Lively and tenacious, the Chihuahua is the oldest known dog breed, according to Dog Breed Info Center. Chihuahuas are the smallest breed, but sometimes breeders will attempt to breed them down even smaller in size. These ultra tiny dogs are referred to as "teacups." Although these very low-weight dogs are highly prized among some dog fanciers, the Chihuahua's health problems can be increased when bred for size. The name "teacup" can also be applied to the runt of the litter.
According to the American Kennel Club, the history of the Chihuahua is uncertain. One belief is that the breed is descended from the Fenne Fox. The Chihuahua's big ears, eyes and dainty frame are similar to the tiny fox. The Chihuahua was originally used in religious ceremonies and as pets to the wealthy. The earliest-known Chihuahuas lived in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, from which the name was derived. The AKC first admitted the Chihuahua as part of its "toy" group in 1904. The breed's current purpose is that of a companion animal.
Chihuahuas should not exceed six pounds in weight. Teacup Chihuahuas sometimes weigh as little as two pounds. The tiny, courageous dog comes in a short-coated and long-coated variety. Coats come in all colors and either solid or marked. The tail is long and either straight up, straight out or over the back. The Chihuahua's body is compact, his eyes large and bulging and his ears erect.
This tiny dynamo possesses a terrier-like personality. He is determined and totally unaware of his small size. The Chihuahua sees himself as much larger than he is and has the personality to match. The breed tends to be stubborn and although highly intelligent, some Chihuahuas can prove difficult to house train because of their strong-willed nature. They need an owner who will provide strong but gentle guidance so the dog does not get the idea that he is in charge.
Chihuahuas, because of their protruding eyes, tend to suffer from eye problems, including dryness of the cornea and glaucoma. The dog's small, short muzzle can cause sneezing, snoring and coughing. Some dogs possess a soft spot on the head that never closes and needs to be protected. The Chihuahua stresses easily and also is prone to rheumatism and teeth problems. The lifespan of a Chihuahua is approximately 15 years.
The Chihuahua is an active breed that needs a daily walk as well as lots of play time. Owners of teacup Chihuahuas tend to baby and carry them instead of allowing them to walk. Lack of exercise can lead to behavioral issues, such as: guarding, snappiness and separation anxiety. Chihuahuas require early and frequent socialization to avoid becoming distrusting and timid. Long-haired Chihuahuas need daily brushing to prevent tangling. The short-coated variety requires occasional brushing or wiping with a damp cloth to remove shedding hair. Care should be taken to keep the dog's prominent eyes clean of debris. Weight gain is easy for this tiny breed, so extra snacking should be controlled.