A Guide to Chihuahuas and Their Champions

The Chihuahua is one of the most recognizable breeds, and often one of the most misunderstood. The smallest breed recognized by most kennel clubs, the Chihuahua has a distinctive look: apple-shaped head, pointed ears, buggy eyes, and, of course a tiny body, often weighing six pounds or less. The Chihuahua’s diminutive stature and sometimes adorable, sometimes comical features can fool you into thinking this dog is an accessory or a toy. Don’t be fooled; Chihuahuas are all dog, just a little less of it than the rest of the breeds.

Picture of a chihuahua looking upwards
Chihuahuas have unbelievably expressive eyes, as Nacho illustrates. (Photo credit: PileofMonkeys)

Chihuahuas are the classic example of a small dog with a large personality. Chi’s personalities are particularly winning (assuming they have been treated kindly). They are lively, a bit bossy, and more than a bit stubborn. They have a lot of charisma, and make great, appealing eye contact.

Things you Need to Know

Chihuahuas are physically fragile. They are fine-boned and lack the reserves that some other dogs show in abundance. A missed meal has a strong impact on a Chihuahua’s blood sugar and level of body fat; a week of general neglect can devastate their health for months to come. In short, when it comes to their corporeal form, Chihuahuas are truly hothouse flowers.

Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the edge. I'm trying not to lose my head. Chi sideeye explained. (Photo courtesy of PileofMonkeys)
Chi side-eye. “Don’t push me ’cause I’m close to the edge. I’m trying not to lose my head.” (Photo courtesy of PileofMonkeys)

Don’t underestimate them. Despite this physical fragility and emotional sensitivity, Chihuahua owners will tell you of moments when their tiny dogs showed profound, unbelievable valiance, when their formerly terrified rescue dogs mustered up enough bravery to stand up for what they believed in. Such breakthrough moments are often followed by reports of more and more assertiveness, and none of us are ever surprised to find out that the once-reticent Chi has become the terror of the household, fearlessly bossing around much larger dogs and otherwise demanding and receiving tribute.

Just because they’re small, it doesn’t mean that they are less expensive than other dogs. They eat less, sure, but they need just as much vetting as their larger counterparts, and if their health is compromised, they need much, much more. For example, a lot of rescue Chis have very few teeth and need regular dental appointments. Chihuahuas are also prone to eye and knee problems.

Here's one of the many eye conditions Chis can end up with. (Photo courtesy PileofMonkeys)
Here’s one of the many eye conditions Chis can end up with: corneal endothelial dystrophy. (Photo courtesy pileofmonkeys)

Chihuahuas are often not a good match for homes with kids. Between the Chihuahua’s often aggressive temperament and their physical frailness, Chis and kids are sometimes a recipe for disaster. A Chi whose tail is pulled or who is hit roughly can quickly react, often resulting in a bite. Plus, given that kids sometimes have a tendency to treat dogs a little less gently than is ideal, it’s unfortunately very easy for a Chi to get injured during “play” with kids.

Aww, cute, huh? WRONG. This Chi is hella angry and you are about two seconds from a bite if you don't cut it out.
Aww, cute, huh? WRONG. This Chi is hella angry and you are about two seconds from a bite if you don’t cut it out. Also, he has common Chi dental issues. (Photo courtesy of pileofmonkeys)

About the Chihuahua’s Human

I can recognize a good chihuahua owner a mile away.

They are fierce, vigilant protectors of their dogs. If they think there is even the remotest possibility that someone will be rough with their dog, they’ll keep their Chis in their arms for hours. I’ve never known a Chi owner worth his or her salt who is able to “just see what happens” when it comes to putting their Chi into new situations; they manage the environment carefully. Chi owners have no problem telling you that your special snowflake can’t go anywhere near their dog; they’ll never bow to pressure to be likable if it means putting their dog at risk. Likewise, Chi owners have no problem switching vets or requesting specific vet techs if they feel like the current ones don’t understand their dog.

They are ridiculously tenderhearted, even if it’s under a reserved façade. Chi owners might come across as intense, cynical or even fanatical, but to a one, the best Chi owners are just as vulnerable and sensitive as their dogs. (Please don’t tell them I said that.) [Too late. ~PoM] They love their dogs profoundly. However, they channel this immense love into action and protectiveness on behalf of their beloved companion. They are fierce defenders of their dogs, and frankly, among the most badass of the dog owners I have encountered because they will face down a mountain lion before they’d let them get near their beloved Chis. (So please know that if I meet you and you tell me you are a Chi owner, I know you are a BAMF.)

They respect their dog’s dogginess. Their Chi might have limpid brown eyes and shake with nerves, and they might need the occasional sweater (if you can get it on them), but the best Chi owners don’t ever, ever come close to treating their dog like an accessory or cartoon character. They might actually sneer at you if you imply that they got their dog because it was purse-sized. Chi owners let their dogs be dogs; and walks, fetch, and obedience training are just as much a part of the life of a Chi and its owner as with any other breed.

Chihuahuas need to be treated like real dogs and have real-dog adventures. (Photo courtesy of PileofMonkeys)
Chihuahuas need to be treated like real dogs and have real-dog adventures. (Photo courtesy of pileofmonkeys)

I’m going to close this on a serious note: Chihuahuas are one of the four breeds that our rescue identified as being most poorly treated. (The others are pits, coonhounds, and Chinese Shar-Pei.) They might appear to be glamour dogs who can always find adopters, but they are in desperate need of strong, loving, protective owners. Unfortunately, they tend to attract people who only want them as purse dogs, or as a non-threatening dog for their young children. In other words, even if they appear to be in high demand and not at risk, Chis need you, the good adopter, very much.  So give them a chance. You’ll find they inspire you to be your bravest, most loving, and most protective self.

By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is

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