The Chihuahua is a small breed of dog often noted for its large apple domed skull, large expressive eyes and upright, pointed ears. Their eyes are often very moist, and tears can fly from them when the shake their heads. They have small muzzles, often with pink noses on the blonde-haired types. Although a 'toy' breed of dog, it is said that they are naturally small; not the result of selectively 'breeding down' larger types.
Their coat can be smooth or long. In the USA the two are recognised as being of the same breed and are inter-bred, but the the UK the two varieties are bred apart. The coat can have a variety of colours, including : brindle, blonde, black, brown, fawn, blue, and "splashed."
A show dog must be less than 6lbs in weight (in the USA at least) with a level back, and rounded (rather than barrel-shaped) rib-cage. The legs are thin, with dainty feet, to give the dog a delicate appearance. Chihuahuas often carry their tail looped around so that the tip touches the back, or in a curved sickle shape.
They also have quite a long life-span of 11-18 years.
In common with other small dogs, the breed doesn't really seem to understand that it is so tiny; this often leads to the wee chaps yapping fiercely at larger opponents. This makes them also very loyal to their owners, and as they have an individualistic personality they make very rewarding pets. Those that keep them say however, that if you do not reciprocate the attention they give you, anti-social behaviour can result.
Chihuahuas have the same basic dietary needs as normal sized dogs, but good advice would be to feed them a mix of dried and canned food, as a wholly canned diet can lead to diarrhea. For feeding guidelines, the following should help. Between 6 weeks (after weaning) and three months, four meals a day; 3-6 months 3 meals, 6-12 months 2 meals; and after a year, one meal a day. As with all dogs treats can be used for training purposes, but shouldn't be given in excess which is easy to do with a breed this small.
They do not require as much walking for exercise purposes as larger animals, but (as with all dogs) they do require stimulation and should have plenty to play with and explore.
The lack of outdoor exercise will mean their claws will need trimming at least once a month, and you should get your pet used to this as early as possible. They are said to be prone to weak knees in later life, and can have difficult walking; consult a vet if this is the case.
With regards to bathing, opinion is divided. In common with all dogs, the detergents in shampoos with strip the coat of its natural oils which can lead to skin condition problems. However some say bathing once a month is necessary as they tend to smell if left longer! Take care not to get water in the ears (tricky with such upright ears) as infections can develop. Aside from the above, general dog-keeping advice should suffice.
History Of The Breed
Stones from Toltec ruins used in the Monastery of Huejotzingo in Mexico (built ca. 1530 by Franciscan monks), show carvings of a dog looking nearly identical to Chihuahuas. Although the Toltec civilisation existed as early as the 9th century, it seems very probable the the breed had its origins in the dog they called the Techichi. This dog, it seems, had some religous significance to the Toltecs and Aztecs as skeletons are often found in graves in Mexico and the USA.
Edited and abridged from the FAQ at http://www.maitreyakennels.com/chifaq.html, 2001. Please msg me with comments and corrections.