Are Chihuahuas the Right Breed for you? By Lexi Ryckman
Chihuahuas, once owned by the Aztecs, were featured in wedding bouquets in Mexico in the 1800’s; today they are pets in many homes in America and all over the world. Although the breed has never won the Westminster Dog Show, the Chihuahua is valued as a pet for the elderly, disabled, apartment dweller or those who have a small yard, and families with respectful children. Many celebrities own Chihuahuas, and the breed has been featured in many movies like Legally Blonde and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. Some may be drawn to Elle Woods carrying Bruiser in her purse or other Hollywood ideas of the Chihuahua without taking an educated look at the breed before buying one. The physical characteristics and the personality of the Chihuahua plus careful consideration of behavior issues a Chihuahua may have can let you know if the breed is right for your home.
Chihuahuas are the smallest breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Chihuahua brain is the largest in relation to the size of their head compared to any other breed. A smart dog in a small package, the Chihuahua can live 12 to 20 years which also makes it one of the most long-lived breeds. The Chihuahua is born with a soft spot on its head called a molera; in some Chihuahuas, this soft spot will close but in others the spot remains open which is acceptable by the American Kennel Club Chihuahua standard. The small size and the fragility of the Chihuahua head with the molera has led to the breed being carried around by its owners, making this tiny breed a popular purse pet. The weight of the Chihuahua in the American Kennel Club breed standard is six pounds or less, which makes the breed easy to handle for senior citizens and the disabled. Physically, this breed is a good choice for anyone who has problems handling a larger breed, but who wants a smart engaging companion.
The Chihuahua is a huge personality for its small size. The American Kennel Club breed standard specifies “a saucy expression” and “terrier-like temperament.” Some may see Chihuahuas as noisy and bossy, but their bold personality is endearing to many owners. A Chihuahua will approach a dangerous situation as if it was the size of a Rottweiler. Chihuahuas bond very strongly with a single person or family, and they are not necessarily social butterflies to other people. Some perceive the Chihuahua as a mean or shy dog, but this is not true at all; the Chihuahua just prefers his or her person or family. This bond that the Chihuahua has with an owner plus its intelligence and small size make for a wonderful wheelchair lap rider and service dog for the disabled. Although the small size of the Chihuahua prevents the breed from being an effective guard dog, its’ sassy and bold temperament make it an excellent watchdog who can alert its’ family to danger. In personality, the Chihuahua is a good pet for anyone who enjoys a deeply bonding, smart, sassy little dog who would boldly go into danger for the love of its owner.
Chihuahuas do have certain behavioral issues to consider if thinking about this breed as a companion. Chihuahuas are sometimes described as “yappy,” as their boldness leads them to bark at strange noises. Although being tiny prevents destruction of walls and sofas like some larger breeds tend to do, Chihuahuas are well known for ripping up paper, tissues, and trash. Although the Chihuahua is highly intelligent, intelligence does not equal obedience; the Chihuahua is not the most trainable dog and has to think sometimes that it is his or her idea to do what the owner wants. The one-person or one-family nature of the Chihuahua can sometimes lead to biting a stranger who tries to pet the cute little dog. In fact, Chihuahuas are known as one of the breeds most often euthanized in animal shelters. Chihuahuas are difficult to housetrain and will sometimes do better using puppy pads rather than going outside; some people may not want puppy pads featured as part of their home décor. Unfortunately, another issue with Chihuahuas is that they will sometimes play with or eat excrement; this leads to less than fresh breath with their frequent kisses. Chihuahuas can tire easily of small children who are not respectful of them. The Chihuahua’s behavioral issues must be considered by anyone wanting a Chihuahua as a pet, if they can’t handle barking, tissue tearing, disobedience, possible aggression to small children or strangers, housetraining difficulty, pee pads as a probable option and coprophagy.
The Chihuahua may not be for everyone. The small size of the Chihuahua and the fragility of the molera may not be a good match for someone who does not watch where they are walking, or a house full of children who are not careful. The personality of the Chihuahua may be sassier or more terrier-like than a person might expect from a small dog; someone wanting a “sweet” toy dog may be happier with a Maltese. If someone is a social butterfly looking for a dog that will play in a dog park with others, the Chihuahua may not be the best choice. Someone who may be annoyed by common Chihuahua behavior problems like yapping, difficulty in housetraining, or even aggression to strangers may want to choose a breed who they are more comfortable working with. The Chihuahua is a choice that may work with elderly, disabled, apartment dwellers, those with a small yard, and families with careful children. Considering the small size and frailty, the sassy personality, and behavior issues common to the breed, you can make an informed decision if the Chihuahua is the right breed for your home.