The 'wow' factor
Thought of by some as little ‘lap dogs’, Chihuahuas are, in fact, gay, spirited and intelligent. These ‘big dogs in small parcels’ can often be a bit too feisty for their own good. There are two varieties: the Long Coat and the Smooth Coat.
Originally, Chihuahuas (Chis) were not noted for their courage. However, as they became more established in the UK, breeders concentrated on producing dogs of good temperament. Naturally cautious, Chis like to suss out a situation in their own time and on their own terms. When they feel sure a situation is safe, they will show their true colours: relaxed, happy and unselfconscious. Many Chihuahuas are wary of small children, as they can be quite boisterous, but they can co-exist happily with the correct training. Care must also be taken when Chis are around other bigger breeds, as they are quite fragile and dainty in comparison and could get injured.
Highly intelligent, Chis love to investigate. A stimulating environment, inside and out, is essential to keep them happy – as well as toys and the company of other people and dogs – preferably other Chis. Putting time into training a Chi is well worthwhile; love and friendly discipline will really reap rewards and help create an obedient pet and companion. Not natural retrievers, Chihuahuas are unlikely to be interested in a game of fetch – their attitude suggests ‘you threw it, so you fetch it!’
‘Hooked for life’
The late Diana Fitt-Savage, formerly of the British Chihuahua Club, said: “Whichever variety of Chi you like best is purely a matter of personal preference; they share exactly the same breed standard – except for the coat. “Most people, however sceptical they may be about having a Chi, soon change their mind when they are owned by one and become hooked for life!”
Size: small, dainty and compact.
Height & weight: up to 2.7 kg (6lb), with 1.8-2.7kg (4-6lb) preferred.
Lifespan: usually over nine years.
Exercise: Chihuahuas require little exercise. They enjoy walks on the lead and taking in new sights and sounds, but exercise in a garden is sufficient. However, it is essential that your garden is escape-proof.
Training: generally easy to train. They can be apprehensive of strangers and will usually let you know when someone is around. However, they are intelligent little dogs and with the proper training you can control barking.
Grooming: both varieties need some grooming – Smooth Coats only require little, but you must regularly brush a Long Coat’s feathering.
Colour: any colour or mixture of colours, but never merle (dapple).
Diet: Chihuahuas require a good balanced diet and clean, fresh water should be available at all times. Milk can give Chihuahuas diarrhoea, as can liver if given in excess. Chewing helps to clean the teeth, so give your Chi biscuits or chews to help maintain good dental health. However, you should never give poultry or rabbit bones because these can splinter and are extremely dangerous. Give all titbits and treats in moderation as Chis easily put on weight.
Health: few hereditary defects, but patella luxation is known to affect Chihuahuas. However, good breeders are working to eradicate this condition. Some young Chis have a molera (fontanelle) but this usually closes after several months. Be aware that, on occasion, this has been misdiagnosed by some vets as hydrocephalus. Grit and dust will irritate a Chi’s eyes, which can be a common problem and cause tear staining, but you should wash the hair under the eye thoroughly, dry the area and use grease, such as Vaseline, as a barrier. This will protect the hair from the tears and the condition should clear up.
- For the Long Coat Chihuahua breed standard visit www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/182; for the Smooth Coat Chihuahua see www.thekennelclub.org.uk/item/183
- Expect to pay around £750-£1,000 for a Chihuahua puppy or contact the breed clubs for rescue dogs needing homes.
Did you know?
The first dog ever to have dined in the House of Commons is believed to have been a Chihuahua, Mrs Thelma Gray’s Rozavel Miguel. The occasion was the annual dinner of the British Mexican Society in December 1954.
- British Chihuahua Club: Mr G Hazlehurst (secretary), tel. 01628 778520, www.thebritish-chihuahua-club.org.uk
- Chihuahua Club of Scotland: Miss L Russell (secretary), tel. 01236 830145.
- Chihuahua Club of South Wales: Dr Curr (secretary), tel. 020 8743 4073.
- Longcoat Chihuahua Club: Mrs Lee (secretary), tel. 01635 278510.
- Smoothcoat Chihuahua Club: Miss M I Briscoe (secretary), tel. 01386 584735.
- Midland Chihuahua Club: Ms L Stacey (secretary), tel. 01773 713670.
- Northern Counties Chihuahua Club: Mrs C A Barlow (secretary), tel. 01524 752621.
- Ulster Chihuahua Club: Mrs W McDevitt (secretary), tel. 02877 765191.
- West Country Chihuahua Club: Mrs M Greening (secretary), tel. 01249 783522.
Many thanks to Guy Hazlehurst and the British Chihuahua Club for their help in producing this feature. All contact details and prices were correct at time of going to press 21st May 2010.