The Taco Bell spokesdog. Paris Hilton’s constant accessory. The titular dog in “Beverly Hills Chihuahua.” Reese Witherspoon’s canine companion in “Legally Blonde.”
If you’re familiar with a Chihuahua, you might have one of those four members of the breed to thank.
Although the Chihuahua has been around for centuries, its popularity really skyrocketed in the United States in the 1990s. Since then, this small dog has been a favorite of dog lovers. Here are 16 things you should know about the breed before you decide to own one.
- It’s the world’s smallest fully-grown dog breed.
- You’ll pay a big price for a tiny pup.
- The oldest Chihuahua ever recorded lived 20 years and 265 days.
- Think carefully before buying this dog if you live in an apartment.
- There are minimal grooming requirements.
- The Chihuahua has never won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
- The breed owns a weird record in the Guinness Book of World Records.
- This breed hails from Mexico.
- The breed had a meteoric rise to fame at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one.
- It has some very distinct breed standards.
- This is a small dog with a big attitude.
- Kids and Chihuahuas don’t mix.
- There are several potential health issues with this breed.
- They can be challenging to housetrain.
- Members of this breed make excellent companion dogs.
- The breed can become possessive of its owner.
It’s the world’s smallest fully-grown dog breed.
Based on its height and length, the Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world. In order to be AKC-registered, dogs must stand between five and eight inches tall and weigh under six pounds. It’s small enough to fit comfortably in its owner’s handbag.
Dani feels right at home on the furniture. Her family is fine with her joining there. At just four pounds, she is definitely a lap dog who feels most comfortable next to her human mother.
You’ll pay a big price for a tiny pup.
Chihuahua pups are no more than a couple of pounds, but they come with a considerable price tag. AKC-registered breeders charge anywhere from $1,200-$1,800 for puppies. They aren’t able to be separated from their mother until they are eight weeks old, so that’s the youngest puppy you can get. Price seems to depend less on age or gender and more on breeding or lineage.
The oldest Chihuahua ever recorded lived 20 years and 265 days.
While average life expectancy for the breed is 14-16 years, Megabyte surpassed that by a lot. He lived until he was 20 and 2/3 years old. It’s been reported that some Chihuahuas have lived upwards of 22 years, but those are unofficial Megabyte is the oldest dog officially recorded, so the record is currently his alone.
Think carefully before buying this dog if you live in an apartment.
While its size and desire to stay close to its owner might seem to make it a great fit for an apartment, you’ll want to think twice before committing to this breed if you live in a smaller space. The dog does certainly fit comfortably in an apartment and does not miss a yard or other area to run, but Chihuahuas can be very territorial. They don’t like strangers coming into or even near their space, and their bark can be quite persistent, something people who live around you in your building may not appreciate.
Dani wasn’t sure about anyone standing in her yard taking her picture and responded by barking a lot. You can hear her high pitched, somewhat anxious barks.
There are minimal grooming requirements.
Chihuahuas don’t shed very much at all, and what they do can easily be cleaned since they are so small that they don’t produce that much hair. Both the smooth- and long-haired varieties require trimming nails, and cleaning ears and teeth. The smooth-coated dogs don’t need brushing at all, but the long-haired ones should be brushed weekly to keep their fur from getting knotted or matted.
You can see some of Dani’s hair in this picture even with her coat on. She is a smooth haired Chihuahua that requires little to no grooming. She does need the coat to keep her warm. Sometimes you’ll see dogs of this breed shake and shiver. That’s not because they’re intimidated or scared, but because they are so cold.
The Chihuahua has never won Best in Show at the Westminster Kennel Club Show.
In the 143 times that the Westminster Kennel Club has awarded “Best in Show,” the smallest dog in the world has never won. They’re not alone – other popular dogs have never claimed victory either. Those breeds include the Great Dane, the Golden Retriever, the Dachshund, and the French Bulldog. It’s great company to be in, but as a dog owner, you’d rather be in the winner’s circle.
