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Chihuahua Dog Breed: Info, Facts, Pictures, Lifespan & Traits

Written by: Dr. Karyn Kanowski, BVSc MRCVS (Vet)

Last Updated on April 12, 2024 by Dogster Team

Long haired Chihuahua

Chihuahua Dog Breed: Info, Facts, Pictures, Lifespan & Traits

If there was ever a creature that proves size doesn’t matter, it is the diminutive Chihuahua. These pint-sized canines are a walking contradiction. They’re a trembling, quivering mess one minute, launching a full-scale attack at visitors the next. They are one of the most loving, affectionate, and cuddly dogs on the planet, but they are also one of the breeds most likely to bite your fingers and ankles. So, which is it? Fierce warrior or frightened weakling? Most Chihuahua owners will agree that it is both.

We’re going to embark on a journey to learn all there is to know about the Chihuahua—where they came from, what makes them tick, and why you should not judge them by their tiny size.

Breed Overview


5–8 inches


Under 6 pounds


14–16 years


Black, black & tan, blue & tan, chocolate, chocolate & tan, cream, fawn, fawn & white, red

Suitable for:

Families with older children, apartments, people who want a constant companion


Protective, playful, loving, yappy.

The Chihuahua, in its myriad colors, can be either short-haired (smooth coat) or long-haired, but the smooth coat is the more commonly kept of the two. These “handbag dogs” experienced a surge of popularity in the mid-20th Century, appearing under the arms of major celebrities such as Billie Holiday, Mickey Rourke, Paris Hilton, Cesar Millan, and Madonna. Their portability and cuddly nature make them the ideal companion for frequent travelers. However, there is even more to love about these tiny but fierce dogs.

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Chihuahua Breed Characteristics

High-energy dogs will need a lot of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy and healthy, while low-energy dogs require minimal physical activity. It’s important when choosing a dog to make sure their energy levels match your lifestyle or vice versa.
Easy-to-train dogs are more skilled at learning prompts and actions quickly with minimal training. Dogs that are harder to train will require a bit more patience and practice.
Some breeds, due to their size or their breeds potential genetic health issues, have shorter lifespans than others. Proper exercise, nutrition, and hygiene also play an important role in the lifespan of your pet.
Some dog breeds are prone to certain genetic health problems, and some more than others. This doesn’t mean that every dog will have these issues, but they have an increased risk, so it’s important to understand and prepare for any additional needs they may require.
Some dog breeds are more social than others, both towards humans and other dogs. More social dogs have a tendency to run up to strangers for pets and scratches, while less social dogs shy away and are more cautious, even potentially aggressive. No matter the breed, it’s important to socialize your dog and expose them to lots of different situations.

Chihuahua Puppies

Chihuahua puppies
Image Credit: Benevolente82, Shutterstock

If you think a Chihuahua is small, wait until you see their puppies! At 3–4 weeks old, the average Chihuahua puppy weighs around the same as a can of beans (15 ounces) and will be around 30–50 ounces by the time they’re 4 months old. Because of this, many breeders will hold onto pups until they are around 12–14 weeks old before letting them go to their new homes so that they are a little more resilient. Vaccinations and microchipping are often done a bit later, too, due to their tiny size.

It is common for Chihuahua puppies to have delayed closing of the growth plates in the skull, resulting in open fontanelles, which is the same as the “soft spot” often found on the back of a baby’s head. In most dog breeds, these fontanelles close between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks, but it is quite common for them to persist beyond 12 weeks in the Chihuahua. Some apple-head dogs can have fontanelles that never fully close, which are called moleras.

Like almost everything else about the Chihuahua, the size of their litters tends to be fairly small. They give birth to one to three puppies on average, sometimes more. The apple-head Chihuahuas have a higher incidence of dystocia (birthing difficulties) due to the size of the puppy’s head compared to the mother’s pelvis. Despite these factors, Chihuahua pups are relatively easy to come by, likely because breeders can easily make space to have more than one litter at a time.

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Chihuahua Breed Origin & History

Although the Mexican state of Chihuahua is generally regarded as their native land, some believe that the Chihuahua may actually have been introduced from Malta or even China. Early depictions are of a rather rotund version of the dog we know today, known as the Techichi, which was most likely bred as a source of food rather than companionship.

