Chihuahuas are the very definition of the tough little guy. Scrappy, protective and proud, there is little that ever seems to make a Chihuahua back down. But this brave temperament belies a physical fragility that Chihuahuas don't believe they really have. Chihuahuas make excellent companions, but there are things to watch out for before adopting a chi.
Because of their tiny size, chis are ideal for apartment life, where they are also protected from the elements. Chis are spunky and energetic, but can get most of their exercise by running around indoors. They also can be trained to use litter boxes, thus reducing the risk of surprises on the carpet when you come home. And their inherent bravery and tendency to bark at strangers makes them excellent watchdogs.
Chis make ideal traveling companions because they fit carry-on size requirements for most any airline and are happy to sit tight in small, cramped spaces until the scenery gets better. They also tend to love going on trips and discovering new places. Outside of traveling, chis are easy to pick up and carry if the weather gets rough or you need to go longer distances than you would like them to walk on their own.
Long-haired Chihuahuas shed just as much as their short-haired cousins. All Chihuahuas shed year-round, though they shed the most in spring and autumn. The advantage to longhairs is that the hair is easier to find as it tumbleweeds around the house. Long-haired Chihuahuas do require a lot of grooming to keep shedding down and to keep them from getting too shaggy, but they tend to love being pampered and so will usually take kindly to being brushed.
Despite her fearlessness, a chi's small stature makes her prone to injury. Chis are fragile and cannot be handled roughly. They are also susceptible to the cold. Even long-haired Chihuahuas need to be protected from cold weather. They are not outdoor dogs and must be dressed to protect against temperatures in the 30s and below. Their small size also makes them a bad choice for families with small children, who may play too roughly with them.
An individual Chihuahua's temperament often is strongly influenced by genetics. If a chi's parents and grandparents were antisocial, he is likely to be the same. Socialization can help, but it takes a lot of patience and a long time to "fix" a naturally bad-tempered Chihuahua. Chis also are legendarily neurotic, often nervous. This too is usually affected by genes and can lead to behavioral problems or incessant barking.
Chihuahuas tend to have problems in their joints, usually their knees. Having been bred to be smaller and smaller over the centuries has led to smaller, frailer, thinner bones. While chis tend to be healthy dogs who live a long time --typically 11 to 18 years -- they cannot endure long hikes or high-impact exercise.
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