Pet Care Blog

Chihuahua Breed Guide: Characteristics, History & Care

Aliyah Diamond
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine
Portrait of a long haired Chihuahua

Charming, intelligent, and sassy, the Chihuahua is a tiny lap dog with a big personality. But while these pups are affectionate and devoted to their family, they can be a bit snappy with strangers, so proper training and socialization are highly recommended.

If you’ve been thinking about getting a pet Chihuahua but you’re unsure whether it’s the right dog for you, this guide provides details and information about the breed, including physical appearance, personality traits, care requirements, history, and more.

Table of Contents

Pro Tip: There are some things you can predict as a pet parent, but unexpected illnesses and injuries often catch owners off-guard. Vet visit costs range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, but pet insurance can give you peace of mind by minimizing your financial risk while providing access to gold-standard care.

Chihuahua characteristics

Physical appearance

Known for being the smallest dog in the world, a full-grown Chihuahua weighs between two and six pounds. reaching only about five inches in height. They have a domed skull, short and pointed muzzles, big and round eyes, and large pricked-up ears. Their tails are longish and carried up or over the back.

There are two different coat varieties - one is short and smooth and the other is long and soft with fringed legs and ears. Their coats come in many colors and patterns.


The Chihuahua temperament makes for a great companion dog. They’re very loyal and like attention but can be somewhat sassy. They can be excellent family pets; however, they may be hostile to strangers or children who seem threatening to their small size. Like all dogs, caution should be taken when strangers or young children interact with your Chihuahua for the first time, to ensure everyone is safe and your dog is comfortable.

Although Chihuahuas are considered lap dogs, they’re quite active and like to be kept busy. Like other small breed dogs, they might be prone to barking, especially if they are bored or overstimulated.


In general, small breeds like the Chihuahua live longer than medium-to-large breeds like the Australian Shepherd or Labrador Retriever.

Chihuahuas are considered long-lived, with a typical life expectancy of about 14 years. Some members of the breed can live longer when properly cared for. The world's oldest Chihuahua on record is Megabyte, who passed away in 2014 at 20 years old.

Chihuahua puppy

Chihuahua care tips

Training and exercise

Chihuahuas are very intelligent and highly alert dogs. They want to please and respond well to positive training practices. However, they can also seek to dominate their owners and be somewhat temperamental, so you’ll need to make it clear who’s in charge from the very beginning with consistent training and appropriate boundaries.

Chihuahuas love to play and run and can get enough exercise even in a small indoor space. Short walks are enough to keep them in good shape and overexerting should be avoided. The members of this breed excel in obedience training and other canine sports.


Chihuahuas have different grooming needs depending on their coat type. The smooth-coat variety requires only occasional brushing and regular baths, whereas long-haired Chihuahuas need brushing about once a week in order to prevent the coat from matting and tangling.

Their teeth need to be brushed regularly and their ears should be cleaned frequently in order to avoid ear infections.


Due to their small size, Chihuahuas usually need up to 1/2 cup of dry dog food a day. However, your dog’s exact food intake will be based on their age, size, and activity level. You should always consult with your veterinarian to make sure you are providing optimal nutrition to meet your Chihuahua’s dietary needs. Be sure to keep an eye on your dog’s daily food intake in order to prevent them from getting overweight.

Chihuahuas have weak teeth due to the small size of their jaws and require regular dental care. Make sure to provide a diet that requires chewing, as well as dental chews to help reduce plaque. Like many small breed dogs, Chihuahua’s may need more regular dental cleanings and extractions from your veterinarian to keep their mouths healthy and pain-free.

Life with a Chihuahua

Due to their small size, Chihuahuas are perfect for students and people living in smaller homes or apartments. They’re also ideal for those who don't like taking their pet out on cold days since these dogs can be easily taught to use a wee wee pad or litter box indoors. However, when you do take your Chi out, avoid leaving them alone or unattended for long periods of time as their small size makes them a potential target for attacks by larger dogs or wildlife.

If they’re properly socialized from a young age, Chihuahuas usually get along well with other dogs in the home, and even with cats. They are also good with older kids but not always an ideal pet for families with very young children, as they’re fragile dogs who may be unintentionally injured by young children. It’s always smart to supervise your children around Chihuahuas and teach them how to interact with these tiny dogs in a safe and respectful manner.

Short-haired Chihuahua on leash

Common Chihuahua health issues

Like other small breed dogs, Chihuahuas are more prone to specific medical issues. The following are some health conditions dog owners should be aware of:

  • Collapsing trachea - a condition resulting from the weakening of the cartilage rings of the trachea;
  • Patellar luxation - a condition where the kneecap shifts abnormally outside the femoral groove when the knee is flexed;
  • Hypoglycemia - a condition of having low blood sugar, which affects a dog's energy levels;
  • Hydrocephalus - a condition where cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in a dog's skull

Chihuahuas are also predisposed to eye infections and heart conditions.

Pro Tip: If you’re thinking about bringing home a new family member, consider signing up for Chihuahua pet insurance to protect your dog’s health. It’s easy to find a great plan, at a great price, that ensures their access to essential care with less financial strain.

Chihuahua breed history

The origins of Chihuahua dogs aren’t very clear. One theory is that Chihuahuas descended from Techichi, a Central or South American dog that dates back to the 9th century and the Toltec civilization. The Techichi dogs were discovered by Americans visiting Mexico in the 19th century. They were prevalent in the State of Chihuahua, thus gaining the name we know them by today.

The second theory says that short-haired Chihuahuas are a cross between small hairless dogs from China that were brought to Mexico by Spanish traders and small native dogs. The long-haired variety is believed to have been created through crosses with Pomeranians or Papillons.

The breed was first registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904 and today, Chihuahuas are ranked 34th on AKC’s list of most popular dog breeds.

Adopting or buying a Chihuahua

Chihuahuas are a popular breed, so there are many reputable breeders across the country. Check out the Chihuahua Club of America or use the AKC search tool to find breeders that meet strict requirements.

Another option is to adopt a rescue. The Chihuahua Rescue & Transport has regional groups that feature Chihuahuas looking for a home.

If you're interested in similar breeds, consider looking into Pugs, Yorkshire Terriers, and Dachshunds.

Key Takeaways

  • The Chihuahua comes in a tiny package but has a big personality. One of the smallest dog breeds in the world, these dogs have a tendency to be a bit sassy but are also very loyal and loving to their owners.
  • Thanks to their small size, Chihuahuas are perfect for students, apartment dwellers, or those living in smaller homes.
  • In general, Chihuahuas are a healthy breed. The average life expectancy is 14 years old but they are prone to certain health issues such as collapsing trachea, patellar luxation, and hydrocephalus.
  • Consider your lifestyle before getting a Chihuahua. This feisty breed is happiest when they are the king or queen of the home and are ideal for retirees, singles, and experienced pet parents.

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Aliyah Diamond

Aliyah Diamond
Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Aliyah Diamond has more than ten years of experience in animal hospitals - working with dozens of species from dogs and cats, to elephants and snow leopards. Her lifelong passion for helping animals currently has her earning her doctorate of veterinary medicine at Cornell University and helping Pawlicy Advisor educate pet parents.

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