In the 11th Century, when the Aztecs conquered the Toltec people, these dogs became more than just dinner and started to feature in religious traditions. It is believed that the Chihuahua was created by breeding the Techichi with the Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless Dog) to produce a dog with more refined features, which gained popularity as a companion for nobility. Historians also believe some people sacrificed Chihuahuas to accompany the bodies of deceased nobles to guide them through the afterlife.1

Unlike most breeds, the Chihuahua was not bred for a specific role other than companionship, which is a vital part of understanding their nature. The breed we know today started to gain the attention of North Americans in the mid-1800s and was officially recognized as an AKC breed in 1908.2

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Temperament & Intelligence of the Chihuahua 🧠

Since they were developed to be companions rather than workers, the Chihuahua’s personality and temperament tend to be an exciting blend of helpless, devoted, protective, anxious, confident, playful, and mischievous. While their bodies may be small, their personalities are enormous, and there are a few characteristics they are known for, such as their “bitey behavior,” which most likely stems from their small stature, as well as their almost constant quivering, which could be due to many reasons, such as being cold, low blood sugar, and anatomy issues.

Chihuahua with chew toy
Image Credit: Karyn Kanowski

Are These Dogs Good for Families? 🏡

Chihuahuas prefer to be part of a group, whether dogs or humans. Because they are so tiny, they may not be the ideal pet for younger kids who might be a bit too playful, but because they enjoy playing as much as snuggling, they are the ideal companion for families who are looking for a compact canine that will enjoy fun and games just as much as they love cuddling up on a lap.

The Chihuahua wasn’t bred for work; they were bred for love. This impacts their behavior because they don’t have an underlying drive or urge to seek out other activities like other breeds. They weren’t bred to hunt rats, herd sheep, or retrieve birds; they were bred to love and be loved and are not easily distracted from that particular path! Although it’s not unusual for a Chihuahua to become particularly attached to a single person, they are generous with their affection and happy to cuddle up to the nearest warm body.

Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets? 🐶 😽

In addition to enjoying the company of humans, Chihuahuas also like to be part of a pack and feel more secure when surrounded by other canines. It’s common for the smallest dog in the house to take over the leadership of a group of dogs, which is partly due to their assertive nature and partly a survival mechanism. Being tiny and submissive can put them at risk of being bullied, missing out on food, or being squeezed out of the action.

Care needs to be taken when introducing a Chihuahua to new dogs since they can be accidentally injured, but it is also important to allow them to meet each other properly and establish boundaries. You would be surprised how gentle a large dog can be once they learn how to treat their tiny friend.

Chihuahuas enjoy a game of chase, and cats that are likely to run away can become targets of relentless pursuit. However, if you have cats that are used to the company of dogs, a Chihuahua can tolerate them. However, We recommend trimming your cat’s claws as a precaution to keep those bulging Chihuahua eyes safe.

Chihuahuas with Labrador on the couch
Image Credit: Karyn Kanowski

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Things to Know When Owning a Chihuahua:

Food & Diet Requirements 🦴

Most Chihuahuas only need to eat around half a cup of dry food or 6–10 ounces of wet food per day. It might not seem like much, but when you consider the size of their stomachs, it’s plenty. Chihuahuas have reputations for being picky eaters, while others know them to be very greedy. Being so small, it’s not uncommon for a Chihuahua to skip a meal here or there, but if you offer them something extra tasty when they miss a meal, they’ll remember your generosity and may expect it in the future.

Feeding them wet and dry food is okay, but if you use dry food, it’s best to find a brand with smaller pieces.

Exercise 🐕

Chihuahuas love to run, play, sleep, and relax. They are ideal for people in smaller homes or apartments, and their exercise needs can be met with a short, daily walk. However, they’re notorious for despising bad weather and prefer playing indoors rather than getting soaked in the rain.

Chihuahua Ned running outside
Image Credit: Karyn Kanowski

Training 🦮

In the same way that the exercise needs or dental care of Chihuahuas can sometimes get overlooked because of their tiny stature, training can sometimes be seen as an optional activity, which is definitely not the case. Training and socialization are just as crucial for the Chihuahua as for a Pit Bull, but their size can make it more challenging.

Some Chihuahuas have three settings: eating, sleeping, and up to something, especially when you have more than one! They love to chew, bite, and play with things, and silence should always be treated with suspicion. Indoor accidents are easy to miss, so you may miss the opportunity to interrupt them from going potty indoors and moving them outside.

Using a crate can be useful when toilet training a Chihuahua, but you must use a fairly small crate. If the crate is too roomy, the dog may use one corner as a toilet! Ideally, the crate should be the size of their bed and include space for a small water bowl.

Grooming ✂️

When it comes to grooming, the Chihuahua is a pretty low-maintenance canine. Even the longer coats need little more than a daily brushing and perhaps a quick swipe of a cleaning wipe. They need regular nail trims, however, so get them used to having their toes played with from day one.

