Feliz Cinco de Mayo! Here at la Nación de la Pata, we’re celebrating the holiday by putting a spotlight on the most iconic dog breed to emerge from the great country of Mexico: the Chihuahua. According to the American Kennel Club’s registration statistics, Chihuahuas rank among the 20 most popular dog breeds in the U.S. If you’re thinking about adopting a chihuahua, or if you’re just curious about them, we’ve got all the basic info you need to familiarize yourself with these unique dogs.
Chihuahuas are well-known for their small size. In fact, the Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world. They possess rounded heads in what the AKC describes as an “apple dome” shape. They have large, dark, round eyes that are set well apart and do not protrude. Their large ears perk up when alert, but flare out at about a 45-degree when relaxed. Tails are moderately long and sickle-shaped, but shorter than the length of the body. Their feet are small, even “dainty,” according to the AKC breed standard. Chihuahuas may have short, smooth coats, or long coats.
Chihuahuas are an old breed, the oldest in North America. Their origins are not clearly understood, but most agree that they originated in Mexico and stem from the Techichi, a breed that was popular and important to the culture of the Toltec people. Evidence suggests that the ruling class used Techichis as pets and in religious ceremonies. But the Techichi was a larger, longer-haired and generally much different dog from the Chihuahuas we know today. When explorers came to the New World, they discovered the Techichi dogs and brought them to Europe, and they also interbred them with their own dogs. Some theories hold that the use of Chinese Crested dogs in breeding efforts was a key to creating the size, shape and appearance of modern Chihuahuas. The AKC first recognized the breed in 1904, and the Chihuahua Club of America was formed in 1923.
Despite their occasional comedic portrayal as shivering and frightened, a typical Chihuahua is energetic, courageous and proud, with a terrier-like temperament. They are excellent companions, because they are highly affectionate and fiercely loyal. Chihuahuas tend to form very strong bonds with their owners, and demand attention from them. The dog-owner bond can also make some Chihuahuas extremely protective of their humans, and they may become aggressive toward any perceived “intruder.”
Chihuahuas can be long-haired or short-haired (smooth) and, naturally, the two types have different grooming needs. Smooth-coated Chihuahuas are fairly low-maintenance. Basic, weekly brushings should do the trick. They shed, but because Chihuahuas are so small, you won’t be overwhelmed with hair. Long-haired Chihuahuas aren’t difficult to groom, but obviously they require more upkeep than a smooth Chihuahua. Brush two or three times per week, and use a comb to deal with any tangles.
CHIHUAHUA TRAINING AND OBEDIENCE
Chihuahuas have a reputation for being difficult to train, but this is misleading. The are highly intelligent dogs, and if a Chihuahua’s owner is a strong “pack leader” who takes the time to train the dog correctly and strictly, the Chihuahua should prove to be a fast learner. On the other hand, if an owner does not take the time to train his or her Chihuahua, its unstimulated intelligence may lead it to act out, to become willful and difficult to control. Chihuahuas are small dogs, but they have big personalities and require a controlling hand just as any bigger dog would.
CHIHUAHUA HEALTH CONCERNS
Chihuahuas are predisposed to many diseases and disorders, and Chihuahua owners should take great care to familiarize themselves with the afflictions from which their dogs may suffer. A unique condition among newborn Chihuahuas is the molera, a soft spot on the head due to an as-yet-unfused skull, similar to a human infant’s fontanelle. A Chihuahua owner must be extra careful about the molera until the dog’s skull fuses several months after birth, although some Chihuahuas retain their moleras for life. Chihuahuas are also prone to being born with hydrocephalus, essentially a life-threateningly oversized head. Other conditions to watch out for in this breed include dental and gum problems, hypoglycemia, luxating patella, neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis, obesity, portosystemic shunt, respiratory difficulty, rheumatism and slipped stifle.
CHIHUAHUA PROS AND CONS
Those looking for a sidekick on whom they can shower heaps of love can hardly do better than a Chihuahua. The breed’s great capacity for affection (both giving and receiving) and its unceasing loyalty put them near the top of the list of best companion dogs. They’re excellent for single people who can put in the time needed to train them, and their small size makes them a good choice for city life and apartment dwelling. On the other hand, Chihuahuas are not recommended for children, as they are both delicate and potentially aggressive, and may not match well with a young people who may mishandle and misunderstand them.
Next: More Cinco De Mayo Dogs!
Chihuahuas are one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S., so it’s not surprising that they’ve frequently been represented in pop culture. Many celebrities have used their status to bring attention to their Chihuahuas and the breed in general. Hilary Duff and Sharon Osbourne have been noted for their love of Chihuahuas, but perhaps the most famous Chihuahua owner is Paris Hilton, who in the '00s was often seen carrying her dog, Tinkerbell, in purses and bags wherever she went. Other famous showbiz Chihuahuas have included Ren, the unhinged dog from “The Ren and Stimpy Show;” Elle Woods’ pooch Bruiser in the “Legally Blonde” movies; the canine cast of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua;” and of course Gidget, the Chihuahua who played the Taco Bell spokesdog whose commercials became famous for several years in the late '90s and early '00s.
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