ECCENTRIC, LOYAL, COMICAL
History & Origin
The origin of the Chihuahua is surrounded by mystery and speculation, yet this does not detract from the breed’s popularity at all.
The first mention of the Chihuahua in modern times was when a few of these dogs were found at an old ruined city in Chihuahua, Mexico. This is also where this feisty little breed gets its name from.
Although it is not known for sure, common belief would have it that they are descendants of an ancient breed of dog that was favored by the ancient Mayans and probably the Toltecs, known as the Techichi. This was a small, domesticated dog which was roughly the same size as a Chihuahua yet a little more sturdily built.
Another theory is that they are also descendants of a small European dog breed that were found in Malta and that some of these dogs made their way to the Americas during the Spanish conquests, and bred with the Techichi, giving us the forerunners of the breed as it is known today.
Whatever their history, however, the fact is, these dogs as a breed, had their origins in the Americas.
The first European settlers at the time would not have taken much notice of such a small dog as they needed larger working dogs on their farms and ranches. It was only when the USA became more urban that smaller dogs were looked at as pets, and the Chihuahua fitted the bill perfectly.
The first Chihuahua was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1904, but it was only in 1952 that the breed was separated into two classes: the short-haired, and the long coat.
The modern Chihuahua is much smaller than the original breed due to selective breeding. It is still not uncommon for larger dogs to be born that resemble their Techichi forebears.
PERSONALITY AND TEMPERAMENT
Your puppy is going to have a personality that is larger than life! It may be small, but by no means is this little dog going to stand back for anything – unless he is so inclined.
They are extremely loyal, as well as eccentric at times. Besides this, they are often both comical and entertaining as well!
Although some people are not great fans of the breed, saying that they are nasty little creatures that bite, their owners absolutely adore them, and more often than not, cannot contemplate having any other dog than a Chihuahua.
Depending on the owner, a Chihuahua could either be described as confident, feisty and bold with a touch of stubbornness thrown in for good measure or timid, mellow or nervous. The temperament largely depends on its breeding, so in order to determine the kind of temperament your new puppy will have, it is advisable to do a thorough check on its parents. This should give you an excellent idea as to whether you puppy is going to grow up into a feisty little character, or a more timid dog, for example.
The Chihuahua, however, is not a breed that likes being provoked, and if teased, will more often than not let you know exactly how it feels about it! They are, thus, not a breed that is suitable for a family with small children around.
They do well with regards to apartment living, although they do need adequate exercise.
A Chihuahua is a long-lived breed and can have a healthy, long life stretching anything between ten to eighteen years! So when considering a puppy, take this into consideration as you will be in it for the long-haul. They also tend to have specific needs that might be considered unique to the breed, but then, you would not consider a Chihuahua puppy if you were just looking for a family pet, either.
Because they are so small, they do not really make a great family pet, even when you do have a Chihuahua that is good with children. They can easily get hurt during play. They are also not really able to survive as outside dogs, as they are extremely sensitive to temperature, easily getting hypothermia when the weather is cold. This is why you see so many of them wearing little coats during the winter months.
NUTRITION AND FEEDING
A Chihuahua puppy may be small and eat very little at a time, but it has a fast metabolism which means it needs to be fed frequently.
Most often than not, small puppy breeds do better on a home-cooked or good quality canned puppy food because they are so small and often have trouble chewing dried food. If going the dried food option, it is usually best to pick a good quality brand designed specifically for the breed or for toy dogs, although this can be started at a later date. The dried food can be mixed with the canned or home-cooked food until your puppy is used to it.
Because of their fast metabolism, and while your puppy is under three months of age, it is usually best to practice ‘free-feeding’. From about three to six months, however, they can be given three meals a day, after which two meals a day is fine.
When giving you puppy home-cooked, finely cut chicken or red meat is perfect, as well as mashed vegetables such as, for example, carrots, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Adding brown rice into the mix is also great.
They tend to be prone to constipation, so adding the vegetables gives them more roughage in their diet to alleviate this kind of problem.
Overfeeding is never advised because they tend towards obesity which has its own set of health-related problems.
COAT AND GROOMING
Both males and females reach between 15cm – 23 cm in height and can weigh between 1,5kg and 3kg. They are small-boned and delicate with a wiry frame, although they do tend towards obesity if overfed or in instances where they do not get sufficient exercise. Do not be overly concerned if your puppy snores, though. It is due to its very short muzzle. It can be quite loud at times, though, and you may find it hard to believe that such a loud noise can come from such a tiny little body!