Chihuahuas are prone to tear staining (more on that later), so it’s a good idea to get them used to having their eyes examined and wiped with an eye cleaner as part of their daily routine, and using a lubricating gel is a great way to keep their eyes comfortable.

Obese Chihuahua
Image Credit: Karyn Kanowski

Health and Conditions ❤️

The Chihuahua is one of the longest-lived breeds, and this is largely due, once again, to their size! Although the internal organs scale down relative to the dog’s size, their hearts don’t have to work as hard to keep blood circulating around their little bodies, which is why Chihuahuas with heart disease will often survive longer than other breeds. Despite thiat there are a number of health issues that the Chihuahuas are predisposed to.

Minor Conditions
  • Dental Disease: Big or small, all dogs have the same number of teeth, and Chihuahuas can sometimes suffer from overcrowding. Another common problem is that they are often not given the right foods, treats, or toys to help keep their teeth clean and healthy. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean that they can’t chew!
  • Reverse Sneezing: Reverse sneezing happens when something, usually the soft palate, brushes against the back of the throat. This triggers a reflex to rapidly suck air in through the nose (hence, reverse sneeze) to try to shift the problem. Brachycephalic breeds are particularly predisposed to this issue. The internal structures of their nose and mouth have been compressed, causing the soft palate to irritate the back of the throat regularly. Chihuahuas with particularly delicate features and shorter noses can also suffer from this problem. Most of the time, reverse sneezing is not a significant issue, but in some more severe cases, surgery may be needed to trim the soft palate.
  • Obesity: Chihuahuas can be greedy, and with their adorable little faces, it’s easy to give in to their begging. But it’s important to remember that tiny dogs need a tiny amount of food. Excess weight and obesity can spell trouble for any dog, but it can put extra strain on other health conditions, such as syringomyelia and heart disease.
Serious Conditions
  • Syringomyelia: This condition occurs when a problem affects the flow and drainage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) between the brain and spine. In dogs, it is usually associated with a defect called chiari-like malformation, which is most commonly seen in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Chihuahuas.
  • Heart Disease: Chihuahuas have a relatively high incidence of heart disease, which can progress to congestive heart failure. Although not a curable condition, Chihuahuas respond quite well to cardiac disease treatments, so early detection and intervention are critical. Signs of heart disease include coughing (especially after rest), panting or rapid breathing without physical exertion, and tiring easily.
  • Eye Problems: Chihuahuas often seem to have watery eyes, often because their eye sockets are not quite big enough for their eyes. This leads to the overflow of tears that cannot drain properly into the sinuses. The other problem with their more protuberant eyes is that they can become dry, irritated, and damaged more easily. Again, the apple heads are affected more, but the deer heads can have issues, too.

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Male vs. Female

There isn’t a significant difference between the male and female Chihuahua; even a fully mature male isn’t significantly larger than the female. Although there will always be individual variations, male Chihuahuas are more assertive and affectionate, while females can be a little more reserved.

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3 Little-Known Facts About the Chihuahua

1. They Love to Burrow and dig

We’re not talking about digging holes in the garden but about beds and blankets. Chihuahuas are like heat-seeking devices when it comes to finding the warmest, most comfortable spot in the house, and that might be in bed with you, in your laundry pile, or in the linen cupboard.

2. They Love Sunshine and Warmth

As we mentioned above, Chihuahuas will seek out warmth, and they’ll be even happier if you can provide something extra! A hot water bottle, a warming bed, or a spot in the sun will satisfy them, and don’t be surprised to find yours has snuck into your bed to snuggle behind your knees.

Chihuahuas in the sun
Image Credit: Karyn Kanowski

3. They Get the Zoomies!

While most of a Chihuahua’s day is spent sleeping, snoozing, resting, and relaxing, they eventually need to burn off some energy! Most Chihuahuas love to play and will start doing laps around your home at a mile a minute until their little legs just can’t go any further.

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Final Thoughts

Chihuahuas are feisty, affectionate, devoted, and mischievous dogs that are so much more than their “land shark” reputation lets on. Like any breed, intense selective breeding has led to exaggerated physical traits in some individuals that can make them susceptible to several health concerns, but they also have one of the longest life expectancies of all dog breeds.

If you want a loving companion that requires minimal space, is relatively low maintenance, and demands very little from you apart from warmth and affection, you might want to consider welcoming a Chihuahua into your life. Their quirky personalities have been known to win over the most dedicated large-dog devotees, and with the proper healthcare, nutrition, and love, these tiny canines can bring you several years of joy.

Featured Image Credit: Ratchat, Shutterstock

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