Complete Guide To The Chihuahua: Care, Grooming, Feeding and More

Stars of the silver screen and favorite VIP companions, Chihuahuas are pint-sized dogs with a fearless presence. Confident and charismatic, this ancient toy breed is as daring as it is darling.

As a veterinarian with over 20 years of experience, I’ve seen a lot of Chihuahuas. I also was the happy parent of one for several years before he passed away last year. The following information is based on my experience as a veterinarian as well as in my own home.

How Big Do Chihuahuas Get?

The tiny chihuahua weighs six pounds or less with a characteristic apple-shaped head and large, luminous eyes. Their tall, erect ears are wide-set and comically large. Muzzles are short and dainty with a slight point and tails are proportional and curved.

What Coat Varieties Do Chihuahuas Have?

Coats come in two types — smooth and long. Smooth coats are short, soft and glossy. Long coats are flat or wavy with additional length over the body and luxurious feathers.

Colors include:

• Black
• Black and tan
• Blue and tan
• Chocolate
• Chocolate and tan
• Fawn
• Fawn and white
• Cream
• Red

Markings, from brindling to splashes of white, are common and add character — all colors are embraced for breeding and show. Chihuahuas have a look all their own but may be mistaken for the Russian Toy and the longer-haired Papillon.

What Is The Personality of a Chihuahua?

Chihuahuas are among the world’s top ten smallest breeds — but someone forgot to tell them. Their terrier-like athleticism and can-do attitude make them top competitors in canine sports, but they’re just as satisfied with a brisk walk or a game of fetch and will thrive in any environment.

Intelligent but sassy, Chihuahuas are remarkably intuitive and loving companions who want little more than attention. Seemingly aware of their charm, however, they can convince well-meaning owners to let them be in charge. A firm hand and timely training reverses the dynamic and makes them cherished pets.

What Kind Of Grooming Needs Do Chihuahuas Have?

Smooth-coat and long-coat chihuahuas have different grooming needs, but the process is straightforward, and most owners can handle it at home. Smooth coats shed infrequently and need only occasional brushing to remove dead hair and debris. Long-coats need a little more attention with a weekly brushing to prevent tangled feathers and mats on the legs, ear and neck.

Chihuahuas tend to have slightly oily skin and are prone to tear stains on their cheeks — monthly bathing keeps it in check. But harsh shampoos can worsen shedding and irritate their skin, so opt for a gentle, pH-balanced product. A creme rinse reduces static and adds shine.

Chihuahuas aren’t particularly prone to ear infections, so care with bathing is sufficient. If they spend more time in a purse than on the ground, they won’t wear their nails down with exercise, so they will have to be trimmed regularly. A weekly manicure with an emery board is a gentler option for dogs with sensitive feet but only after the nails are as short as they need to be.

What Are The Exercise Needs Of A Chihuahua?

While most of the time you’ll see a Chihuahua in the arms of its owner, these little dogs do require a lot of exercise. Fortunately, because of their tiny legs, this is one breed that doesn’t necessarily need a daily walk in order to get that exercise. On the other hand, I highly recommend a good walk (with a harness – no collars for this breed) for socialization and stimulation.

Chihuahuas can absolutely learn obedience and fun little tricks. They can chase balls and toys and run all over the house. They can even compete in advanced obedience and agility trials. Each dog is different and yours may all kinds of hidden talents that you need to discover.

What Is The Best Food For A Chihuahuas ?

Most small kibble dry dog foods will be suitable for a Chihuahua. Because of their small mouths, smaller kibble will be a better idea than one that may be larger and harder to chew. Canned food should only be used if there are little to no teeth or if your dog needs a way to get more fluids in (for example, a dog with kidney disease).

Grain-free diets are a myth. Please do not feed your Chihuahua a grain-free diet unless there are specific food allergies that would benefit from a grain-free diet. Always consult your veterinarian before you decide to make any major diet changes.