The breed owns a weird record in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Back in 2015, organizers of the Cinco de Mayo celebration in Daytona Beach decided to try and set a very odd world record: the most number of costumed Chihuahuas in one location at once. They called it “Chihuahua de Mayo.” The previous record was 124, and on May 2, 2015, that record was smashed when 209 of these tiny, dressed up dogs (and their owners, carrying registration papers) showed up to participate. The breed was chosen to break the record because they weren’t already part of any other record and because of their Mexican lineage, appropriate for Cinco de Mayo.
This breed hails from Mexico.
The Telchichi dog, seen in artwork a thousand years ago, looks very similar to our modern day breed, although the Telchichi is larger and heavier. By the 1500s, the Telchichi was one of Montezuma’s treasures and therefore a valued part of the Aztec culture. At one point, the dogs were feared extinct, but American tourists discovered them in the late 1800s in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, which explains their name. In 1904, Midget was the first of the breed to be registered by the AKC.
The breed had a meteoric rise to fame at the end of the last century and the beginning of this one.
As was mentioned earlier, the Chihuahua had a huge surge of popularity in the late 1990s and early 2000s. First, it was the spokesdog for Taco Bell and made “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!” a household phrase. Then Paris Hilton toted her beloved dog Tinker Bell around to her press events while she was promoting her TV show and movie appearances. Next came an appearance as Reese Witherspoon’s dog Bruiser in “Legally Blonde,” Samantha’s dog in “Sex and the City,” and finally the breed got its own movie with the 2008 flick “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” and its two sequels.
It has some very distinct breed standards.
This breed is almost instantly recognizable with its domed, apple-shaped head, its large eyes, and its pointy ears. Actual breed standards even reference a “saucy expression” in the dog’s huge, soulful eyes. The animal should be compact and weigh no more than six pounds. Light eyes are okay in blond or light-colored dogs, blue eyes or two eyes of different colors disqualify members of the breed from qualifying for AKC status. Dogs can have smooth (short) or long-haired coats.
In this close up picture, you can see the large ears and eyes that are hallmarks of the breed.
This is a small dog with a big attitude.
Members of this smallest of dog breeds aren’t afraid to challenge dogs of the larger breeds. These little dogs tend to have a terrier-like attitude where they can aggressively challenge anyone who disturbs their world. They forget how small they are.
Kids and Chihuahuas don’t mix.
The tendency might be to think that a small dog would be a good fit in a home with children. In the case of this breed, that’s just not true. These dogs are just too small and delicate to make good playmates. It would be too easy for children to hurt them while trying to play with them. In return, the dogs may nip, growl, or even bite if they’re treated in ways they don’t like.
There are several potential health issues with this breed.
The smaller the dog, the more likely it is to have health issues. If you’re looking for a teeny Chihuahua, be prepared to potentially deal with additional health concerns as the dog gets older. Issues that the breed faces include: heart disease, neurological problems, collapsing windpipes, easily displaced kneecaps, and eye issues, both genetic disorders and injuries (because of their large size).
They can be challenging to housetrain.
There are several theories as to why this breed may be challenging to potty-train. One states that because many people treat these dogs almost like human babies, they allow them to get away with things like urinating in a house. Another theory is that most dogs ultimately housetrain because they don’t like defecating in their homes. However, in the case of the smallest dog, any house that they live in is so big, they don’t have a problem making a mess in it. Either way, be prepared for it to take a little longer than usual to potty-train this smaller breed if you choose to adopt one.
Members of this breed make excellent companion dogs.
One of the best things about the Chihuahua is how much they love their people. If you live by yourself and want a dog to be your shadow and follow you everywhere you go, this is a great breed for you. They love to be near their person.
Dani looks expectantly at her owner to make sure everything is okay and that she can be around a stranger with a camera.
The breed can become possessive of its owner.
This little dog might love its owner a little too much to the point that it becomes possessive of the owner’s attention. This breed is not scared or intimidated by anyone and may show aggression towards people who try to get too close to their owner. This behavior has earned the breed the nickname “armpit piranhas” because they can become aggressively territorial when their owners are holding them.
Dani stands guard on the porch steps, ready to challenge anyone who she thinks doesn’t belong there. She’s a four-pound dog acting like a dog that’s at least ten times her size.
The Chihuahua isn’t the perfect dog for every household. But if you’re prepared to give this dog the time, attention, and security it needs, you will have a best friend for years to come.