The breed has two types of coats: the long-haired variety, and the short-haired variety. Although one would think that a long-haired Chihuahua would shed more than the short-haired variety, this is not so. The short-haired Chihuahua has an undercoat while the long-haired version of the breed does not.
On the positive side, however, because they are so small, and although they can shed just as much as a large dog, their shedding is much less noticeable.
The best way of minimizing the shedding problem is by brushing your dog regularly. This gets rid of the loose hair in one go, and prevents it from getting all over the furniture! A long-haired Chihuahua has more grooming needs as their hair can tend to get knotty or dirty, but as it is a breed that tends to be more indoors than outside, this is seldom a problem. Regular brushing, besides getting rid of unwanted hair, also stimulates your puppy’s skin to produce natural oils that give its coat a glossy look.
Bathing a Chihuahua regularly, besides having a clean dog, also helps minimize its shedding habits. A bath every two months or so is more than enough. A good, quality shampoo is advised, however, with conditioner if you have a long-haired puppy. Cleaning around the eye area with a damp cotton wool or washcloth regularly is also advised in order to prevent tear stains from developing.
As they tend to be an indoor breed, their toenails need to be cut regularly so that they do not get caught up in things. Torn toenails can be very painful for you little pal.
Although they may be the smallest breed of toy dogs, they are extremely energetic for their size. They can get most of their exercise needs within the home by means of games and such, but they are still in need of a good walk a few times a week. They need to keep fit.
They may be small, but Chihuahuas are extremely intelligent and eager to please. They can, however, also be exceedingly stubborn when the mood strikes them. They also do not respond well when scolding. All training must, therefore, be firm and positive in nature. Above all, his training needs to be a fun, positive experience, rewarded with praise and love.
Housebreaking your new puppy need not be a difficult thing at all. Because he loves learning, he will soon learn the do’s and don’ts about his potty-training, especially if he is taken outside a few minutes after each meal. He will, very quickly, associate eating with going outside to do his business.
The most important thing to remember about your new puppy is that, like all children, they need adequate stimulation. If not, they can get destructive. They, therefore, need enough positive attention and adequate stimulation by, e.g. playing games of fetch or even hide and seek. Whatever grips its fancy! Playtime can be a rewarding and bonding experience for both you and your pet.
The good news is, your Chihuahua puppy will probably live for a very long time, up to about sixteen years, in fact, as it is a breed that is not prone to many genetic diseases.
As with all breeds, however, there are certain diseases that could possibly affect your new puppy, but although the chances may be slim of your Chihuahua developing them, they are still worth mentioning.
Once again, as with all breeds, it is always of utmost importance that you make sure you buy your puppy from a reputable breeder with a good track record and that you know the medical history of both your dog’s parents, if possible, as this will be a good indicator of whether your dog could develop similar conditions as it grows.
Probably the most common condition in Chihuahuas is slipped kneecaps, or to give it the correct term, Patella luxation. Although it could be due to your dog’s genes, it could just as well be as a result of obesity or jumping from high surfaces. They are delicate, and their joints cannot withstand such forceful, continuous impacts.
Younger Chihuahuas also tend to get low blood sugar or hypoglycemia. This is mostly because of the dog being extremely active and burning more energy than what it has consumed. Remember, they have tiny tummies and cannot eat much. Symptoms include shivering, staggering while walking, a glassy-eyed look, seizures, and if left untreated, possibly death. The quickest way to treat this is by giving your dog sugar as soon as you see any of the symptoms. Your dog, if hypoglycemic, needs to be fed small meals a few times a day to keep its blood sugar levels stable.
Many of this breed have teeth problems because of the small size of their mouths. Their teeth tend to be squashed together and are often skew, meaning food particles get trapped between the teeth which can later lead to tooth decay. It is a good idea to teach your Chihuahua that it is quite okay to have its teeth brushed regularly.
As a breed, while many Chihuahuas tend to get along well with children, they are not really recommended as a family dog when there are smaller children in the home. Their small size and delicate bone structure mean they can get hurt very easily. They are, however, excellent companion dogs that love nothing more than being loved and pampered, and giving as much love in return.
Despite their size, they are also excellent little guard dogs that will alert you immediately if something is not right in your immediate vicinity. Their inherent intelligence means they learn easily, and love learning tricks in order to entertain you.
Their grooming needs are basic while an added plus point could be the fact that they eat so little and do not take up much space! They are thus ideal pets for those living in an apartment.
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