Some good brands that I recommend include:

I usually tend to go with the bigger dog food companies because of the amount of time and money they have to research and test their products. They also have a stronger history of safe foods (very rarely will they have recalls) over the newer, more boutique-style dog foods.

This dog is usually a chow hound and is easily prone to obesity. It is important always to give your dog high-quality dog food. Monitor the number of treats and “people food” you give your dog to keep him healthy and fit. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best and easiest way to extend the life of your Chihuahua.

How Long Do Chihuahuas Live?

14-16 years based on information from the AKC

What Health Conditions Do Chihuahuas Have?

In my experience, the most common conditions I see in Chihuahuas include:

  • Dental Disease
  • Luxating Patella
  • Collapsing Trachea
  • Obesity
  • Heart Murmurs

It’s not at all uncommon to have a middle-aged or older Chihuahua come in for their annual exam with 3 or 4 of the above conditions at the same time.

Where Can I Find a Chihuahua?

If you’re looking for a reputable breeder, check out the Breeder Directory on the Chihuahua Club of America site first. They don’t necessarily vouch for the quality of the breeder’s operation, but it’s better than starting with your local Craigslist ad (just don’t).

The national club also has a list of Chihuahua rescue organizations from around the country.

Another great organization for rescues is the Chihuahua Rescue and Transport.

Sadly Chihuahuas are one of the most common dogs found in hoarding situations. As such, your local rescue or animal shelter will likely have at least a few Chihuahuas at any time.

Where Can I Find Out More About Chihuahuas?

AKC Page On The Breed

Chihuahua Club of America

Interesting Facts About Chihuahuas

Chihuahuas are instantly recognizable, but less is known about what makes them tick. Here are a few peculiar facts about this beguiling breed.

• Chihuahuas Outlasted Two Ancient Civilizations

The Chihuahua’s ancestors, the Techichi, were bred by the Mesoamerican Toltec and refined by the Aztec. So ingrained in these ancient cultures, they were considered among Montezuma’s greatest treasures. Thought to be extinct after the Aztecs were conquered, they were later found in the Mexican State of Chihuahua where the population was slowly rebuilt.

They Traveled to Europe with Columbus

Chihuahuas are beloved worldwide, but how they got to Europe is a bit of a mystery — it’s a long swim. Letters from Christopher Columbus to the King of Spain suggest they may have hitched a ride on one of his many voyages.

Honey, I Shrunk the Chihuahuas

The Chihuahua’s Techichi ancestors were considerably larger than the dogs we know today. Valued for their diminutive size, selective breeding has made them consistently smaller.

Beware, however, of labels like Teacup, Toy and Miniature — there is only one size standard for Chihuahuas. According to the Chihuahua Club of America, small specimens are simply petite examples of their breed and don’t represent distinct varieties.

• Chihuahuas Can Be Fierce

What Chihuahuas lack in size they make up for with hutzpah. A pack of strays took over an Arizona town in 2014, prompting over 6000 calls to Maricopa County Animal Control. Their track record for aggression toward humans isn’t endearing, yet early socialization and training softens their brash attitude.

• They Could be Geniuses

Chihuahuas have the biggest brains in the canine world relative to their tiny bodies. How smart are they? Experts disagree.

Renowned psychologist Stanley Coren ranks them 125th — of fair or below-average intelligence. Yet some dogs have exhibited extraordinary smarts. Fans suspect Chihuahua’s stubborn streak makes them look less intelligent than they almost certainly are.

Chihuahuas are Box-Office Hits

From Beverly Hills Chihuahua to Legally Blonde 2, Chihuahuas have captured the hearts of American movie-goers. Gidget, found in a kennel by the execs at Taco Bell, earned her keep hawking burritos and doing commercials for GEICO.

• Divas for Divas

Chihuahuas make their way around Hollywood like no other breed, claiming a surprising range of A-list celebrity owners including Matt Damon, Channing Tatum, Scarlett Johansson and Jared Leto.