbrush is great for helping to maintain good dental health in small dogs. Dental chews and treats are a tasty way to help fight plaque and tartar in between dental visits at the vet.
Grooming your Chihuahua
Grooming and health go hand in hand, so it’s important to implement a consistent grooming routine with your Chihuahua after adoption. Chihuahuas don’t require a particularly high level of grooming, but they do shed, and their nails tend to grow very fast since they are mainly house or “purse” dwellers, but that doesn’t mean you should ignore your dog’s grooming needs.
There are two coat varieties for Chihuahuas, smooth coat and long-haired.
Most media depictions of Chihuahua dogs feature short-haired dogs, but long-haired Chihuahuas also exist. Long-haired Chihuahuas need brushing about three times a week to keep out tangles, reduce matting and remove loose undercoat. Even short-haired varieties shed, however, so regular brushing is needed to maintain their healthy skin and coat.
Short-haired Chihuahuas who stay inside may only need one bath a month to keep their skin and coat fresh and clean. Chihuahuas with longer fur and those who spend more time outside will need more regular bathing—every two weeks may be required for these guys. Be sure to use dog-specific shampoo. You may also want to use tear-free shampoo, as it can sometimes be difficult to avoid those huge, beautiful Chihuahua eyes.
Indoor dogs need more regular nail trims than dogs who spend a lot of time outdoors and naturally wear down their nails during walks and play. Plan to trim your Chihuahua’s nails at least once every two weeks. If your little dog is anxious, you may need to spend some time training them to get used to nail clippers or nail grinders. Start playing with their toes and nails from the start and get them used to hearing your nail grinder. You may need to start with just one nail or paw a day and lots of praise and treats.
The Chihuahua dog breed often deals with a range of dental issues, including weak tooth enamel, cavities and gum disease. For small-breed dogs, a finger toothbrush is a great option. Most veterinarians recommend brushing their teeth at least twice a week.
Dental treats can help support good dental health in Chihuahuas in between dental appointments with the vet. Treats can help remove tartar and prevent plaque buildup, which could eventually cause tooth decay and gum disease. Make sure to buy dental treats that are sized appropriately for small dogs. And remember, dental treats are still treats and should be counted toward your dog’s daily treat calorie budget of no more than 10 percent of their total daily calories.
While short-haired Chihuahuas might not need the same level of bathing and brushing as their long-haired counterparts, that doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from professional grooming. If you have trouble trimming your dog’s nails or brushing their teeth, a professional groomer can provide these services for you. Petco offers grooming packages as well as a la carte services from friendly and highly experienced groomers.
Adopting a Chihuahua
Thinking of adopting a Chihuahua? Originally bred as a companion animal, the Chihuahua dog breed often shows fierce loyalty and devotion to their humans. They enjoy spending lots of time with their pet parents and can even become tiny shadows, prancing behind their human from room to room. For this reason, they do best in households where their pet parents can shower them with attention.
The breed can be anxious, and they prefer calm environments. Older dogs and good-natured pets can make good housemates for Chihuahuas. One important thing to note is that Chihuahuas don’t always do well with young children. Their snippy nature can create tension, and overexcited children can unintentionally injure these delicate dogs, or they themselves can be injured.
The Chihuahua’s size can be a big benefit for certain households. This isn’t a dog who needs a large yard or lots of room to run. In fact, they can be perfect apartment dogs. Many pet parents enjoy taking these “purse dogs” with them to dog-friendly restaurants, parks and other venues.
Before adopting this breed, it’s also important to acknowledge the long Chihuahua life span. If you adopt a puppy, your pet could be with you for 14 years or more. Some Chihuahua dogs have even hit their 20th birthday.
When searching for a Chihuahua to adopt, you have several options. Many Chihuahua rescue organizations will vaccinate and spay or neuter the dogs in their care before sending them to their permanent homes, as will many local animal shelters. If you choose not to adopt, Chihuahua breeders are an option. Do your homework on any breeder you’re considering, and make sure they’ve performed genetic testing on their breeding dogs to lower the risk of common genetic conditions.